Moving to London, Los Angeles or New York City to pursue a career as an actor is a big decision that requires careful planning and thorough understanding of what awaits you in these cities. You need to plan your move well to avoid any pitfalls, and to save yourself time and money.
Nevertheless, it’s a move that’s inevitable for majority of ambitious actors whose dreams do not align with keeping acting as their hobby and performing in community theatres on the weekends. Metropolitan cities such as NYC, LA and London is where majority of acting jobs are found.
On top of that, you get to live the true live of an artist and surround yourself with other like-minded people who share your passion and understand your goals.
We have previously talked about several other locations that would work well for actors to move to. However, if you are planning a move, and you have no specific reason to move to those smaller cities, then you might as well pick the one that’s going to provide you with most opportunities for film, television and theatre work.
Moving to London, LA and NYC can be daunting at first. It will take time to prepare, money to invest, and you’ll need to do some reading on how you will settle there, find a job, and start getting out for auditions.
Let’s quickly cover what exactly do you need to note on your checklist before you abandon your small hometown for fame and fortune of world’s largest cities and entertainment capitals.
5 Things You’ll Need To Do Before Moving to London, LA or NYC
1. You need a solid plan
It was said many times before that something called “overnight success” does not exist outside of celebrity magazines. Therefore, in order to start from the right foot after moving and then living in London, Los Angeles or NYC and get somewhere in this big pool of talent and competition, you need a great business plan for yourself.
Consider your options and what you’re going to do when once you make the move. Think of ideas how you can start earning acting credits and experience as soon as possible in case no auditions come your way just yet.
Try to produce your own content if nothing comes a long. Maybe you can write a short film or a web series and find people to produce it with? Do plenty of research beforehand and that way you’ll be able to cover as many details as you can.
Knowing exactly where you’re going and what you’re doing will save you time and money, that way ensuring that you’re working efficiently the minute you land (or arrive to) in London, Los Angeles or New York City. This is especially true if you want to spend the least amount of time exploring and more time moving your acting and filmmaking career forward.
This reminds me of the way great director Ridley Scott works. He believes in thorough planning to avoid any types of mistakes, and to move efficiently and effectively thorough the filming process of the movie.
“Never take your notes into a pitch, because you’ll turn a good film into a development deal. Once you’re green lit you can change it then. I storyboarded the entire film, right through everything. they aren’t stick figures, they are wide shots, mediums, etc. With the power of the board — we doubled the budget…” – Ridley Scott (source)
The exact same system of thorough planning (storyboarding) should be applied to an actor’s career, and particularly when you’re just starting out.
When you’re planning your arrival to one of these metropolitan cities, what you want to think of are things like where you’re going to stay, where are you going to take acting classes, find survival jobs and what else you can do.
If you decide to produce your own content, which is one of the best decisions you can make, then plan for that as well. Consider where to go to find associates or how to raise a little money for your project. Revise your business plan before the actual move so that you spend less time thinking and have more time for action when you’re at the location.
2. Gain some experience
Actors who aren’t in a rush yet (for example, maybe you’re saving money for the move) can take advantage of that time as well. If you’re just thinking about moving to London, NYC or LA and are yet to make the leap, then consider gaining some real acting experience first in your hometown.
MORE HELP: 5 Step Plan on How to Start an Acting Career
There are many things you can do while you’re waiting to save enough cash and move. Anything from starting your acting CV, researching the industry, reading some acting books and making connections through social media with people in the city you want to move to will be very beneficial.
To start with, get into an acting class or join a local community theatre or a drama club. On the basis of these activities, you will understand whether acting is something you want to dedicate your life to. You will also gain the knowledge and hone your acting chops so that you’re ready for the bigger market with larger pool of experienced talent.
3. Make connections whenever possible
In these times when everybody is on the social medial platforms, and emails are the primary form of contact, it’s fairly easy to make connections anywhere in the entertainment industry. On top of that, those connections can bring you much more work than any acting training or drama school degree could.
Find like minded people and fellow actors or filmmakers from the city you’re moving to and discuss potential opportunities. Maybe they’re thinking about launching a new project and looking for a partner? You can possibly shake hands on a project you’ll do together (a short film, web series, or a spec commercial) and secure yourself a job right off the bat.
Ask your new connections questions and don’t be shy to ask for advice either. Usually people are more than happy to share their own experience and knowledge with newcomers in showbiz. Sometimes, such conversations might lead to more valuable connections, like a filmmaker who’s currently producing a short film and would like you to audition for.
4. Join the union
In the UK, all professional actors will have to join Equity actors’ union. In the US, you’ll have to become SAG-AFTRA eligible first, and then join whenever you decide. Making this one of your priorities before moving to Los Angeles, NYC or London will benefit you in at least two ways.
First, you’ll have one less thing to worry about when you’re in a bigger city and you’re already struggling and worrying about too many other things (there’s always less pressure in your hometown). You may also want to join Spotlight – the UK’s #1 casting website – as soon as you’re eligible.
Second, pushing through everything just to be able to become a member of the union (which requires acting experience) will make you a better actor and you’ll understand how much effort it takes to actually make it in this business.
Becoming a member of Equity in the UK is not that complicated once you have 2-4 acting credits on your resume. With SAG-AFTRA, however, it’s a different story and they have their own structure which makes it a lot more difficult for actors to become eligible to join.
5. Save up as much money as you can
This could be either a tough one or an easy one, depending how rich you or your parents are. Unfortunately, money is a big factor for a newbie actor (or any actor, really) who’s just started pursuing this career.
Don’t buy into all those stories of actors coming to the city with just $300 in their pockets (check the article on reality of this business below). If you do this, you will most likely go broke in a week, starve for another week and then go home defeated, which is where your dream will meet its end point.
To avoid that downfall, you must maintain a healthy balance of naivete. Being naive for an actor is not necessarily a bad thing, as the quote from Steve Martin below says, but you also should maintain a good amount of skepticism and ground yourself in reality.
“Through the years, I have learned there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.” – Steve Martin
Be one of the few smarter actors when it comes to pursuing your acting career goals and plan well. Prepare yourself properly by reading plenty of books, researching this industry, talking to other people and knowing exactly how you’re going to launch yourself into the market as soon as you move to Los Angeles, NYC or London.
Money, experience, connections and your acting career’s business plan are just some of the things you should strongly consider before making the big move. If anything else pops into your head what you can do before packing and leaving, then write it down. A good plan of action will never hurt your career and only benefit it.
Be a clever actor, make smart choices and prepare yourself for that “overnight success”. It will only happen if you make it happen.