Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Guest Blog: I Wish I'd Known When I First Got To LA by Dajuan Johnson

Ladies and gents allow me to introduce my second guest blogger to "Hollywood As I Live & Work", actor Dajuan Johnson! His tweets about his experiences when he first arrived in the Los Angeles were so similar to mine it led me to invite him to share his thoughts here.

And as I type I realize the anniversary of my moving to LA again snuck up on me. Damn, how time flies! August 17th, 2002, I arrived in Los Angeles sans formal invitation with a car full of "I can't live withouts" and a heart full of hope. No road map to sure success, just a strong desire to fulfill the potential I knew North Carolina couldn't satisfy. Read my personal story HERE.

So below are excerpts from Dajaun's blog post "LA or Bust" that mirror my own thoughts of "I Wished I Had Known When I First Got To LA." I also dedicate this to friends of friends reading this that have expressed a desire to make the move. Take these experiences and learn what you can, but know that our experiences may not be yours:

1. A few thousand was nothing in this city
. My first bit of advice, get yourself a good flexible “side job.” You’re going to hate it and at times you’re going to even resent it…and why wouldn’t you? It’s not what you came out here to do! It’s not what you spent 4 years in University perfecting your craft to do – and yet you really do need to do it. The trick is to make sure they’re flexible and will allow you to leave for auditions, bookings and/or extended bookings.

Personal Sidebar: My little bundle of monetary joy went fast too! To help keep me and Corolla fed I did audience work. Yes, they pay you to sit in the studio audience for various shows and I didn't like it. It's hard to merely sit in the audience and applaud when your accustomed to working behind the scenes running the show. The benefits outside of cash were access to the studio lots and seeing the live studio production.

2. It’s not called SHOW-ART or SHOW-FEELINGS – it’s SHOWBIZ! I want to stress this point because it took so long in the beginning for me to get my head around the business side of things. This truly is the Superbowl of acting and you’re going to have to step up your game. Especially, soon as you realize that the part doesn’t always go to the most talented actor.

Personal Sidebar: This still applies across the board cause working as a below-the-line producer in NC was different than here. The basics of television/film production didn't change but the culture surrounding it definitely did. So, if you're gonna play the showbiz game know the major players, their roles, and the rules.

3. Some relationships are just experience, but you just need to know when to hold’em and know when to fold’em. Remembering that every experience is a learning experience will get you far.

Personal Sidebar: I'll add to that, learn quickly the differentiation between friends and associates. There is an element of "what can you do for me?" that's real. So watch your back, your front, and all extremities as a newbie in the industry. Memorable experiences, good or bad, make for great blogs!

4. Referrals and workshops for finding an agent. I have found are the best avenues and I wish I knew this from the get-go. Since you’re new out here you are probably thinking how am I going to get a referral? Friends, classmates, teachers, co-workers are a great place to start.

Personal Sidebar: This rings true in general for getting some face time with studio or company reps that make hiring decisions. Thanks to a referral I received my first long term job on a sitcom, "The Parkers." Shout out to Thyonne and Stacey:-)

5. Sam French (bookstore) is going to become your best friend when you first get into town. There’s a lot of GOOD information in that store on how to get an agent.

Personal Sidebar: I spent immeasurable amounts of time in Sam French literally taking notes from the books I couldn't afford to buy. Of course, that was an offense so off to a Barnes & Noble or public library I would go. Many of the trades including "Hollywood Reporter" and "Variety" can be read for free and photocopied for cheap at the library. Not to mention should your computer or internet cease to exist, the library is a life saver.

And browse the Amazon widget to the left. There's a wealth of used and new material related to Hollywood on it's website.

6. Having your own website. Get one. And get it fast. I have found right now in the business people want it fast. They want to be able to click on something and have all the information they need about you. I’ve booked jobs by having my reel and resume online.

Personal Sidebar: Even a blog helps, especially if you're a writer. In fact, "Hollywood As I Live & Work" was created for two reasons: 1. To showcase my skills as a writer and video producer; and 2. to give folk back home a way of keeping up with me. That said this blog, my YouTube Channel, and my Livestream Channel do lead to work for others.

7. A personal support system. Finally, probably one of the most important things I wish I knew when I first moved out here…but quickly found out…you need to have a strong support system in place. I was lucky because a group of people I went to college with moved out here too or had already made the trek.

If you don’t have something like this in place, find good people you connect with. It helps if they’re in the industry or at least if they get the industry because you’re going to be talking about it a lot.

I hope I helped even a little. Remember these are the opinions of an actor going through it right now. Real Time. None of this is full proof. Just my journey. I often wonder if I’ll look back on all of this and have something different to say. Probably not.

Personal Sidebar: That first year me and some dear friends formed what we named the "NC Collective". And for the time we all lived here it was definitely a great support. Most have moved back. Yes, we talked industry a lot but it was and is sooo good to have those around that have something more to talk about than just working in the industry.

To learn more about Dajuan and to read the full text of his "LA or Bust" blog visit his website at


Anonymous said...

Although I am a native I think this is really helpful and insightful for those planning to move here (LA).

Anonymous said...

This was helpful. So just how much do you need to live in LA?