OK, this post ended up being MUCH longer than I anticipated so tl;dr version: Met some actors from Atlanta. Decided to move there. It has been awesome. Waffle House.

Also, I considered making the title I moved to Atlanta. You won’t believe what happened next! But then I decided I didn’t want to be, you know, a huge asshole. For once.

Those with something resembling an attention span: read on.

——————————————

Guess what? This small market actor just moved to Atlanta! How did it happen? Well, it all started about a year and a half ago…

“Huh? How did you get THAT audition?!” I said, as I stared dumbly at my new customer.

It was April 15, 2015 and I had just started offering my audition taping service, Cleveland Audition Taping, to the actors in the Northeast Ohio area. On this day, my customer (now friend) was Allen O’Reilly, who happened to have an audition for a network television show. Him telling me as much is what prompted the above reaction.

Here’s the the thing with Ohio: there are no major television shows being shot there. At least, none since I’ve been an actor (2009). Pittsburgh has a couple and Chicago has a handful and that’s about it for the Midwest in terms of national TV productions. And this particular show that Allen was auditioning for was most definitely not a Pittsburgh or Chicago production.

I get some knowledge dropped on me

As I stood there, bewildered (probably drooling a bit), Allen calmly explained to me that he had recently moved to Cleveland from Atlanta and that he got the audition from Houghton Talent, his agent in the Southeast. An agent in the Southeast, eh? At this point, I had secured representation in all of Ohio’s neighboring states plus Colorado (randomly) but never researched any states down south. I made a mental note to look up Houghton Talent after our taping session.

Perhaps it’s because I’m over thirty and increasingly more forgetful or perhaps I just thought this audition was a one-off occurrence like the TV auditions I was used to getting once every three years, but I never looked up the agency or researched Atlanta. It wasn’t until after Allen came in three more times for other TV show auditions that I really started to take notice.

Ok, this is crazy, I thought. In the past couple months I’ve taped more TV show auditions for this guy than I’ve had in seven years. So, I started poking around the interwebs to see if I could find out what was up with Atlanta. Well, turns out a LOT was up. Here are a few nuggets from my search:

  • In 2008, Georgia began offering a 20% tax credit to film and tv productions in the state
  • As more projects started filming there, new studios and soundstages were built
  • By 2014, film and tv production had become a $5.1 billion industry in Georgia
  • An estimated 30(!) tv shows would be shot in the state in 2015
  • Georgia has quietly (or not so quietly) become the third largest production hub in the country behind only California and New York.

Damn Daniel. What does this all mean for actors? Opportunity. Specifically, film and tv opportunities. I decided then and there that I was going to get an agent in Atlanta.

I polished off my resume, reconfigured my demo reel, and wrote an email along the lines of “Hey, I’m an actor from Cleveland and I plan to continue living here but I want you to represent me in the Southeast and send me auditions and I’ll fly down if I book something” (it wasn’t quite this bad but you get the gist). I sent that out to a handful of agents in Atlanta.

*crickets*

Looking back, it’s easy to see why no one took me up on such an enticing offer. With the industry booming in Georgia, I’m sure every agent was getting bombarded with submissions from entitled actors who lived out of state and wanted a piece of the pie. Plus, Atlanta already had a sizable talent pool that was growing by the day with actor transplants trying to get in on the action. With so many local actors to choose from, agents had absolutely zero incentive to add someone to their roster that lived 700 miles away.

So, I put getting an agent in Atlanta out of my mind. Until…

It’s November 17, 2015 and I’m taping an audition for another new customer (now friend as well), Jenna Kanell. She was an out-of-towner in Cleveland filming a major supporting role in a feature film called The Bye Bye Man (in theaters January 13th!). Where did this out-of-towner live? You guessed it: Atlanta. After her audition, we chatted a bit about the market in the Southeast and the opportunities available to actors. Our conversation got me thinking again and I started tossing around the idea of relocating to the ATL.

Two weeks later, I got an email from my friend Donna Barbera telling me she did exactly that. Donna was an actress from Michigan who decided to take the plunge and moved to Atlanta. She told me that agents were much more willing to meet with her once she actually lived in the city.

Now, it was decision time for me. On the one hand, I had a pretty good thing going in Ohio. I’ve established a solid reputation in the region, was getting repeat work from clients, and was booking enough commercial and corporate video work to pay the bills with my acting income. But, on the other hand, there was very little opportunity for growth and career advancement. I could count on one hand the number of TV show auditions I’ve had in the past seven years.

A few short months ago I knew absolutely nothing about Atlanta and the Southeast in regards to the film and television industry. Then, all of a sudden, three people on three separate occasions, all with ties to Atlanta, contacted me out of the blue. It seemed like the universe was trying to point me in the right direction.

Let’s do this

After weighing the pros and cons, I reaffirmed my decision from earlier in the year to get an agent in Atlanta. Only, this time, that came with the stipulation of moving down there. No problem. I was fully committed. I immediately booked a flight and a week long stay in the city to 1. Scope out places to live and 2. Hopefully meet with some talent agencies.

With mindset reframed and flight booked, I re-submitted to those same Atlanta agencies with a new pitch: I am moving to Atlanta. In addition, I’ll be in town between x and y days and it would be great if we could set up a meeting while I’m there. This time, I got multiple responses. Holy crap!

I immediately told two of my Cleveland actor friends, Kellen Boyle and Jessica Craig, who were also considering submitting to Atlanta, and started to sell them on the idea of relocating as well. This was all happening at the end of December, 2015, so the idea of living in a warmer climate was a welcome thought to all of us.

The first trip down

Kellen and Jessica did eventually decide to join me for the recon mission. We arrived in Atlanta on January 19th, 2016 and stayed at an Airbnb in Decatur for five days. My first impression while driving around: I had no idea this many Waffle Houses existed in the world, let alone in one city. I consulted Google to see if my eyes were playing tricks on me and they weren’t. Atlanta is home to an absurd 132 Waffle House locations. Y’all must bleed maple syrup.

Besides that one unnerving revelation, our trip was a huge success. We got to try some local grub at The Flying Biscuit Cafe, bought some local brews (and more food) at Krog Street Market, and oh yeah, all three of us signed with talent agencies! That was a huge first step to making the Atlanta move a reality. The only thing left to do was find a place to live. Yeah, small detail.

Finding living arrangements ended up taking way longer than I anticipated. For various reasons that I won’t get into here, the search took over six months. The place I eventually found was an awesome little condo in Kennesaw, Georgia, a northwestern suburb of Atlanta. It’s a few miles away from the historic Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield, which is now a National Park. Nice.

On August 16th, 2016, I loaded all my stuff onto a moving truck and embarked on the eleven-hour hour trek from Cleveland to Atlanta. As of this writing (December 26th, 2016), I have lived here just over four months. And even though there is one of these right down the street, I still have yet to eat at one. 🙂

Impressions since moving

So has Atlanta met your expectations? No. It has far exceeded them. First of all, the acting community has been extremely supportive. Maybe it’s the whole Southern Hospitality thing or maybe I’ve just gotten lucky and met the right people but I certainly could not have asked for a warmer welcome from the community down here.

I ended up signing with Houghton Talent, the same agent my friend Allen first told me about a year and a half ago. When I say that the people in Atlanta have been supportive, it starts with my agents at Houghton. They were supremely helpful in my transition into a new city, a new agency, and a new market. When I thought they’d be mad that six months after I signed the contract I still hadn’t relocated, they offered nothing but patience and encouragement. I don’t have enough superlatives in my vocabulary to describe Houghton Talent and how grateful I am to have them representing me.

From a career standpoint, the auditions I’ve been getting have also far exceeded my expectations. I got more film and TV auditions in one month (November) than I did in seven years acting in Ohio. That’s not a surprise when you learn that 200+ productions filmed in Georgia this past year.

I also want to mention the training. Atlanta has a multitude of coaches, teachers, and acting schools. In my short time here, I’ve had the opportunity to take classes with Robert Pralgo, Sherrie Peterson, and Catherine Dyer and Jason MacDonald at Drama Inc. – all incredibly knowledgeable, helpful, and inspiring people.

So yeah, Atlanta has been awesome in just about every way.

If you wanted to move to a bigger market, why not Los Angeles? I thought about LA for about 30 seconds and then put it out of my mind. For me, Atlanta made much more sense for a few reasons:

  1. I can continue to audition for jobs in Ohio – Georgia is far from Ohio but not as far as California. I can continue to work with my agents in the midwest and if I books something, the flight is less than two hours and tickets are cheap. I’ve already gone back twice for work.
  2. Competition – Atlanta is getting more and more competitive by the day as actors continue to move here from all over the country. By no means is it an easy market to break into. But it’s nothing compared to the bloodbath (in my mind) that LA is.
  3. Cost of living – self explanatory.
  4. LA can always come later – Just because someone wants to pursue a career as an actor does not mean they have to move to LA immediately (or ever). There’s no reason an actor can’t develop and grow his/her career in a place like Atlanta and then move to LA in the future. LA is an option. It’s not the only option.

I’m an actor; should I move to Atlanta? That’s a loaded question and one without an easy answer. I’m a firm believer that everybody needs to find their own path. Just because Atlanta was the right move for me doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right move for you. Do your research, talk to people, and make an informed decision.

I will say this about moving to a bigger market in general: Make sure you’ve exhausted all the opportunities and resources available to you where you currently live before relocating to a place with much more competition.

My friends and I were fortunate enough to sign with agencies right away but that was because we had decent resumes and demo reels to back us up. While we were new to Georgia, we weren’t new to the industry; we had been booking work in Ohio and the Midwest for years before we moved.

If you’re moving here and want to pursue an agent, make sure ALL your marketing materials are on point. Professional headshot, industry standard resume, online profiles (Actors Access, IMDb, Casting Networks) are set up correctly. Show the agents that you aren’t someone that’s going to need their hand held for the first year. And if you submit and don’t get signed right away, don’t panic! Take advantage of the excellent training available in Atlanta and get involved in the indie film scene.

Are you going to change the name of this website? No. I may be in a bigger market now but that doesn’t change where I came from and where I built the foundation of my career. I’m extremely grateful for my Ohio agents, The Talent Group and Heyman Talent. They have booked me on so many amazing jobs over the years and were both very supportive of my move.

LeBron James likes to say “I’m just a kid from Akron.” Well, I’m just a computer programmer from Cleveland who randomly decided to walk into an acting class one day. I will forever be a product of the Houde School of Acting, without which I would still be writing code in a cubicle somewhere. I owe everything to this school.

But adventure must start when you run away from home. I ran away four months ago and it has been quite an adventure already. Looking forward to 2017 and beyond!

  • Curtis Helm

    I love this! I’ve been debating this for 3 years myself. Really nice to hear a detailed point of view on this!

    • Curtis! Hope you’re well man. Glad you got some useful info from the post. Hit me up if you’re even in Atlanta!

  • Curtis Helm

    I was just out there in November watching my son play in his playoff game. Planned on commuting but it makes much more sense if they believe you live there and are planning to do so. I want to get there very soon to get in some auditions!

    • Honestly, I thought I could make commuting work too but I got two callbacks last March and drove down from Cleveland for both of them and that was brutal.

  • Rob Grant III

    As always, great article!
    I always wanted to move to Atlanta mainly because it seems like a stronger market for minorities. My brother in law lives there and I love the ATL. Unfortunately the wife and I made the decision to stay in Ohio. But my thoughts of 100+ waffle houses still exist. Hopefully one day we will decide to sell the house and move there. Anyway, I wish you the best of luck, my friend.

    • Thank you, Rob! Ohio is definitely making moves to bring more big budget productions to the state. Here’s hoping more opportunities start popping up in 2017! Also, being in Cleveland means you get to spend more time at the Houde School so that’s always a plus 🙂

      • Rob Grant III

        I agree! I love the Houde!

  • Mark

    Fantastic story Kurt! it’s awesome to hear about the journey’s of other actors. I live a 7 hour drive to Los Angeles so it’s tempting to find a way to establish myself there in the future. But I am definitely in the exhaust your resources available to you – level as I live an 1.5 hour from San Francisco. I have a question: though our geographic situations differ, I wondering how strong of a resume and demo reel did you have? I have very local stuff- about a dozen short films, one industrial,a few comms. I will be submitting to agents in SF next week with my package. I can relate to your story- thanks so much sharing!

    • Hi Mark! In my case, I had a bunch of commercial and industrial credits, one feature film in which I had one line, and a handful of short films. My friends had similar resumes, although one of them had done a few more feature films and was/is Union. All that being said, some agents did ask us to audition for them; they didn’t just sign us on the spot based on our submissions. I’m guessing that’s pretty standard. Wishing you good luck on your submissions to SF!

  • Ashlee Gillespie

    Awesome article!!! I am playing with the idea of moving to Atlanta. I wanted to move to LA…..but it’s way to expensive and I’m not ready to move that far away from my family. Do you think me not having any recent work or training will make it harder out there. I am also in the Midwest in Illinois to be exact I just hate the cold weather!

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?