Was moving to Atlanta for acting a HUGE mistake?
In January 2022, after a transformative 5-MEO-DMT psychedelic experience, I decided to “follow my childhood dreams” and become an actor. I had no clue how to make this dream a reality, so I did what I always do and asked strangers on the internet for advice. I asked Instagram: “Should I move to LA?”
“No,” Instagram replied. “You should move to Atlanta.”
Two months later I drove my camper van Freebird across the country from Arizona to Atlanta– sight unseen– to pursue acting.
Atlanta is known as Hollywood East, The Hollywood of the South, or Y’allywood (my personal favorite). Georgia has one of the best tax incentives for film productions in the United States, so tons of TV/films are shot in Georgia.
The big acting roles are still cast out of LA, but most of the smaller acting roles are cast out of Georgia. A lot of newer actors move to Atlanta. The theory is that you can build up your resume in a smaller market first and THEN you move to LA or NYC and break into the industry.
I started working immediately as a background actor. I was able to get “featured” in pretty much every project, so I was literally suddenly surrounded by celebrities.
I spoke Hebrew with Natalie Portman. I played fake guitar on stage with Carrie Underwood. Kelly Rowland told me my curls were gorgeous. Kirsten Dunst complained to me about being exhausted. Scarlett Johannson said “hey.” Channing Tatum touched me.
I ate lobster tail and chocolate fountain dipped strawberries on set. It was all very exciting.
I suddenly felt COOL. And for someone who was bullied hardcore in middle school, feeling cool felt AMAZING.
Studying acting taught me so much about myself.
I thought acting was about looking good on camera. I was WRONG.
Acting is about feeling feelings. Feeling genuine, authentic feelings is the only thing that matters as an actor. Happy feelings aren’t the most interesting to watch, so actors usually have to feel really shitty feelings: utter despair, murderous rage, absolute terror. In acting class, I was feeling these feelings intensely in my body multiple times a week.
It was so hard on my nervous system. I already cry all the time in my “regular” life, so crying for my career was rough. I untapped some deep intense trauma and I wasn’t sure how to cope with it. I did tons of therapy, went on an ayahuasca retreat, and even tried depression medication for a minute.
Acting is emotional warfare and I was cracked open.
Why is this under the “good” category, you ask?
It was good because it was healing. I loved learning a new skill and mastering it. I took over 40 acting classes, intensives, and workshops in one year. It takes a long time to learn how to act and I felt like I finally made strides towards getting “good.”
Auditioning is very lonely.
As an actor, you spend 99% of your time auditioning and 1% of your time actually acting on set. If you’re lucky, you might be auditioning 3-5 times a week. This means you learn tons of lines, buy dozens of costumes, create characters, and feel their feelings intensely, all in a very short period of time over and over and over.
Ever since the pandemic, literally all acting auditions are “self-tapes,” which means you film your audition alone and then email the tapes to casting. This means I spent endless hours in front of a gray wall feeling feelings…alone.
I had just spent four years living alone in a van, so being alone AGAIN was not what I signed up for.
No one is making any money.
Only 3% of all actors in the professional union, SAG AFTRA, are acting as their singular “full time” career. Over 87% of SAG AFTRA members don’t earn the minimum of $26,000/year to get union supported health insurance.
Even “successful” working actors aren’t earning enough to thrive. In 2017, Kurt Yue, an Atlanta actor and YouTuber, was cast in 19 speaking roles in 19 different TV/film projects. Getting cast in 19 projects in one year is an INSANELY successful year for an actor!
Guess how much he earned in total from 19 professional acting jobs?
Plus, auditioning is expensive! You spend so much on your self-tape set-up, wardrobe, makeup, props, taping services, acting classes, casting workshops, and mentors.
I quickly learned that this industry is broken beyond repair, which became clear when the entire industry shut down and went on strike.
I love performing, but I love having the financial freedom to do what I want to do in life MORE.
Dream versus Reality
Acting isn’t actually very fun.
Dying cancer patient. Abused wife. Addicted heroine addict.
Real Estate Agent. Lawyer. Young Mom.
All the acting roles that came my way were either super depressing or boring.
Admitting that acting isn’t always awesome is sort of sacrilegious for an actor. It’s like a vanlifer admitting they don’t like vanlife. And let’s be clear– acting isn’t supposed to be fun. You’re there to tell the story.
But something just didn’t feel right to me. I quit being a lawyer so I could “follow my dreams.” I never imagined that following my dreams meant wearing a suit and pretending to be a boring lawyer. This made no sense.
“No one wants a beautiful Jewish girl…”
Hollywood scripts mostly suck. The lines aren’t realistic and the characters are one-dimensional. The male roles were sometimes more interesting and complex, but the female roles were all about their physical appearance.
I was told by a Hollywood coach– “No one wants a beautiful Jewish girl.” They only want traditionally hot chicks for the main roles, everyone else gets to be “co-worker” or “barista.”
I’m doing it my way.
I left Atlanta after one year and moved back to Austin, Texas, where I met a man and found a spiritual tribe that aligns with my vibe.
I’m not quitting on my acting dreams, but I’m doing it MY WAY. I’m writing a screenplay about my vanlife journey. I’m making my own acting roles. I’m navigating my own way forward, ignoring all the rules set out by the powers that be.
So…was moving to Atlanta for acting a huge mistake?
If I could go back, I would probably have moved straight to LA and started taking acting lessons from the very best in the industry. There’s no reason to play small when pursuing your dreams.
That said, I can still move to LA. I can still go back to Atlanta. I can do all the things whenever I want, because it’s never too late to follow your dreams.
So, follow your dreams kids. The reality of your dream might not end up being the actual dream, but you’ll learn a lot about yourself, you’ll keep growing, and you’ll never, ever wonder: What If??
Thank you Instagram tribe for your advice, love, and endless support. Thank you to my family, Audrey Helps Actors Podcast, Drama Inc, Kurt Yue’s You Tube Channel, all my Atlanta friends, and everyone who cast me even though I was a baby actor without any experience. Thank you Channing Tatum for touching me.
Thank you to Past Lisa, for going after it, even when I have no clue where I’m going.
The journey continues…