Moving from Los Angeles to Texas
I'm wondering if any of you have experience to help me make a decision...
I currently am a freelance director/video production company in the LA area. I do OK. I direct 4-5 local or better commercials a year, and usually get one or two bigger corporate video jobs along with a ton of smaller corporate jobs and other video gigs each year.
Well, this past year we had a baby, and the added expenses of that plus the insane cost of living in LA (plus our concerns about raising a child here) have gotten me thinking about moving to a place where perhaps I can make a better living ,relatively speaking. I can't seem to break into working on the higher-end commercials as a director here in LA, and all the big prodcos are running scared about budget cuts, etc. It's kind of ugly. And while most would consider my little prodco successful, truth is I'm really scrambling to make things meet here, and going in debt a little every month. It's not good.
I've got an excellent reel. And I'm the kind of filmmaker/businessman who can actually do it all, although I sure do like the crew access in LA.
I've been reading that Texas' business climate is way better than here, while the cost of living is far less. PLus, I like it there.
I'm seriously considering moving to either Austin or Dallas for a fresh start. And hoping to keep most of my LA clients, too.
Because truthfully, I only physically meet with clients during a shoot or occasionally before- very occasionally. My biggest client this year has not even met me in person yet! It wouldn't be very hard to fly into LAX and direct a spot, then fly back to Texas.
And again, it feels like the LA corporate market has not rebounded yet from the recession. At all. Apparently things are very different in Dallas and Austin. Plus far less competition there, it seems.
Am I crazy? Have any of you moved your businesses successfully or not?
I went one better Jacob and got out of the business to pursue another career.
My story : http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/17/876369
Hope this helps.
Well that's just depressing as shit, Andy...
Don't mind Andy; he's just leaving more room for the rest of us.
[Andy jackson] "I went one better Jacob and got out of the business to pursue another career.
My story : http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/17/876369
Hope this helps."
Ah yes, the thread that will not die. This thread is from 2012 and I still receive a a lot of email from like minded folks that fear posting their real thoughts in a public forum.
Multi-Camera Director, VFX and Post Production
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." ---Red Adair
[Scott Sheriff] "This thread is from 2012 and I still receive a a lot of email from like minded folks that fear posting their real thoughts in a public forum."
Can you summarize some of what you've heard?
[Tim Wilson] "Can you summarize some of what you've heard?"
Majority of the notes and calls are from sympathetic 'old timers' in video/film production that are in general agreement with the posts by myself, Andy and Tom, and were relating anecdotes of similar experiences or observations. Quite a few are from recognizable posters, and the others are lurkers, or those that stumbled onto the thread. A few have been from noobs, that went to art/media/film school and can't get a decent gig. Most had a fear of some type of reprisal/black listing, and didn't want to discuss this in a public thread. The fact my account coincidentally went into permanent moderation without notice or reason after years of unmoderated commenting on the same day Ron posted his remarks about my take on how some are just lucky, seems to indicate this may be a valid fear.
There was a smattering of messages from some that were trying to convince me the sky is not falling, and how wrong I am.
There were a few outright flames, a few inquiries from trade pubs and bloggers, and a few wondering why I've gone 'radio silence'.
Multi-Camera Director, VFX and Post Production
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." ---Red Adair
My account also coincidentally went into permanent moderation without notice or any reason by Ron.
I mentioned in earlier posts that creativecow makes out the video production business to be a great career move only because they want to keep their advertisers/sponsors happy.
Maybe this is the reason.
Even though I have now changed careers I still keep in touch with my ex-colleagues. All still saying the business is racing to the bottom on rates.
I`ve also noticed more and more websites popping up showing some dslr Shallow DOF, shakey footage (which seems to be the norm nowadays) with post colour grading which makes me assume more and more students are taking the plunge into self employment. I wonder how many are actually being paid more than the minimum wage.
Is it still Feast or Famine? No... its Now STARVATION!!!!
Would be better off flipping burgars with a guaranteed paycheck and benefits.
Well, how relatively "business friendly" Texas is, may or may not be up for debate. I can be a little snarky here because Rick Perry came up to Illinois, talking a little trash, trying to skim some business from us recently.So I'm being snarky back.
Without getting too off-topic or political, just how "good" or "bad" Texas is for "business" and "jobs" rather depends on particular sectors and on how you look at their stats. Where they claim a lot of recent employment, for example looking deeper, many of those are service sector jobs like janitors and burger flippers getting minimum wage or less. Usually less, because that's "friendly" to business. Petro workers are doing all right in Texas, as fracking gets old wells back into production. Texas has a looser regulatory environment than California, but you're not in a job that pollutes or abuses undocumented labor or hates OSHA regs or unions, so again, not sure that's a plus for a video producer:-) There ends my little trash-talk on the Lone Star State.
On to your possible strategies:
I think your best bets in Texas would be doing corporate video work for large aerospace companies, airlines, defense contractors, or the petroleum industry. Start by considering the second tier businesses that are sub-contractors to all those major corporations. They all have stuff to sell, ideas and sales pitches to communicate, internal training to do. Is it as sexy as LA work? No, but I think eating three squares a day, reliably, can look pretty good, if you get my drift. Take a look at media departments for the big schools like Texas A&M. TAM does some great research and science work, that needs documentation. Sports videos, of course, are what most people may think of first, but there's a lot of visual communications work to be found in and around a university community. The big hospital complexes have research and patient communications departments, and HUGE internal training budgets.
Texas is, of course, big. People really don't get HOW big, though, and the kinds of business best for you to try and get some traction in, are in cities or regions of the state with quite a bit of physical separation between them. You may find yourself flying around the state more than driving, to get to far-flung satellite offices.
Even though I had my fun trash-talking the state, you can see that it could provide some opportunities for you, if you widen the scope of the kinds of work you'd consider taking on. Don't let defeatist arguments deter you. You don't just make videos: you solve people's communication problems and needs. The wider view gets you more choices of stable business.
Good luck to you!
You know what they say about how to find Texas, don't you?
You walk west until you smell it, then walk south until you step in it.
No offense to Texans, by the way...that joke was told to me by an Oklahoman, when I was in Texas years ago. I guess there's no love lost between Texas and Oklahoma, for some reason...
The visitor is talking to a Texas Rancher. The Rancher says: "I can drive for three hours, and not reach the end of my property"
The Visitor says: "I had an old truck like that too, once..."
Texas has many thins to brag about, as does any state.
But we're talking about how to find a business niche there.
Thanks, guys. Mark- very smart ideas, especially.
It's a weird huge leap, and I'm not too proud to find a variety of work- after all, I'm constantly running between commercials and corporate, happily.
What do you think of building a virtual presence there, first, to gauge potential response?
ps: Texas and OK... yeah, I don't know what those two states' deal is on hating each other. They seem pretty similar to outsiders. Then again, so do the Israelis and Palestinians.
All joking aside - you might want to start by researching some of the various business and manufacturing directories for the target area, then take a look at some of the larger businesses, seeing what sort of video presence they have on the web, and maybe even do some preemptive strikes via email to their marketing directors. It never hurts to tell people you're on the way...other than the competition, which it would be good to look at as well. Sometimes where the competition isn't working is the place to go. Good luck with the move...
In 1999 I moved my business from NYC to Orlando, FL. Probably similar reasons to what you have - costs less to live, get a nicer place to live, nicer people, better day to day life.
HOWEVER - prepare for this -
1)you will make less money than LA (but it costs less to live)
2) there will not be as many clients
3) you have to "cherish" you clients, because there just are not that many (compared to NY or LA).
4) when you get slow (everyone gets slow, even in NY and LA) - it will REALLY feel slow, because there are not that many avenue's to turn to.
5) you think you are the "big shot director from LA" that is going to blow away all those "little guys" in Texas. I felt the same way - I was the "big shot engineer" from NYC. Well, there are PLENTY of qualified people down here in Florida, and I bet there are PLENTY of qualified people in Texas that can do the same job (or better) than you, and they are already estabilished. You will have to prove yourself all over again. It took me EIGHT YEARS to "get into" Disney down in Orlando, even though I did all the big editorial houses in NY and ad agencies. It means nothing. You have to prove yourself. And when you do, you will STILL make less money than you made in LA.
SO - am I happy ? Sure I am happy. It's nice weather out, people are nice, it doesn't cost $150 to go out to dinner, I can park my car for free, anywhere I want. Insurance is lower. Taxes are lower.
For me, it just took a while to realize that I was going to make less money.
Rescue 1, Inc.
I lived in Texas for a while, went to college there, and have also lived in 5 different states since then. Overall, I've moved 22 times in 28 years, and probably another dozen when I was a kid.
I also traveled like a demon for some industry companies, and got a good sense of the jobs scene up until a few years ago when I got out. So, some general thoughts as a former Texan, a traveler, and a professional observer of the media production industry.
-- No matter what else is true of Texas, the pool of opportunity is smaller. Dallas-Ft. Worth is the #5 market, but that's deceptive because of how many small towns comprise it, and HOW small they are (closer to Mayberry than Glendale), with nobody else to claim them as part of THEIR market. Outside a crowded center, long stretches of freaking NOTHING.
(BTW, this is where I lived for part of my teens.)
Austin is the #49 market, right behind Memphis, and just ahead of Louisville, KY. Wonderful place...but dude, Louisville.
The good news is, both of them are very livable cities. You and your family can make nice lives for yourself in either one. You might also look at San Antonio, which is in one of the prettiest parts of the country. (Google Image search Texas Hill Country wildflowers.)
-- Unless you want to start a manufacturing facility or something, forget phrases like "business friendly." California leads the country in non-government job creation -- not just more than Texas, but more than TX, VA and OR combined....but what did all those new jobs do for you? Nothing. The same as Texas's much higher poverty rate will do for you. Nothing. Or that Jerry Brown's approval rating is 60% and Rick Perry's is 40%. Means. Nothing. for your work prospects.
-- Bob is right: you're going to be floored by how much less you make. Your money will of course go further. But wow, you'll make a LOT less money. This takes a while to wrap your head around. Start now. :-)
-- Note that Dallas and Austin are both among the country's leaders in inbound migration. A lot of it from California. This is especially true in Dallas, whose boom is meaningfully fueled by tech migrating from Silicon Valley. You won't be the first guy from LA that your prospective clients will have spoken to.
That's on top of the local guys who have already been working in these high-pressure, world class markets. They're not all chumps.
-- So, no matter how you shake it, fewer opportunities, all of them paying less, and no matter how much experience you have, you're going to have to push your way through a lot of other people who already have the clients you want...and a lot of other immigrants who want them too.
-- One of the things that can jam you up in Austin is a huge media program at the University of Texas. It's one of the best anywhere, and by big, I mean 4500-ish students in the School of Communication alone. Baylor (my alma mater) has a big, strong program an hour and a half a way, as does Texas A&M another half hour away. Now, obviously, everywhere has a lot of colleges and a lot of students, and not all of those media program kids will look for work in Austin -- but a lot of them will, as will students from other parts of the state. Why not? Austin is a FANTASTIC place. More attractive than Dallas in quite a few ways.
So imagine 2000 freshly minted graduates from top-notch media programs pouring into...Louisville, KY...looking for work every May. Plus all the people from all over the country who hear that Austin is a vibrant media center...which it is. Totally.
But not as easy to break into as it looks, for exactly that reason.
-- A lot of people are going to tell you that they'd kill to get out of their markets and into LA. Be prepared to tell them why you think that they're wrong. LOL
-- As a kid who moved a lot, I do encourage you to think about it, just to enrich your kids' life experience if nothing else. I loved it. I've obviously kept it up. LOL I think it's a good habit to get into. Who cares if a move doesn't work? Move again. There are so many great places to live, it's a shame to limit yourself to just a couple. In my experience, the trouble comes when you stay too long.
-- A couple of months ago, my father actually apologized to me for a) moving the family to suburban Dallas, and b) not getting out sooner. It was easy to accept that apology. I got out mostly alive, so no harm, no foul.
I mentioned this to my mother later, and she said, "He apologized? Good." It's been 30 years since they left, and my mother is obviously still, let's say, annoyed by it.
But hey, plenty of other people love it, and like I said, most people err by staying where they are too long -- including LA. All the more reason to consider moving.
Final tally: lower cost of living and general quality of life: yes for Texas. More job opportunities: absolutely not.
If the only way you can make it work is keeping your LA clients, you have to talk this through with them first. They may be the only work you have for a good long while, and if they're not okay with this, you're in for a rough ride.
If I could dare to summarize Bob, I think he's saying: It's not so much the place: but the person. If you REALLY work your hardest, you could succeed almost anywhere, ("success" being a relative term), but overall, it's what you make of the opportunities you get, and what you do to make opportunities.
[Mark Suszko] " If you REALLY work your hardest"
I don't agree at all. People in this business aren't losing jobs, or unable to find them, because they're not working hard enough.
All job markets are not equal. Some places are growing, some are shrinking. Sometimes opportunities only happen if you move.
Part of Jacob's interest in moving is motivated by quality of life. THAT part of it: all signals are go. Do it. I'm a fan. Everything works better with an occasional reboot. Your family's life will be richer for it.
In that sense, wanting to move is reason enough to do it. Ignore the rest. You like Texas? Go. No kidding. You can figure stuff out once you get there. If a move looks interesting to you, that's a good sign that it will work out. I've done it a bunch of times, and that's exactly how it has gone. Good things can happen if you're happy where you are.
That said, in a parallel universe, the one where Spock has a goatee and I make short posts, I could probably have limited my previous post to the last sentence:
If the viability of your move depends on keeping current clients, they have to be 100% on board with you moving.
I've worked with clients a lot further away than Dallas/Austin to LA. It can be done, but it's hard.
One reason is that even clients who love you can be susceptible to the charms of somebody who's around them all the time. Long distance romances CAN work...but there's a reason that the default assumption is that they CAN'T. They almost never actually DO.
The larger reason is that travel is a bitch. The miseries of travel will definitely eat into your quality of life, and, to the extent it means you're not at home, into your family's too.
At one point, my father was actually commuting by airline: left pre-dawn Monday, back home Friday night. Why? QUALITY OF LIFE. What? NOBODY's quality of life was benefiting from that, except maybe the airline stockholders.
We all agreed in retrospect that, no matter what we'd have had to face in the towns where he was actually working, we'd all have had a higher quality of life if we'd just moved. Or he'd changed jobs, which is what he eventually did: took a job that let him stay home. In fact, he changed CAREERS to make it happen.
At a certain point, you realize that "quality time" has become a euphemism for "LESS time," eg, "I'm not home as often, but when I am, it's QUALITY time." When in fact, you'll find that "quality time" equates to "MORE time."
My father's was an extreme case, but I had something similar happen. One of my clients was 1700 miles away, and as the job got bigger, I needed to spend a week onsite every couple of months. One week out of eight -- that ain't so bad, right? But all we had to do was move, and we'd be together six more weeks a year! That's HUGE! So we moved.
Which is why I'm a fan of moving.
A little less so if the move is the thing that causes you to spend less time with your family.
Unless you WANT to spend less time with your family. LOL Hey, it's your life, man. Do what ya gotta do to stay sane. Sanity is part of quality of life too.
We're glad to have you in O-Town Bob!
Production is fun - but lets not forget: Nobody ever died on the video table!
Again, thank you for your thoughts, guys!
One of the reasons I'm seriously considering moving that I probably didn't make clear was this: while I'm lucky enough to get a few well-paid gigs in LA every year, the fact is the size of the average gig has gotten quite small for the non-big-ones: consider $3-5K for a product launch video for an established company's new product.
So it doesn't matter if I get a nice payday a few times a year, if I'm not making enough to pay rent when I'm not working. I just am not making enough on the few big jobs and the half dozen or so smaller jobs I'm able to get, here.
I look upstream, and the bigger prodcos are terrified, certainly not a good atmosphere for being brought on to do bigger projects. And forget Hollywood- the only way they'd take me is if I direct a feature that does well at festivals or something, and that ain't happening right away. The "film" work is pro-bono or $150 for 18 hour days, and even that's not a "for sure". Other small prodcos keep going out of business, too. It's bleak!
So I look at places like Dallas and Austin, who have so many new tech startups, and figure that each of those startups is going to need a product video. Sure, their budgets are probably no better than the ones I'm doing here, but I bet there's a lot more opportunities. At least, I think there ought to be...
This is the hardest forum in the COW for me to post in. A lot of times, I'm here as full-time COW employee, speaking about the COW itself.
I'm here a little more often as mid-50s, video company-owning, world-traveling, paid to observe the industry guy - posting ENTIRELY on my own, with opinions that other people who work here would strongly disagree with. But that doesn't concern me, because I'm posting as ME. But it DOES concern me that when posting as ME, it might be construed as having some connection with the COW...when it absolutely does NOT.
So this post is as ME.
And Jason, this last post of yours has been chewing at ME since you wrote it. LOL I wanted to let it go, but I can't stop myself. LOL I figured that since I was still talking about it to other people, I should probably bring it up with you again.
Also note: I have no idea how young you are, but I'm making the assumption that you're younger than 55. So consider me your kindly internet brother or uncle, kind of an a-hole, but a more or less good-hearted guy who's worried about you.
[Jacob Marley] "...Sure, their budgets are probably no better than the ones I'm doing here..."
Budgets will be a LOT LESS in Texas. Yes, it costs a lot less to live there -- depending on where you're living and whether your lifestyle includes private schools for the kids, it could maybe be 40% less -- but you will probably make about 40% less too. Re-read Bob Zelin's post about NY vs. Orlando that way. It can work out over time as things equalize, but in the short run, it could well be gruesome.
[Jacob Marley] "So I look at places like Dallas and Austin, who have so many new tech startups, and figure that each of those startups is going to need a product video.
California is creating many MORE jobs than Texas. So start there. You'd be moving to a state with FEWER new jobs.
Maybe your experience is different than mine, but I've also never seen a tech start-up need a product video. Tech start-ups in general tend not to HAVE products. They have TECHNOLOGY. A PowerPoint presentation will make more money for them than a video.
Many start-ups will also have leveraged every penny from everyone they know. They may not even be taking salaries yet. So your target market may be product videos for people who have no products and no money?
Maybe I misunderstand you. Maybe I'm mis-characterizing that business landscape, but I encourage you to do what you'd do when you got to town: look online or check with the chamber of commerce. Try to identify potential clients, and map out pitches in your head. Then check websites of guys like you and see what they're charging to do this kind of work.
Similarly, get on the phone, talk to a bunch of post houses. Don't email. CALL. Find an editor's group or a user group for the software you're using. Talk to people who are doing the kind of work you're interested in. ASK THEM. If they tell you "the water's warm, dive on in!" then I heartily encourage you to do like everyone else and ignore my advice. LOL
The phrase that has been eating at me, though:
[Jacob Marley] "I bet there's a lot more opportunities. At least, I think there ought to be..."
There's no getting around that you're considering moving to areas with LESS opportunity, not more, starting with the fact that California is creating more new jobs than Texas.
Let's get specific with the possible potential of numbers of opportunities: the number of people.
The Dallas-FW area combined is 6 million people. That's good for #4 in the nation -- but once you get outside that area...nothing. Look at Google maps to get an idea what I mean when I say "nothing." NOTHING. It's kind of like hitting the Grapevine coming out of LA.
Note that when I say "nothing," I'm not referring to all the lovely towns and all the lovely people. I'm speaking strictly in terms of "nothing realistic for an LA freelancer looking to financially reposition himself."
But do take a look at a couple of screenshots I just took. In the first, you can see Dallas-Ft. Worth from the air. Around that? NOTHHHHHING.
Now here's the same picture with labels. You may have heard of Plano, but after Plano, Dallas and Ft. Worth, how many towns in this 7 hour radius are you familiar with? Waco, probably not in a good way...although it's a nice town...I went to college there...at Baylor, where a huge, excellent media program pumps hundreds of well-qualified graduates into a tiny market every spring. You may have heard of Abilene, Wichita Falls, maybe Hot Springs, Arkansas? The biggest of these is about the size of Burbank, the smallest is smaller than Venice. And unlike Venice and Burbank, these are hours apart.
I know you've visited Texas, so maybe you've been through towns like Cleburn and Killeen and know that, as great as they are as TOWNS, with lovely people having lovely lives, you know EXACTLY how much ISN'T available for an enterprising video freelancer looking to financially reposition himself.
But as you read the labels, note that THESE are the towns big enough to show up on the map at a 400 mile diameter zoom.
Asking if you've heard of any of these towns is almost a trick question, because Austin is immediately below Round Rock(center bottom of map), which is definitely considered part of the Austin area. But that whole area? 1.7 million, landing it at #35 in the country. (Austin itself: 750,000 people and change.)
For this, you're leaving SEVENTEEN MILLION people in the LA area, three times the size of Dallas, a dozen times the size of Austin.
That doesn't even include Orange County!!! There's another three million. Then ANOTHER 3 million people in San Diego, the #17 metro area in the country, nearly twice as big as Austin.
Park yourself in Orange County and you can commute to dang near ALL of it.
To put this another way, from Chatsworth to Chula Vista -- whaddya got?
TWENTY THREE MILLION PEOPLE, in 150 MILES.
vs. 26 million in the ENTIRE STATE of Texas. It's a pretty damn big state. Bigger than 150 miles. Living in Plano, I was closer to CHICAGO than El Paso.
So, just about the same number of people in the whole span of 790 miles by 773 miles in all of Texas, as in a 150 mile long stretch of Cali, a couple of miles wide on either side of I-5.
Look, if you want to go to Texas, GO. If you want to go, there's no such thing as a bad reason. The ONLY reason you need is that you WANT to go. As I mentioned, I've moved 22 times in the past 30 years, with a half-dozen career changes. Even the worst places I've lived, and the worst career moves I've made, have at least a couple of GREAT stories. I'm really happy now. It really does tend to all work out over the long run.
Last but not least, I could be every bit as wrong about all this as you are. LOL Kidding. Who knows? I have a bunch of numbers I got from Wikipedia and my experiences, and you may be older than me and have already done the research to know I'm full of it. Your mileage will vary, no matter what. That's why you need to get on the phone, or hop on a plane and ring some doorbells in DFW and Austin.
No, HERE's the last but not least. After a trough, the video business is starting an upswing overall, but not for every job profile in every market. If you're getting pounded doing what you're doing, consider that going someplace else to do the exact same thing may not work any better THERE. Consider staying where you are and doing something different. Or doing something different in Texas. Maybe it's as simple as a move into corporate, or working with a post house, or any number of things rather than freelancing.
Or as others have, another career altogether. I'm a huge fan of career changes, but that's another post. Only so far off topic even *I'm* willing to get. LOL
There's my bottom line. If you want to move, forget the numbers. Just GO. The worst that will happen is that it'll be fun -- especially Austin, imo -- and you'll go somewhere else after that if you need to. But forgetting the numbers also means not counting on them to work in your favor. Because from here, they don't appear to.
Sorry to a bummer, but that's what I've been thinking about almost non-stop for the past week or so. That, and some more moron in a book who said that music in the 70s trended toward conformity. What the...?
Anyway, just a few thoughts from your concerned internet brother or uncle, yes, a bit of an a-hole, but with generally good intentions.
[Tim Wilson] "Or doing something different in Texas. Maybe it's as simple as a move into corporate, or working with a post house, or any number of things rather than freelancing. "
Well, I've always liked the idea of being a big fish in a smaller, out of the way pond. The Coasts scare me. The good news is that there IS plenty of work to be done in between them.
While I appreciate Tim's well-reasoned premise that More people equals more jobs, I also tend to believe that more people equals much more competition for the good jobs. One reason it is hard to make it in L.A. is that it is so over-saturated with people trying to break into broadcast TV and movies, every waiter and gas station attendant has a script or two they would LOVE show you, every crossing guard, dentist, and house painter is an actor, and freelance editors and directors are lined up like undocumented handymen in a Home Depot parking lot. It's a buyers' market and the sheer mass of all those hopefuls, talented and not, lies between you and a living.
But the last time I looked, apart from the quality of parties you could get to attend, the dollars earned in corporate, government, and institutional video trades spend just the same as the ones earned in tinseltown or the Apple. You want to chase movies, yes, L.A. and New York are the places... but I think there must be many MORE of us making a steady living at this, in the less glamorous parts of the business. I mentioned before that Texas has a lot of aerospace work going in that state, so, though we could also make this about energy-production-related work, just for example purposes, I'll stick to aerospace. And I Like aerospace, so I'm doing that topic anyway:-P
Look at pages 2 thru 9 of this report, put out by the Texas Governor's office. See the pretty maps, and overlay them on the ones Tim made.
These maps in the pdf file show concentrations of high-tech, high-dollar industries in Aerospace. The lists of companies are LONG and distinguished, and not all of them are merely defense contractors. You have to figure that that also means a lot of their suppliers lay close by as well. Between the first and second tiers, that's a lot of possible corporate gigs making videos and communication products that inform, train, and sell.
Where you find high tech industry, you also tend to find high tech universities and research companies; these are another possible pond to splash around in. They have communications needs and steady business.
If you can live with yourself not getting a credit on some Hollywood blockbuster, but making a good living while doing work you love, and maybe doing work that is even meaningful in some way, I think you CAN find that somewhere in most any state between the coasts. Yes, even in Texas. As Tim says, though, you will have to change how you think about things, and re-assess your values.
I got a taste of that this weekend. Coming home friday from the office I was mad enough to kick a puppy, if we had one. Suffice to say, something went very horribly and ridiculously wrong, and the mess was going to fall into my lap on Monday. Stopping for gas and a cold soda before getting home, a random stranger comes up to me and shakes my hand, wishing me a happy Father's Day. And it hit me: I was all twisted up with anger over my "work", that which pays me a wage, but what was important was that I was on my way home to my real JOB. Which is to be a great Husband and Father.
Perspective is everything.
I moved to PHoenix AZ from NYC as well, same deal.
After 11 years, every time I drive into LA I still feel a genuine sense of opportunity that I never felt in Atlanta. We live and operate our business in Stevenson Ranch/Valencia, because it's very family friendly and my commute to work is all of 2 minutes. Perhaps you should consider moving outside of LA as Tim suggests - Bakersfield, etc., and commuting to LA only when needed. You'll get a great price on a house (Palmdale is stupid cheap) and will still be close enough to see clients and feel 'local' to the biggest video industry hub in the world.
We sometimes fantasize about moving to get out of the hassle of running a business here to places like Nevada, for example. It's stressful and expensive trying to keep up with all the rules that seem designed to keep you professionally insecure. When it gets down to it though, I won't be done with LA till it's done with me.
Perhaps you should consider working to get a full-time job somewhere doing what you do. If the business isn't working for you as an independent, that doesn't mean you can't make a great living working for the man. You may discover it's nice as part of a larger organization that has the resources to handle the minutiae, letting you focus on just making great projects come to life.
John Davidson | President / Creative Director | Magic Feather Inc.
Again, thank you all!!! I love reading opinions on this stuff, and your experiences. It enriches me in making my decision, and your helping me out makes me super impressed that the Cow really IS a community of people looking out for each other.
That's something I sure have not found in LA ;-)
When I said the projects probably will pay about the same in both places, here's the actual numbers: the biggest project I got this year was a high-end local commercial. My takeaway on it was pretty tiny, since the client is made us build two sets and shut down a street to shoot it.
In corporate, my business' clients have all sat around $5K projects this year. Pathetic! Unliveable, too, in LA.
I'm not a hack. I'm an award-winning small production company here. I stay up on things, I'm reasonably young (not that that should matter), I'm known for fantastic work, etc. My shop's reel compares verrrry well with the biggest and best. I network well. I can do a local TV commercial that looks like a national. I have some big clients, too- all of whom love us and write stellar testimonial letters for us (but who have not had any new projects this year). My shop can do it all- and very, very well. But the past 8 months? Crickets outside of the $5K jobs and this TV gig we did.
And I know I'm not alone. Speaking privately with 6 of my competitors last month told me they're ALL hurting. I know shops in LA that own multiple RED Epics that are working for $400/day gigs.
Mark's right: a big part of it is the vast influx of people wanting to make it in Hollywood. They'll work for damn near nothing, to make their rent on the studio apartment they're renting in Reseda with 3 other guys, while they write their masterpiece screenplays and try to get actresses to sleep with them.Here's a data point: a Lamborghini dealership wanted a custom LA commercial to use on TV and in their showroom, tradeshows, dvds, whatever. They wanted the look of a national spot, and gave us examples. We bid a very reasonable (for what they wanted) bid of $25K for it. They hired a guy for $5K to do it, without permits on LA roads, shooting illegally and hanging off vehicles, risking people's lives, etc. The end product sucks, of course, too.
Reading today I found an article (should have saved it) talking about how LA, in particular, has NOT recovered like the Bay Area or San Diego. It had some good points, which make me feel SoCal (LA) won't be changing soon.
As for me, a fantastic fantasy is to move more into corporate work, but look for gigs that pay $10K or more (surely that's not asking much!), live in a place where I could actually own a home, and raise a family where I won't be scared about the filth that is Hollywood f'ing up their values, and actually make enough to go on vacation more than once every 3 years.
I'm not sure my plan of attack, yet. But damn, something's gotta change.
Hi Jacob, just to be up front, I didn't read most of the post in this thread because they went way off topic. We have a studio here in Austin, with an office in DC but most of the work we do is for big corporate clients out of state. The industry in Texas is doing pretty good, especially in Dallas and Austin, there is a fairly large film and TV market here BUT it can be hit or miss, just like anywhere else. If you decide to make the move, I would be happy to introduce you to folks down here, Gaffers/Grips/DP's etc... It's a pretty tight community without alot of the duschebaggery you find in LA (We work there often) Feel free to shoot me an email if you ever want to chat.
It would be a thrill to have more talented people in Texas. I work at a post-house in Houston. Work is steady and I go on vacation out of the country every year (disclaimer: we have no children).
All of Texas' big metro areas will be able to support someone like you. You just have to know how to network yourself into the right niches.
Houston is a great city for a family. It is the most diverse city in Texas and one of the most diverse cities in the US. Great schools, great neighborhoods and LOTS of real estate for your money. Check out http://www.har.com , you will be surprised.
Houston is a pretty big international hub, being the homebase for United Airlines you will always find a flight to wherever you want to go.
The weather is terrible. Can't sugar-coat it at all. Humidity in Houston is what it is. Lots of Fortune 500 companies. Many of them you've never heard of. Yes, Oil Industry related video abounds, but there are other things. You will still soon get familiar with Oil industry terms.
The video-film community in Houston is filled with capable and talented people. You will not have a problem putting together a crew for a shoot.
If you decide to give it a thought I'd be glad to show you around.