Making the leap to L.A.

by Beacon Staff • March 25, 2009

An Emerson visual/media arts diploma, coupled with a semester interning at the lower dregs of the entertainment industry, is supposed to be any alumnus' key to success in Los Angeles. But being the second largest city in America and the living proof of manifest destiny, the City of Angels attracts Emersonians of all sorts, not just the ones who want their names in lights. So what's a journalism major to do when he shows up in L.A. without a home, a job or a sense of vocational direction?

I didn't take advantage of Emerson's L.A. program; couldn't, actually. I squandered away my internship credits dutifully covering shootings, fires and hospital evacuations-and being called a cracker-for iThe Boston Globe/i between the hours of 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. during my junior year.

My close friends, being film majors, spent their final semester in sunny Los Angeles. Myself, being an ink-stained wretch, I was under the impression the L.A. program would offer little for me, so I slogged through a semester in Boston, enduring crowds on the T, drinking at the Tam and happily assembling this publication in my spare time.

Somehow I find myself in L.A. To make a long story short, I graduated with my BS in print and multimedia journalism, landed a gig as the sole reporter for the neighborhood newspaper iThe Allston-Brighton Tab/i and toiled away for seven months, listening to the elderly shout at each other about how many liquor licenses should be allowed in Brighton Center, all for $25,000 a year. A few soul-crushing blizzards were all it took to convince me to stuff the car and head west.

The thought of bundling up all your belongings and driving 3,000 miles straight across the country to a city you've spent less than 36 hours in can be mighty intimidating for anyone, never mind an unemployed 23-year-old only months removed from shaking hands with Emerson President Jacqueline Liebergott onstage in the Wang Theatre.

I arrived in Los Angeles with nothing: no job, no apartment, no clue how to navigate the God-forsaken freeway system. I have half-a-dozen close friends, all of whom attended the L.A. program, who let me crash on couches, floors and, when they weren't looking, their beds, for three-and-a-half months-until I found my own place.

My friends made the transition easier, but L.A. is still an intimidating war zone of clogged freeways, taco stands and concrete. I spent my first two weeks answering every job ad I could find and watching episodes of Dexter on the couch. L.A.'s metro is both inaccessible and remarkably inconvenient, and I was scared to death to get into a car and go somewhere.

Eventually, I found Emerson's grip on L.A. is strong. It may sound implausible, but I often find myself at a concert bumping into someone I saw standing outside the Little Building smoking a cigarette five years ago.

The ultimate proof came about three months into my current job, when I received an e-mail from a girl I knew from a few journalism classes. She'd made a similar trek west and was working at an L.A. public relations firm and was now querying my interest in writing about her client. Small world indeed.

There's an unofficial alumni organization, the Emerson Mafia, which hosts film festivals and helps connect fellow alumni for networking purposes, and the Emerson name carries some clout in the film and TV industries, from what I've heard.

None of these things helped me land a job. That was through a little luck, the experience gleaned from standing behind police tape in Quincy at 1:30 a.m. and some fairly solid writing skills acquired over the course of four years of college.

I landed at my current job less than a month after arriving in L.A. I emailed a dozen reacute;sumeacute;s, and it was the only company that invited me for an interview. Luckily I landed in a small, tight-knit office of down-to-earth writers, editors, curmudgeons and misanthropes who helped smooth the cross-country transition period.

Fears of getting lost melted into the joy of discovering something new. The mind-numbing crush of rush-hour traffic is unavoidable, but luckily, starry-eyed, fake-breasted hopefuls and coke-snorting Eurotrash are. I'll take six straight hours of a blaring live Mariachi band in the neighbors' backyard over socks soaked with slush any day of the week.

Entering college six-and-a-half years ago, the thought of landing in L.A. never would have crossed my mind. Yet here I am, with a steady gig as an editor for a business-to-business Web site and a modest semblance of career vision, despite eschewing Emerson's L.A. program.

Of course, I wouldn't be here without it.

iRich Cherecwich graduated from Emerson in 2007 with a degree in print and multimedia journalism and is a former Arts Entertainment editor of /iThe Beaconi. Cherecwich is currently associate editor at iMediaConnection.com./i