A friend of mine has taken the leap and is out in Los Angeles for pilot season. It's a story that makes just about every LA actor shift uncomfortably in their seats. Hell, it makes EVERYONE shift in their seats. It's making me shift around so much that I had to blog about it. She asked me if, much like stages of grief, there are stages of LA. Well, Chita, there are. Here ya go:
The Stages of LA:
Stage One: Delirious Hope
In Stage One of the LA experience, the sunshine causes a massive shift in the Hope gland. Symptoms, which are often self-perpetuating, include an urge to exercise or at least go outside more frequently, wide eyes, deep breaths, and random giant smiles. Call it the "fresh off the bus" syndrome. During Stage One you often run into random, 'meaningful' celebrities (mine was Breckin Meyer), food will taste better (surprise, its Southern California, where food is just fresher) and you will be bombarded with LA's favorite form of religion: New Age spirituality! Get ready for lots of SIGNS, and plenty of serendipitous meetings and parties. LA loves a Stage One-r and gets easily infected by their momentum. This is a good time to take meetings and buy a new pair of shoes.
Stage Two: Prideful Determination
Ah Stage Two - elusive and curious. In Nature, a Stage Two-er resembles a Lone Wolf. In Stage Two the freshness has begun to wear off, but the residual momentum has become more than just kinetic energy, it is now a habit. There is a sense of ownership of place - this is your territory now, a place you belong... but not quite. Because in Stage Two, you are still DIFFERENT. There are two major symptoms that define Stage Two. The first is a sense of peaceful superiority, rightfully earned. While others failed to take a risk, leave the pack, jump in the dangerous rapids, YOU, Oh Stage Two-er, were more daring. More brave. More crazy. And you did it. You are here, in LA, and you took the leap. This is it, the big time, and you didn't DIE when you jumped. Like a marathon runner moving one leg in front of the other, you are in it to win it, and that's more than most anyone can say for themselves. This will be enough to sustain a Stage Two-er through the most terrifying of ordeals: getting started. The second key symptom is directionless determination. While in Stage One, you taste the excitement of locating the Best Local Farmers Market, In Stage Two you are now dealing with the more undefined task of "Realizing the Dream." Stage Two-ers are easily recognizable at Headshot print shops and Samuel French stores. This is where they gather, and you will see their heads held high. Note the slight odor of denial.
Stage Three: Stupidity
Stage Three and Stage Two are like a pair of first-time two-steppers - they can never decide who's leading. It will be awhile before someone is fully in the throes of Stage Three. The shift comes when the internal clock, planted within by society, friends and loved-ones (albeit unintentionally) - when this timer starts to reach the RESULTS stage. Each clock is different, but they all eventually cause the reality check gland to start producing massive amounts of Comparison hormones. It should be noted that the Reality Check Gland is absolutely necessary for survival in most human beings, but is missing in a few select folks, namely Tom Cruise. It is also questionable as to whether or not Glenn Beck has one. Stage Three is triggered by the RCG generating an arbitrary desire to place a tangible value on experiences gained thus far - in effect, to QUALIFY the LA journey. You will question the judgment that lead you to leap from the safety of the pack into this wilderness of highways and palm trees. Had you chosen to watch the movie version of this wild, action-packed adventure, you would have left at about minute fifteen, out of sheer boredom. Is it Stupidity then, that led you to believe this leap was worth taking? In due course, a Stage Three-r has begun to recognize other LA people who have done the same thing they are doing - and unable to identify a DIFFERENCE, you can no longer maintain the Stage Two, Lone Wolf mentality. Stage Three-rs are often found screaming and crying in their cars, chugging lattes at the nearest Urth Cafe, and shaking their heads in the relative darkness of movie theaters while watching recently nominated box office failures.
Stage Four: Selective Nostalgia
Stage Three is tumultuous and painful, and does not often last long. In the LA journey, one either shifts back to Stage Two, or transitions into Stage Four. Stage Four generally begins when you finally start to develop an immunity to self-loathing. Assisted by several occurrences of senseless rejection, the exhaustion of perpetual denial brings itself to a stage of almost euphoric reminiscing. A fully progressed Stage Four-er generally seeks the comforts of the noble aspects of the craft. You will often begin the Artist's Way, sign up for a Level One performance class of some sort, or apply for Grad School. The Stage Four-er has difficulty recalling the impetus for taking the Leap, and simply remembers the past as a time when life was easier, simpler, and BETTER. The 'Thousand Yard Stare' is shared by Stage Four-ers and life sentence prisoners alike. Stage Four is the darkest stage of the LA journey, and can last several years. A Stage Four actor is sometimes unfairly labeled as the Bitter Actor, and is generally not the best person to seek advice on the business from. Ironically, most Stage Four-ers make excellent dramatic actors, if the role is well written and involves a storyline about 'home'.
Stage Five: Benevolent Resignation
Stage Five is one of the most difficult stages to attain while still living in LA. Most actors will need to leave LA before they can actually shift into this final stage. In Stage Five, the awareness of the Bigger Picture has come into full realization. The Inner Clock is silenced, the Reality Check Gland is satisfied by evidence of the ability to exist and receive occasional lattes and new shoes as necessary. Recognition of others on the same journey no longer generates a need for separation, but instead is the impetus to establish a new pack, a new family. Stage Fivers have the charming habit of defending the honor of LA to those who have not taken the journey. Stage Five is not all peace and gummi worms, however. A Stage Five-r is actually a vicious fighter, a dangerous enemy, and a pain in the ass to live with sometimes, because Stage Five-rs have lived through the toughest war, the war with themselves, and are occasionally susceptible to Post Traumatic LA Syndrome. This is necessary to keep the Drama Gland, the same gland which caused them to take the leap in the first place, free of blockage. However, once in Stage Five, generally an actor is equipped to balance hope with experience, reality with television, and journey with destination.
Any of these stages is subject to be HALTED if the actor books a job or makes out with a celebrity. The concurrent stage will resume accordingly depending on how long it takes to spend the money earned, or whenever the celebrity doesn't call back.