10 Myths About Making It In LA As An Actor

  1. If I just get into, go to, find the right acting coach, or train in the right program, and become a better actor, then I'll make it.
  2. If I just look better, get skinnier, work out more, get a boob job, nose job, hair extensions, get better pics, clothes, then I'll make it.
  3. If I just meet the right people in LA, have a better agent or manager, then I'll make it.
  4. If I just have a more positive attitude, get more spiritual, say affirmations, find God, believe in myself more, then I'll make it.
  5. If I can just do the right showcase, get seen by the right people, get my showreel onto the right website, then I'll make it.
  6. If I just get out of this city I live in now, and move to LA, then I'll make it (after all, I've made it HERE…)
  7. If I just date or fall in love with or (mess around with) the right people, contacts, then I'll make it.
  8. If I could just get into SAG or AFTRA, then I'll make it.
  9. If I was just younger, or if I looked younger, or if I was just older, or looked older, then I'll make it.
  10. If I just try harder and wasn't so lazy, maybe write my own scripts, or direct my own films to star in (etc…) then I'll make it.

The truth is, there is no right or wrong way to "make it" as a working actor in LA. Not one of these ten things above will really make it easier for you to make it. They just won't. I know I'm rocking the boat by saying this, but I'm trying to protect everyone from feeling that they aren't trying hard enough, or making the right choices. These factors and choices really have nothing to do with your success or failure within your career, past, present, or future. The truth is, it's all luck, who you know, and really not much more. There are a million beautiful super talented actors in Los Angeles for every casting agent to chose from, and honestly, you have no control over if or how or when you will make it, and even if you think you've "made it" you might find yourself a couple of years later out of work, wondering "why?"…

Everyone has to follow their own way in life. Everyone has to make their own choices.

I get hundreds of emails from budding actors all over the world asking me which program I recommend for actors to train in, and what they think they should do to help them make it to the next level in their acting career. And honestly, while I'm totally honored that complete strangers put their trust in little ol' me to give them advice about what they should do, it leaves me feeling very helpless, and oftentimes, a bit sad. I know many people write me while they're in the middle of major life changes, or trying to decide major things about their futures, like if they should move to LA, or if they should go to particular college or grad programs (or not), so I know where these emails come from.

Mostly, they come out of fear. I think most people who write me asking me what they should do next just don't have a clue, and they are scared they are or are not making the right decision. They are totally afraid that if they make the wrong decision, then their whole life will be a disaster. This is, quite simply, wrong. But I appreciate that, and I've been there myself, so I totally understand how it feels to be at this crossroads.

All I can do is ask you these simple questions.

Do you want to live in LA? Do you have any idea how expensive it is to rent an apartment or buy real estate in LA? Do you have enough money saved up to rent an apartment that will probably cost about $2000 a month, and enough money to move there from wherever you live now, in the first place, and enough money for the first and last month's rent and usually also a half month's rent (all paid upfront to your landlord?) Do you have a good working car, and do you know how high the price of gas is in this city, and that you will be also paying for this gas, and driving all the time, and that you'll also have to pay for parking all over town? Do you have enough money saved to live on while you look for what will probably be a low paying job? Do you have enough money saved to support all the extras of working in LA -- AND -- the expenses of being a working actor (headshots, classes, utilities, massive cell phone bills?)

Many people have the dream to make it big in LA as an actor. We watch reality TV and we see the shows about people living and working there, and we hear many stories about people there, and we think it is easier than it really is. Many people in those reality shows already lived there or grew up there, have family there, or have money from parents that they are living on. Most people we see on TV have support - while the rest of us, and the rest of those trying to "make it" and get discovered, don't have so much money or support, and sadly, we seldom see THEIR side of this story.

To top it off - the industry is more than happy to take your money to help you BELIEVE that they are helping you "make it" in LA, while actually, they are doing these things to support themselves because they themselves have NOT made it in LA (as actors) so now they are teaching in programs, or taking headshots, or hosting Workshops or producing Showcases, all so they can pay their bills (and not work minimum wage jobs). I myself did this for many years. I taught in acting programs and held private classes. While I didn't technically make it in LA, I did direct and produce several films, and I did book many commercials, but none of these things ever supported me very much financially. Sad but true. My husband booked a major Super Bowl ad and made $50,000 one year, and that was great, but it wasn't the same the following year. So you just never know.

Books, acting programs, teachers, agents, managers, showcase producers, and all these support systems in place for actors are all fine and good - but beware those that are really expensive or those that lock you into pyramid schemes where you have to pay upfront, yearly or more in advance, or that make you audition to get to the next level, because they are preying upon your already competitive nature (all actors are VERY competitive!) and they know they will get lots of money from you (even if you want to get out).

My rallying cry always in all of my posts on this site is to do what feels right, go with your gut, and if you want to train, train in weekly private acting classes with a professional teacher who only takes your money in one month increments. Save your BIG money for your rent and your life! Don't put it into expensive training programs!

My other rallying cry is, that if you move to LA, go there with lots of money saved up front (like - $15 to $20,000 in the bank) and plan on only trying to "make it" there for a year or two max. Because you don't want to live off of credit cards and end up ten years later in bankruptcy. I know so many people who've done this and it's a terrible waste! Don't let that be you. If you haven't made it by then, get out (unless you can find another way to support yourself that you love, then stay, cus hey, it's a wonderful city to live in if you can afford it!) But - it's a crazy expensive city to live in, and you can act, write, make films, everywhere else, and still be very happy.

Another word of advice is that if you DO move to LA, and have ANY money in the bank, or any financial support early on from family, then put that money into a condo or small piece of real estate, so that you are putting money into a mortgage and a piece of property, and not into the hands of the greedy landlords who live all over LA, and prey upon the hordes and hordes of new people who move to LA every year, and live in rented apartments for the next 20 to 30 years of their lives (paying over $200,000 for ten years, for the privilege of living in a crappy little apartment!)

There is absolutely no right or wrong way to move to LA to make it. Every choice you make will be yours, and yours alone, and only YOU know what you can or can not do, or want to do. Training to be a better actor doesn't hurt, looking better doesn't hurt, meeting people doesn't hurt… but all of these things will not guarantee you'll get a part over someone else. Sadly, the only thing that will truly guarantee you a future in the LA acting scene is being the son, daughter, niece or nephew of famous, wealthy, highly connected people already working in the industry, and sadly even for these lovely people, it's not always a guarantee at fame. Even being a super model doesn't guarantee you'll work.

The only other guarantee that you'll work (but not necessarily for money) is writing and producing your own plays or independent films. That's what I did for years, I was broke, but I was busy, I won awards, but I was still broke and I usually had to have other full time jobs to pay the rent, which means I was still broke, and eventually had to move. (We're talking over a 20 year period).

On a final positive note - I love acting, and I love actors, and I hate that it's so hard for all of us! So no matter what...Here's to acting everyone! I am so proud that you have the gumption, drive, and self esteem to keep on acting. It's a very difficult calling, and only you know what's right (even if you think you don't).

On another final positive note, as my mom Kathy said to me once, "You only regret the things you DON'T do!" I'm a big fan of living your life to the fullest, and that life is short, and that your higher power, god, your gut, will tell you what you should do next. Those choices may not lead you to fame and fortune, but they may take you on the journey you least expect, and you may find your calling, the love of your life, or just some beautiful moments you'll cherish for a life time in the process! So move, or don't, go to a training program, or not (it doesn't really matter where, because casting agents don't REALLY care where you train… at least, not in LA for Film or TV)… and just enjoy the journey called your life!

Keep on Acting! Lots of love - Kirsten

About Kirsten Tretbar

Kirsten Tretbar is an acting teacher, filmmaker, and former actress. She received her MFA in Acting from USC in Los Angeles, where she acted professionally for many years.

Los Angeles + Kansas City http://theactingroom.com