Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Time for another run into the mail-bag. Please understand that nothing I write is THE answer. These are only my opinions, and should be treated as the ramblings of some dude with a laptop and the time to write this kind of stuff.

“A question I have as an aspiring MV director, (beside the obvious 'find a new career'), is how much of being successful merely relies on being at the right place?

I look at directors like *name deleted*, who are amazingly talented, but don't seem to be working much because they live in northern California. Then i look at directors like *also deleted*, who is amazingly terrible, but seems to be working all the time because he lives in LA.

Now is that just a showcase of the two parties ambition? Or a bi product of their location?"

Should I feel obliged to move somewhere to get more work? Or focus on doing the best I can and hope that the work finds me?”

First of all, I don't think anyone works or doesn't work because of where they live. There are so many factors that go into creating and maintaining a music video career - reel, representation, concept and so on (for my thoughts on those, read every other post in this blog).

The underlying question here is a two-parter. (1) Does being in LA help a career in music videos? and (2) should a given director move here to help their career?

Does being in LA help your career?
My short answer is “definitely.” The vast majority of big label work gets shot out here. A few labels are still back in NYC, but filming in the five boroughs is very costly these days. Simply for cost savings on flights to jobs shooting in LA – living in the 323/310/818 region is useful. (Note that for those in the Black Director Division - Atlanta is also a possibility.)

To a certain extent, living in LA helps all show-business jobs. Young actors who reside elsewhere take meetings with casting or agenting types and get told “Call us back when you move to LA.” Living in LA means you are in the game to a lot of people who might be looking to hire you – and those folks have a point. Show-business (whether MVs, screen-writing, whatever) takes a serious, usually long-term commitment and how committed are you if you still reside in the room with Mom’s sewing machine and your old Slayer posters on the wall?

Living in Los Angeles is like having a business card printed with your name on it, headshots or a nice navy suit to wear to an interview – it doesn’t mean that you can do the job, but people will struggle to take you seriously if you don’t have it.

Should YOU move to LA?
For directors who are NOT shooting big label jobs – staying where you are might be the plan. If you aren’t working on jobs where the commissioner demands you shoot in LA – then maybe you are fine where you are. Save your money (unless you live in the Bay Area, where it costs more than here) and stay put.

What is success for you? There are plenty of directors who live other places. They may not be making their sole living from videos – but maybe they are. If your goal is to do videos for Chingy or the Killers – you better be in LA. If a director likes doing the jobs they can get without too much stress or having to write on tracks they don’t really like – stay home. Being a part-time director and part time assistant at Paramount is very tough. If directing won't pay the bills here - you might want to stay put.

For example, I don’t know where Ben Dickinson lives but he made a great video in Brooklyn.

To the questioner I would say - Look at your reel and look at the reel of the people getting the kind of work you want to get. Not the guys writing and not getting the jobs – but the people who are booking stuff you wanna book. If your reel isn’t better than theirs – then moving won’t solve the problem.

I don’t believe directors book jobs just because they’re in the right place at the right time. That’s the defeatist “it’s not what you know it’s who you know” crap. Lots of Silver Lake film-school motherfuckas spout stuff like that, but they also complain that anyone who showers or gets a paying job is a “sell out.” Ignore those people, but it might be hard in the Bay Area.

Living in LA will NOT make you a better director. It MIGHT make it easier for you to get jobs IF you are already in the running for them now. Moving here will not jump start your career, but you might meet some bands and get friendly and meet some people and do some spec work that comes out well and so on.

The questioner added:

"a short anecdote a colleague shared on the matter of location:

Talented people with no ambition move to San Francisco.
Talented people with ambition move to NYC.
People with ambition and no talent move to LA.

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on location, as I'm sure many other directors would too."
I guess. LA is full of very ambitious people. LA is scary as hell. It is THE place to be if you want a career in show business. Sorry, NYC doesn’t count unless your idea of show business is Broadway or publishing.

There are lots of people living in Buffalo or Austin who tell themselves they would be big stars as actors/singers/stuntmen/directors if they were only in LA. But move here, and all the excuses evaporate. After you’ve been in LA six months, who do you blame that your name isn’t up in lights? I blame my parents, but I'm a hack.

LA won’t fix what’s wrong with a director’s career, but it will definitely jump start the process of figuring out if you really want to do what it takes. By “have what it takes” I mean paying big $ for a crappy Venice apartment, avoiding Scientology types and sitting on the 405 for three hours a day.

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