NAVIGATING HOLLYWOOD: Moving to Hollywood – Things You Need to Know!

After years as a development executive, Manny Fonseca is now on the other side of the table as a full-time writer and Podcaster. Now living the life of a writer, Manny is navigating a whole different side of Hollywood. You can follow him on Twitter: @mannyfonseca

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The story of how I moved to Hollywood will be saved for another time. For now, let’s take a look at some things you should know.

KNOW YOUR WAY AROUND…

Last time, I mentioned it was Shaun and his brother that let me crash on their couch when I came out here. After college, they had “moved to Los Angeles,” but I wasn’t exactly sure where.

I landed at LAX at 10 PM, and I had a  job interview at a prestigious production company at 10 the following morning. Shaun picked me and we headed back to his apartment. It was dark and I had no way to tell which direction we were going or where we even were.

This was my first time in Los Angeles, and I hadn’t researched the map beforehand.

NAVIGATING HOLLYWOOD: Moving to Hollywood - Things You Need to Know! by Manny Fonseca | Script Magazine #scriptchat #screenwriting

Huntington Beach has some of the best surfing in the world.

After a lengthy “catch up” sesh, I decided I should get online and figure out the route I needed to take to get to my interview, which was in Sherman Oaks.

Now, I was a master at public transportation in Detroit (where it sucks ass) and was planning to use public transportation in L.A. because it’s WAY better. I asked Shaun what city we were in.

“HUNTINGTON BEACH,” HE REPLIED.

With the click of a button, I learned VERY quickly just how far it was to travel from the O.C. to the Valley. It was going to be a 3-hour journey one way. I’d have to leave at 6 in the morning to make it to my 10 AM on time.

Probably shoulda looked that up beforehand. Oh well. You do what you have to do.

I got that internship and traveled from the Huntington Beach to Sherman Oaks three days a week. Woke up at 5 AM, didn’t get home until 8 or 9 at night.

YES, LOS ANGELES HAS A SUBWAY…

Okay, so sometimes it can get crowded on the bus.

Okay, so sometimes it can get crowded on the bus.

The public transportation out here is amazing. Especially when you come from a city that has some of the WORST public transportation.

Detroit literally spent MILLIONS of dollars on the People Mover…an elevated train that just goes in a big circle around Downtown Detroit…a city that hardly anyone lives in.

I’m entering my 7th year living in Los Angeles and I have used public transportation the entire time. With the exception of a handful of times, I have never been late for work or a meeting.

IF YOU’RE 15 MINUTES LATE, YOU’RE ON TIME!”

That’s the Los Angeles way. Like I said, traffic is a bit of a bitch out here and everyone knows it. No one ever really expects people to be on time, but when you are…you totally score big points.

KNOW WHEN TO TRAVEL…

Most of the time, you’re not going to have a say when meetings are… just make sure you learn your way around and know when the best times to get on the freeways are.

The safest times, I have found, are between 10 am and 2:30 in the afternoon. Any times outside of the window will completely screw you.

My Los Angeles driving-time record, was getting from the heart of Hollywood to Downtown Long Beach in 28 minutes, but that was a Sunday morning at like 8 AM.

My record for the longest time to make that exact same trip? Three and a half hours… and no, that wasn’t taking the bus. That was in a car. At 3 in the afternoon.

Hollywood shuts down for the Academy Awards causing horrible traffic.

Hollywood shuts down for the Academy Awards causing horrible traffic.

TRAVEL BECOMES LIKE A MATH WORD PROBLEM…

“If Johnny leaves the Valley at 3:30 in the afternoon, and Sally leaves Hollywood at 6 in the evening, what time will Johnny and Sally arrive in Long Beach?”

The answer? The same time. 7 PM.

Know when to travel.

MANNY? THIS HAS BEEN A LOT ABOUT TRAVEL…

It’s because that Californians sketch on SNL is freakishly accurate. People talk in street names out here. Everyone wants to know how someone got somewhere, especially if they got there on time. Maybe a secret route will be revealed.

Think I’m joking?

One time, quite famously, Johnny Carson asked the late, great Bette Davis “the best way an aspiring starlet could get into Hollywood.”

Without missing a beat, Ms. Davis replied, “Take Fountain.”

SPEAKING OF, YOU WILL SAY “THE…”

Just ask Liz Lemon of 30 Rock as she remembers her time in Los Angeles when she found herself driving in the middle of the Rodney King riots.

As Rioters surround her car:

LIZ (to RIOTER): How do I get to ten?

RIOTER (as he pushes on her car): It’s the 10.

That’s right, it’s the 10, the 405, the 101 etc. The weird thing is, you just kind of end up doing it. In Detroit it’s simply “take 94, to 75 and get off at 696.”

Building the red carpet for the Academy Awards.

Building the red carpet for the Academy Awards.

I was in L.A. less than a month when I caught myself telling a friend: “What you’re gonna wanna do is take the 405 north, to the 110 towards downtown. Once there, you can either take the 10 to Western and go north or stay on the 110 to the 101 and get off on Sunset.”

See? Californians. Real thing.

IT’S ALL ABOUT LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

If you want to work in Hollywood, don’t plan on living by the beach. Forget Long Beach, forget Huntington Beach, forget Newport Beach. If you’re super rich, than maybe you can score a place in Santa Monica or Venice, but otherwise forget the beach.

Why?

Because of that whole traffic thing, no one in Hollywood travels that far South. They just don’t. I moved to Long Beach from Hollywood three years ago and hardly see any of my Hollywood friends. Hell, I might as well live in another state.

There are friends that’ll drive the 5 hours to Vegas before they’ll get on the 405 going South to come see me.

THE VALLEY ISN’T JUST FOR PORN STARS… ANY MORE…

The Valley used to be the porn capital of the world. So much so that “legitimate Hollywood” avoided it like the herp.

“My car doesn’t drive to the Valley and neither do I.”  -Actual quote I heard uttered by an Academy Award-winning producer.

Meeting Sara Jay at AdultCon.

Meeting Sara Jay at AdultCon.

Now, places like Sherman Oaks and Studio City are hotbeds for coffee drinking hipsters. It’s not uncommon to see Marc Maron or Chris Hardwick at a Starbucks off Ventura.

That doesn’t mean the Valley is porn free though. Wanna see your favorite porn star? Head over to Sardo’s in Burbank on Tuesday nights. That’s when Porn Star Karaoke takes place.

Think I’m joking?. Google it.

YOU HAVE TO LEAVE HOME, TO APPRECIATE HOME…

I hated Michigan and thought Detroit was boring. I never saw myself as a proud Detroiter. One of those idiots that gets an Old English “D” Tattoo (that’s a big thing in Detroit.)

Now I’m entering my 7th year living in Los Angeles and I can honestly say, I appreciate Dearborn/Detroit so much more now. I’m always happy when I run into someone who recognizes my Detroit Lion’s hat or someone who’s “from the neighborhood.”

And that Old English “D”? Yeah, I got one. Got it in a tattoo shop on Hollywood Blvd. It’s the “D” of the Hollywood Sign that’s tattooed on my forearm.

A tattoo that symbolizes where I’m from and where I’m going.

HOOKERS IN HOLLYWOOD HAVE BEEN REPLACED WITH TOURISTS…

I have no idea exactly how sleazy the heart of Hollywood was in its grossness heyday, but from what I hear it was pretty bad. Hookers, pimps, crackheads and crime.

Now?

There’s a multi-leveled mall at Hollywood and Highland (where the famed Chinese Theatre is), complete with a Hard Rock, a Dave and Busters, two Starbucks, A Victoria’s Secret and an American Eagle.

Jimmy Kimmel tapes his show across the street and next to that is the El Capitan which is now owned by Disney. It plays all of the top animated movies released by the Mouse House, so it’s families everywhere.

Tourists in front of the Chinese Theatre

Tourists in front of the Chinese Theatre

And tourists. Lots and LOTS of tourists.

My first apartment was off of Hollywood and Orange, right behind Madame Tussauds. I walked the Hollywood Walk of Fame every morning and night on my way to and from the subway station. I had a beautiful view of the Hollywood Sign out my window.

It was A-MAH-ZING. But the tourists. OMG. They’re everywhere. And if Jimmy Kimmel has the street shut down for a concert? Or there’s a movie premiere? Or it’s the Oscars? Forget walking (or driving) anywhere.

I sometimes like to think about how many tourists get home, fire up the laptop and find me photobombing them while they point to their favorite celebrity’s star.

THE INDUSTRY YOU LOVE AND WANT TO BE A PART OF SO MUCH, WILL ULTIMATELY ANNOY THE HELL OUT OF YOU…

Let’s imagine that you’re reading this at work and you live in the midwest. When you leave the office today, you’re going to go to your car and drive home. The highlight MIGHT be that it’s meatloaf night.

And that’s it.

Bruce Willis at the Expendables 2 premiere

Bruce Willis at the Expendables 2 premiere

Now imagine that you leave work and when you get home and pull into your driveway, Katy Perry is throwing a concert in your front yard.

The would be pretty bad ass, right? I mean, Katy Perry. In your front yard. Costumes and everything.

Yeah, it is pretty cool. The FIRST time. Eventually, stepping off the subway to a concert or a movie premiere becomes the most annoying thing on the planet.

I’ve been annoyed by the likes of Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, and many, many more. But…

BEING ANNOYED BY HOLLYWOOD IS KINDA FUN…

The day you step off the subway and see a mass of screaming fans, then walk by Johnny Depp as he signs autographs less than 6 feet away and bitch because all you want is to get home…

You know you’ve made it. Come on Johnny Depp! I just want to get home! It’s meatloaf night!

LASTLY, SEE AND DO SOME SHIT… ‘CAUSE THERE’S A LOT OF COOL STUFF HERE!

Whether you’re just visiting or you’ve rolled into town permanently, there’s a lot of cool things to do, see, eat and drink. Make sure you take the time to check some of them out. Here’s a quick list of my faves off the top of my head:

The Queen Mary in Long Beach.

The Queen Mary in Long Beach.

  • Visit The Queen Mary in Long Beach. It’s cool (and haunted!)
  • Hike Runyon Canyon – Exercise and celebrity sightings. What could be better?
  • Spend an afternoon writing and drinking at the Frolic Room next to the Pantages Theatre. Do it. So many before you have.
  • Have drinks at Chateau Marmont. I’ve done it twice. It’s not cheap, but to sit among a vast number of celebrities all doing business. Makes you feel like you belong. Just make sure you ACT like you belong.
  • Best Italian in Hollywood? Miceli’s off of Hollywood Blvd. on Las Palmas. You won’t be disappointed.
  • Best kept “secret?” The green room at Jimmy Kimmel’s. If you know someone that can get you on the list. Do it. It’s pretty awesome.
  • Bobby Slayton at The Improv.

    Bobby Slayton at The Improv.

    Go to Gladstone’s on PCH in Malibu. Sit by the ocean, have a glass of wine and an awesome meal. Never know who you’ll see while you do.

  • Catch some improv. iO West, UCB and Groundlings all have theaters that have nightly shows. They’re all within a couple of miles from each other and tickets are usually only 5-10 dollars. You never know who will be there but you’ll never be disappointed.
  • If you prefer the traditional comedy stylings…The famous Comedy Story, Laugh Factory and Improv are all right there. On any given night, someone might pop in to work of some material for their upcoming special.
  • If sports is your thing, we have two baseball teams, two hockey teams, two college football teams, two basketball teams and just got ourselves an NFL team. Nevermind the Long Beach Grand Prix, a couple of tennis tournaments and a soccer team.
  • For a wilder time, vist the Sidewalk Cafe in Venice Beach. No matter how long the wait is, ask for a table “on the rail.” Best people watching on the planet. Be forewarned though, on the rail means you might have someone ask you if you’re going to eat your fries.
  • Old Tony’s on the Redondo Beach Pier has some of the best tuna I’ve ever had. Just sayin’.
  • Attend a show at The Viper Room and the Whiskey. If 80’s hair bands were your thing, then you owe it to yourself to visit their birthplace.
  • Avalon Port on Catalina Island.

    Avalon Port on Catalina Island.

    Attend a taping. Hell’s Kitchen, @midnight, American Idol, American Ninja, Big Brother, Dancing with the Stars…and many more…all tape in town. Tickets are free and it’s a totally fun experience.

  • Be a contestant on a game show. Let’s Make a Deal and Price is Right are always looking for contestants and you totally have a shot at being one of them, if you’re lucky.
  • Go to Catalina. It’s free on your birthday! (…And yes, the “fuckin’ Catalina Wine Mixer” DOES exist! POW! POW!)

Last, but not least…

  • Go to a screening. Of anything. Big shocker, the film capital of the world has a LOT of screenings that you can’t find anywhere else. Most of the time they’re followed by the Q&A with the filmmakers and/or the cast. Screening are a great place to learn from the people who are doing it. The people YOU want to call your peers.
Elvis and Mr. Miyagi taking a break on Hollywood Blvd.

Elvis and Mr. Miyagi taking a break on Hollywood Blvd.

LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE IN THIS TOWN, YOU NEVER KNOW!

The above list only scratches the surface. Los Angeles (and the surrounding areas) are all unique in their own way. Every beach is different. Every city is different. Have fun. Explore. Just make sure you know where your going and which freeway to avoid when you go.

In no time you’ll consider yourself a Los Angeleno. I do.

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