My acting journey began in the UK, and then I started moving around a little. As I’m writing this, warm California’s sun is making my laptop screen pretty unreadable. I might be moving back to London soon.
There are pros and cons to working in either London or Los Angeles, but it all depends on your goals and preferences. Sometimes, we have to follow a path that doesn’t necessarily reflect our desires but reinforces our career progress.
I’m not going to make it a list of “which one’s better,” since both cities are amazing, very different and I love them both. You’ll have to make that decision without my help. But here’s what you need to know about pursuing a career in acting in London versus Los Angeles.
Acting in London vs Los Angeles
1. Different opportunities
London is, has been and probably will be the Mecca of theatre. If your aspirations fall within performing on stage (or touring across the UK, or even the globe), then London is the place to be, hands down. Even though the film industry is growing in the capital of England, and has the most film and TV opportunities in all of Europe, it’s very far from what Los Angeles has to offer.
That being said, it must be mentioned that a lot of casting agencies are looking for screen actors in London for their US-based productions, both in TV and film. These opportunities, however, are a lot harder to come by if you’re not yet semi-established.
Los Angeles is, according to the famous slogan, the entertainment capital of the world. If your goal is to pursue a career in movies and television, then Hollywood is the place to be. Although a lot of studios are moving away from LA due to high taxes, no other city on the planet will be able to offer as many opportunities for screen actors as the City of Angels. Theatre, however, is non-existent here.
2. Getting to auditions
In London, very few actors have cars. Just like in New York City, you don’t really need it, and if the audition is somewhere central – it’s a hassle. London’s subway (underground, tube) system is great, and you can walk + take public transportation to most of your auditions.
In Los Angeles, you will fail as an actor if you don’t have a car. You’d think that I’m joking, but I’m not. Los Angeles is a huge city with many neighborhoods. Public transportation in here is the worst I’ve ever seen, and auditions are scattered all over the place from Burbank, to Hollywood, to Santa Monica, to (maybe) Long Beach. That’s about 2-3 hours of driving from one location to the next during rush hour, which is… infinite.
3. Pilot seasons
Pilot season in London and Los Angeles is taking place around the same time, which is roughly January – March, as the industry says. In truth, it’s actually more February – April. In February, auditions start picking up in both cities, and then April is still pretty active for last minute calls.
That being said, the process is quite similar in both places. Los Angeles still has more TV work, and they also cast a lot of it in London, searching for British actors. Those auditions are difficult to get though, and you would need to know some people or be somewhat known to casting directors and agents to get submitted.
4. Costs in both cities
Acting costs have already been covered on this site so I won’t repeat it. Actual numbers are different today, but the ratio is still pretty close.
5. City vs city
Another difficult one.
In my personal opinion, London, as a city itself, has a potential to be a winner over Los Angeles for many different reasons: culture, architecture, history, people, transportation among others. It also has that “artistic presence.”
Lalaland has many problems, not the least of which is traffic. But what tips the scale slightly in favor of Los Angeles though, is the weather, of course. Nothing beats Southern California’s climate. I would much rather sit in traffic for a couple of hours in Los Angeles than keep freezing my bottoms off 9 months a year in cold London.
Which one’s the best?
I feel like you still have the need to ask this question, so let me answer directly: neither city is better. Both LA and London have great opportunities, and building career takes time. If you’re not willing to put in the work, then your location won’t have any impact on your non-existent career.
My advice for budding actors would be to follow their goals, interests and where they would feel most comfortable. If you have the opportunity to move to either city, evaluate advantages and disadvantages for your own case and go with that.
Here’s a cool and short article from Victoria Atkin on auditioning in both London and Los Angeles, and two accurate quotes from a Brit on LA, and from an American on London.
“Los Angeles is a town full of airheads. There’s a great deal of wonderful energy there.” – Alan Rickman
“I’m leaving because the weather is too good. I hate London when it’s not raining.” – Groucho Marx