How to move across the country with no job lined up?
November 28, 2011 9:08 PM   Subscribe

Is $10,000 enough for me to move out of Florida (where I am currently) and make it in Los Angeles without a job lined up?

I'm moving to Los Angeles to pursue a screenwriting career. I'm wondering if I would be OK leaving with 10 grand or if I should save up to $15,000 and then go.

Background: I'm living in a suburb of a Florida city and have been itching to get out for the past few years. I have nothing tying me here—no significant other, no great job, no close friends, a location I really don’t like. This would be a huge step for me, something I have always wanted to do but have never done.

I haven't lived on my own before, but I have everything planned out, so this question isn't about that. I'm basically asking if 10 grand will be enough, because I'm thinking about saving up to around 15 and then leaving.

I'd be taking any job I can get, and living very minimallly. So figure maxing out around $1,000/month, maybe a couple hundred added to that when I first get out there. Or even when I get a job, dip into my savings by maybe a small bit.

I don't have too much work experience. I work 35 hours a week as a produce clerk, and in the past I worked in a garden center. I'm making just under 1 grand a month now, so staying here even longer is rather unappealing.

I'm worried about finding a job with my lack of experience, so I'm preparing for the long haul. Would I be crazy to leave with 10 grand? I know I'm going regardless when I have 15 or so, which I feel more comfortable with. So I'm looking at leaving in Feb/March or waiting until around July-November.

I could look at the situation in January and go from there, I just wanted to get a second opinion.
posted by signondiego to Work & Money (47 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Have you written any scripts?
posted by Ideefixe at 9:19 PM on November 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

I think it would be extremely difficult to live on $1,000 a month in LA. Even renting a room in a cheap part of room. I think that's enough if you find a job fast, but I don't think it would last longer than six months and that's living very frugally.
posted by whoaali at 9:19 PM on November 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Well, a lot of people will tell you it's gonna be hard. And it will be, but it's doable, I think. I mean, you'll have to take whatever shitty job you can find right away, but life is short man. Haters gonna hate and all of that.

I know Portland, OR is much cheaper, living wise, but when I moved to Portland I had $3,000 and student loan debt, and I managed just fine.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:23 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

So figure maxing out around $1,000/month, maybe a couple hundred added to that when I first get out there.

Rents are pretty expensive here; I assume you're planning on finding one or more roommates? Otherwise, if you're living by yourself, you'll easily blow through $1000/mo. (if not more) on rent and utilities alone. Also, you have to factor in commuting costs for a job; even if you live someplace close to the Metro (train) line, there's no guarantee that you'll find a job within your neighborhood or close to the Metro, so you'll want to plan on driving a lot (and if you wind up not driving a lot, then it's a bonus). Gas prices are some of the most expensive in the country in L.A., so be prepared for that, too. Food's not cheap, either.

I'm not saying you shouldn't come out here -- I moved out here with about the same amount in my pocket 11 years ago and I'm still here and loving it (though it was a hard slog for the first few years) -- but do keep in mind that it's an expensive place to live, and that people can literally spend years (decades, even) trying to break into the industry.
posted by scody at 9:24 PM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Ten thousand dollars is absolutely enough money. Provided you don't mind living with roommates and don't have expensive taste, that much money will last you 6 months of unemployment easy, more depending on how thrifty you can be. And if you don't mind taking the first job that comes along and pursuing your dream in your spare time, you'll be laughing.

In my opinion, that's more than enough of a buffer to feel good about taking a big step into the unknown. Now get writing.
posted by auto-correct at 9:24 PM on November 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm not sure how it would be difficult to live on $1,000 a month there. I won't have a car and already have an idea of what all my expenses would be. Yes, I am well aware that it's better to have a car in Los Angeles.

Yes, roommates as well. I'm prepared for how expensive Los Angeles is.

As for my writing/scripts, that's well taken care of. I've been writing for years, and did professional journalism before that. I have several scripts I've written, but I'm still writing every day. So in that area, I'm great.
posted by signondiego at 9:28 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you male or female? I think most people prefer females for this, my new babysitter just moved back to LA from NYC, and she's gotten TONS of work watching people's kids since she started sitting for my son. She's 24 years old and has a degree from NYU, but she's fallen into the lucrative nanny thing for a minute, so there ya go.

Not sure about the compensation, but you could get a gig selling produce or prepared foods at the farmer's market. Actually, I know of an upscale specialty produce vendor that might be hiring. And I know the flower vendors do well, too, so they must pay OK. Also, the managers often need help or assistants.

How is your driving record? I bet you could get a job delivering or some kind of limo gig. There is also a popular service out here where you drive folks around in their own luxury cars when they go out clubbing so they avoid getting a DUI.

Trader Joe's looks like a cool place to work! And I know they get great benefits, too.


There are a million weird jobs available in LA and $10,000 sounds like more than enough to me, especially if you have a decent car. You can live without a car here, but it's no fun.
posted by jbenben at 9:29 PM on November 28, 2011

Also, you didn't ask this directly, but I would like to mention as well: L.A. is a hard place culturally in a lot of ways. It's this funny combination of being friendly and laid back, yet insular and distant at the same time. My theory is that this stems from the fact that, as a city, it is completely decentralized, geographically speaking. There's no center of town where everyone shares a common, public space; there are just endless neighborhoods/areas/sides of town, each with their own quasi-center, which people move through or between primarily in their cars.

This isn't automatically a bad thing, but it does mean that it can be hard to make friends and create a social network here. It literally took me a few years before I felt at home socially/culturally in L.A., which was a very different experience than any previous time when I moved anywhere else by myself (which I had done several times in my 20s).

Again, this is not a reason for you not to come here, but just something for you to be aware of before you do.
posted by scody at 9:30 PM on November 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Just saw your update. Save the extra 5 grand and get a car with it. Full stop.
posted by jbenben at 9:32 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

That's a ton of money- you're fine. L.A. is no more expensive to rent than most major cities. (Buying a house is another story). You can rent a room in a shared apartment or house for $500 easily, just don't expect luxury.

You will want a car though.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:33 PM on November 28, 2011

Response by poster: @scody, I've avoided Los Angeles for so long for that very reason. I like my urban cities, but L.A. is really the only place for me if I'm gonna do this.

Regarding the car issue, not even an option. I don't know how to drive, and I won't be learning yet. I think people overstate the need for a car in L.A. and I know it won't be easy, but I'm prepared to make it work.

I'm kind of looking to get out of the produce field, but would do it if I had to. Would love to get into other areas of work.
posted by signondiego at 9:35 PM on November 28, 2011

I live in Los Angeles without a car, but with access to one. It's possible, but you're going to have to rely a lot on the kindness of friends to drive you around. I moved back to LA from a city with much better public transportation (Beijing), and you have to get used to how the buses might arrive just once an hour on the weekends.

Another option for you is to write a film and get it made while you are still in Florida, and keep doing that so that you can build a reputation.
posted by so much modern time at 9:39 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well, you won't know unless you try. People do it every day, and with less job experience than you've got. Yes, I know people who've moved with less in the bank than you; it's a gigantic urban area and there's lots of jobs if you're not aiming too high.

You're going to want to think real hard about the car, though, or keep your living arrangements flexible enough that you can move near a job when you find one. It'd be worth having enough cash to pick up a really good beater and pay for insurance. (I see your update that you don't drive. One day, if things go very very well for you, you're going to have a Meeting. You better be able to get there, on time and on short notice. Driving should be a pretty high priority on the list of things you need to be able to do.)

I'd really strongly suggest you plan to start writing classes the second you get to LA. UCB, Groundlings, something - it's not the experience so much as the networking, which is *everything*. That's going to run $2-300 every couple of months, which you should treat as investment in your future. Nobody makes it alone in LA, so every single person you meet and possibly have an opportunity to work with matters.

But yeah, do it if you want to do it. The weather's beautiful, and there's things you just can't do if you're not in the thick of it. LA is kind of magic that way.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:42 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure how it would be difficult to live on $1,000 a month there. I won't have a car and already have an idea of what all my expenses would be. Yes, I am well aware that it's better to have a car in Los Angeles.

Yes, roommates as well. I'm prepared for how expensive Los Angeles is.

Not to be rude, but I'm not sure, then, what the question is? Don't you want to know if you have enough money to get by? Isn't that a budget question?

I don't want to discourage you at all regarding moving out here, but the big sticker shock for almost everybody is housing. If you are certain that you can cover this, and can throw some on for food and transportation, you might have a shot at it. The big variable though is whether you could find work, and honestly, that's just simply a gamble in today's job market. Although, if you have a good back-up plan in case something doesn't pan out, it might be worth the risk.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:43 PM on November 28, 2011

I think people overstate the need for a car in L.A. and I know it won't be easy, but I'm prepared to make it work.

No, people don't overstate the need for a car in L.A. It is a sprawling, huge place, where things are far apart. If you got a job that was 15 minutes away by car, it could end up being a 2.5 hour bus trip, which would add up to 4.5 extra hours of your day you could be spending doing something else. That can get really stressful for some people.
posted by so_gracefully at 9:45 PM on November 28, 2011 [25 favorites]

Look. I have a phobia about driving, and my car was totaled in a pretty big accident my second week in LA. I was stopped at a light, 3 cars back from the intersection when someone turned the opposite corner, lost control, and t-boned me. I nearly died. I refused to drive for 3 or 4 years after that and did not replace my car in all of that time.


Sorry to yell. Your financial opportunities dry up without a vehicle. The need is not understated. I'm from NYC, so I'm fine on public transport, but a lot of people did not not not want to hire me because of the car issue. Also, if you do catering or whatever, buses just don't go up into the Hollywood Hills, my friend. Cabs are not cheap.

It's easy to get your license. Taking even one lesson with a professional instructor is pretty cheap, and that with getting in a little practice and you should pass a driver's test just fine.

I am not understating it when I tell you that moving out to LA cold and without a car is setting yourself up for failure.

If you're that type who likes to self-sabotage, go right ahead. But honestly, I think you should get the car thing dialed in so you can have a shot at success here.
posted by jbenben at 9:45 PM on November 28, 2011 [17 favorites]

Regarding the car issue, not even an option. I don't know how to drive, and I won't be learning yet. I think people overstate the need for a car in L.A. and I know it won't be easy, but I'm prepared to make it work.

I'm sorry to keep chiming in -- and I'm not trying to be pushy, I promise-- but I think you really need to consider that until you come to L.A., you honestly have no idea what the practical need for a car really is here. Living without a car certainly can be done -- I have friends and colleagues who do it -- but it means either working near where you live (or at least working and living on the same Metro line), being prepared for potentially loooong (like, an hour or two each way) commutes on public transportation on a daily basis, and/or (as so much modern time says) expecting to rely on friends/roommates who will be willing to drive you on a regular basis (hint: everyone here with a car has had a friend and/or a roommate who does this, and everyone gets sick of it).

This is one of the largest cities in North America, and whole swaths of it -- I'm talking hundreds of square miles -- are almost criminally underserved by public transportation.

You will be putting yourself at a significant disadvantage if you come out here with no car and no ability to drive -- and not just in terms of being able to commute to some generic day job. Say, for the sake of conversation, that you put a script out there and you get a meeting with someone to discuss it. You're in Hollywood. The producer is in Westwood. It's 4:00 on a Tuesday. He wants to meet you in an hour. Can you make it? Not on public transportation, you can't.
posted by scody at 9:51 PM on November 28, 2011 [10 favorites]

Having done the cross-country move thing a few times, if I had to do it again? In a position where I had a job that I could in some fashion tolerate going to every day and another six months would have let me save up more before making the move, I wish I'd stayed the extra six months.

*Something* always comes up to eat way more of your cash than you planned on in the moving process. I know somebody who did this with even a job lined up and no sooner was off the plane than was down with the 2009 H1N1. One of my times, I had an ex-boss spontaneously decide that I was a raving lunatic and start telling every potential employer that when I had them call for a reference, after telling me that oh, sure, he'd love to give me a good reference.

Also, as someone who was a very late driver: Even if you're not really intending to drive once you're there, get your license while you're living in an area where you can take the test in a neighborhood you know like the back of your hand. Passing the test was drastically easier for me once I lived somewhere where I knew exactly where all the stop signs and lights and whatever were, and after a bit of driving there in a borrowed car without a co-driver, I felt much more ready to take on a place I didn't know, whether or not I actually had a car at that exact point in time. I knew I could always get one.
posted by gracedissolved at 9:52 PM on November 28, 2011

Response by poster: @gracedissolved, thanks! Exactly what I was looking for. That's why I am contemplating saving up the extra 5 grand.

And at least getting my driver's license while I'm living in Florida is something I might do, but would I get a car out in California? No way. But for the reasons you stated, having my license could be good.
posted by signondiego at 9:56 PM on November 28, 2011

It is a sprawling, huge place, where things are far apart.

Agreed. Palm Springs is in the Greater Los Angeles Area, but driving there from Los Angeles takes nearly two hours (not counting traffic).

This is equivalent to the Orlando area including Ocala, Vero Beach, all of Tampa, and some of Jacksonville's southern suburbs.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:01 PM on November 28, 2011

I'm voting doable. Why? Because I've done it. $650 rent and $350 for everything else is doable.

Check the local Craigslist to get an idea for rent. Public transportation, much to everybody's shock, exists and works (not as efficiently but workable). Buses count. You can live and workin the same neighborhood long enough to get going.

Can you work and live off of a shitty budget? Eat ramen and peanut butter sandwiches with a $5 Hot n Ready splurge only once a month? Are you okay with living in a ghetto part of town?

It can happen. It will suck but it will be an adventure and I encourage it. If you're willing to take the leap, understanding that it may not work out, then try it. Don't listen to the old codgers (said very lovingly!) here telling you to play it safe.

I'm a little biased because I've done it in a couple of municipalities with even less money in my pocket, and I think everybody should try it.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:03 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't listen to the old codgers (said very lovingly!) here telling you to play it safe.

Get off my lawn, kid. And pull your damn pants up. (Said lovingly.)

I don't think we're telling him to play it safe; we're suggesting that there are ways to come out here without it being unnecessarily difficult. This is coming from someone who spent a good chunk of her adult life moving (adventurously!) to new cities in her 20s with sometimes only a few hundred bucks to my name. Sure, it can be done. I did it. And it sucked and it actually set me back in terms of what I could have been doing had I been better prepared. But, if the OP wants a chorus of people saying that $10,000 is enough and you can live without a car in L.A., then very well: $10,000 is enough, and you can live without a car in L.A.
posted by scody at 10:17 PM on November 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

Why don't you just stay in Florida the extra six months, use that time to study for your driving test and what not, and use - even just part of the extra money - to buy a car? It will be much easier to get a new DL and whatnot if you already have one, I think, and a car in suburban Florida will probably be much cheaper than a car out in LA. And that way, you can move your stuff in your car and it will probably be the same money if not a little cheaper even than flying, and transporting your stuff will be simpler.

You can get a decent old used Camry for less than 4k, and that will significantly widen your job and living prospects, and also your fun times, once you're in LA. I drive an old Camry (20 years old, 220k miles, hit a cow once) and the thing runs great and gets great mileage and you could buy it off me for 1k or so.

Six more months and you could get to LA with a DL, a car, and 10-12K or so. That would be a solid plan to me. Use the extra months to start putting out housing feelers and whatnot, and working on your work.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:23 PM on November 28, 2011

(plus, cross country road trips are awesome, and a quintessential part, imo, of moving to a drastically new part of the US)
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:29 PM on November 28, 2011

Just another datapoint - we just moved here recently and my finace is in a similar "I'll take any job" situation. It would not have been do-able without a car. Even if you just have a license and do one of those flex car thingies, there's situations where he dropped everything and ran over to an interview or a meeting about a potential job. He could not have done that on the bus/bike/etc. There were weeks when he had 5-6 interviews, and then there were weeks that there was nothing. Now after about 3 months, he has 2 jobs, one in Culver City and one in WeHo. If he didnt have a car, that'd be a no-go. If I can suggest the east side (Silver Lake/Echo Park) you are well situated near the 5 (access to the Valley), easy access to Hollywood via Sunset Blvd in one direction, and easy access to Downtown in the other direction. Our rent is obscene, but we live solo and were kinda picky.
posted by fillsthepews at 10:30 PM on November 28, 2011

Chiming in with the car thing: one of the best ways to get into the industry is to get a job as a writer's assistant or a PA. You will absolutely not get hired for one of those jobs without a car.
posted by OolooKitty at 10:49 PM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

I came here in 95 with $2K saved. I'm still alive and doing OK. It can be done. The economy was better then though. I do know a lot of people who have taken a very long time to find work. No work experience in the LA economy is a red flag to me, and $1K/month sounds kind of optimistic. My standard of living is a lot higher now than it was then though, so I'm sure there's somebody somewhere who's managing on that or less.

$15K will provide a bit more buffer than $10K, but at a certain point, it's worth asking yourself if you're just making excuses for yourself because it's a scary life decision. If you run out of money, and need to return to FL or wherever, are there people who will take you in and cover you until you get another job? That's probably a bigger question. If coming out here doesn't push you into total poverty and homelessness after a few months of trying, then why not try for a few month?
posted by willnot at 11:06 PM on November 28, 2011

Seconding all the suggestions to wait it out some more to save up for a car. Also, the housing market is always better around spring/summer if you're looking.
posted by hobbes at 11:15 PM on November 28, 2011

I have friends with careers they enjoy who don't own a car and live in LA. One of them even works in the industry. Just live somewhere centrally located (stuff near the red line is affordable anyway). Get your groceries from "ethnic markets" instead of chain stores. It might not be that crazy of an idea to sort the car stuff out once you're here and figure out if you actually need it. In general a driver's license is a handy thing, though. Do you have somewhere to crash while you find a place to live?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 12:07 AM on November 29, 2011

Have you been to Los Angeles? Or California... ever?
I don't think you know what you're getting into. Please. Please. Please. Visit LA for a few days. Travel on an off day, get a cheap hostel or couchsurf and see what it's like.

10k? 1k a month? Is it crazy? Yes. Doable? Perhaps.

Can you live in LA without a car? Yes, I know plenty (and they do fine), but they aren't in the entertainment industry. It would be different if you weren't getting into the entertainment industry, but you want to, and image and networking is everything. You're gonna get laughed off without a car unless you have very thick skin and are super duper determined.

Unemployment is rather high in LA. Unless you have certain employable skills, it's tough cookies. Even the locals and fresh college grads are fighting for the entry level / low skill jobs, it's going to make it even harder.

I'm being cynical here, but part of me believes you are merely going to listen to the people that tell you that 10k is doable, and filter out those that tell you otherwise. But good luck, nonetheless.
posted by xtine at 12:18 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Going carless in LA, a primer. Can be done. Significantly limits the neighborhoods you can live in. You must, must, must research public transit options to places you think you'll be working like Burbank. Then you have to find a place a reasonable distance from those places which, surprise, are going to be more costly to live in for that very reason. You will save a lot of money not having a car but keep in mind that LA is not bikeable, its not walkable and the public transit is actually a series of small transit authorities that don't talk acknowledge each others existence. Living/working within one transit authority is key to your sanity. Cabs are not a feasible option for getting around because a) the distances are too great and b) they often don't show up or show up hours after you need them.

Zip car is a reasonable alternative to cabs for occasional car usage but again its neighborhood specific and you need to research that ahead of time.

Many if not most jobs in LA require you to have a car. Good jobs for someone looking to break into the industry like PAs or personal assistants or nannying will almost certainly require transportation. Socializing with industry types is going to require transportation because they don't live on the bus lines too often. Without it you're looking at a different set of options. The fact that you're willing to take any old job is admirable and smart but may not serve your long term goals.

$10K is about $9K more than most aspiring actors and directors show up in LA with so you're ahead of the game there.
posted by fshgrl at 12:21 AM on November 29, 2011

Please listen to OolooKitty. I live in LA and do not drive because my husband drives and we have a car, but when I first starting looking for jobs here it was impossible -- seriously, impossible -- for me to get any sort of assistant job in the industry ONLY because I did not personally drive, and drive my own car. If you were trying to get any other sort of job, I would tell you maybe it wouldn't matter. But I can't do that here. If you want in the industry, you are going to have to take jobs where you have to do grunt work errands in addition to other stuff -- everyone, even people in higher positions, have to run errands constantly or at least go to meet people -- and they will not, NOT hire you without a car. Seriously. It is on every application to state if you drive, and if so, do you have your own car, and they want your license plate number and driver's license number, and if you cannot answer yes to both of those your application is going to be ignored. You will not be allowed to run errands via bus for good reason, because the buses are far too slow; even to take something across Hollywood can take two hours round trip, because Hollywood traffic is awful where the bus lines run. The subway is faster but if you rely on that alone, you will be walking literally three miles or more to get to a lot of places, which takes just as long as the bus. It looks small on a map but in LA that tells you nothing about the time it takes to get places. And yes, as others are noted, there are important places you would have to travel for industry work that literally are not serviced by public transportation.

Also, the buses run more and more infrequently, and sometimes do not run at all depending on the line, as it gets later at night. It is very easy to get stranded somewhere if you have to be there outside of normal work hours. If you work in the industry, or take up a food service job, that means you're going to need public transportation at 8PM or later a lot of the time. Since jobs are not easy to find here, you're not going to be in a good position to turn down anything due to where it's located and the hours required to work. If you want to hear something optimistic, maybe you could get lucky -- but it will almost certainly be a job that has nothing to do with screenwriting. Which is okay, because you have to start somewhere, and lots of people have other jobs. I just don't know the success rate for screenwriters that don't work in the industry in some capacity.

I take the bus multiple times a week, and it always takes at least two hours roundtrip to get anywhere. Now that I've moved a bit further away it's more like four hours. I don't mind this personally, but it would not be feasible if I were trying to work in the industry.

Other than that, $1000 a month is cutting it close, but it's possible with roommates. I think you can do this if you get a car. If you don't, I think you'll end up coming here, getting a job that won't help your career much, and feeling frustrated and stagnated and disappointed until/unless you get a car and it drastically opens your career options. I understand a ton of reasons for not wanting to drive or buy a car, because I hate driving and I would not want to buy a car. But if you're serious enough about screenwriting to move to LA, then you should be serious enough about it to buy a car. If you're not serious enough about it to buy a car, then I would reconsider moving here for the purposes of screenwriting. Move here for another reason, like if you're just sick of Florida, or whatever, because LA is a great place imo. I'm really, really sympathetic and I hate to urge anyone to buy a car, but we're not telling you this to be dicks, we're telling you because it's the reality of what you want to accomplish and you asked us. I want you to move here and be successful, and I think it can happen if you buy a car, and I don't think it will happen if you don't.
posted by Nattie at 12:25 AM on November 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm not filtering out anyone, but getting a car is a complete no-go 100 percent. The responses have really helped.
posted by signondiego at 12:25 AM on November 29, 2011

I can't weigh in on the car situation but I actually think $10K is plenty of money to give it a shot- I've relocated with less than $5000 cash and made it work. Things that will help you out if they are possibilities - 1. someone you can stay with for the first week or so while you learn the lay of the land a bit- if you don't know anyone you might want to look into one of those couchsurf type websites. It would be ideal to be able to suss out neighborhoods and potential jobs before putting money down on an apartment. Count on needing at least $3000 to line up an apartment (first, last, security) and obviously it would be a roomate/house share situation.
Secondly, worst-case scenario, could you return to your current situation in Florida (ie move back in with family or wherever you're living now)? If that's the case, as long as you keep some money aside for a return plane ticket plus a little extra, you really have nothing to lose, you can always go back if things don't work out. Go for it!!
posted by emd3737 at 12:53 AM on November 29, 2011

I came out here with less, in strict monetary terms. But I also moved to LA with a car and a job lined up (that paid less than a grand a month) and with a roommate who was already living here. I spent a month on her couch while we searched and searched for a place I could afford. It was very stressful. Nothing prepared me for how utterly ridiculous rents are here.

In Tucson, just before I left I was renting a palatial single bedroom apartment for $400/mo. That same apartment here in LA I'd price right now at $900-$1200, even in a similarly shitty neighborhood. It's insane, and I don't know how I ever adapted to the cognitive dissonance I experienced. Certainly for about a year I simply boggled at what people must shell out for housing here.

Anyway, I made it with a lot of help from friends (said roommate) and family, and was great until my roommate moved back to Arizona. Then I had a low-paying job—two actually, totaling about $1,300/mo. net income—a truck, no place to live, and no roommate to subsidize my living situation. I found a room in one of the worst neighborhoods in the city that was still advantageous to my commute for $650/mo. It was barely a room.

I know a finance guy who got wiped out in 2008 who's been living like a (dirty, smelly) monk in that same neighborhood, similar room, without a car, and he gets by. Stocking a local grocery. Contracting consulting work when he can be bothered to shower, finding odd jobs he can do. I'm not sure how much he pulls in, but it's more than a grand a month, and he needs every red cent.
It is very not pretty.

What this all comes down to is that you say you've planned everything out, but you obviously still haven't set down a viable budget. $1,000/mo is sort of a scary number, which is probably why you're getting a lot of odd reactions from people. With your experience I'd bet you could land a part-time job, maybe two, that would keep you in that kind of money. Maybe stocking greens at the grocery. (But those are primo gigs for all the free fruit!)

Look for roommates. Buy a beater for $500, making sure it has another fifty thousand miles in it, and drive it out here. A car really, really does make a huge difference. I'd say it's the difference between staying at $1000/mo and doubling that. Try to line up a job before you come. Scour Craigslist every day for rental listings. Use gmaps to know what area you'll be living in.

And then just do it. My girlfriend came here with less (again, monetarily...she had a car) and ten years later, through nothing other than her own hard work, she's now sitting pretty. It's doable. I'm sure you could swing this endeavor, but it's not easy and it's gonna take a lot more figuring on your part, I think. But go for it. This place is amazing and worth living in for a while.

(It's not really worth working in, though, especially in something like the screenwriting biz. Why do you have to be here for that? If anything, LA will fuck up whatever unique perspective you hope to illuminate in your script. But, hey, who am I to say anything about your dreams?)
posted by carsonb at 5:18 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you can stomach a move closer to home, Orlando does a lot of creative work these days. The market for screenwriters is much smaller than LA or NYC, but the pool of available talent is much, much smaller as well.

The area is still immense, public transpo still sucks, but the terrain is very flat and bicycle-commuter friendly. You can make the 10 g's last longer while you shop yourself around as a writer full time. Get an agent... this will also be easier and cheaper in Orlando, especially with newspaper bylines in your resume. This will allow you to save up more, and learn to drive, if nothing else, to prepare yourself for a move to LA.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:43 AM on November 29, 2011

would I get a car out in California? No way.

getting a car is a complete no-go 100 percent.

Why? You haven't explained this at all and many, many people have told you that you're foolish not to have a car. What is your resistance? That might help people better understand where you're coming from.
posted by desjardins at 6:47 AM on November 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

I wanted to make sure you've heard of/read Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant's book about becoming a viable writer of screenplays. Moving to LA is indeed one of the steps :)
posted by getawaysticks at 6:59 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

The only thing about buying a car outside of California is to ensure you won't have problems with the smog inspections once you bring it into the state. Check the rules: buying a cheap car out of state and then not passing the smog inspection (=not being able to register your car) is a pain.

I know people (including me now, I suppose) keep harping on the car issue, but they're doing so for good reason. It is not impossible to live without a car in Los Angeles. I have a friend in Mar Vista, commuting to Inglewood without a car. It is by no means as practical, flexible or fun to live without a car, but it's eminently doable.

The issue, instead, is that everyone *else* (and in the particular the "Industry," of which screenwriting is most certainly a part) expects you to have a car. Los Angeles' urban fabric is built on the assumption that everyone drives. People simply do not allot extra time for those taking public transportation, or make allowances for catching the last train, or think about not being able to carry tons of stuff in a car, as they would, say, in New York or Chicago, because it is simply assumed that everyone has a vehicle.

If you end up being a screenwriter, at some points you will have to go make meetings, meet people, run errands, deliver scripts, etc, which will be an enormous PITA without a car. If you try breaking in via becoming an assistant, that 100% demands reliable vehicular transportation. As others have said, people expect that you will be able to get from the Westside to Hollywood, for instance in some sort of reasonable time. An hour, blamed on traffic? That's normal! Two hours+, because the bus was slow/you missed a transfer? You're unreliable and a flake. It's unfair, but that's the way that people think, and will honestly impact your job prospects tremendously.

This thread discusses commuting solely by public transit in Los Angeles (and it's not pretty). Please think about it. I understand the appeal of not having a car -- I now live in Chicago without one, and I'm going to try to live the no-car/limited-car lifestyle as long as I can. But I work a white-collar job downtown, doing the same commute every day on a train line, and live in a walkable, dense neighborhood with lots of cabs. Almost none of this will be true for a screenwriter living in Los Angeles.
posted by andrewesque at 9:02 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

With very few exceptions, without connections it can take forever (from a few years up to your entire life) to break into the script business in LA. So make sure your budget plan doesn't include "after six months make $$ in Hollywood!" Having a few scripts written doesn't really mean anything, other than proof to yourself that you're committed. It won't impress anyone out here-- EVERYONE has scripts. The waiters, the guys pumping your gas, even my landlord.

What you need are contacts, preferably before you arrive here so you can hit the ground running-- also you should have something on your resume that makes your scripts worth glancing at to someone in the industry who gets thousands of submissions a week. Do you have any award-winning student films? Have you placed in any script contests of note? Do you have personal references from established screenwriters who think you're good enough to introduce to their agent? If not, be prepared to be one of millions getting off the bus who quickly realize how long it takes to gain leverage in LA.

Therefore I highly recommend staying in Florida while sending your scripts out to contests, writing query letters, taking classes and hitting up teachers for networking contacts in LA, etc BEFORE you come to LA. Because otherwise you'll just be doing all that stuff in LA while simultaneously living alone, working a shitty job, trying to navigate the public transit system, and burning through your savings. A running start is a very, very good idea.

Also, if by some fantastic stroke of luck you start getting general meetings with producers (meet and greets within the industry) you will have to drive all over the city, from Burbank to Santa Monica and back. You WILL need a car in order to take meetings.

This article is realistic:

Which is all to say-- make sure you find your day job FAST, so that you can choose the location of your apartment to be within walking distance of your day job. As long as you do this and make enough money to support yourself, starting out in LA on 10 grand is do-able. But don't expect to come here on 10 K and just coast working part-time while writing until you're discovered-- that will burn through your savings within a few months, easy.

Good luck!
posted by egeanin at 9:02 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: To those saying I should reconsider moving to Los Angeles for screenwriting, that won't happen. I have to get out of here. If I wasn't pursuing Hollywood, I'd be moving somewhere else regardless.

I'm moving to Los Angeles without a car sometime in the next year. I'm not scared or hesitant about it, I'm just making sure I do it right money-wise.

I'm not ignoring all the car/other advice and I understand where everyone is coming from, but those areas where I'm just not going to change my mind. I know a few people who did the no car thing while pursuing acting/screenwriting and are doing just fine right now.

But I didn't make this question to ask if I should get a car, because I'm not.

Again, I appreciate all the responses and have taken all the advice, but I thought it'd be best to know that 1) I'm moving to Los Angeles and 2) without a car.
posted by signondiego at 9:48 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

About twenty years ago, I moved to LA -- where I'd never set foot before -- with $150 to my name. It was two years before I could afford a car but I made it work, and now I look back on that time quite fondly. I had no idea what was going to happen from day to day. I worked odd jobs, odd hours and knew where to find every cheap deal/happy hour/free clinic, etc.

And to add to the oddities, I somehow became a screenwriter.

You can do it. Just be realistic and open to opportunities.
posted by grounded at 1:34 PM on November 29, 2011

Remember, signondiego, taxis are available if you truly need to be somewhere for your future benefit. Keep $50 tucked away somewhere hidden in your wallet, and program in the taxi number on your cell phone.
posted by sleslie at 2:11 PM on November 29, 2011

How much stuff are you moving out with? How are you shipping it? Does that come out of your $10k?
posted by hwyengr at 7:35 PM on November 29, 2011

Response by poster: I won't have anything to ship, everything I have will fit in a suitcase.

I realize how hard this is going to be, and I very well know what I'm getting myself into. I don't plan to go without a car forever, but initially, yes. The advice I received on getting a car was good, because those people are just trying to help me out and set me up for success.

I could get a car and it would make things a hell of a lot easier, but it's still not something I'm going to do. I live in this suburb now where everyone thinks I am crazy for not driving. That can't really be compared to Los Angeles and the places I will need to get to, however.

I did not, though, just brush off the advice I didn't want to hear. I appreciate all of it, but I am dead set on moving to Los Angeles car-less. I believe what every one of you said, but I've made up my mind in that area regardless of how hard it is going to be.

I guess I will look at the situation in January or so and go from there. If I do wait the extra six months or so (not staying here any longer than that) then that will not only give me an extra 5 grand, but allow me to do some more writing and other things. I could also leave with 10, but I know I'm leaving next year.

Thanks again!
posted by signondiego at 8:30 PM on November 29, 2011

If someone hasn't mentioned it yet, a bike is probably a better alternative than public transport a good deal of the time and you should be able to pick one up for under $100. The one good thing about LA is there are surface streets almost everywhere so you wouldn't have to go on the highway. Not the easiest place to bike, but I've known plenty that have.
posted by whoaali at 12:44 PM on November 30, 2011

As a recent transplant to the Los Angeles area, I feel that I should remind you that it is very, very difficult to find an entry-level job here. I just applied to Starbucks today after having no success with any of my other 40+ applications.

Also, I don't have a car and it really sucks here more than it did when I lived in the Midwest or Northeast. I am going to learn to drive posthaste, whereas I had no concrete plans to do so before moving here.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 8:07 PM on December 5, 2011

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