Useful things I’ve learned since I moved to LA just over a year ago - tips for anyone planning on moving here from the UK/elsewhere, especially actors:
1) Have lots of money saved up, this city/country has a LOT of expenses and they’re never-ceasing.
2) Have a strong network of supportive friends, REAL friends, who will help you out in a crisis.
3) Have a dream and a goal and do whatever it takes to get there, but be realistic at the same time - it might happen that you are suddenly ‘discovered’ but chances are it’s going to take hard work, determination and a lot of luck created by constant networking and developing a reputation as someone who is hard-working and reliable.
4) An O-1 visa for actors is fairly limiting. You will find it hard if not impossible to get work as a background actor which may not be what you came here to do but it’s a useful way to earn money and make contacts/friends. Though be aware that most background people are exactly that - they have no ambition beyond earning a buck and getting fed. If you’re more than that, you’ll stand out easily and get noticed for the right reasons.
5) If you buy a car here make sure it’s fuel efficient. In LA/California gas prices tend to be higher and they can rise dramatically in the summer. Get the GasBuddy app on your phone, it will save you money. You can probably survive using Uber or Lyft but it is much easier and probably cheaper to buy a car. HOWEVER, make sure you go to a legit car dealer and check out Carfax before you buy a car. DO NOT go to an independent car dealer unless you’ve checked them out on YELP to see what other people’s experiences have been. I didn’t and it was an expensive lesson to learn.
6) a Costco membership is very useful. You’ll spend more initially than going to the supermarket but $100 of shopping at Costco will last a lot longer if you don’t buy perishable goods, though it must be said that buying 5 avocados for $6 and not being able to eat them all before they rot is cheaper than buying 2 small avocados for $4. Likewise, a small punnet of tomatoes at Ralph’s costs $3-$4 whereas a large punnet from Costco is $6 and lasts longer. Get yourself a Ralph’s card too as the customer cards give you some good discounts.
7) There’s lots of great free outdoor stuff to do in LA, make sure you find it and do it. Hiking, beaches, parks - don’t get stuck at home in front of the TV!
8) Networking is paramount - you’re not going to get known if you don’t constantly get yourself out there. Take part in things like film competitions. I highly recommend the Collaborators Film Challenge - what an amazing experience and great way to network.
9) Mobile phone: if you spend any time away from the USA, back in your home country, you may want to get a phone with AT&T gophone - you can stop your monthly deal while you’re away and if there are a couple of days between the end of your monthly subscription and your departure date they charge $2 per day for calls & texts (but you can’t get data without wifi). Be warned though the deals advertised are different if you have a smartphone - you don’t get the same unlimited data package with a smartphone. Still, a pretty good deal. Alternatively if you know a couple of people in need of phone contracts you might want to try a family deal which is usually up to 5 people.
10) Use YELP - it’s a great way to verify the quality of the service you’re likely to get. I’ve learned, too late in a few cases, that if I’d only checked the business on Yelp first I would’ve saved myself a lot of trouble.
11) Get your CA driver’s license ASAP. It makes life a lot easier in so many ways, especially if you’re on an O-1 visa.
I’ll post more as salient points occur to me.