The Hollywood of Texas: Relocating from LA to Austin

“Hi, I’m an editor from LA and I’m moving to Austin. Is there work for me?”

“Hi, I’m a camera operator from LA and I’m thinking of moving to Austin. Is that a smart idea?”

“Hi, I’m a writer from LA and got totally burnt out. Do you think Austin will be a good place for me to write?”

Hi, my name is Lauren and I moved to Austin from Los Angeles.
Yes, it’s true.
I’m one of them.
One of the people you make the above bumper sticker about and place them all over town.

Since moving to Austin, the aforementioned sentences are all questions I’ve heard repeatedly over the past two years. In fact, during the beginning of the 2010, I was fielding at least 2-3 phone calls a week at the production company I worked for, in addition to the frequent inquiries from friends and blogger buddies.

This year’s South by Southwest Interactive even held a panel for creatives, titled, “Making the Move from California to Austin“.

So why are Angelenos moving to Austin?

In generalizing fashion: The truth of the matter is, creative types move to LA to find work, only to realize there is nothing creative about it. Then they read about Austin in Forbes/Kiplingers/New York Times/US News/MSNBC/CNN about how Austin is the place to live for both higher quality of life and lower cost of living and, well, then you got yourself a whole bunch of weary Californians in Texas.

So, you really want to know if Austin is a good place to make your movie? Write your screenplay?

The answer is yes.

You want to know if Austin is a good place to work as a producer, an actress, a camera operator, an editor et al?

The answer is kind of maybe not?

Unless you want to work infrequently and for little dough for a long time.

If you’re able to deal with that, then by all means, yes yes yes.

The problem is not so much that there is a lack of projects (though like any film city, Austin has its ups and downs) , it’s trying to compete for a spot in the already very tight-knit film community.

Heavyweights like Robert Rodriguez, Richard Linklater, and Mike Judge typically bring/keep their work in Austin, but they also have crews they’ve been working with for years…and just like Los Angeles, it’s about who you know and how you maintain those connections.

Local producer, Will Semons, busted his butt for a year in and outside of Austin before he was able to find steady work.”But once you’re in”, he adds, “You have to fit in as well. People get ousted or black-balled because there are enough people here who can do the job and it’s a small town.”

He also points out that many Austin crew members are relocating to Dallas (larger city, more commercial work) and Louisiana (excellent tax incentives) in order to find steady work.

Now, of course, not everyone shares the same sentiment as Will and I do. Another producer friend points out that budgets are shrinking everyone, so why not move to a town that’s more affordable? Though I completely agree with my friend’s statement, the truth is, there is a ceiling that exists in Austin, and one that is most often shattered by people setting out forth/returning to Los Angeles and New York City to “make it to the big-time”.

To elaborate on the idea that Austin is a good place to make your movie/write your screenplay:
Austin is an extremely creative town with a plethora of very talented people. Every single freakin’ person wants to help one another. If you have the time and the money to work on your film, there is no shortage of inexpensive equipment, locations, and hands in Austin to help you. As for writing your screenplay? Austin is a great place! As long as you don’t fall into the “drinking-every-night-oops-I-just-woke-up-and-I’m-40-and-still-working-part-time-at-a-record-shop-and-have-never-completed-a-piece-of-writing-in-my-life-but-I’ll-keep-calling-myself-a-writer” syndrome.

What is the moral to my story? The grass is always greener in Austin if you live in LA, but the poop colored grass in LA still holds its weight on the black market.

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  • Reply KeLLy aNN August 25, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Come to Louisiana!
    I think we're up to two movie studios now…they're always filming something around here, even in Baton Rouge.
    Plus, we need more cool people to come back.
    One of my best friends moved back to LA. here from L.A. {dots, cause I have to distinguish} for that reason.

  • Reply todd August 25, 2010 at 4:34 pm


  • Reply Nikki August 25, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    interesting that you write about this now… I'm about to take a month-long trip around the us from LA & Austin is one of the places I'm checking out – Partially for the reasons you listed & partially bc I want to find a place that feels like home & maybe it will. So thanks, perfect timing. 🙂

  • Reply Christina In Wonderland August 25, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    You make me feel all insignificant about living in Georgia. I'm trying to get out Lauren! I'm TRYING TO GET OUT!

    Of course, I want to be in L.A., but you kind of consistently make me want to purchase a summer home in Austin. 🙂

  • Reply Hipstercrite August 25, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    @kelly ann- i'm seriously planning a trip there soon. i will keep you posted! my friends just got done shooting a movie in shreveport.

    @todd- hahahahaha!

    @nikki- lemme know when you stop by!

    @christina in wonderland- well, a summer home in Austin is a bad idea. 100 degree temps with high humidity and no ocean! summer home in LA, winter home in Austin!

  • Reply theTsaritsa August 25, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Hahaha! I think I have that syndrome where I call myself a writer but still haven't written anything of worth.. Oh well.

  • Reply Emily August 26, 2010 at 1:07 am

    I've got a friend that lives in Austin and he loves it, I should really go visit him and see what's so magical about this place.

  • Reply Griff August 26, 2010 at 11:37 am

    I'm a LA native and seriously considered moving to Austin a few weeks ago. Decided to stay a little longer in SouthEast Texas where i currently reside. Was kind of debating whether i should go to Austin or back to LA when i leave here. I think I might just go back to LA, although Austin is tempting due it's lower cost of living over LA.

  • Reply Hipstercrite August 26, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    @Tsaritsa- I suffer form the same thing…

    @Emily- Yes, you should, but not right now. The heat is stupid.

    @Griff- What brought you to SE Texas from LA?

  • Reply Benny February 21, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Came across this on the Texas social media awards page. Hadn't seen it when it was posted originally. It's great for making a distinction between being a screenwriter and/or someone who just wants to make their own films while having to hold down a job vs. being somebody who works in film. It's something that "veterans" get but flies over the radar of many creative types… which is why I think it's super important to put it out there. Austin, Philly, Portland, etc are in many ways better film communities, and many films are shot in those cities… but the "big time" (which often involves minimal creativity) will always be in NY and LA.

  • Reply Tricia April 19, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    I’m from Texas but have been living and working in entertainment in Los Angeles for the past 15+ years. I wanted to add to this for the people who are considering their options, since, I’m one of the many who’ve had enough of LA and want to get out. I got in by sheer luck, which is the same for most, unless you know someone. On average, people only stay in LA for 2 years because entertainment is really hard to get in, the city is overwhelming and people are, for the most part, only have their best interest at heart and will smile to your face while stepping on your back. Finding good people is possible, just a lot of work and no one stays her for very long. Also, getting in a healthy relationship is a miracle and near to impossible. It doesn’t matter what you look like. If you’re attractive you will date more but it won’t be quality, and, eventually everyone gets cheated on or divorced…unless they leave LA. It’s like a right of passage. In order to buy property you will need to make singular or cumulative salary of $200k. And, since most get divorced, the house is usually the first thing to go. And, by California state law, you owe your now ex half, which means, if you’re one of the lucky few to work consistently and make $120k or more, half of it now goes to your ex, and if you have kids, you can’t move somewhere less expensive. You’re stuck. LA is fun in your 20s. If you stay longer than that you slowly watch your soul being sucked away, and stress mount because everyone wants something from you and life is always unpredictable and inconsistent. If you’re lucky enough to work in entertainment, you are now limited to where you can live in the future, since a lot of the skills are not translatable other places..which is a bit nerve racking. The only people who can truly afford to live in LA, send their kids to a good school and have a good, happy life, other than the turbulent marriages and divorces, that I’ve seen, either live 1 to 2 hours outside of LA and commute, or are making 1.5 million/yr. You would think $500k would be enough but they usually end up unemployed, overextended and don’t make quite enough to make it through the rough patches because of their fancy car and expensive mortgage. The majority in LA spend what they have or more, banking on making it big later. So, you see a lot of fancy cars in LA, but if you do the math of how many actual high paying jobs, compared to the cost of living, you realize that probably only 20% of the people driving luxury cars can actually afford them. But, it’s very easy to get sucked into being irresponsible, because everyone pretends they’re a producer and successful, or having a deal right around the corner…that never happens. Having big studio names and experience on your resume does help but does not guarantee you work. Only 1% of the 150,000 SAG actors make enough to make a living. The percentage of successful high paid actors is far smaller. It is very, very hard to break out and do your own stuff. If you’re lucky enough to get studio work it is best to happily resign to the fact that you will be a studio monkey for the rest of your days and only live what is considered, mid-range or lower middle class in other states. The few that I know that became wealthy and successful are either related to someone important or have something unusual to offer Hollywood that few have. Meaning, a top ranking forensic scientists, who is also a good writer, etc. You become addicted to the fun of the studio work, that pays very well…but is very inconsistent and unpredictable, which is stressful. And if you work production in TV or movies, you will probably work 18 hour days, which is fine when you’re young, but the people who stay in it start to get bitter and tired by their mid-30s. TV writers and TV editors also, typically work 15 plus hours. I have a friend who won 2 Emmys for editing but usually only has 4-6 hours between each work shift to sleep. He’s been doing it for 20+ years, rarely has a social life, has one divorce and 3 kids. LA can be fun, studio work is amazing, but the overall quality of living in LA is sub par, and has been getting progressively worse each year, since 2001, and even more so since 2008, and only seems to be getting progressively worse instead of better. LA is a great place to try if you start off with an initial plan of leaving after 5 years. Oh, and unless you come here for college or right after college, your chances of getting in plummet. They’ve already established contacts and you haven’t. After 30 your chances are probably 1 in a million. You’re competing with film school students who’ve already been establishing their contacts for 12 to 8 years longer than you and they did it at the height of their good looks and ambition when people are more willing to talk to them or help them. The kids whose parents are in the biz have an advantage over those people and even more so over everyone else. I’m glad I came here, but I think I should have left 5 years ago. Maybe 10.

    • Reply Zoey April 15, 2014 at 7:24 pm

      just read this, and thought, “Damn…”

  • Reply Anon November 25, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    About Tricia’s post: LOL.

  • Reply Tiana July 7, 2016 at 9:29 am

    Came across this as I wrote my own blog about moving from LA to Austin. Good read!

  • Reply skatay August 30, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Americans belong in America.

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