Conflicted: LA or Atlanta? (For Film)
It depends on two things. What one works best for you. And access, not proximity.
I’ve spent a lot of time this week conflicted over the idea of moving to Atlanta instead of Los Angeles. Specifically, as it pertains to the film industry, and my current role/existence in that industry. The crux of the dilemma stems from the simple question of — What city would best put me in a better position to succeed?
LA, on the surface for those with TV/Film aspirations, is the clear answer. But surface answers aren’t good enough when debating whether or not to move across the country to a state you’ve never visited before. Especially when it comes to following your dreams and chasing your goals. So, I’ll share ideas/interpretations of both cities. First, starting with
LA is…LA. And to me, it’s a city that represents a highlighted, objective, view of everything that the United States is. In both its glory and its gore. Every social, political, environmental, important problem that exists across American cities is magnified by ten in LA. From homelessness, corruption, crime, air quality, wealth disparity, etc, it’s all here. And all it takes to see it is to drive around for a few hours. Solving it of course is something else entirely. But still, if you’re interested in American history as it relates to race, politics, and wealth, drive from Watts to Rodeo drive. It’ll only take 45minutes on a good day.
But I digress. So let’s back on topic.
I enjoyed my time in LA. Between working shitty jobs to get by, having no sustained social life due to Covid shutdowns, and paying my share of parking tickets, I carved out a piece of life for myself there. I managed to meet a few people on the outskirts of the industry, became more focused on my writing, (which is hard not to when driving past so many TV/Movie billboards all day), explored segments of the city, and even popped up on the dating scene a little bit. It wasn’t glorious by any means, but at that time all I wanted to do was live in LA, and I was doing it.
And yet, a month before my 1 year anniversary, I left LA. What I realized in leaving, which is something any blog or quick google search will tell you, is that living in LA is hard. When I quit my job in month 11, I only had enough money saved to make it a couple more months if I didn’t find another one asap, and with the pandemic in full effect, I decided to abandon ship to Costa Rica. And if you’ve been reading the blog since then, you know what’s happened since.
Ultimately, the most important thing I learned while living in LA, and what I realized (only in hindsight), is that when it comes to Hollywood, success comes from access, not proximity. I drove past Paramount Pictures every single day on my way to work at a grocery store, and not once did anyone stop me and told me I missed my turn or invite me inside. Fast forward one year, and I’ve accomplished more in the film industry working/living in the suburbs of Phoenix than I ever did while living in the entertainment capital of the west.
Does that mean that LA is forever out of the cards and that having a real film career is sustainable in the suburbs of Phoenix? No. It just means that as of now, I don’t have access to Hollywood in the way that would be logical for me to resume living there with the money I have.
And as I write that, it almost sounds like I’ve already made my mind up. Regardless, that brings me to
I’ve never been to Atlanta. Nor Georgia. Nor any state in the South. And yet, I’ve had the lingering idea about living in Atlanta for almost a year. Atlanta has one of the biggest film industries in the US when it comes to production, (i.e the literal making of movies) but the opportunities when it comes to writing rooms are small. But that doesn’t bother me as much anymore because within the last two months I’ve sat and had to ask/answer honest questions to try and make the best possible objective choice. Questions that enter your mind as a young creative like:
Am I only moving to Atlanta because I’m ‘afraid’ of LA?
If I move to Atlanta will I ever ‘make it?’
Why does Atlanta offer that LA doesn’t?
Apart from financials, such as a cheaper cost of living in the south and a (probable) better quality of life, both play a role. The answer to these questions are:
It depends on what my definition of making it is.
It’s a stronger starting point for Studio Jali.
Another thing I realized, is that my dream is not to write for television sitcoms on traditional networks. (Something you’d be required to move to LA for). My dream is more along the lines of owning and running my own studio (Studio Jali) like a small business and building my way up. Grow an audience, keep writing movies that I’d be willing to sell to the suits in LaLaland, get representation, and go from there. And if the time ever came when/if I needed to move to LA, then do that or become bi-coastal.
And for me, with my specific goals, that would be better suited to happen in Atlanta than Los Angeles. Because again, it’s about access, not proximity.
I’m visiting Atlanta over my birthday weekend. I’m hoping to like it, but who knows. Maybe after everything I said Los Angeles will still be the immediate answer. Regardless, I’ll write about it. And regardless, I’ll find out the best answer in time. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts.
Until next Monday,
P.s) Been listening to a lot of AC/DC lately. What a great f**king band.