The end of 2014 marked 1,5 years in Los Angeles for me, or halfway through the stay my O1-B visa allows. People often ask me if LaLaLand is what I thought it would be. After going through all that trouble to get here, does it live up to expectations? Well, I’m still not married to a 90 year old producer/sugar daddy, so I guess it’s been a major letdown…I kid!
No, in al honesty, it’s a bit of a difficult question, since I kind of gradually eased into LA. I visited Los Angeles as an 18 year old tourist with my family in tow, as a 19 and 20 year old University of Amsterdam student escaping the summers to take acting classes, as a 22 year old to chase a visa for eight months long, and as a 23 year old to try one final time. So I guess the proper way to phrase the question is: How did the final move to LA and hustle to become a working actress compare to the one that had been playing in my imagination all those years? Well, tell you I shall…
How Long It Would Take to Start Seeing Results
I never – not once – expected some sort of overnight success. This business has always pushed me to my furthest limits in terms of patience, perseverance and keeping my sprit up and I didn’t expect LA to be a magical land where that would all change. I expected that I would have to invest , invest, invest, and well – I am ;)
The Lack of Glamour
There I was: 18 years old, on a road trip with my family, in America for the first time. I remember being all nervous because I had dreamed about LA for so long and because I knew: This is where I’m going to live one day. We drove down from the North (NoCal!) via the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH!) and saw pretty Malibu, the pretty Palisades, the Santa Monica Mountains…and then went to Hollywood.
My socialist home country of Holland doesn’t really have that many super rough looking neighbourhoods or homeless people on the streets, so we were shocked – shocked! – by how unglamorous it was. The Walk of Fame was littered with tourists, street performers and homeless people. The Kodak Theater was situated in a hyper commercial mall void of character. The whole thing was tacky consumerism meets jarring poverty. Note to all tourists: go to Beverly Hills and Santa Monica to see LA like it’s in the movies, and avoid Hollywood & Highland at all costs.
However, all this was old news to me by the time I moved to LA. And now I live in East Hollywood (Eastside!) and it’s nice. As I explained in my Los Angeles neighborhood breakdown before, Hollywood is weird. There are some really dodgy areas but also some really fancy ones. I, somehow, live in a fancy one. Okay, it’s more like a hipster one. Luckily I have many fedoras.
The Kindness On the Street
If you’re having a bad day in LA and you’re getting out of the house, there’s a big chance you feel better after. People are just friendly, open, and say nice things to each other. They are relaxed. Maybe it’s the climate – the beach town attitude. Coming from a country where people are always rushed, pissed off at the weather (for good reasons), livid with other cyclists (also for good reasons), and think you want something from them if you smile or say hello, this is so nice. I will never take this for granted.
Not Everyone Works That Hard
You know how everyone always says that in LA you’re competing against 10,000 other artists? Against all those busses full of hopeful people that arrive here every day? Well, you’re not. I wrote about this before, and still believe it.
One main reason is that not everybody here works that hard. People get lost in the partying scene, expect to get by on their looks, or just don’t have the genuine passion that propels them to persevere and work every free hour of the day. Of all the actors I’ve met in acting classes, I think maybe 10% works as hard as I do. That doesn’t mean that some people don’t get lucky despite not working hard, but luck doesn’t build careers without hard work.
Becoming a Writer
I set out to be an actress myopically and with a (not all that) healthy dose of obsession, and then somewhere along the way really fell in love with being a writer. It all started when I wrote my very first screenplay – just to create English-spoken work for myself – and then got selected for the Dutch screenwriting event Het Schrijfpaleis. Next thing you know I have a short film screenplay that was produced last year, and two feature film screenplays in the works. And I am actually prioritizing those above acting at the moment. They could serve as a vehicle to launch my acting career, sure, but writing has been such an empowering addition to my life even without that prosepct. You can do it anytime, anywhere, without anyone’s permission, which is a nice break from the dependency on others in the acting industry.
The “What Am I Doing Here” Moments
Warning: This is, like, the touchy-feely part of the blog post. Did I expect to have low points during my stay here? Of course! I’m only naive 50,4% of the time and it’s only natural when you move to another country on your own, far away from everything and everyone you know.
But I didn’t anticipate those rare moments where I’m just like: “What the hell am I doing here?” Those moments where I’m just questioning the bizarre, exciting but also often terribly lonely reality I find myself in. Especially every time I come back from Holland and have spent time with m family I have a hard time readjusting.
In LA it’s pretty much sleep, work, work out, repeat. I spend my days and nights thinking about either my career or the fictional characters of my screenplays, so only rarely notice that my heart’s battery is draining. I know that sounds dramatic but what do you expect? This is the blog of an aspiring actress. Anyway,I just mean that being on your own, hustling and picking yourself up day in day out, can leave you a little starved of well, love. So when you finally go see family and friends, and everything is suddenly familiar and loving and you can relax again, the adjustment is extra hard when you get back.
And those are the times you think: “Is my career really more important than having loved ones around you?” I once had a very meaningful revelation that it’s not. But being able to express myself creatively is crucial to me. It keeps me sane. To be happy though, I think you need a balance of family, friends and career. LA doesn’t offer that. I have friends of course, ones I cherish and love, but I miss my family. I miss someone who takes care of me. Just sometimes. Just one day every three months when I’m exhausted and sad and just want to lie on a couch and be hugged.
So, there you have it, the way too long answer to the simple question: is life in LA what I expected it to be? Obviously I’m still a freshman, so I’m sure many surprises still await. And once I start working in the industry, there’s no doubt the real Hollywood scene will also be full of unexpected realities. But I’ll tell you about those when I get there.
Because you know what else I expect? I expect that while my success may not come easily or fast, it will come, and when it does, it will be grand. Majestic. Off the charts. Is that a psychotic thing to believe? Of course. But, you know, a girl born in one of the smallest towns in one of the smallest countries in the world really needs a side of crazy to actually go through with the whole “I’m gonna move to Hollywood” thing.
But since I’m aware it’s crazy, that means I’m still sane…