From Unemployed Depression to Hollywood's Hottest Graphic Designer: How I Found Success in LA

People move to large cities all the time. People move to Los Angeles all. the. time. It never once occurred to me that it was a difficult task. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Now, I realize how clueless most people are when it comes to moving to LA.

THE BEGINNING

It was August of 2008. I was SO ready to get out of the suburbs of Philadelphia and start working on my Los Angeles dream of working in the movie business. I had a rough plan put into place: meet the contacts I made online, and work my ass off to try to get work. Decent plan. Right?

Two days before I was set to leave Philly, I was diagnosed with an eye disease. Oh, that was FUN! My left eye was suddenly super sensitive to light, I was in incredible pain, I had to see a specialist doctor, and be put on a high dose of steroids. Two days before my big move. My parents insisted I stay home longer, I insisted I leave on time. My parents let me win that one.

I was pretty excited about moving to LA, knowing my Best Friend Forever (BFF) had already made the move. At least I would have someone, who already made the same journey, to show me the way! What a great example of how life throws you curve balls. My BFF (who I discovered was really just an F—the B must have gotten lost in the LA smog) didn’t offer to pick me up from the airport, didn’t offer me a couch to sleep on, didn’t offer me any sense of comfort in a truly uncomfortable time. I stayed on the couch of my sister’s best friend’s sister whom I had never met before. THANK GOD FOR LAUREN!! Lauren’s hospitality was incredible. But as warm and welcoming and helpful as she was, she was still basically a stranger, and I was still basically alone in a city 3,000 miles from home without a job or a place to live, or any real friends. Oh, and I was still on a high dose of steroids. I was scared and overwhelmed. There may have been a few tears. Ok, fine, meltdowns. There were definitely meltdowns.

The next few weeks were hard. You hear about “the traffic” in LA, but no one really tells you which freeways to take, and which to stay as far the hell away from as possible. One day, I got stuck on the 405 heading from Mar Vista to Burbank on a Friday in rush hour. No one moved. I called Lauren, and she urged me to get off the freeway, “You’ll go to Burbank another day, TRUST ME! Get the hell off the 405!”

And nobody tells you how spread out LA is — Santa Monica to Glendale could take an hour and a half. And nobody tells you that refrigerators don’t come with apartments. (Um, WTF?) And nobody tells you how to properly stalk Craigslist (and avoid threesome invitations — or not, if you’re into that sort of living situation). And nobody tells you how to meet the down-to-earth, (semi) sane people, or where to find temp work so you can pay rent until you get your foot in the door. Nobody tells you anything. At least any valuable specifics that could save you tons of time and meltdowns.

TWO STEPS FORWARD, THREE STEPS BACK

Maneuvering Los Angeles in the very beginning is troublesome, to say the least. When you’re trying to break into the film industry, that adds an extra layer. I remember designing graphics on the floor of Lauren’s apartment, emailing them to potential employers whenever the internet had enough bars (Lauren was secretly stealing Internet from her neighbors—who says you can’t live on a budget?!), desperately scrambling for work. It seemed to pay off, because I was lucky enough to land a dream job working on TNT’s “Trust Me”, starring Eric McCormack, within my first few weeks, before I even had a place to live. Those were the most exciting 6 months of my life. Then the show was canceled. Welcome to television.

I thought moving to LA was hard. Ha. Trying to find work in one of the most economically difficult times is much, much harder. The next nine months were some of the worst of my life. I couldn’t find a job. At all. One time, I saw an ad on Craigslist for a server position at a restaurant. The ad had JUST been posted twenty minutes earlier, so I jumped in my car and sped over to the restaurant. When I got there, there were already 10 other people in line for the job. This was my life. For nine long months. Money was scarce. I learned how to live on a budget—I would get $25 worth of groceries at Trader Joe’s and make them last as long as I could. I wouldn’t go anywhere that didn’t have free parking. Actually, I didn’t leave my bedroom very often. It was rough. The only thing I had was tenacity.

GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO WORK HARD

Not giving up is what saved me. I just kept networking and applying to jobs, and eventually was hired on “Glee”. It would have been really easy to throw in the towel during those nine months. I’m pretty sure my parents were hoping I would. But I was determined. And I’m so glad I stuck with it. In a few weeks, I will start working on my 20th show. That blows my mind. It’s incredible to see with my own eyes, that hard work really does pay off. And all I did was keep going. It’s the simple secret of success: never give up.

So, keep going for it. It may take time, but you can definitely make things happen. Check back here often for more tips, and as always, feel free to email me with questions or leave comments below!