by Alan Smyth
If Ireland is the Land of a Thousand Welcomes, then Los Angeles is definitely the Town of a Million Phone Calls. As the recipient/subject of some of said calls, I can say that despite their penchant for the chewing up and, indeed, the spitting out of its would be participants, the business folk of Los Angeles have been very helpful to me. Incredibly so at times.
I’ve had many a meetings since I moved to Hollywood 7 years ago. I’m actually pretty good at them. I maybe talk too much, as is my want, but they don’t tend to intimidate me. I’ve had some great meetings; I’ve had some spellbindingly awful ones too, but at least I walked away with perhaps a gig or at least a good story. But none of these meetings may have happened, indeed I may never have pushed so hard to relocate here, if it wasn’t for an introduction to one particular person.
I met actor Jonathan Silverman in Dublin, 2001. We were both in the same movie (Bobbie’s Girl) playing a double act of sorts. He calls to introduce himself, suggests we meet before filming starts. We do so, we instantly click, and we then spend the next 12 hours visiting many of Dublin’s finest beverage emporiums.
Hey, it was the beginning of summer and we were clearly in need of refreshment, people! 6 weeks later, filming is wrapped; not a public house left undiscovered and he and I have become friends. The movie was a lot of fun and I missed it when it was done. It was my first American production to work on and I wanted more. Although we stayed in touch, I also missed hanging out with Jonny. Nothing for it but to pay him a visit! This was to be my first time to L.A.
Born, bred and working since childhood in Los Angeles, Jonny knows this town. And, holy shit, does the town know him! I met countless numbers of people during that trip, many of whom have remained friends. And through all of these people, I met many others, which in turn led to several business meetings. For example, I know 2 of my nearest and dearest friends here from what started as a ‘general’ with casting, set up through a friend of Jonny’s. (That meeting also resulted in 2 riotous vacations on my home turf and several of my first jobs here in L.A.).
Almost every single person I know here can be traced back to Jonny in some way. I am aware that life is one big knock-on effect, but this particular chapter in my life began and then expanded because of his help and his friendship.
And in every meeting I took, if I mentioned Jonny’s name, they would smile and say something along the lines of “Oh man, I love that guy.” Good will goes a long way.
In this whole scenario I, of course, feel incredible amounts of gratitude to the director and producers of the movie on which we met. I am especially indebted to the producers, as they were the guys who sponsored me to move to L.A. and pursue the dream (We too became and remain friends – “I love you Sam & Ron!”).
But, in relation to the city of Los Angeles, the industry itself, I always gravitate more to the importance of a friendship than a business meeting when considering my best Hollywood meeting. Many here are outsiders and have a bond with one another based on the “WTF do I do now that I’m actually here?!” The locals realize what a unique and challenging place it can be, and if you’re lucky enough to know one of those people, the transition can be smoother. Contrary to the common perception, the people I’ve met in L.A. totally stepped up for me. They continue to do so, and they continue to make those calls.
Emigrating is… well, overwhelming at times. Leaving everyone and everything you know to pursue a notoriously precarious career is… well, sort of insane really. To make that move directly to Los Angeles? Certifiable!
How anybody does it without help or having friends here is a mystery. You need friends here to survive. For me, by the time I moved, I had made a lot of good ones, any number of casual acquaintances and a bunch of business contacts. And, ok, yes a couple of girlfriends.
I also had a place to live. In short, I had a little of that elusive familiarity, albeit a newer version of it, that made the initial tough times easier to navigate. I’ve been left sitting in the foyer of a large agency for 3 days running, without getting to meet the agent I was there to meet by appointment. I’ve been told the audition I just did was “The best fucking audition I’ve seen in years!” only for my agent to be told “God, no!” when asked if I was getting the role. And, of course, the previously blogged about meeting with a casting director who, after insisting I use my hometown accent, told me “Nobody talks like that” and unceremoniously kicked me out of the meeting. These examples are fun stories, but tough to handle at the time when one is a fish out of water.
Assimilation in Los Angeles is half the battle. I was blessed. I had a head start on it before I even arrived. I could, relatively quickly, relax, gather my confidence and focus on the job in hand. The business will test you more than you realize, but when you have the anchor you can take the battering.
In Los Angeles, more than anywhere else I’ve ever been, that anchor comes from friendship. That is the real foundation; the real gateway. And to the guy who first opened that door, I say “Thank you, friend.”Tags: Actor, Alan Smyth, Bobbie's Girl, Emigrating to Los Angeles, Entertainment industry, Friendship, Hollywood, Irish actor, Jonathan (Jonny) Silverman, Living in Los Angeles