Top Post Houses in LA?
Hey all. Not 100% sure if this is the right place for this topic but didn't think it would hurt to try.
I'm an editor based in Boston who has been working at a top digital ad agency for the last two years and change. My reel is overwhelmed with well-made branded content, I'm versatile with edit and VFX software and I've developed incredible relationships with some of the best minds in advertising (I'm not saying it to be cocky, we really do have a fantastic team where I work). Advertising is fun but I'm ready to pursue my greater passion for narrative film.
LA seems like the right place to pursue that passion. My first task was to find a few post houses I really wanted to be a part of and work my advertising connections for potential opportunities. Quickly I realized that's a lot easier said than done. The Creative Cow classifieds are full of options, but a lot seem like smaller, one or two person shops. My crazy dream is features, whether they be studio or indie, but I couldn't figure out where those films were being made, which led me to wonder how things work in LA.
Are there still instances of apprenticeship? If so, where are those opportunities? Which major studios or post houses have that wealth of work? Is it more feasible to be a freelancer, seeking out gigs as they come? How do I get to be that assistant editor buried in the credits? It's clearly not as simple as pulling up the ten best shops and working my way down the list. Does that kind of list even exist? Is my dream of an LA full of post houses with a roster of talented senior editors antiquated?
Lots of questions, I know. Thanks in advance everyone!
Freelancing will give you the widest range of possibilities for types of projects (long form narrative, short films, and commercials). The downside is you're paving your own way. It can be tough without a network already in place, and there's no "promotions" except the ones you give yourself.
If you go the staffed assistant editor route, you may start out lower on the ladder than you want, but you'll get the opportunity to work on projects you wouldn't have access to otherwise (depending on the post house you get into).
I moved here from New Jersey and worked in commercials and documentaries for 6 years before going freelance. I would have most likely failed financially without the great people I met as a staffed assist. They kept me afloat so I could take opportunities on independent features and short films. I love being freelance, but I don't think I would have been able to do it without having done the staffed work.
A lot of the commercial post production, coloring, and VFX scene resides in Santa Monica. You'll probably want to search around there. In my experience, the editorials there are doing the best high-end national work.
Hope these anecdotes help!
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[Brittany DeLillo] "Are there still instances of apprenticeship? If so, where are those opportunities? Which major studios or post houses have that wealth of work? Is it more feasible to be a freelancer, seeking out gigs as they come? How do I get to be that assistant editor buried in the credits? It's clearly not as simple as pulling up the ten best shops and working my way down the list. Does that kind of list even exist? Is my dream of an LA full of post houses with a roster of talented senior editors antiquated?"
Apprenticeships don't really exist anymore, the vast majority of positions out here are freelance, assistant editing is turning into a career path all its own (not just a stepping stone towards the chair) and, yes, I'd say your concept of a post house full of staff editors cutting big budget features is off the mark. :)
There's always more than one way to skin a cat so you could keep working in Boston, since you are already established there, and try to get some side work cutting indie features in NY or NC. You'd probably have to start off on no/low budget things so your agency work would still be paying the bills. After you get a number of features under your belt (and some money saved up too) you could move to LA where, again, your could rely on ad work to pay the bills until you started consistently getting enough paid feature work.
The reason I mention staying on the east coast for a bit is there is probably less competition than in LA. Out here I'd say 95% of the people dream of working in features so you can't swing a dead cat w/o hitting someone willing to work 6 months for no money just to get experience they hope will pay off down the road. If you are single and are willing to make lifestyle changes then rolling with the punches is easier but if you have a family and/or are used to living at a certain standard then the inherent financial risks are certainly more daunting.
Everyone creates their own path but, realistically, I'd carve out at least a 10yr plan or so to get a solid foot in the door of studio features in LA. Many times too it seems like an editor's 'big break' is when a director they've worked with gets a shot at a feature and the director is able to bring the editor onto the project.
Regardless of the odds I always say go for it because you only live once. I'd rather chase my dreams and go down in a ball of flames than wonder 'what if?' for my whole life.
[Andrew Kimery] "Apprenticeships don't really exist anymore, the vast majority of positions out here are freelance, assistant editing is turning into a career path all its own (not just a stepping stone towards the chair) and, yes, I'd say your concept of a post house full of staff editors cutting big budget features is off the mark. :)"
I figured as much, but needed someone in the industry to tell me so. Happy to hear this is a lot more complicated than I had previously imagined. :)
Looking into the Santa Monica area per August's suggestion. Narrows my searching ever so slightly and doesn't hurt to see where the top is.
LA is the more difficult of the two options (East vs West) but as you said, better to take the risk and fail instead of living cautiously and having life go by. I'm 24, single, confidant and surrounded by great recommendations. That cross country jump has fewer repercussions now than in ten years when there could be a lot more at stake. Perhaps I maintain my advertising work in LA, while trying to get features on the side? I know I'll have to keep the ad work, no matter where I am.
Hopefully I can gather more opinions but thank you both for the advice so far.
Andrew, I agree with you on almost all of that. The only difference is I believe being in LA is more beneficial to one's entertainment career. By staying in Boston or NY or where ever you choose, you'll build a network there. Your contacts are almost always more important than your skill set when you're job hunting (unfortunately). You'll keep jobs by being talented, but you'll get jobs through social and business contacts. My advice would be to live in the city where the jobs are. Or work your ass if in the city you want to make your life in.
If your goal was to just make a movie, I'd say stay where you are and make a movie. That's easy. But you're looking to build a career in assisting or editing, so go where the jobs are. I moved to LA and haven't regretted it yet.
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Connections are a very good point, August. In my heading I was thinking Brittany should work narratives on the East coast in the interm as I'm not sure what the timeframe is for getting out to LA.