A Tale of Two Cities: Trading the Gritty Reality of New York for the Hollywood Dream

Lily Cedarbaum

Lily Cedarbaum

As a college student in NYC, I quickly got sucked into the world of television internships and became addicted to it right away. Starting off in Corporate Communications at NBC Universal, I eventually networked my way into internships at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Joy Behar, The New York Television Festival, Doctor Oz, and Saturday Night Live. While I loved my internships at high-profile networks and festivals, I was excited to branch out and try something off-beat after graduation. To shake things up, I spent a few months living in Los Angeles, where I spent time freelancing and meeting with contacts before finding my way back to New York for a job at MindSmack TV.

The entertainment industry is a hard field to navigate, and I am excited to be a part of The Media Chronicles to assist others along the way!
Lily Cedarbaum

Any industry insider will tell you that to make it big in entertainment, you’ve got to head to Los Angeles or New York City. Delve any further into this conversation, however, and you are sure to cause a heated debate.

LA fans would most likely ask, “How can you pass up beautiful weather, way more job opportunities, and a laid back atmosphere for the elitist and jaded culture of Manhattan?” Conversely, pro-New Yorkers may praise their culture as diverse and inspirationally vivacious for artists in comparison to the homogenous character of LA’s entertainment circles… “And can you imagine having to drive everywhere?!” We’ve all heard these arguments in one shape or form; yet for many, the “grass is always greener” cliché can leave their curiosity constantly piqued.

Which is why last winter, after spending four glorious but draining years in New York, I packed up two bags and got on a flight to the “best” coast. I had a few entertainment connections I’d been dying to meet, as well as a few friends who had made the plunge. Still, it was by far and away the most unexpected decision I had made in my life. I figured that a city that polarized so many people with similar interests had to be experienced for oneself.

Luckily, I was not in it alone. I moved into a West Hollywood sublet with a school friend who was also out there exploring off the path. We shared the one bedroom and an Italian man (the lease holder and now a good friend) nested in the living room. There was a fireplace, laundry in the building, a pool and hot tub on the roof with a view of the Hollywood sign, and palm trees out our window. Knowing what the same amount of money would get me in NYC, I pondered why I would ever leave.

To me it was a city of surreality. Our first night we went around the block to dinner and sat at a table near Oliver Stone. All the streets looked to be out of films, because most probably were. When I started working at an upscale restaurant near my apartment, celebrities would come in daily, and I would start to tally who was nice and who was lacking (and yes, I do have dirt). But then, as I scoured job postings, reality quickly set in.

Almost every position requested agency or personal assistant experience, and my friends in these offices seemed miserable, like they were living out a sentence. In New York, agency background was helpful in procuring a job, but it wasn’t the be-all end-all. LA was instead a fraternity-like hierarchical organization where you had to earn your way up through the hazing of 80-hour workweeks and minimal paychecks.

The only way to bypass this, it seemed, was through invasive networking, but even that had a different tempo in Los Angeles. In my previous experience, NYC networking was an inch-by-inch process, where I only felt comfortable asking favors of people who knew me well. Los Angeles was extremely direct in a simultaneously refreshing and abrasive way. Contacts I had just met offered me referrals and job possibilities; yet, when push came to shove, nothing actually came to fruition. I began to miss the tangibility of working in New York.

On top of that, I began to realize I was living in a city monopolized by my industry. At times it looked as if every new person I met was involved in film or television. My roommate would get perplexed looks when she explained that her art history degree in fact had no connection to a career pursuit in film. Everyone started to look the same, wear the same clothes and giant sunglasses, in an eerie Twilight Zone kind of way.

In the end, I came back to the East Coast for personal and mundane reasons: mainly, to be closer to family and to live somewhere I didn’t need a car. Still, I look back at my brief time in Los Angeles with the hope that one day my career or travels will bring me back. Though my loyalty will always lean toward NYC as my first love, Los Angeles wasn’t the smoggy monster I was warned it would be. Sure, the dream-like nature of constant sunshine, celebrities, and being surrounded by similarly passioned people acted as an unnatural barrier against the real world, but for a while that surreality was a welcomed way to shake things up and see where they landed.

Lily Cedarbaum

As a college student in NYC, I quickly got sucked into the world of television internships and became addicted to it right away. Starting off in Corporate Communications at NBC Universal, I eventually networked my way into internships at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Joy Behar, The New York Television Festival, Doctor Oz, and Saturday Night Live. While I loved my internships at high-profile networks and festivals, I was excited to branch out and try something off-beat after graduation. To shake things up, I spent a few months living in Los Angeles, where I spent time freelancing and meeting with contacts before finding my way back to New York for a job at MindSmack TV. The entertainment industry is a hard field to navigate, and I am excited to be a part of The Media Chronicles to assist others along the way!

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