5 Things I Learned in LA (and You Can Too)

I just had the good fortune of hitting LA on a business trip last week. I lived in LA for 20 some odd years, so I know the place pretty well. But I was really reminded of a few things while down there:

  1. Connections are everything: if you’re an aspiring  film maker (or anything for that matter), one of the most important things you can lean on is your network of college friends, work associates, family, etvc. Treat them like gold. Reach out to them frequently to see how they are, how you can help, and what their up to. Because the day will come when you might need a hand, an introduction, or some simple advice. I was able to land some great meetings simply because I’d really cared about my network over the years – and had a few favors in the bank.
  2. Talent is everywhere:  From your waiter or the guy parking your car to the VP of Distribution, talent is all over the place. Especially in LA where people of high caliber flock around Big Dreams. What sets people apart is execution. Getting it done. Making things happen. If you’re the next Spielberg sitting around and waiting for someone to knock on your door, good luck with that.  Instead, make a plan. Tweak the plan. Repeat the plan. Go.
  3. Location matters:  Yeah. I live in Bellingham, WA. A great place to raise a family and full of tremendous people. And the world is getting flatter with the Internet and our ability to communicate quickly from just about anywhere in the world. But when you’re standing in an elevator and you strike up a conversation with one of the heavyweights at Universal, that’s simply something that can’t be replicated anywhere but in LA. Not that you have to live your life there, but if you are sincere about being in the content game – it’s a great place to drop into every now and again. Opportunity is around every corner.
  4. Stay Positive:  I don’t care what you’re doing – if it’s BIG then it’s going to be TOUGH. In LA especially, there’s a thousand reasons to give-up. Smog. Crowds. Cost of Living. The Next Party. Everything just out of reach. Forget all that – embrace all that. In the words of the immortal Russell Wilson – “Why Not You?”
  5. Traffic Still Sucks: Bring your Books on tape.  Here’s a killer podcast about the film biz – http://www.theqandapodcast.com

I’m not advocating that we all pack our bags and move to the city of angels. Maybe. What I am saying is that it is possible to do really great things in the film biz outside of LA LA Land. People are making it happen all the time in a thousand and one places. It’s just nice to drop in every now and again, be reminded of history, and see how the Big Boys and Girls play. The studios alone will blow you away.

Lastly – it’s called Show Business.  Yeah, it’s all good to shoot movies (or dream about shooting movies),  but what really separates the haves from the have-nots is the ability to approach your art as a business. Make it sustainable. Keep the lights on and make it possible for the next project to happen. Some people call that ‘selling out’. I call it a career. Think about how to make that happen, no matter where you are.

Your thoughts?  Maybe you’re in Tahiti right now writing a screenplay. Kudos – and I’d love to read the second draft.



Author: Chris Donaldson

Chris Donaldson is Executive Producer at HCFmedia. Can film making change the world? The Short Answer: Yes.