Differences between NYC and LA

May 28, 2011 by     2 Comments    Posted under: City Life, New York


Prior to moving to the “Right Coast” (as New Yorkers affectionately call it) I worked professionally in both San Diego and Los Angeles. I thought a fun way to start off my posts with PvsPB would be to mention some of the differences I notice between pursuing a career in the asphalt jungle (NYC) versus the concrete jungle (LA.)


The Biz

• In LA, you call your TV / Film / Theater agents “Theatrical.” Here, we call them “Legit.” With that, we also call that kind of work “legit.” Which, I’m sure, makes commercial / voiceover / hosting actors raise an eyebrow (“What…I’m not legit?!?” <sucker punch!>)

• Many NYC agents, especially commercial agents, freelance. This means that they don’t sign contracts when you first start working together, opting to “date openly” rather than being “exclusive.” Oddly, NYC actors seem to be ok with this, even though they know that an agent who doesn’t sign is not usually as serious about promoting their career. Most bi-coastal agents reject freelancing, luckily.

• Believe it or not, background acting an actual, legitimate day job here in NYC. No stigma. I have a theory about this. Well, actually two. 1) Since people don’t move to NYC to become movie stars, there are not as many people vying to “break into movies” by doing background work. 2) Being that this is a major theater town, NYC actors require jobs that they can easily leave for long periods of time. Desk jobs just don’t cut it. As my friend Allison Mosier (who recently moved from NY to LA) puts it:

“Unlike actors in New York, actors in LA never leave their day job, because when they book an acting gig, they are only away for a day or so. In New York, you book a gig, and you’re gone for the whole summer. Serving/bartending jobs are at a premium [in LA.] I think it might actually be easier to get an acting job here than a day job.” (link to full blog)

Therefore, flexibility is key here, and background work is just about as flexible as you can get. Not to mention a great resource for health/pension (though, career builders need to look elsewhere. Background work will not grow your career.)

• Strangely, there’s also no stigma about casting director / agent workshops. A select few are well-reputed in this city, and most of their teachers approach the event for what it should be – an Educational Opportunity, with the added bonus of building relationships.

NOTE — I’d now like to officially close the can of worms I just opened. I, in no way, want to turn this into a debate over their legality. I’m in agreement with you, LA peeps. Paying for auditions is bad, bad business. I’m just letting you know that, in NYC, there is no stigma for actors taking part in them, and I think that is because there are a few companies (like my friends at The Network) who do a nice job of making sure that actors know that they are being trained, not auditioned. And the company is very good at weeding out those instructors who get complaints from actors about lack of content. That all said, it is still a personal choice for the actor, and it is every actor’s right to demand that they receive apt education for the money they are paying.

We’ll now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging…



• In NYC we use photo paper, not lithos. Yeah, that was a big shock when I came to NYC all stocked up on litho headshots. Yikes. Luckily, in NYC it’s actually cheaper to print on photo paper than on thicker stock.

• The bad news about photo paper – you can’t write on the back and you can’t recycle them. (That said, check out one of my spoof articles called Top 10 Things To Do With Old Headshots – which I wrote for my coaching blog.)

• In NYC, it’s outrageously more expensive to get headshots taken than in LA. The average price is easily $500-$600, and that doesn’t count makeup, retouching, and a myriad of other things that NY photographers charge for.

• Because of the weather, we often wait to take headshots until the spring and fall so we can take advantage of outdoor shooting. Otherwise, due to inclement weather, studio shoots are the only option. Some of the more successful photographers will have the option of studio lighting and natural light, usually from a huge window.



• One AWESOME thing about living in this city is how dense midtown Manhattan is — most auditions are within a 10 block range. This means that you can easily go to 5-6 auditions in a day, 8-10 if some of those are quick commercial or print go-sees. Convenient and potentially lucrative!

• But given that you don’t have a car, this also means that you have to carry EVERYTHING with you. Men carry murses (man purses) or backpacks and women have deep grooves on their shoulders from carrying 5 bags. It gives new meaning to the phrase “bag lady” — “She’s not homeless, folks. She’s just an actor on her way to an EPA!” (And, don’t even get me started on the wheely suitcases many actors have to lug with them. Ugh.)

• Given that we have to walk everywhere, we have to bring 2 pairs of shoes. One pair that we can actually walk in, and another that looks good. They’re never the same pair, unless they’re flip flops. And flip flops are poor choices when it’s sleeting.



I miss having a car for 2 reasons:

• Climate control between my apartment and the audition. NYC humidity, rain, and wind will take my carefully coiffed hair and turn it into a Greek tragedy.

• My car stereo. Having a stereo and a (virtually) sound proof chamber is an amazing way to warm up my voice before a musical audition. Now that I live in NYC, I have to warm up at home before I hop on the subway. EPAs usually start their sign up line at 8am, or earlier. This means I’m belting High Es before 7am. Yeah, my neighbors love me.


Then again, I love NOT having a car for 3 reasons:

• Peaceful commuting. I swear, I haven’t had an incident of commuter rage since I left SoCal. Ok, that’s not true. I get really ticked off at people who push onto the train before others get a chance to exit. I also will turn into Regan from The Exorcist if I get hit one more time by someone’s gigantic bag that they refuse to take off their shoulder in a crowded subway!!! (pant…pant…pant….) But, I digress.

• Amazing people watching. Seriously, you can’t get any better than taking in all of the colorful characters on the subway. There’s usually at least one person that makes me feel like my life isn’t so bad. And then I try to remember to smile at them and bring some good energy to their day. (Almost 6 years here, and I haven’t lost my SoCal optimism!)

• A feeling of community without having to talk to anyone. Have you noticed how lonely you can feel when commuting on your own? Sure, I know it’s sometimes good to get away from people. But in NYC, I find it amazing that you can find a way to be with people but get your “alone” time…at the same time.


Health & Fitness

• For those of you over 21 who think that walking around NY will be enough exercise to keep off those pounds… be aware that the drinking you’ll do because you no longer need a designated driver will far outweigh any benefits of walking. Trust me. No, seriously… trust me.

• I never knew what hibernating was until I moved here. My body doesn’t want to do anything but eat and cuddle during the winter months. And then, spring is an amazing renewal. Like lightning, when the sun peeks out my body shoots outdoors all ready to stretch and regenerate.

• Speaking of lightning — we have the most phenomenal thunderstorms here. And seasons. We have seasons! Delicious.


And that’s it! Well, for now. Again, that’s just a small taste of the culture shock I received when I moved to The Big Apple. One I didn’t include: noise. Right now it’s 11pm, and there are 2 jackhammers going at it on the street below my apartment. And speaking of the sounds of “going at it”…

You know what? I think that’s best left to your imagination.


Are there any topics you think I’ve missed? Have any experiences of your own? I’d love to hear your thoughts — please click the “Comments” link (I try to respond to all comments I receive!)


— Erin 🙂


Added Bonus: (Because at Playbills vs Paying Bills, we think you deserve bonuses every now and then!)

As I was searching for photos for this blog, I found a blog post talking about some of the general differences between NY & LA and another fun one about some of the lifestyle differences. And… I’ve written a couple of other humorous blog posts about my move to NYC: Blog 1 / Blog 2 / Blog 3 / Blog 4. Enjoy!


Erin Cronican is the New York contingent of this blog. Find out more information and view her materials on her website, or read the rest of her blog posts.