2 Months in LA
My wife and I relocated to L.A. from Orlando a little over two months ago. It was a transition we had been planning for a few years. We were both performers at Walt Disney World. She was full time in a lot of their shows, parades, and TV spots. I was a magician at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort performing four shows a night, three to four nights a week. After spending about four years in Orlando, we decided it was time to try something different. We declined renewing our contracts and set our sights West.
After a month of packing, blindly finding an apartment over the internet, and taking a seven day road trip with our two dogs, we finally made it to California. It was all fun and exciting, but as we entered the state it hit us: We both gave up full time jobs to pursue our dreams…and our rent basically doubled. Gob Bluth’s famous line from Arrested Development, “I’ve made a terrible mistake,” kept playing over and over in my mind.
After about two weeks of minor depression, I began to focus on my contacts out here and attempted to remind myself of why we made the move. The toughest part about moving to Orlando was knowing zero people, but luckily for us, L.A. was very much the opposite. The amount of friends we have out here from college has been incredibly helpful. Having a network of support has made the transition 1,000 times easier.
The community at the Magic Castle has also been very kind. I have a few magic friends I’ve made over the years at various gigs whom I kept in touch with. Having them show me around the Castle and introduce me to new magicians makes networking much easier.
The greatest challenge so far is simply booking local work. Most of my gigs seem to be coming from just outside of L.A., or as far as the Midwest or East Coast. The amount of good magicians in L.A. is enormous. Orlando has a large magic community, but compared to here, it’s a third of the size. Everyone’s rate is very competitive too; you can’t charge the higher corporate rates you may be used to. This became very clear when I had a company out of Beverly Hills ask if I would do three hours of strolling magic for $100.
When I’m not working, I have been spending a lot of time at comedy clubs, variety shows and the Magic Castle attempting to see as much live performance as I can. The common through line in L.A. is this: Every magician or comedian here is very polished, and everyone here has talent. That's encouraging and depressing at the same time. I am a firm believer in surrounding yourself with performers who are better than you because it forces you to work harder. However, that makes it difficult to “get good” in LA.
My advice for anyone thinking of making the transition is to build your chops up somewhere else first, whether that is a restaurant or local theater/comedy club. There are plenty of open mics and places to try new material in L.A., but it is not the place to start out brand new.
After experiencing this, I am truly thankful for my time at Disney doing 12-16 shows a week, trying new effects and working pieces to the point where you don't have to think on stage anymore. If I failed at a new effect in my first show, I knew that in fifteen minutes I would be able to get back up and try it again. Repetition is key when trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t…and that option is a little tougher to come by out here.
Despite the fact that everyone here is in the entertainment industry in some form or another, it is strongly refreshing to be in a world where everyone is in the same boat as you. Coming from the Midwest, you often stand out when you tell people you are an entertainer for a living. It’s flattering to have immediate attention when being associated with your choice of work…but there have been many times where I feel like a black sheep, unable to relate to people with “real jobs”. In L.A., people ask what you do and then you move on to the next subject of conversation.
The one thing you really have to be conscientious of in this town is false promises. Everyone seems to want to use you in their next project, and I am sure most of that sentiment is genuine. But after doing this professionally for fourteen years, I don’t actually believe any project will truly happen until it has been completed. I was with a friend at the Magic Castle a while back, and a guy came up to him and said, “I can’t wait to use you in my next film!” I congratulated my friend on the upcoming gig. He then proceeded to tell me that he hears that line at least once a week.
Overall my L.A. experience thus far has been exciting. They say it’s good to face your fears, and L.A. was a location I was genuinely afraid of. I didn't think I would be able to exist in such a fast paced location filled with dreams of stardom and Botox. But like any location, its all about who you know and the people you associate with who make the experience positive. In the end, your entertainment fate is out of your control. The most you can do is be kind to people, do good work, and hopefully good things will come of it.