Before I became a film director, I wanted to be an actress. Now I’d normally never admit this to anyone — actors in L.A. are stereotyped as delusional, hopeless romantics who are bound to fail, and I wanted to stay as far away from that stereotype as possible.
But I couldn’t help myself; I had wanted to be an actress since I was a little girl. I spent my young adulthood building my career with roles in film and theater. I starred in an HBO pilot with Hank Azaria, staged a play off-Broadway, and had major roles in six feature films. But one day, like a switch, my love of acting died. In fact, I suddenly hated acting. I wanted more control over my art, and I was frustrated with the politics of the industry — the game of playing up who you are, who you know, and what you look like. So I abandoned acting entirely, moved on to writing and directing, and resolved never to return to it.
L.A. Land came out of a desire to document the experience of being an actor in Los Angeles. Unlike the movie La La Land, the typical narrative for most actors and artists in Hollywood does not end with a “big break.” It is an endless journey that is filled with minor successes and major failures. Yet as much as it is a story of heartbreak and longing, it is also one of hope and transformation.
I followed Claire, Kenesha, Neha, Marta, and Sandra over the course of one month in early 2018. We went to auditions, acting classes, photoshoots, and casting calls all over Los Angeles. They allowed me to document their aspirations, successes and rejections, and all the bizarre situations that came our way. Throughout our time together, I was consistently amazed by the resilience these women displayed— not only did they remain steadfast in their failures (which were documented for the world to see), but they were completely candid with me about everything. It was brave, transformative, and a true example of how a love of craft is all we need to feel empowered as artists.
L.A. Land was initially meant to be an objective portrait of the struggles of being an actor in Hollywood. What it became throughout the production process, however, was an homage to all artists in Hollywood— the people who risk everything in pursuit of a dream. The chances of failure in Hollywood are extremely high, but you fight with the hope that some day things will work out. Revisiting the world I used to love intensified my passion for filmmaking; if there’s anything I learned from making L.A. Land, it is to embrace the journey, instead of waiting for the destination.
I used to think that Hollywood was filled with the "broken hearts of people who never made it,” but now I see it differently. Hollywood is a place of hope, filled with people who are brave enough to risk it all in pursuit of a dream. I was never willing to risk anything in my life as an actor, and perhaps that’s where my resentment towards the industry came from. But now, I am ready to fight and risk everything to maintain and continue my life as a filmmaker. I am not afraid to fail.
And I see Hollywood a little differently in the aftermath of L.A. Land. To me, it will always be a desert valley filled with snake-like highways, where dreams may die and where most of what glitters isn’t gold. But Hollywood is also a place where you are safe, where the possibilities are endless, and where you will always be free to follow your dreams. But only if you choose to see it that way.