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Moving to L.A. to Work


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#1 jeff c

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 02:43 AM

I'm just finishing up my film/tv degree in Toronto, Canada. While there is a decent industry here and especially in my hometown Vancouver, I feel the work here is either service based for Americans or the ceiling is too low.

Canadian films rarely have a budget of over 5 million dollars. Which is less then an indie down south. I also would like to one day be a key creative, which are almost exclusively flown up on studio shoots.

Since everyone knows you start at the bottom after you graduate, do you guys recommend moving to L.A?

If so, what are the steps one has to take. Should they get an immigration lawyer right away? Should they just go down for the allowed 6 months and try to hang on?

If anyone has experience in this situation, I'd like to here your story. Any advice is also appreciated.

Also how hard would it be to find work down there. I've heard it's five times larger then Toronto, but also five times more competitive.
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 07:37 AM

Unless you have papers to work in the US, you don't. Since it is to all intents and purposes impossible to get papers to work freelance, and because almost all the work in that field is freelance, you're stuffed.

Have a nice day.

Phil
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#3 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 07:58 AM

On a slightly more optimistic note: Perhaps you should get some experience in a smaller arena before moving to a bigger one.
You cannot expect that just with a film degree and enthusiasm that the red carpet will roll out for you in Canada, LA or anywhere.
What kind of "key creative" do you want to be. Is that a DoP, a director, a key grip, etc.?
If you've set your sights on cinematography, several career paths have been discussed on this forum and can be applied to any city that has a film industry.
I suggest that you use this forum's search engine and get some ideas.
They all boil down to knowledge, experience, enthusiasm and TIME.
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#4 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 08:39 AM

If it's 5 times more competitive, you should build up your CV a bit. At least it gets over the what have you've done question.

I know UK camera people who do some freelance work in the US. I guess it's a matter of the right pieces of paper.
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#5 James Compton

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 09:30 AM

Set your target first. Always work smart. Go to craigslist.org and pick the cities closet to you (Seattle, Portland, etc.), and answer ads in the film/tv area looking for a PA or grip for a short film. Once you
get that first film, you'll have made several contacts in that city. That can grow into more work. Then cast your fishing line to another city and do the same. It will work. Be patient and persistent. You have to hustle,man. Network - run your mouthpiece.
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#6 Richard Boddington

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 09:55 AM

"If so, what are the steps one has to take. Should they get an immigration lawyer right away? Should they just go down for the allowed 6 months and try to hang on?"

What six months you're allowed? Never heard of that? You mean the six months you can enter the USA as a Canadian with no paper work?

Yes, that is as a VISITOR, you can't legally work in the USA during that time period. You won't have a US drivers license or SSC card so getting any kind of paying work where they need to withhold taxes won't be possible.

The only option available to you that is quick is the TN1 permit if you have a four year degree. Note that for this your occupation needs to be on a list that is associated with the TN1, and careers in film certainly are not. The other choice is the H1 visa. For this your employer must really want you, to jump through the hoops to get this for you. Doubtful.

Really the fastest way to the American dream is to marry an American, then you'll get a greencard in relatively short order. Other than that, don't listen to what people tell you about Canadians going to the USA and how easy it is. You'll be treated like any other nationality, only worse, you can't even try for the greencard lottery. Canadians are not on the list, there are already 600,000 Canadians in LA.

As for going there in the first place...every one here who says get experience else where first is bang on the money. You'll most likely starve in LA as a new film school grad, even with established credits there are 500 other people with established credits for every job opening in LA.

Toronto is a great training ground. People have told me I should go to LA, but I don't fancy scratching out a living in a huge hot smelly city, and living in a 1200 square foot home that cost over $500, 000.00.

Not too mention you'll have to provide your own health insurance, are you really ready for that? My guess is that you're a typical Canadian who has taken this for granted your whole life. But if you're in LA, and you get injured, it will be a huge priority all of a sudden. Any "job" in film you get in LA will not provide you with OHIP style coverage.

Also what's this, an indie film in the USA is five million? Where did you get that from?

A five million dollar film in the USA would be considered a decent budget, not by Universal Studio standards of course, but I and most people here would be glad to work on a five million dollar film.

Just because a film is being made in the USA does not mean it has a huge budget.

R,
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#7 John Sprung

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 12:21 PM

For entry to mid level work, it would be more advantageous to move from LA to Vancouver rather than the other way. It's also a lot harder to do.



-- J.S.
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#8 Tenolian Bell

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 12:55 PM

In the current environment its not necessarily best to move to LA to start your career. You would spend most of your time working a job to pay the bills and saying you want to do something else. You would rarely have the opportunity to do whatever it is you really want to do. Its better to get your start in a smaller market where there is less competition and you can grow and develop your skills. Then move to LA after your career is gaining momentum and you can attract the attention of producers.
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#9 jeff c

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 01:02 PM

Jesus, thanks for opening up my eyes. I think it's mainly because I've heard so many success stories from people who have gone down and made it. I guess I'll stay in Toronto for a while and try to get brought down once I'm a bit more established.

Regarding the 5 million dollar quote, that is for a feature where everyone gets paid, most likely shot on film. Two hours HVX specials don't count.

Thanks for all the information guys.
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#10 Richard Boddington

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 01:58 PM

"I think it's mainly because I've heard so many success stories from people who have gone down and made it."

Of course you only hear about the James Camerons, and Jim Carreys. For each of those there are well over a 1000 that go no where in LA.

If you want to be there you best bet would work at a TV station, if they wanted to go through the hassel of the immigration paper work.

R,
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#11 jeff c

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 04:19 PM

I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about people who go down to become scribes and get an entry level job reading coverage at an agency. That's a success story. Or people who go down to produce and end up in the studio system as an associate producer by the time they are 25. That to me is a huge success story.

I'm not interested in going down to make my magnum opus or become an a-list actor. I would be interested in starting from the bottom, learning my craft and being in a stable creative and financial position by the time I'm 40ish. I'd eventually like to end up in the Director's chair but I didn't bring that up because there is no answer on how you go about doing that.

I guess I could start off in Canada and work my way up the ladder here and eventually hope to switch over.
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#12 Richard Boddington

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 06:05 PM

"Or people who go down to produce and end up in the studio system as an associate producer by the time they are 25."

Name one example where this has actually happened?

It's more myth than fact, sorry.

The reality is that it's a long tough slog up for 99.9% of the people.

R,
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#13 jeff c

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 07:16 PM

There are associate producers out there in their late 20's. I've personally met a few, one being 25 at the time, but I'm not too sure they would want to be named on the forums. Obviously the work is for lower end comedies but we're still looking at 30+ mil budgets with a wide release.

Maybe 25 is a tad earlier, but I don't think 28-30 is unreasonable. These people go on to become producers when they are 40-45. It is far from myth.

Oh and by the way, is that Liam Card in your trailer?
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#14 Richard Boddington

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 08:14 PM

Ah....40-45 is a long way from 25. You said 25 to begin with. Yes 45 is believeable to be a Hollywood producer.

Yes that's Liam Card.

R,
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#15 jeff c

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 08:22 PM

"Associate producer" is different from "producer". An associate producer is equivalent to a Director's 1st AD to a Producer.

Edited by jeff c, 10 August 2007 - 08:23 PM.

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#16 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 08:42 PM

"Associate producer" is different from "producer". An associate producer is equivalent to a Director's 1st AD to a Producer.



There are three common uses of the AP title (at least in TV productions)

1- In the best use of the title the AP is the person in charge of running post production. They deal directly with the EPs the network, they oversee all aspects of post, and attend the timing session, ADR sessions, mixes. etc.

2- Often in reality programming they give the title to someone who is a low leve assistant to a producer but this individual handles no significant tasks. They tend to do internet research and fetch coffee.

3- if you are sleeping with an EP on a show and hang out on set you can also get yourself an AP credit. But again this is pretty meangingless.
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#17 Richard Boddington

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 09:38 PM

"Associate producer" is different from "producer". An associate producer is equivalent to a Director's 1st AD to a Producer.


Geez now we are really splitting hairs. Thanks for the film school 101.

R,
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#18 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 09:47 PM

An associate producer is equivalent to a Director's 1st AD to a Producer.

Not in most cases.
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#19 jeff c

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 10:21 PM

I'm not splitting hairs. You misquoted me so I was correcting the mistake. No need to get snarky, I'm not trying to flaunt knowledge. This is just what I've been told associate producers do by an associate producer!

From my conversation with an AP (features) at fox, they occasionally rep producers at meetings, run errands and essentially extend their arms and legs. Of course it could be different for every film and I'm sure many people get credited for sleeping with EP's.

I'll admit the comparison between the 1st ad might not have been the most apt example. But my intention was to correct the misquote. Either way, I'm not here to argue or nit pick and apologize if I came across the wrong way.
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