Welcome! I'm Katie Toomey, a freelance video editor living here in Los Angeles, CA. I started this “Get Moving” interview series in what feels like a long overdue fashion. After having many approach me about my own moving blog and how helpful it was to have another experience to read about or relate to, it sparked me to interview others in our industry who have made a move somewhere for their own work.
My aim is to help broaden the reach to share these stories for others out there, like me, who wanted to hear more perspectives to help build confidence, to relate to planning worries and execution woes, and to understand the struggles and even successes more fully.
This series will hopefully help you gain wisdom to be better informed when and if taking that risk and leap for yourself.
I myself have made a rather large move (the biggest I've ever done to date) moving from the East coast in NC to the West coast to LA just last year. I wrote my “East to West Coast Moving Adventure” on Creative Cow very soon afterwards to document the process. I've been living in LA ever since. All these experiences will combine to make a collective resource that anyone can access - from any where, at any time. If you don’t know anyone who’s done this sort of thing, it can feel very isolating and impossible to manage on your own. You shouldn’t have to face this alone - and now, you won’t have to.
Isabel Yanes // Assistant Editor for Scripted Television // https://isabelyanes.com/ // IG: @isabel.yanes.foodie (warning: will make you hungry!)
Isabel has moved 4 times in her life, including her move to Los Angeles. She currently resides in Burbank, CA. She was 4 years old when she left Florida to live in Georgia. In 5th grade, she moved to another suburb in Georgia where life changed drastically. The community was primarily white, whereas the elementary school that she previously attended was mostly Black and Hispanic. She found it extremely difficult to assimilate, growing to hate her first language and culture, spending much of her youth wrestling with a split identity. However, once she moved to Athens, GA at 18 and began classes at UGA, Isabel found others who had the same "double-life" experience: growing up in Hispanic households while living in white communities. These friendships really pushed her to embrace all the different parts of herself, including her aspiration of editing science fiction television. She lived in Athens for 4 years during her studies and moved a few months after graduation over to Los Angeles.
All the wonderful, terrible, and funny things that happened along the way really helped her learn more about herself and the areas while on this journey — from the suburbs of Georgia to the city of Angels! Professionally, she works in post production for scripted television as an assistant editor. She also takes on side gigs as a graphic animation artist for small businesses and start ups. Most recently, she sound designed her first feature film Donovan Reid, which is directed by Austin Smagalski and edited by Noah Diamond-Stolzman.
Isabel has been living in LA 2.5 years, having moved in August of 2016. Her first place was actually an Airbnb in Burbank that she stayed at for 7 weeks with her boyfriend. In October of 2016, they signed a 2-year lease for a one bedroom apartment 1 mile away and recently renewed the lease for another 2 years. They love living in Burbank, even if the rent isn't the cheapest, because the community is amazing. The YMCA, Farmer's Market, Burbank Recycle Center events, libraries, parks, and mountain biking trails are just some of the aspects of the city that she can't imagine living without now.
Although born into a huge Cuban family in Miami, Isabel was raised in Georgia and considers herself a true “Georgia peach.” She majored in Entertainment and Media Studies at the University of Georgia and LOVES watching the Dawgs play on Saturdays during football season! She has many passions that she pursues outside of work including: cooking and baking, mountain biking, nutrition and personal finance to name a few. Oh and READING! She wonders, “Any Sarah J Maas or Cassandra Clare fans out there??”
Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona -- ahhh California. With my boyfriend Jaxsen leading the way, we drove in our own cars from one coast to the other over 5 days.
Katie: What event or situation sparked the move?
Isabel: We moved to LA because of my desire to work in the entertainment industry, specifically in post production. In my junior year of college, I did many informational interviews with freelancers and companies in Atlanta, but found post was almost always in LA, other than dailies operations. This prompted me to consider moving to LA and start saving every cent I could get my hands on. Throughout my senior year, I contacted over a hundred editors and assistants living in Los Angeles and did more informational interviews with those who were kind enough to respond. The wisdom they shared solidified my desire to move!
Can you tell us some of the ways that the new area(s) differs from some of the other places you've lived or the last place you lived? What is similar and different for you? What do you like and dislike about your new area?
My first thought when I arrived to Los Angeles was: "It's like I'm in Miami, but with MOUNTAINS!" I saw the similarities in the cities immediately: stores extremely close to residential areas, small houses and small yards (if any), and public transportation. There is a huge Mexican influence on LA, similar to the Latin American influence on Miami, in language, food, and music. However, Florida is FLAT and all the roads in Miami are on a numbered grid, so everyone refers to locations by the cross roads like SW 168th St and SW 117th Ave. LA has mountains and these cause a lot of roads to twist and turn, changing in elevation extremely quickly in many cases. Growing up and learning to drive in Georgia gave me the confidence to drive through these bends, but I quickly found out that I was not prepared for how quickly my car speeds up while going downhill here. Let's just say I had to replace my tires after some intense brake slamming on the 405...
The suburbs of Georgia are completely different from these big cities - huge yards, huge houses, 10 min+ drive to reach a convenience store or gas station. Everything is so spread out and everywhere you look there are trees, creeks, and animals running around. I miss driving on dirt roads and seeing deer run through fields on my way home. Although living further away from the hustle and bustle in Georgia gave me a better sense of privacy, I really enjoy being able to walk or bike to so many places nearby here - mainly the restaurants! I LOVE how diverse the food culture is in LA and found a huge passion for cooking and baking because of it. California is an agricultural power house, giving both restaurants and home-cooks like me some of the freshest produce you'll ever eat. Food trucks, fusion foods, baking conventions - you name it, LA's got it!! Actually that is a lie; there is no Waffle House, so every time I visit family I HAVE to get my hash browns diced, covered and chunked :P
Something I really miss about Georgia is being able to park anywhere! Burbank is one of the only cities that has street parking and parking garages for free in their public areas (another reason why I love it here!). We have 1 parking space for the 1 bedroom apartment we live in, so Jaxsen parks on the street and it's not always easy to find a spot near our complex. Also there's this thing called street cleaning that I'd never heard of until it was too late: once a week streets are cleaned by the city and you are required to move your car for a 2 hour window or you get a ticket. As everyone always says, the traffic in LA is terrible, but Miami and ATL commuter traffic is also terrible. Mainly traffic restricts which jobs I can consider and who I can spend time with during the weekdays, assuming I get off work early. Out of the 8 jobs I've had since moving here, thankfully only 1 of them has been on the coast and my commute was 45 minutes as it had a 1pm start time. My first two jobs were less than 2 miles away from my apartment, so I biked to and from the office everyday for the first year. Yay for no traffic and less money spent on gas!
How did you begin to prepare for the move?
The first thing I started researching was where to live. Through the informational interviews I did with people currently living and working in LA, I found out approximate prices for 1 bedroom apartments and suggestions for cities to consider. Websites like Trulia, Apartments.com, and Zillow were great because I could see the exact pricing in each neighborhood I looked at. Next, I used grocery and food delivery apps, as well as data sites, to estimate grocery store prices for my budget. I started budgeting in junior year using You Need a Budget, so by senior year I had a good idea of my spending habits and looked up prices for other common transactions I made. I still have the spreadsheet I used.
Many of the estimates I made were close enough to not break the bank, but I didn't think to consider things like needing to pay for laundry loads or additional AC for record highs of 120 degrees during the summer. Next thing on the list was moving expenses: gas, hotels, food, and car inspections before we left. We followed the "if it doesn't fit in the car, it doesn't come with us" rule, so we avoided having to rent a U-Haul for furniture, but it was an expense I knew we'd have to factor in once we got an apartment.
Even though I was already saving, I realized the trip was going to cost A LOT more than I had. My goal was to save $11,000 before moving so I'd have enough to cover travel expenses, furniture, security deposit, and 3 months budgeted expenses. I saved $2,500 separately for the all-inclusive Airbnb we paid for in advance and lived in for 7 weeks before moving into our own apartment. Did I also mention I planned to tour Europe for 2 weeks after I graduated?? Needless to say, with 1.5 years before the big move, I went HARD on saving.
What did you use to help plan your route? Did you fly, drive, or otherwise teleport to your new location?
We took the southern route Google Maps suggested and stayed with friends along the way who lived in Louisiana and Texas, saving us some money on hotels and food. Originally we planned to stop at the Grand Canyon for a day, but realized we were too exhausted and didn't plan accordingly for it. We did however stop at a few Food Network featured restaurants and museums that were along our route.
One of the best things we did was take a day long break at a friends house, allowing us to enjoy the comfort of a home cooked meal and not be in a car all day long. Since I have scoliosis, I had to stop every 2 hours while driving to stretch and realign my back. Even if you don't have back issues, a trip like this can do a lot of damage. Do some simple yoga poses for your back (specifically your lower back) that you can do at rest stops for 10 minutes. I promise your back will thank you for it.
Do you have any packing tips and tricks for us?
I am not a person who likes to own a lot of things (aspiring minimalist), so before I began packing, I got rid of A LOT. 2 months before, I laid out everything I owned in my tiny off-campus apartment (which didn't fit much anyways) and sold or donated everything I could. Because I was moving with my boyfriend, I consolidated and even got rid of stuff since he had a lot to bring as well. I organized everything into categories: memorabilia, office supplies, sheets/towels, etc. A week before the move, I packed everything except for the day to day things. I labeled each box and created a digital list for each box's contents so I could easily find something if I need it. Command + F is magical :D. Over the course of the week, I would realize I needed something from the boxes I packed and would get annoyed, but it actually helped me to keep the immediate need items separate from the longer-term storage items, so when we arrived in LA, I hardly searched through the other boxes.
What were some of the advantages/disadvantages to working within your time and budget limits?
I had a lot of time to plan my move and took advantage of it in every way possible, from saving to packing. Jaxsen, on the other hand, decided to pack everything he owned in 2 days and as a result he forgot a lot of things at home that he still kicks himself for 2.5 years later. I am a huge planner, so personally I think this move would have been much worse for me if I didn't have 2 years to save and months to plan the move itself. One of the best things about planning 6 months ahead was scoring a 7 week AirBnB reservation. I was able to contact the hosts who (surprise!) work in the entertainment industry and were happy to help us ease into the city.
We paid just under a total of $2,500 which included: a private bedroom, bathroom shared with other AirBnB guests and ALL utilities covered with in-unit washer dryer.
How did you mentally prepare for the move?
I was very meticulous in preparing for my move. I knew there were going to be a lot of factors to consider, so I created a google drive folder with everything I researched. During the informational interviews I did with assistant and editors, I asked them tons of questions about the city and their lifestyles. I still have my template.
What is something you absolutely could not live without in the new area/place? Your hard line of "I'm not moving unless..." moment.
A DECENT KITCHEN was the biggest deal breaker for me when I was apartment hunting. Aside from the occasional restaurant, my meals are all homemade, so I spend a lot of time in my kitchen. It's not big, but it is functional and came with brand new appliances including a GREAT dishwasher - never underestimate the glory that is a high quality dishwasher. Heads up though, most apartments don't have a refrigerator already in then, or in-unit laundry, so be prepared to get your own fridge and dish out extra money for in-unit laundry.
Did you ever find yourself at a low point and feeling like giving up or saying no the opportunity? Were there any times that people tried to talk you out of it or alternately were they supportive and helped you stay focused/encouraged?
One of the ways I made extra money to move was being an uber driver in my college town. My parents were not happy considering I was letting random strangers get in my car, but I thankfully never experienced anything dangerous. However, I spent many nights in a parking lot downtown, waiting for drunk students to call a ride, thinking to myself "Why are you doing this? Just give up and go home already." As the moving date got closer I was scared I wouldn't be able to find a job because everything I'd applied for so far said no or didn't even respond.
My parents and friends were extremely supportive, but I also played up my confidence whenever I talked to others about the journey because I didn't want them to doubt me like I doubted myself. Some of my family said I was crazy and told me to move to Miami where I'd have support and better connections thanks to my uncle who worked in Spanish television - for the record, I hate Spanish television.
I think the biggest thing that kept me focused and encouraged, aside from the immense support my family and friends gave me, was the planning. Breaking down the move into smaller goals over many months helped me keep going and each step helped snowball all parts of the move. "Today I just need to email 10 people for an informational interview." "This week I just need to research AirBnBs." "This month I just need to save an extra $400." I owe a lot of the goal setting techniques I learned through out college to Zack Arnold and his podcast, which at the time was called "Fitness in Post," but is now "Optimize Yourself." His interviews both educated and motivated me during the entire process.
How does managing all this have an effect on your sleeping, physical health, and your mental health?
Real talk: I experience severe anxiety that often leads to panic attacks. It started in sophomore year when I became obsessed with scheduling, routines, and organization to the point where forgetting my green highlighter at home set me off on a public bus and kept me in a panic for the remainder of the day. I saw a therapist at my university's health center who suggested I explore yoga; it changed my life. At the end of my first yoga class, I closed my eyes for shavasana and cried. It was the first time in months I wasn't thinking about the future or my schedule or whatever - I was present. I started going once a week and gradually increased to 4-5 times a week, craving a present mind and practice. From there I learned about mindfulness and discovered how wonderful the every day can be when you put effort into being present, no matter what you're doing. These things really made a difference when those stressful moments hit before and during the move and I would encourage everyone to explore mindfulness.
Unfortunately once I was living in LA, I experienced a lot of anxiety all over again. My panic attacks returned because I wasn't managing all the stresses hitting me at one - new city, new roads, new weather, new bed, doctors, insurance, friends, coworkers - you get the point. I was so terrified of failing that I lived by my to-do list and I'd often skip meals because I "wasn't suppose to eat until after I finish emailing these people according to my schedule." My new therapist encouraged me to stop regarding everything I did as a pass/fail task with a time-based deadline. Learning to manage everything isn't easy and I am definitely not an expert, but I found that routine exercise, daily movement at work, and eating well has made a huge impact on my ability to process stress and stop my panic attacks almost completely. Side note - I highly recommend chiropractic care, acupressure and aromatherapy!
How do you know the difference between moving worries that can be researched or worked through or a generally bad decision/bad outcome risk? Can you even know that difference?
Moving will always be a risk, but I believe you can mitigate that risk to result in your favor by preparing as much as possible beforehand. I know people who, due to lack of preparation, lived in their car and couch surfed for months before they were able to land a job and eventually sign a lease. Personally I don't think I would've been able to handle that level of uncertainty and dependency on others, but I understand that it is a reality may people face while trying to "make it." I would advise against the spontaneous move because it can do a lot of harm if luck doesn't find you. You CAN however decrease the risks by building a network before moving, researching and saving money.
AFTER THE MOVE
How long did it take to settle into your new place in your new area? In new job duties?
Since we had an AirBnB for so long, we were able to hold off on signing a lease until October. Unfortunately that meant we had to keep ALL our things in either the bedroom we rented or our cars. Those first few weeks were definitely not the easiest, trying to find jobs and an apartment, but it was well worth it. Every weekend we apartment hunted and every weekday was dedicated to job hunting. It was a great set up because I was able to really focus on finding a job instead of unpacking and trying to buy things we needed since we had a fully furnished bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen.
Once we found our 1 bed 1 bath apartment ($1400/month), we spent one day getting everything from the AirBnB to the new place and another day picking up used furniture all over LA.
The week before we moved into the apartment, we scoped out used furniture on craigslist, Letgo and Close5. If we liked the furniture after seeing it in person, we asked the seller to hold it for us until the weekend when we rented a U-HAUL and most people were nice enough to actually do it! We were able to get everything minus an entertainment stand and bookshelves in one day: bed, mattress, dresser, couch, ottoman, coffee + side tables, dining room table + chairs, and computer desk. We also rented a dolly from Home Depot for a few hours for our refrigerator that made going up the stairs much easier.
At first the apartment was really crowded. We didn't know how to make everything fit and tried different layouts over the next few weeks. In the spring we decided to sell our dining set and corner desk, and buy a used Elfa desk that is fully customizable. It's similar to what you'd expect at Ikea and allowed us to open up more floor space since the shelves went all the way up to the ceiling.
If you're living in a small space like we are, I definitely recommend getting furniture and organizers that make use of the vertical space against walls! Our shelf desk did cost a lot ($700), but the investment was worth its versatility and gave us the space we needed to feel comfortable with staying in the small apartment for years to come. We spent about a week unpacking everything little by little since we were both working at that point and it took the whole weekend to just get things in the apartment itself. The biggest problem we had was with our dishes because we didn't know how to make use of the space in the best way. Luckily we have a lot of shelves and cabinets, so we were able to make use of the vertical space here too!
Did you feel homesick ever or miss your old town?
I missed my friends and roommates a lot, but most of them moved away to other cities like DC, Denver, Beijing and Madrid right after graduation. Since none of us were still in Athens, we made time to call each other both individually and in group calls when possible. I also missed the Saturday Game Day vibes, but we found alumni football watching parties near us and it really helped! Not only were we able to watch the game with people who screamed just as loud, we also felt comfortable talking about our struggles since they'd made the trip themselves and understood how difficult the transition period could be.
If you arrived 'hot' to town without a job, how did you manage to find work? -OR- If you came to your new area with a job in tow, how did that go?
As I mentioned before, I built a network before I moved by cold emailing editors and assistants whose emails/LinkedIn pages I could find online, as well as alumni that worked in the industry. I didn't have a local job waiting for me when I arrived in LA, however I did have interviews and coffee dates set up for the first 2 weeks in the city. I applied to jobs before and during the move, stating that I was local so employers would give me a chance to interview. Luckily, a few weeks before my move date, I was hired for a remote editing and animation gig that I was able to do out of my AirBnB at night or when I wasn't otherwise driving around the city trying to find a local position. With money coming in through this side gig, I felt more secure because I knew I could say no to jobs I was offered that I didn't want to take. Freelance tip - always look for your next job while you're still working and save 3-6 months of your budget (not income, budget) so you can say no to bad opportunities.
After going to many interviews, I was offered a few post pa positions and a jr. assistant editor position. It came down to choosing between a post pa job that paid $800 60/hr week at a reality tv company in Hollywood and a jr. assistant editor position that paid $500 40/hr week at a YouTube company in Burbank. I cried a lot while making this decision because I realized I was starting over, having to prove myself because nobody knew me or my work ethic, no longer able to rely on the recommendations of my previous employers and professors. I wasn't "the best student worker/editor" anymore as I'd come to think of myself; I was a fresh-out-of-college baby who had little industry experience and no idea how Hollywood truly functioned, let alone the demands of an assistant editor in television.
I ended up choosing the jr assistant editor position for a few reasons:
I wanted to skip the post pa position if possible and go straight into assistant editing, but I knew I wanted to work in TV, so I planned to move horizontally into tv as an assistant editor
60/hr weeks sounded really intimidating and I was scared I'd burn myself out. Even though it paid more per week, I knew I would need time for myself to adjust.
We liked Burbank so much more than other cities we'd visited, so having a job closer to our future apartment was ideal. It also allowed me to save money by biking to work, making up for some of the reduced income.
I got the sense that employees were treated like people instead of worker bees during the interview. Plus, the supervisor that recommended me for the position went to my university and I liked the idea of working with someone who understood my situation.
What opportunities do you have available to you now (either that you didn't have before or have more of now) Do you find you have less work opportunities?
LA is all about networking since projects are staffed on a freelance basis. Everything is who you know - or rather who knows you. The job opportunities I've been offered here are a direct result of networking and I've found it much easier to move up vertically in post production than if I had stayed in Atlanta. I get emails and phone calls weekly about an assistant editor position needing to be filled and it's a relief to know so many positions are out there. Some jobs last 1 or 2 weeks, while others span an entire year or more. I've worked on many different types of media out here as well: Graphic Animation, Trailers, YouTube/New Media, Digital Scripted Series, Reality TV, Scripted TV and Independent Features. My favorite thing about living the freelance life is the opportunity to work with so many different people in different spaces. It's hard to know what you value in coworkers and a work environment if you haven't had the chance to experience those differences and I'm so thankful to have discovered what those values are for myself in the last 2 years.
How has moving changed your life, for better or worse or in-between/uncertain?
My life in LA is completely different from my life in Georgia. Part of that is because I just started adulthood in the "real world" and change is expected as I navigate these early years. However, mostly my life has changed because I've learned a lot about social norms in cities, the impact of human activity on the environment, and the strain that distance and work places on relationships.
I grew up always saying hello and good morning to people on the street with a big smile, regardless of whether I knew them or not. Now I only say hello to people when I'm at the gym or farmer's market because people either ignore me or stare until I look away with embarrassment. There are a lot of homeless people in the city as well and I know it's terrible to admit, but the truth is I walk right past them every time like everyone else does. I've been followed and harassed on the street before when I'm alone. I've become more suspicious and aware of my surroundings, carrying a pocket knife with me whenever I walk to my car at night.
The air in LA is always full of smog, we're in a never-ending drought and we don't have a lot of space for landfills. Although none of those are positives, it's really pushed me to live differently: biking, walking, and taking public transport when possible; being conscious of my water use while washing dishes, using the bathroom sink and taking showers; and my personal favorite change - eliminating food waste from my trash bin by contributing to a community compost and garden. I created a DIY compost bin outside my complex where my neighbors and I put food scraps before I take it to the community compost. I even got my coworkers to put their food scraps into a bin for me to take home as well!
Since I didn't live near my family during college, I spent years building long-distance relationships and didn't think too much of the extra distance. However, once I moved it became apparent that my family is not very keen on my decision to miss holidays. When I was in college, a 1.5 hour flight was doable; now it's 5-6 hours, most likely with a layover, and 2-3 times the price for a ticket. Though I love my family very, very much, it's difficult for me to justify spending more on plane tickets for Jaxsen and I to see them for a few days over Christmas than the cost of rent. Others warned me situations like this would arise, but I never realized how much of an impact they would have on relationships. I think it's important to be realistic and honest when it comes to visiting family before deciding to make a move like this.
My last piece of advice before moving: Accept that things are going to change. You are going to change. Your relationships are going to change. Be yourself and embrace the changes that will come with an open mind, loving heart and honesty. Also - don't forget to call your mom when you get here :)