Hm. I'm in no real position to be giving pointers, save just this one: never disqualify yourself to someone else (like I just did ). Steel yourself and let those with authority tell you if you aren't qualified for a task. Many people get farther than they should by pretending that they deserve what they don't, so those who have the skill they need should have faith in that skill. This is advice that I could stand to take a wee bit more.
That aside, experience. I came here with about 20K in savings, knowing in advance that I could live cheaply for a year or decently for half a year on that figure. As it stands, I'll have made it half about 8 months if I expend all my funds without making any more money (I've worked a bit while I've been here, but work is hard to find). Come with savings or come with support: LA is hella expensive relative to most other places. My parents in Alabama could probably go twice as long on the money I had.
If you're going to come here to pursue your creative aspirations, hold fast to that passion. Some come here for the glitz and glamour, and after my time here so far, I very much recommend against that; the city isn't as bright as "Hollywood" would have you believe. There is a great deal of true beauty in the art and architecture here, but far more of the city is grimy, unkempt, or even downtrodden. If you walk the Walk of Fame, you will pass the desperate and the homeless as you go. I honestly can't stay in that area for long periods because the juxtaposition of wealth and squalor wreaks havoc on my psyche >_<.
(There are also a lot of Scientology churches here, so if you're white, watch out!)
The key to me is that I've never felt more engaged with my own creativity than I've been since I came here. It took me a year or so of study to start my first screenplay, and it took my several months to finish my first (it wasn't the one I started =P). Motivated by my purpose, I challenged myself to complete a whole 7 in July, my second month here (I pulled it off), and having the opportunity to talk about that so much with other creators has been immeasurably inspiring.
I haven't met with agents much because I haven't been reaching out to them, as that isn't a terribly effective path. My first "professional" move was attending the Hollywood Pitchfest held by FadeIn Online, where I got to pitch the scripts I wrote to numerous companies. Big names included Paramount, ABC, Warner Bros. TV, and Illumination, but I was most eager to pitch to Outlier Society, the company Michael B. Jordan runs (he used to be my favorite to play the lead in my first feature).
Outside of that, I mostly try to network by socializing and choosing my accommodations wisely. Don't push yourself onto others obtrusively, but always keep an eye out for opportunity. My previous host--a developer with history in reality TV--sent one of my scripts to an investor/producer friend of his, and I'm currently having a lot of fun writing a new script based on a concept he and another friend he has in the industry came up with. They're not paying me now, but they have connections, experience, and passion for the project I'm writing for. If they manage to take that passion to the bank, I'll be sure to see some benefits.
That's why it's important to have some money to burn; if you don't come here with a job that pays at least twice minimum wage, it'll be rough at best, and at worst, you'll have little time and little energy to do the writing and networking you must do to make your mark. I've not lived in a better place for those who wish to spend their lives creating art, but there are some difficulties beyond that fantasy that are best considered in advance.
So, to summarize:
- Don't call your own talent into question.
- Don't come with nothing; for every inspiring tale, there were thousands who just starved.
- Speak freely of your passion and listen intently when others share theirs.
- Be willing and able to produce truly good work for cheap or for nothing if you believe there's value in the practice or connections.
That's probably enough for one post x). Helpful?
(Oh, and yeah, I'm a born American. It is...fine =P.)