L.A., the Stars, and the Moon
If you believe that you haven't gotten "anywhere" with your acting or musicyour Passion whatever it may bebecause you live smack dab in Iowa, I say nonsense! Still, lots of Lost Souls flock to New York or Los Angeles because they are sure that opportunities abound and that Fantastic and Marvelous Things are in store for them.
For instance, I learned that my friend Shaun fully intends to move to L.A. in the fall. He does play a mean guitar, but he has no job lined up yet, nor any place to live. The timid three quarters of me says he might as well go set himself aflame, but maybe things will work out better than that.
Shaun is dark-eyed and delightfully willful, so really there's no point in my telling him that his success doesn't have to depend on this move to a gigantic and faraway place. (Of course, maybe I am just projecting my fear of the unknown onto the adventurous lad. I am, after all, too afraid to drive in downtown Indianapolis.)
To shed a little light on this thing that I know so little about I spoke to Tim Grimm, a musician and actor with plenty of big city experience. You may have seen him in such films as "Clear and Present Danger," "The Insider," "Backdraft," and "Mercury Rising." (He has played lots of men in suitssecurity guards, FBI, CIA, reporters, the occasional priest.) He has acted in regular television series and in theater productions too, and he lived and worked in Los Angeles for six years. And then he did the unthinkable: he moved to the Midwest where he and his wifeactress Jan Lucasare raising a family.
"For the years that I was in Los Angeles," he said, "I wason the surface at leastcomfortable. I certainly was working a lot and was successful in that vein and was doing well and making money...depending on how much merit we give that. But for me personally, it crept up on me...in a year or soin the last year that I was out therethat there was more to life than what that place had to offer me."
Tim's idea of success is much different than that of many of his peers. "For a lot of people in the acting business, there's a strong desire to be 'recognizable'... In my experience in LA, a lot of people really are out there to try to be a star. And you've got thousands and thousands of people out there, and that is their goal.
"My definition of success is living where I want to live and leading the lifestyle that I'm comfortable living, being in a place that I can very happily raise my family."
But the people he left behind in LA "don't quite get what I'm doing out here... My unwillingness to spend big chunks of time out there hurts my chances [of getting more work in LA.] You've got to kind of keep your foot in the door. Almost at any levelI mean maybe there are ten people in the world who are well known enough that they can be hermits and still get called [for acting jobs.] But beyond that, everybody else, you've got to still have your foot in the door and you've got to still put your face in front of them every now and again."
Still, Tim maintains that the extra effort is worth it. It's been two and a half years since he's been to LA, but he's still got plenty of acting work in Chicago on the stage and in television. Also, he receives residual payments from previous projects.
I've always thought that a person doesn't actually need to be in New York or LA to launch an acting career (or a career in any creative field for that matter!). Truly, it seems as if it can be done properly elsewhere. Tim said, "I think that talent really does eventually rise no matter where a person is... It's of course trickier to make a living being an actor anywhere but one of the three major metropolitan areas in the United States unless you're in a community that has a full-blown repertory company of which you're a member and that you've got a guaranteed amount of work per year."
Although there are fewer and fewer active repertory companies, Tim says there are still a few places worth considering. Ashland, Oregon, for instance, features the Oregon Shakespeare Festival which houses a large number of actors and directors for at least a nine-month season. That could serve someone with an interest in acting on the stage, but what about acting on TV and in movies? It's got to be LA, right?
Nope. Tim said, "I would borrow a phrase that an acting teacher of minePhilip Kerronce told me: 'Don't go to LA unless you're invited.'" That's not to say you shouldn't visit LA once in a while to get your feet wet, but there's a better place for actors just starting out. Tim advised, "I encourage peopleespecially people who are just getting out of collegeto head to Chicago. There are a lot more opportunities...especially if a person is looking at beingat least for the time beinga stage actor or actress. There are just so many companies coming and going and established companies that are open to new talent and the media is very supportive of all of the theatersequity and non-equityand it's vastly different from New York in that regard in that a young company with not a lot of funding can put together some things literally in garage spaces or really funky spaces and The Chicago Reader will come and review it. And there's an audience for it." Chicago also does its share of television production, and film work comes through the Windy City from time to time as well.
Tim got his big break while he was based there. He'd been out of grad school just two years and had done a couple of shows at the Goodman Theater when his agent, also based in Chicago, helped him to secure work in LA for a CBS television pilot. He recalled, "They were trying to do a television version of 'Steel Magnolias.' They had just a fantastic castSally Kirkland, Elaine Stritch, Polly Bergan, and Cindy Williamsand I was the one male. It was quite a trip. I literally flew to LA, met with the director and producer, got the go ahead and the next day I was on a plane to Louisiana, and I was down there for two weeks shooting this pilot.... That opened the doors in LA because, even though the show did not ultimately go, it was word on the street so to speak. ('Gosh, who did they get to play the guy?') They had troubleI laugh about thisthey had trouble finding the right guy in LA. They've got tens of thousands of actors.... It was a mixture for me of luck, of being in the right place at the right time and having a little bit of what they wanted."
Tim exudes a calm and simple satisfaction, partly, I think, because of his realistic goals and expectations. "I never wanted the moon.... I just wanted to do the work I enjoyed and make a living at it." Provided you're not expecting the moon, Tim says you can have it alla creative career and a comfortable sense of place and home.
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