I’m new to LA – WTF am I supposed to be doing with myself?

Here is a little list that might help those indie filmmakers who are new to Los Angeles, or even just coming here to visit, and a nice little reminder for those of us who have forgotten WTF to do with this city:

  1. Everyone says they hate LA, it’s boring, stop saying it, we don’t care anymore. (We secretly hate things about it too.)
  2. You need to be out, a lot. (Leave your couch.)
  3. You need to be ready to get a job if someone offers it to you. (Facebook friend contacts asap and have stuff to send them.)
  4. You need to be going to as many screenings as you can get out to.
  5. You need to join Film Independent asap and go to all their events. (Call Evan Ward-Henninger in membership asap.)
  6. You need to be making films constantly.
  7. You need to be writing constantly or coming up with new ideas.
  8. You need good titles.
  9. You need to take people up on their offers (well most of them anyway).
  10. You need to go where you’re invited. (That means actually going, not just saying you’re going.)
  11. You need to take care of yourself, so you look like you know how to take care of stuff.
  12. If you say you’re going to do something, you actually have to do it. Writing a script, write that script. Making a movie, make that movie. People get tired very quickly of people who just say they’re doing something and never do any of it.
  13. You need to stop being a dick.
  14. Again, stop talking about how much you hate LA.
  15. You need to take care of your car, if your car looks like s**t why would someone give you 2 million dollars to take care of their s**t?
  16. You need a mentor.
  17. You need to say thank you.
  18. You need to know when someone is doing you a favor how much of a favor it actually is.
  19. If you don’t know, ask your friends, if they don’t know, don’t ask them again.
  20. You need to do lots of favors for everyone you can, then lots of people will do favors for you.
  21. You need to not care if people don’t return favors – people will see that you do everyone favors anyway.
  22. You don’t need to lie to get jobs, but you don’t need to talk so much about all the times you’ve been fired.
  23. Meet your deadlines, and if you’re not going to meet them don’t be such a dick about it.
  24. Try and remember peoples names – I suck at this. I met Ashley Judd before she was Ashley Judd and she remembered everyone’s names 4 hours later after being introduced to like 15 people at once. No wonder she ended up being Ashley Judd.
  25. Keep your drinking and drugging to a minimum and out of public view.
  26. Stop sleeping with everyone. (Unless they’re George Clooney, you know the Clooney Clause.)
  27. Someone very close to me said last year that, “it is just as easy to fall in love with someone who has a jet and a Bentley as it is to fall in love with someone who has a beat up Chevy.” I say this is bullshit and disgusting. Date who you love, even if they don’t know Ewan McGregor yet.
  28. Sunblock. Daily.
  29. Stop telling everyone about every famous person you’ve ever met in your life or run into. (I ran into Chris Nolan and Emma Thomas last night, btw.)
  30. Go to every panel and class you can get into.
  31. Talk to people on panels, then Facebook friend them or follow them on twitter.
  32. Don’t ask dumb questions at panels, you don’t want to stand out that badly.
  33. Make more movies.
  34. Shut up, you love LA, you know it.

See you at that Starbucks over by that other Starbucks!

Heidi Van Lier is a filmmaker living in Los Angeles. She has directed 3 feature films, with another one on the way. Her first film,
Chi Girl, won the Slamdance Film Festival in 1999. She has written a film school textbook called The Indie Film Rule Book, available on She has been a programmer for the Slamdance Film Festival, and on juries and panels at countless festivals around the country. She has an expensive 8-year-old daughter, send help.

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  1. Everybody in LA wishes they could “make it” to the point that they don’t have to live in LA if they don’t want. LA is a pain in the a*s, BUT it is where the action is. that dirty little action that we all secretly have to be a part of no matter how much we say we don’t care.

    Side note: read her book The Indie Film Rule Book if you are at all interested in how to do things right. It is outstanding. (no, I don’t know or I have never met Heidi)

  2. E. Corrady says:

    I meant “GREAT” insight, sorry Heidi….

  3. E. Corrady says:

    I could stop at #2….everyone always says how much they hate the place, yet they never leave. It is like a drug, I swear. You don’t really notice that you want to go back until you are gone for a bout a week. I will never understand it myself because….I HATE THIS PLACE! 🙂 Get insight, Heidi

  4. Susan Target says:

    Biggest thing that saddens me sometimes about LA is the lack of “real” friendships. I don’t think that people necessarily do it on purpose, but we are all so busy, spend so much time in our car, and are just trying to “make it” that we except the fact that it is okay to only really have time for “friends” that might be able to help us further our careers….It saddens me even more as I am writing it and reading it. I guess I am too sensitive

  5. Jay Sheers says:

    Ah yes, the love/hate relationship we have with LA….It is that place that you love to leave and can’t wait to get back to. It makes no sense. And by the way, take #27 to heart if you don’t want to end up bitter, jaded, and not able to remember who you really are in 5 years….

  6. You’re so right Mark. East Coast humidity is atrocious, and seems to be getting worse each year. Not only that, the cost of living is terrible considering what you get for the money. Hmmm, LA is sounding better and better… Heidi, I just read your post, published April 4th. What you say makes total sense. I should probably check out your book as well.
    Thanks everyone!!!

  7. Heidi Van Lier says:

    Hm, who exactly said stay out of the Valley? 😉
    (I heart the Valley.)
    Read earlier blog about LA, Amy, should help you decide.

    Thanks for commenting, everyone!

  8. Bwakathaboom says:

    Just stay out of the valley and you’ll be okay.

  9. I’m supposed to go there soon, so I’ll let you know. The problem is, I pretty much hate everywhere that’s hot and humid, so LA is no exception.
    Here are some question: Do emerging or established, INDEPENDENT filmmaker/screenwriters (I’m both), really have to settle in LA these days? I can see if you’re looking for a job out there, but otherwise, why???

    • Mark Bell says:

      LA is not humid. As far as heat goes, I hate it too, but I lived in LA for over 7 years and the heat was far more tolerable than the Summers here on the East Coast. Air conditioning is your friend.

  10. Bwakathaboom says:

    Yeah, but don’t you just hate LA? 🙂

  11. Awesome list, Heidi! I especially love items 6 and 7, which should be flashing in neon wherever filmmakers live.

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