Holy crap, I won! I’m so proud to announce that I was selected as one of the 5 winners in Netflix New Voices contest and got to toast to that with none other than CEO of Netflix global, Reed Hastings! What?! Four months ago 15 screenwriters were selected from a pool of 550 to write a feature screenplay based on their 10 page proposal. I was among them and with the help of a wonderful coach started a journey to finish a synopsis, treatment and full fledged 90-100 page screenplay. Within three and a half months…
So, what’s Los Angeles really like? Ever since the Netflix show You and the movie Marriage Story (written by New Yorkers, just saying) have made it a point to highlight the lowlights of the City of Angels, it’s a question I get a lot. But it’s not a new question. Los Angeles is a strange place to have chosen as a person from the Netherlands. Don’t get me wrong: moving abroad as a Dutchie is perfectly normal. To London. Or Paris. Or Madrid. Even New York or Boston. But choosing LA is a little out there. Choosing LA says something about your personality. Because LA is Hollywood. LA is plastic surgery. LA is everything Amsterdam is not. It’s big, perpetually sunny, spacious, mountainous, has no real city centre, a grid-like layout, sparse public transportation, mostly post-19th Century architecture, and the car as the main form of transportation. It’s where people dream big and loud. Amsterdam is rainy, small, flat, has one city center, a circular maze-like layout, the world’s best public transportation, mostly pre-17th Century architecture, and the bicycle as the main form of transportation. Oh, and the motto is “just be normal, then you’re crazy enough.”
I’m sure the fascination behind the question “what’s LA like” therefore is part sincere. But the other part, perhaps, is the expectation of the answer that You and Marriage Story have provided. That LA is fake and shallow. A cultural wasteland. A tacky summer postcard inhabited by botoxed Barbies and imported palm trees. A smoggy suburb of full freeways and empty souls.
And relax, I’m not here to climb into the role of Defender of Los Angeles. As many LA transplants do, I both hate and love LaLaLand. Sometimes simultaneously. Honestly, I could write a book about LA and it inhabitants. But alas, I will not, since I am busy being an Angeleno cliché: working on a screenplay. I will attempt to condense my thoughts to a Millennial cliché though: a blog post. Here it goes, assumption by assumption…
So what is LA really, like, really, like?
This is What Having Your Breakthrough Looks Like: Sunnyside Actor Samba Schutte About Immigration Struggles, Almost Quitting and Getting that Dream Job
I’m not quite sure how we met. Probably because it was digitally. On the Dutch in LA Facebook Group or through my blog or something. I do remember the first time I met Samba Schutte in real life though. It was in some cafe in Hollywood where Samba was kind enough to meet me to indulge me in my anxiety and answer the many questions I had as a new fellow Dutch O1-B actor in LA. I remember being taken by his kindness. LA can be soul-crushing, consequently turning a lot of sensitive artists into embittered assh– unkind souls. I also remember making a pact with myself to do my best to pay the kindness forward.
But enough about me. As some of you may have deducted from my previous article about what happened to the many actors I met in LA during the 12 years I’ve known them, Samba recently booked a series regular role on an NBC sitcom. In other words: Samba is now likely having his proverbial breakthrough. Make no mistake though: Samba is not an overnight success, as this interview will make clear. I first interviewed Samba in 2013 after I had just moved to LA. We were both struggling actors and though I quickly switched to writing, I always kept following Samba. I ran into him at workshops, Dutch in LA events, attended some of his stand-up shows… He put in the work, and he put it in with a smile. It therefore warms my heart that I can now interview him about his success. Me having just cycled in the rain for 35 minutes in Amsterdam, soaked to the bone marrow, him walking about in sunny Los Angeles.
I was 18 when I first set foot in Los Angeles. I was on a road trip with my family and I didn’t see much but the horrible tourist sites, yet I knew I’d be back one day, to pursue my dreams of being a Hollywood actress. And I did go back. At 19 I took off on my own to spend a summer in LA doing acting classes. I had the time of my life and returned at 20 to do the same thing. At 22 – after attaining my BSc and working full-time for a year – I returned again, this time for eight months in pursuit of an agent and O1-B visa. It didn’t work. At 23 – after one final three month trip and nine months of waiting – I finally moved to the promised land.
Last August 17 I turned 31. That means I now have known many aspiring actors in Los Angeles for over 13 years. This realization more or less coincided with the news of one of them booking a series regular role in a sitcom. Of just one of them having that elusive proverbial breakthrough. I started thinking: what has happened to all the other aspiring actor friends I’ve met over the years? What do the lives of these dedicated dreamers look like after 10+ years in LA? Wouldn’t that be interesting to share? We read the succes stories of actors who made it plenty. But that’s not a very representative sample. What happens to the the ones not in the news? To the other people that packed up their lives into their car and drove from Ohio to LA? The other people who went through the im-migraine-tion process to get the O1-B visa? The other people who left everything they knew behind for a chance to be a working actor?
Of course, I can’t claim to bring a completely representative sample either, as I’m sure I myself have been a biased selection tool while navigating LA. A Dutch girl on a pink motorcycle with ladybug helmet isn’t for everyone, after all. On top of that I switched from acting to writing pretty quickly after moving to LA.
But I can give you a more complete picture than what the stories of successful actors in the news paint. I can tell you what happened to the people I met in all those acting, improv and audition classes. The people I bunked with in dorm rooms of dingy guest houses. The people I met at casting director workshops, networking events, or through Facebook groups. Even on OkCupid dates.
I can tell you what happened to my friends.
So, here it goes…
“If time travel were possible, where are all the tourists from the future?” – Stephen Hawking.
I can finally share the trailer I shot for my feature screenplay “Long Gone” last April! Logline: When a young woman visits a mysterious house she inherited from her recently passed brother, she meets a man who claims to be from the future and able to save her brother. Watch the making of here, and if you happen to have a sugar daddy/mommy/great great aunt who wants to invest in film, call me ;p
This week I was casting for voice-over actors in Los Angeles and it left me feeling sad, bittersweet and whole mix of conflicting emotions that may or may not have to do with my impending period and certainly have to do with my having been an actress in LA myself. Why would finding an American voice-over actor ever make one feel sad, you may wonder – periods aside? I shall explain.
When you make long days, sometimes things get silly. As I can’t quite share the trailer yet due to exciting developments, here’s a little behind the scenes peek of the Long Gone Trailer. Shot by Carl Setterdahl and multiple phones, edited by Britt van Schie. Starring actors Sallie Harmsen and Kay Greidanus, DP Tomas van Harten, producer Alyssa Hendriks, sound guy Pete Suyderhoud, gaffer Michel Kasper, AC Azad Shig Murad, prop designer & drone flyer Carl Setterdah, Runner & Data Handler Roos Veltkamp, PA Charlotte van den Broeke, grader Jan-Maarten de Wit, my little sister who was tricked into her acting debut, and of course yours truly.
One of the latest features I wrote (and rewrote and rewrote and rewrote) is called Long Gone, a low budget sci-fi drama about a young woman who visits a mysterious house she inherited from her recently passed brother. There she meets a man who claims to be from the future and able to save her brother, if she helps him with a mission. To help pitch the project I directed a trailer for the film last April with the help of an amazing crew and my super supportive bosses. I had the best days of my life again, and I’m soooo happy with the results. The trailer is still being graded (color correction) and mixed and sound designed, so I can’t share it quite yet, but since I’m bursting with excitement and want to share some of the gorgeousness we shot, here are 20 behind the scenes photos…
Hi! Remember me? Maybe not since it’s been two full years + nine days since I’ve posted, and I’ve accumulated some epidermal wisdom aka wrinkles in the process. So what the f took me so long? Well, various things. I started this blog as a 21 (!) year girl who wanted – correction: was obsessed with/desperately needed – to move to Los Angeles to become an actress. I started it during a time when blogs were fairly new and not everyone above 11 and their dog wrote op-eds on TV show episodes yet. I chronicled everything from visa drama to acting classes to motorcycle accidents, and tried to help other artists who wanted to move to Los Angeles. Fast-forward and I’m now a 29 (!!) year old woman who lives in Amsterdam, is not pursuing acting anymore and has a lot more perspective and mental stability – most of the time anyway. So, what’s the story? Have I become a bitter quitter and is this gonna be a “just give up already” post?
This is gonna be a “know thyself” post that will help you find true happiness and eternal bliss. Kidding. But if you’re someone who’s die-hard pursuing something it might help you reflect and make yourself a little more content. Still a lofty promise, perhaps, but lemme explain…
Once I have my breakthrough, then I’ll spend more time with my family. Once I have my breakthrough, then I’ll take ballet classes. Once I have my breakthrough, then I will start traveling again. Once I have my breakthrough, then I’ll be happy.
It’s a philosophy many ambitious aspiring anythings (including myself) subscribe to. Especially in LaLaLand. Because once you have that breakthrough, you’ll have money. And job security. And a feeling of accomplishment that eliminates jealousy and brings on a constant state of contentedness. Right?
Obviously I can’t speak from experience since I haven’t had my own personal breakthrough but I’ve seen and heard things. And I’d like to think I can empathize pretty well. I am a writer after all. So sure, while professional success does usually come with more money and a higher degree of being able to do what you love, here’s why breakthroughs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be…