The Business of Show Biz: SF/LA Commute
Thursday, October 9, 2014
By Velina Brown
Q: I feel frustrated by how few film and television projects are shooting in the Bay Area. The obvious solution is to move to Los Angeles, but to be honest I don't want to live down there. I’ve heard of people doing the SF/LA commute. Any tips?
A: The prevailing advice is if you are interested in a career in film and television you need to move to LA lock, stock and barrel with the intention of being there at least five years and with the understanding that it generally takes a least 10 years to become an "overnight success." You've got to have a consistent presence there. However, some folks are managing to do the commute and create the perception that they are LA actors.
Burbank Airport by Flickr User Greg Lilly.
First, stay informed via Casting About (castingabout.com), an "Online Casting Director and Production Guide" for NY and LA. Then, cultivate relationships with LA casting directors. One way to do this is to attend LA casting director weekend workshops. People say this doesn’t work, but if you go about it systematically it really can. Find out about these workshops via actorskey.com, actorskeywest.com and reelpros.com.
Finally, organize your life in a way that's extremely flexible and allows you to respond quickly. It helps if you will enjoy rather than be stressed out by the excitement of suddenly having to drop everything and head to the airport on a moment's notice. It’s not for everyone. But Carolyn Power is a Bay Area actor who's gotten it down to a science. She generously shares her secrets to making it work:
"1. Southwest Airlines has an app that allows you to book, change or cancel flights and rental car reservations, receive flight updates, and other helpful info if you need to head to the airport on short notice.
2. Oakland to Burbank has the most flights and easiest airport. Also, Oakland's weather is usually better than SFO, with fewer fog delays.
3. Go to Google Maps first to figure out if your audition site is closer to LAX or Burbank and to help you figure out whether you are renting a car or cabbing it.
4. On the return to the airport, use either Uber or Lyft, as they are cheaper. At this time neither Lyft nor Uber are allowed to pick up at the airport.
5. Always allow three hours between landing in the LA area and the time of your audition. This protects you from delayed flights and LA traffic.
6. Always have a bag packed. I keep head shots and résumés, a black suit and shoes in the trunk of my car and makeup in my purse. I also keep a light rain coat and scarf in the trunk of my car in case of rain or damp moisture that frizzes my hair. Note: it's best if you can print out the script before leaving so you can take notes and really work on it. Casting directors aren’t used to electronic tablets being brought into casting rooms just yet.
7. Call your agent as soon as you realize you may be late when flying down from the Bay Area. Do not stand on ceremony: call. Communication with your agent is the most important part of the relationship. It's their job to call casting [the casting director] and find out what they need, how long the casting session lasts and if they are willing to wait. The actor should not call the casting office. If the agent can't answer the phone, ask the assistant or intern who did answer to ask the agent for you and to call you back.
8. Be clear about the window of time you need to get to auditions. I told my new LA agent when I signed that a five-hour window of time was good, and that's what they [have given] me.
9. Be sure to book out with your Bay Area agent as soon as you accept the LA audition—and vice versa. This is all part of the communication loop that's so important."
I told you she had it down!
I would only add:
10. Have a place to stay. If you have friends or family down there that you can stay with for low or no cost, that's the best. If callbacks are the next day, it gets very expensive to fly back and forth, stay in hotels or try to keep an apartment up here and down there.
11. Have LA contact info. You need an LA address and cell phone number you can use as your contact info. Having a Northern California area code will knock you out of the running right off the bat.
I hope this helps. Let me know how it goes for you. Break legs!
Velina Brown is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at email@example.com.