What’s Hollywood Like (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of the What is Hollywood Like series! Here I want to give you a snapshot of my ongoing experience in the entertainment industry. It’s both AMAZING and at times a bit of a sweatshop, with not a lot in between.

First, let’s continue from What’s Hollywood Like Part 1 with geography…

Primary Studio Locations

The Hollywood Studio system is spread all over the place. Paramount is located in Hollywood itself — In fact they take up their own city block right off Melrose. Warner Brothers occupies an enormous plot of land in Burbank. Sony Pictures is found in Culver City (near the old and famous Culver City Studios). Universal Studios is, wait for it, located in Universal City. The list goes on…

An entrance to Paramount off Melrose in Hollywood, CA

City Block Castles

Each of these major studios are small cities surrounded by 40+ foot walls keeping everything inside shielded from the general public. And when they have films or TV shows coming out, they hang massive 30-foot high posters on the sides of the castle walls. It’s actually pretty cool to see.

A Multitude of Smaller Studios

In addition to the major studios, you have a plethora of small studios, film labs, and sound stages sprinkled from the ocean all the way in past Hollywood to the valley. Many actors have their own production companies. Adam Sandler (Happy Madison Productions) operates out of the Sony Pictures lot while Bruce Willis (Cheyenne Enterprises) has a small production company right off Wilshire in Santa Monica.

Film School in Hollywood

Attending film school in Hollywood was a smart decision in my books. Film school is primarily about two things: Teaching students the craft and giving them access to connections. It isn’t about a degree. Hollywood is an industry where they simply don’t care where you were educated. You’re better off being Jerry Bruckheimer’s nephew than going to Harvard.

The Los Angeles Film School | Sunset Blvd in Hollywood, CA

The Los Angeles Film School

I enrolled at LAFS without ever visiting the school. It just sounded like the right move to make. I later learned that sometimes this school is great and sometimes not so great. What makes the difference? The current class of students.

God blessed me with the March 2005 class. Many of us were somewhat older individuals who were serious about becoming filmmakers. We’d given up other careers to pursue the dream of working in Hollywood.

Kyler directing an actor on the set of a short film at LAFS.

LAFS is right on Sunset in the old RCA building. Elvis recorded in one of our classrooms back in the day. Pretty cool. We had access to tons of cameras, lights, mics, dollies, Avid workstations… you name it and we had it. LAFS also scored a deal with Universal Pictures to allow us to use props from the Universal lot — I’ll never forget seeing full sized raptors. Universal didn’t let us take those.

The Real World of Entertainment

Finding success as an artist is always difficult. Look at Van Gogh — He was dead before becoming famous. Finding success as an artist in Hollywood is definitely an arduous, uphill climb.

Graduation from LAFS left me in LA with two roommates (I slept on the floor), over $60K of school debt and no job. I interviewed at Cheyenne Enterprises for a FREE internship, but there were multiple people willing to work for free, and I couldn’t get that job. I still remember calling Fox, hoping to score an assistant editor job. The receptionist was like, “You know we only hire award winning editors, right?” Click.

Fortunately, a connection made in film school landed me an editorial PA job on Universal’s Let’s Go To Prison. BOOYAH! The film was released in November of 2006 and it was my first experience on a “real” movie production!

If you’re attending film school, I can’t say this enough: Work you brains out and network as much as you can. Take every opportunity that comes your way. One of them will deliver.

Editorial Production Assistant (PA)

Working as a PA doesn’t pay a lot, and getting coffee for people at the age of 30 wasn’t great for my ego. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for ANYTHING.

As an editorial PA I worked primarily for the Post Production Supervisor and the Assistant Editor. And of course anyone else who needed me to do something.

When I was a PA, films were still being shot on film. So I began each day at the lab picking up dailies (yesterday’s footage) for the Assistant Editor, who would then prep it for the Editor. Then I was off on coffee runs, trips to set, drop-offs for the sound designer, composer, executive producer… Oh man! It didn’t stop. Basically continuous driving from Pasadena to Santa Monica and everywhere in between.

The cool thing about working as a PA for editorial is that you’re involved with the filmmaking process from the first day of production until the film completely wraps. You get to meet all kinds of people from actors, to the director, producers, sound mixers — basically anyone and everyone involved. Since you’re part of the film, people are relaxed around you. Will Arnett, for example, is much more serious in real life than portrayed in most of his characters! He was totally chill around me as we talked about how the shooting was going.

ictured from left to right: Tracey Wadmore-Smith, Kyler Boudreau & Bob Odenkirk

Bob Odenkirk – A Truly Nice Guy

Both of the films I was an editorial PA on (Let’s Go To Prison and The Brothers Solomon) were directed by Bob Odenkirk (The Post, Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad). When you’re the lowest person on the totem pole, you get to see what people are really like. Bob is an extremely patient, kind, humble and dedicated person.

An example? If he walked into editorial and the office water supply was empty (my job) Bob would refill it himself. He’d say “Hey, Kyler” when he walked in, even though I was a nobody. Bob treated me just like he treated everyone else. He drove a Honda Accord even though he could afford something much nicer – He even told me he didn’t see the need for a nicer car. Wait, what? Are we still in Los Angeles?

I definitely left Bob’s films feeling impressed with him as a person. And honestly, this sums up a lot of the people in the industry: They’re creative folks who love story telling. Sure, you have challenging people like Michael Mann and Michael Bay, or others like Weinstein, but these guys don’t represent the norm.

Independent Film

There’s no singular way to work up the ranks in Hollywood. I could have slaved away as an editorial PA and eventually moved up towards editor, but that could take 10+ years easy.

After The Brothers Solomon I decided to bite the bullet and jump into independent film. My Grandad gifted me some money to purchase an Avid setup, and I hit Craigs List in search of my first feature film to edit.

Indie projects don’t pay the bills, so you typically have to work full time and do your creative work for free. I worked full time as a web designer, and then cut films on nights and weekends. As an editor, I worked on three feature length films for a total of $4000 in payment. But guess what? I wouldn’t trade the experience!

Sure, it’s tough slaving away after working full time, but the drive to be a filmmaker keeps you going. And each project you work on lands you a shiny new credit on IMDB, which is the universal Hollywood resume system.

Fast forward to 2019. I worked with some crazy talented directors. The two that helped me the most are Emmy Award Winning John Scoular (Lunatics Lovers & Poets, Paradise Reef) and Alveraz Ricardez who is now an actor (Grace & Frankie, Grey’s Anatomy). After cutting my third feature as an editor, I wanted to be in charge of the story telling. It was time to become a writer.

Life As A Writer

Learning how to tell a story the right way is no easy task. Alveraz (pictured below) patiently schooled me on my first script. He was patience as I was in bad shape back then! In addition to his training, many books like Story, Save the Cat and The Moral Premise helped immensely. The Master Class series from Dan Brown and Aaron Sorkin were also incredible learning tools. And of course the best tool is to actually start writing.

Alveraz Ricardez and Kyler Boudreau hashing out a script.

After a few years trying to get script number one “fixed” I decided to move onto the next project: Paradise Strikes. My second script was so much easier to write! Paradise Strikes also made it to the semifinals in a couple screenwriting competitions in 2018. God willing we’ll be shooting it as an independent film on the island of Kauai in the near future!

2019 marks the beginning of script number three. It’s a thriller about evolving technology. Sign up below to stay in the loop!

Hey, thanks for reading about my experiences in Hollywood. There’s much more to say, but that would be more like a book than a blog post. Hopefully this helps clear the fog for anyone interested in the creative industry! If you have any questions, I’m happy to help out. Simply contact me.

What’s Hollywood Like? (Part 1)

What do you imagine when you think of Hollywood? Perfect weather? Gorgeous beaches and celebrities strolling Rodeo Drive? Some of this exists, but not in the ways you’d expect.

I moved to California for film school in 2005. I lived in Burbank, Sherman Oaks, Hollywood, Culver City and Santa Monica, and can give you a decent grasp on what to expect if you’re thinking about moving to work in Hollywood.

What’s Hollywood Like? is being covered in two posts:

1) General geography & where to live.

2) The filmmaking/creative side of Los Angeles.

Greater Los Angeles

Los Angeles is weird because you’ve got this thing known as “Hollywood” that sits inside LA county, but garners more attention than Los Angeles itself. In fact, if you’re employed in the creative industry, downtown LA is something you may rarely see. Why? None of the studios are there and the local scenes are pretty good.

The map below (sketched by Alden Olmstead) shows the general layout.

Courtesy of Alden Olmstead – aldenolmstead.com

You’ll find downtown LA southeast of Hollywood (look for Paramount & Sunset Blvd). Santa Monica and Venice sit right on the ocean to the west.

Traffic Like You’ve Never Seen

Ever had the experience of driving home from work and suddenly you hit massive gridlock due to an accident? That’s LA every day. On the 405, the 10 and the 101.

A normal day on the 405 | Image copyright The Washington Post

The traffic on the 10 and the 405 is the worst you’ll ever experience. Except for say the mayhem that will ensue during the apocalypse.

Not kidding.

You can ride a bike faster than driving a car during rush hour on the 405. Any attempt to take surface streets is already being tried by 50,000 other vehicles. If you like motorcycles, this is your new nirvana. Bikers can “white line” which means your favorite crotch rocket will get you anywhere in half the time.

I’ll never forget when my wife first moved to the LA area. One day I came home from work at 5:30. We were meeting her uncle at LAX at 7PM. LAX was 12 miles from us. I rushed in the door and said, “We’ve gotta get ready and go.” My wife was like, “We don’t have to be there until 7.” I responded with, “I know, we’ve gotta go!”

Places to Live

The best place to live IMHO is a place where you’re not spending your free time breathing exhaust fumes. This means that if you want to live in Santa Monica, you’d better not be working in the valley. If you live smart (compared to where you work) you can avoid a lot of the traffic everyone else has to deal with.

Hollywood

The real Hollywood is a lot different than what I imagined. There’s really not much to see. Sure, you’ve got the Walk of Stars, Capital Records and other sites to see, but the main strip in Hollywood is really for tourists, and it’s not that nice.

You’ll find people walking around in cheesy costumes along with Ripley’s Believe It Or Not types of sites. And a lot of Hollywood can also be… Well, a little disgusting. Especially if you’re wearing flip flops.

The Walk of Stars | Hollywood Boulevard

If you’re after glamor, you’re not going to find it in Hollywood (Head west on Sunset to Beverly Hills and things will get increasingly better).

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some cool stuff there. Paramount sits right off Melrose. Deluxe is nearby. And there’s a plethora of other places that have created the films we all love, in addition to local theaters and clubs off Sunset (Viper Room, etc).

But at the end of the day, Hollywood was not a place I wanted to live. The Hollywood Hills are nice, but you’ll need some cash to afford it.

Beverly Hills, CA

If you’re after clothing stores with price tags that could feed thousands of starving children across the world, Beverly Hills is the place to go. All joking aside, it’s a really nice place to live. Beautiful streets, creative eateries and a police force that responds faster than 99.9% of the rest of them.

If you’re working in Hollywood and want a nice place to live, Beverly Hills is an excellent option. Albeit it’s going to cost you. You can’t live where people like Steve Martin live, and expect it to be cheap, right?

“The Valley”

When someone says they live “in the valley” they typically mean Burbank, Glendale or Pasadena. Chatsworth (known for porn) and other non-desirable places are also technically included.

Burbank is the first place I lived while attending film school. These cities contrast the rest of LA with less congestion and more affordable living. You can go to a grocery store with an actual parking vs a parking garage. You can buy a home with a yard for the same price as a condo in Santa Monica. You get the idea.

Downtown Glendale, CA

Valley cities also boast small downtown scenes with outdoor shopping and entertainment. Honestly, they’re nice places to live. The drawback? Smog. It’s pushed in by the winds from the Pacific Ocean and stops at the mountain range that lines the eastern border of the valley. The valley is also a long drive from the ocean, and it gets much hotter. If it’s 70 with a cool breeze in Santa Monica, it could easily be 85 with a hot breeze in Pasadena.

Culver City, CA

I really enjoyed Culver City. It’s a small, happening place located in a real sweet spot. Not too far from Santa Monica/Venice, not too far from Hollywood. Not too far from downtown Los Angeles. You can find Trader Joe’s for shopping, along with a newly opened co-op which offers an incredible array of organic foods. You’ve got cool Hollywood history like the old hotel situated next to Culver Studios that John Wayne won in a card game. You can also find one of the original shooting places of King Kong (shown below) – Stuff like that. Sony Pictures is also located in Culver City.

A sign in the parking outside my office in Culver City, CA

Venice, CA

Another fun coastal city near Hollywood is Venice. If you’re in Culver City, you simply drive west on Venice Blvd. towards the setting sun! Venice is unique in that it has a self-contained water way similar to Venice, Italy. It’s actually pretty cool to see. Locals have small docks and boats and there’s no parking anywhere so the canals stay pretty quiet.

Venice Beach Skateboard Park

Venice also offers great shopping along Abbot Kinney, a boardwalk with local vendors and a beautiful beach scene with a pretty rad skateboard park (pictured above). Check out Gjelina for food and the Toms flagship store for great coffee and a chill place to drink it. These are just a couple of the sweet spots along Abbot Kinney.

Crime used to be really rough in Venice. Like so bad the police wouldn’t even come if you called in saying you heard gunshots. Things are now better than they used to be, but Venice is still not a place I’d hang around after dark.

Santa Monica, CA

Santa Monica is by far the best place to live. This beautiful city is oceanside (we lived 5 blocks from the beach). There are 2-3 Whole Foods within 5 miles of each other. And you’ll find quiet, beautifully groomed neighborhoods ideal for an afternoon stroll.

My wife Sandi with the Santa Monica pier in the backdrop.

All of the architecture is unique, and you can have fun guessing who lives in the beautiful homes (people like Halle Berry & Edward Zwick).

Santa Monica has good access to the 405, the 10 and highway 1. Yet if you live in the good part of the city, the highways are too far away to hear any traffic. The downside? Many of the apartment buildings are old, and the new ones will cost you a fortune. 1047 4th Street in Santa Monica has the best landlord you’ll ever find. If they’re renting, grab it before it’s gone.

Most people driving in from the valley are hitting the Promenade along with the Santa Monica Pier. If you want a quieter environment, check out Montana street. Quaint shops and restaurants along with my favorite writing spot – Peet’s Coffee on 14th and Montana (you can see famous people here in the morning).

For quaint and legit Italian, look no further than Osteria Bigoli. To see your favorite old films on the big screen, check out the Aero Theatre across from Peet’s. And Sweet Lady Jane is a bakery worth checking out on a nice afternoon… which in Santa Monica is every afternoon.

Local Tip: Wilshire runs through the heart of Santa Monica, CA. You might be tempted to pronounce it “Wil-Shyre” but it’s pronounced “Wilsher.” You’ll sound like a local if you remember this.

Malibu, CA

This coastal city features restaurants located right on the water, a calm and quiet pier and beaches that are IMHO more of the California experience. Santa Monica, for example, is a great city but I’d never go to their pier or beaches. Why? Saturated with tons of people driving in from the valley. Malibu is just far enough that a lot of people won’t make the drive.

Leo Carrillo State Beach, Malibu, California.

A very popular restaurant right on the water is Moonshadows. I’ve eaten there many times. Saw Ed Norton there once! If you like sushi, Zooma is a must visit. Also right on the water. Great food and environment. The Malibu Pier also has a couple nice restaurants worth looking at.

Malibu is also where people with money live. You name it, they’re up there. It’s been home to people like Mel Gibson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert Redford, Kevin Costner, etc. The infamous pull over that got Mel Gibson so much heat happened as he was leaving Moonshadows and heading to his Malibu home.

Me with my daughter, checking out a home for rent in Malibu, CA.

You need to be rich to live in Malibu. I’m not saying there isn’t cheap housing: Some people will rent out their guest house, etc. But for the most part, you’re looking at serious bucks. My wife and I checked out a house for rent once (photo above). It was old but in good condition. Beautiful yard and views. $12K a month in rent – it didn’t even have beach access or a pool!

More Places to Explore…

I haven’t come close to covering all of the places to live in the LA area: You’ve got Marina Del Rey next to Venice, the Pacific Palisades between Santa Monica and Malibu, and much more. But I hope this at least gives you a glimpse into areas to consider if moving to LA.

Read What’s Hollywood Like Part 2 to learn more about the entertainment industry.

Kyler Boudreau