It is official: The Alexanders have moved to Los Angeles! And what makes it feel official (and not just like a holiday) is the fact that every time we get back to our Airbnb after having run an errand or gone out for a meal, we are greeted by our dogs.
Jip, we came boots and dogs and all. Those of you close to us know that this was not a decision made over night. It has taken 3, 4 years of planning, decision making, sacrifices, jumping through hoops, lawyers fees and an enourmous amount of time and effort to make it happen.
As artists we qualify for an Extraordinary Ability Green Card. Basically, you have to prove to the US government that you have reached the top of your craft in your own country, you write a bunch of letters, get testimonials, go through medical exams, police clearance, interviews etc etc, after which you are then allowed to apply for a green card to stay and work in the States indefinitely. After years of work, we managed to get our green cards in April of this year and about a month later we decided to pack up our lives and go.
Now I can already hear you going (like the nice Afrikaans girl who checked us in at O.R. Tambo): ‘Why??? Why are you going? What about the SA entertainment industry?!’ But ironically that is exactly the reason we are leaving, so that we can continue contributing to the SA industry.
How can I explain this: Say you come from Sweden, but all you want to do is play rugby, good rugby. You have reached the top of your game in your own country, you have played for every Swedish club and the national team (does Sweden even have a rugby team?) Now what? Where would you move to to get better at what you do? Surely even just playing for a club in SA or England or Australia is still better than staying in Sweden and trying your best to get better at rugby?
For us that move meant coming to LA, the mecca of the western world wide film industry.
Let me just make one thing clear: we do not have stars in our eyes. We are not expecting Steven Spielberg to walk up to us in a restaurant and cast us in his next movie. And I am not going to throw a tantrum in a bank and hope that a manager will sign me (although I now totally understand why Charlize did that, as everything is chicken-egg here. You can’t do anything without a social security number, but you can’t get a social security number without x-y-z blah blah blah…)
In the last 3 years we have been over to LA twice, we have done our research properly. We have plenty of friends here that have offered invaluable advice and through whose experiences we’ve been able to learn and see the sobering reality of just how hard it is to be an actor in LA. Yes, there are a lot more opportunities here, but there are also a whole lot more people fighting for those. The best of the best (and worst) of every country in the whole world come here to try their luck.
For now, our plan is to broaden our horizons, to learn, to network, to contribute to the LA and global industry and then to also bring skills back to the (albeit slowly) growing industry in SA. And for the rest, it is just a wonderful adventure that I feel privileged to be a part of.
We love South Africa. Our family and friends are there and we will always come back. Who knows, maybe even soon, since we have nothing to prove to anybody and we are too old to do things that make us unhappy. But for now, we have embarked on a new adventure. A very scary, thrilling, sobering, hectic, costly, exciting, eye opening, opportunity-filled adventure.
LA, here we come! (Or more accurately: LA, here we are!)