Friday, September 2, 2016

A Letter to Myself at the start of the Mentorship Program

Dear Bryan in 2011,

Welcome to LA! 

Congrats, you made it – it's no small feat to transplant oneself from New York City.
I imagine you’ve only just now found your apartment.
Cameron is on his way West to inhabit the other room.  

You’ve yet to learn to read parking signs and already have two tickets, from the same spot.

You’ve distilled your whole life into a trunk full of audition clothes, camera gear and a friend in the passenger seat.
It’s a marvelous beginning of the next chapter and you’re so damn ready to do this for real.

Venturing cross-country to a city you've never been to in pursuit of this career and lifestyle requires a bravery you’ve only just discovered.

Focus on bettering yourself, do what you do better than you’ve ever done it.
Competition encourages adaptation.

Netflix nature documentaries will teach you valuable lessons over the next 5 years, of which:

The single greatest advantage to a species’ survival is cooperation.

When one or more organisms coooperate, both are more likely to survive.
And the strongest only survive if their survival is sustainable.
Moving here wasn’t a BIG decision.  It was a long one.

Tisch West and the mentorship program are valuable, renewable resources 
for attaining a cooperative environment for learning from others' experiences. 
Like all resources, the program is a tool you have to utilize to benefit.
The more focus and effort applied, the greater leverage.

Start building the community of people you’ll climb mountains with.
Spend time together outside, in the sunlight.

Your first car gets stolen.  The second one gets totaled by a runaway Volvo.
Insurance is worth it.

You’ll write this letter to your past self in the hope that the current mentees make the absolute most of the community and opportunity offered them by this program. 

That they’ll share their experiences with one another to help each other survive.  
Giving that kind of help is the surest way of receiving it.

You’ll invite them to TW events so they can continue building the community, 
with their dreams and their goals and their friends.

Cameron is about to marry Nora and you don’t even know who Nora is yet.

I’d write you all the other magnificent experience you’ll have by 2016,
But you wouldn’t believe me. 

~ Bryan

[Bryan Dechart is a '09 Tisch Drama alumni, he was a mentee in 2011 and a mentor in 2013-2015.  He lives in LA and works as an Actor & Photographer: |]

Welcome to LA - it has 100% not been waiting for you.

Welcome to LA - it has 100% not been waiting for you.

Congratulations on moving to LA. Just like thousands of graduates that descend upon the city in any given year, you’re going to have to reckon with the culture shock of living in Los Angeles. We’ve all been through it, which means you’re not special but it also means that you’re not alone. Even if you feel especially alone. I could guide you through every part of moving step-by-step, from the weird Uber/Lyft LAX pickup system to getting the best food at movie premieres but instead, I want to give you some advice on how to get the answers to questions that aren’t written down somewhere for you; other people.

 Your best resource in Los Angeles is other people that have been through what you’re trying to do. The more recently, the better. It’s not much help to hear career advice from someone that broke in writing jokes for Bob Hope’s USO tours when writers are getting hired off twitter. How do you meet these peers of yours?
  • Your current friends. Odds are some of them know someone in LA that’s doing a similar thing to you.
  • School connections. There are NYU people out here that would be happy to help you. The mentor program, Tisch West, teachers or the geniuses in the careers center could help facilitate an introduction.
  • Online. There aren’t many rules on twitter. If you have mutual friends with someone of interest on facebook, perhaps ask that mutual friend for an intro?
  • Being social. Go to events that are relevant to you and strike up conversation with people about things that you’re curious about or interested in.
In whatever way you’re connected with these people, ask them about making a time to get coffee or a drink. Now, what do you ask these peers when you have their ear?

  • Ask them about what they did. Nobody has the same path in the industry but with enough stories, you begin to hear commonalities. Mail rooms, meeting casting assistants, writing assistants, etc. all feature prominently in these stories but they’re not the only way to go.
  • Ask people about what amazing Listservs they are on (some great ones have been running for years, some still run through Yahoo) or what facebook groups they recommend. Even if they can’t actually get you on there, the more you’re aware of them, the better. You’ll get on there eventually. If you’re not from LA, there’s likely a facebook group “State/Country X in LA” for you. Meet people with similar backgrounds and they might be able to add or direct you. These will be good for you to expand your network and ask even MORE questions.
  • Ask them about podcasts/websites/resources that have more specific information for your career path. Podcasts like Children of Tendu or ScriptNotes, institutions like UCB/Groundlings, courses like UCLA Extension or Script Anatomy, opportunities at festivals like Austin and Sundance – all are valid paths depending on what you want to do and hold the answers to many of your questions.
  • Ask them about where they live/lived. LA is big and unwieldy. You can live in Santa Monica and work in Glendale but no matter how much the sea air refuels you, it’s nothing compared to the brutality of that commute. If you’re not sure where you’re going to be working, try to start out fairly central on a month-to-month lease as you get a feel for the place and perhaps settle in to a more permanent position. When you think you know where you want to live, ask them about finding housing. I’ve personally heard of people getting things through Craigslist, facebook groups, ListServs or splitting the cost of a membership to paid services like The Rental Girl or West Side Rentals with some fellow searchers.
  • Ask them how they got around. Uber and Lyft have been game changers. Some friends of mine that irregularly travel for meetings/auditions have forgone cars and been perfectly fine with apps and the occasional train but if you have a 9-5 job (or, more likely, a 7-10 job) then you’re better off having a car. Ask if they bought or lease, their experience and decide if a lease or buying outright is good for you.
  • And finally, tell people what you want to do. In their day job or through their own lists, groups, etc. they will come across lots of opportunities. If they know what you want, they’ll be able to put 2 and 2 together and pass along relevant information. Be thankful for that and they’ll keep doing it.

You’ll ask the above questions to dozens of people, even after you’ve made your choices of housing, living and career path-taking. Information is power, nowhere is that more true than Los Angeles. So ask questions. Then, before long, you’ll find yourself a bit of an expert and you’ll be asked to write a guide to LA. Good luck!

- Joe Bruckner
Joe is an Australian graduate of Tisch NYU Dramatic Writing Program now living and working in Los Angeles. He was a mentee in the 2015-16 program