Moving to Los Angeles can be daunting.
So we asked four Diesel Film’s employees who have all made that move, some key questions about the challenges and opportunities of making that big move to “Hollywood.”
Seth Shapiro, CEO, LA resident 12 years | Previous, NYC & Miami
Lew Holder, Freelance Editor, LA resident 6 months | Previous, Ohio
Karly Finison, Marketing Coordinator, LA resident 2 years | Previous, Boston
Kirsten Overton, Production Assistant, LA resident 6 months | Previous, Philadelphia
Despite being at different stages in their careers, all four employees offer insight below on what their transitions were like.
If you’re thinking about making that move, here’s what you need to know:
WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO MOVE TO L.A.?
Seth Shapiro: After four and a half seasons with the Miami HEAT I was ready to move on. I took a trip to LA to visit a college buddy of mine who was getting his MBA at UCLA and I noticed there were so many production companies out here, they almost seemed as visible as Starbucks; so that definitely gave me hope of opportunity in Los Angeles, where I found in other places there was little to none. Randomly I was able to find a job posting for NFL Network, Promos writer and editor, on 2pop.com (does that even still exist?) I applied and a guy by the name of Kevin Balluff gave me the opportunity to interview so I flew out, interviewed, & then a week later was offered the job, which at the time was my dream job. So it was a pretty exciting time for me to say the least.
Lew Holder: I was following the dream. I’ve wanted to work in the industry since I was a kid. I had great professional experiences in my work in Ohio and I felt my skillset was in a place where I could really make a go at it out here.
Lew Holder capturing an intense OSU football practice.
Karly Finison: I grew up in Boston and also went to Boston University for undergrad, so I was definitely itching for a change. I started attending the University of San Francisco’s Sport Management Masters’ Program in July 2016 (almost done!!), which I attend once a week in at the school’s satellite campus in Orange, CA. When I first moved, I really wanted to break into the sports industry out here – I mean, college athletics are huge, there are so many professional sports teams and a ton of marketing/advertising agencies. It’s also a really exciting time because LA is hosting the 2018 NBA All-Star Game, 2022 Super Bowl, potentially the 2026 World Cup and of course, the 2028 Olympics. I’m a firm believer that the best things come when you step outside of your comfort zone, so for me, moving across the country was definitely scary, but a jump I needed to make.
Karly Finison alongside another intern at the start of the Clippers’ 2017 post-season run.
Kirsten Overton: I have always been drawn to Los Angeles. I knew I wanted to do something with production so it seemed like the right place to go. And when I came here, it just felt right. It felt like I was finally where I belonged.
WHAT ARE CHALLENGES YOU FACED PROFESSIONALLY & PERSONALLY?
LH: Moving is always a gigantic pain, and moving cross-country is a colossal logistical challenge. To leave all of your family and friends and start new is scary as hell, but I’ve been blessed with an incredible support system in those loved ones that gave me the confidence to make the leap.
SS: The culture at NFL Network in its early days was very different than working at the Miami HEAT. The NFLN marketing department was only 3 people, myself, Kevin Balluff, and VP Judy Fearing; so it was a very lonely position — my office / edit bay was in a hybrid conference / storage room. Coming from a place where it felt like family with the HEAT, this was a hard transition for me. I was always envious of the studio crew that worked across the street on Total Access because that reminded me of the family atmosphere that I had walked away from at the HEAT. Also, the work place definitely felt more competitive and less of a team mentality, that I had with the HEAT.
Personally, I was given the advice to move to Studio City and that Santa Monica was always cloudy. Worst advice, ever! My commute to Culver City was horrible and I was so far from the beach. Lesson here: Live close to your job, the infamous LA traffic can drive you into a deep depression!
KF: Networking is basically talking to strangers, so pushing myself to reach out to people in the sports industry to hear their stories and get some of their insight was really challenging at first. With that said, it definitely payed off. One of the first people I reached out to when I moved to LA was Cory Fauver, brand manager at Nike West. During our talk, I asked him about some of the agencies Nike West partners with, and he mentioned Diesel Films. Long story short, I then reached out to Seth and met with him in person to discuss his work and past projects. I was working at the LA Clippers then, but when the season ended, Seth gave me the opportunity to start at Diesel. It’s turned out to be a really great fit.
KO: Figuring out who I am and what I want. I had a pretty good grasp on that when I first came out here. But, man oh man, this city made me question myself and what I want. I think that was the hardest part.
HOW DO YOU “MAKE IT” IN L.A.?
SS: Number 1, there is so much talent here, that you need to stand out. You must be good at your craft and trustworthy! Number 2, networking is very important & meeting the decision makers & producers that are entrusted with budgets is another major key to success. Number 3, gaining their trust with your talent, effort, and accountability is paramount in gaining ground here. Bottom line, if you can contribute to someone else’s (or company) success, that will only mean more success for you.
L-R: Brent Meyer (Nike), Seth Shapiro (Diesel Films), Kerhyl Gantt (Nike), Adoree Jackson (CB, Tennessee Titans)
DID ANYTHING ABOUT L.A. SURPRISE YOU?
KF: I guess the fact that there’s something going on every single night! It’s definitely easy to get wrapped up in going out. I have a really bad sense of FOMO (fear of missing out), so I’ve definitely tried to get better at saying no! 🤣
LH: I lived in NYC for a little bit, so what surprised me was how quiet, beautiful neighborhood areas are nestled in such a crazy city. There’s places to escape the craziness, and learning those is the fun part of transitioning. It’s also hard not to enjoy 75 and sunny when there’s freezing rain back home.
KO: The people here are what surprise me the most. For the most part, everyone is really relaxed. Initially, I found myself being very formal with a lot of my superiors. Then they would respond very relaxed and friendly and I started to feel more comfortable. The transition has been good so far. I’d be completely lying if I said it wasn’t difficult. There were moments where I completely doubted myself and thought about returning home. However, I realized it’s hard for anyone to pick up and move to a completely new place where you know nothing and no one. I’m surprised by how much I’ve learned about myself in this process. You can always accomplish more than you think.
Kirsten Overton checking out a popular L.A. attraction: Warner Bros. Studio.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO RECENT GRADS LOOKING TO BREAK INTO THE SPORTS/PRODUCTION INDUSTRIES?
LH: What I would offer is to just reach out to people. I’ve never gotten a job because my relative knew someone or it was set up for me. I’ve gotten every single position I’ve ever had by cold calling or emailing people. The next step then is capitalizing on any shot you get. I was lucky enough to work four years for one of the greatest of all time in Urban Meyer, and he instills the same lessons in his staff as he does his team. “Opportunities multiply as they are seized” and “grinders get rewarded” are two specific mentalities I try to take with me every day.
SS: Gain a tangible skill. As far as production goes, I always find it hard to find good editors, so if you can edit, tell a story, and be a creative thinker those are all key traits to have… And you know sports? That’s the cherry on top of the sundae. Intern, do whatever you have to do to be around the industry that you are looking to work in. Being there is sometimes half the battle, opportunities usually open up. Also, prove yourself. Produce your own passion projects and showcase your skills, that’s the best way to market yourself.
KF: Research companies you want to work for and reach out to people in some of the positions you’re interested in on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has become an incredible tool and sure some people won’t respond, but for the most part I’ve found people to be super willing to chat.
WAS THERE ANY ADVICE YOU RECEIVED WHEN YOU FIRST MOVED TO L.A. THAT HAS STUCK WITH YOU?
KO: Don’t be afraid to fail was the best piece of advice I’ve heard out here. I’ve always been terrified of failing, but when I look back on it, I am who I am and I know what I know because of my failures. A lot of great things will come from it so don’t worry too much. Also, take every opportunity that comes to you. Whether it be having coffee with someone you find inspiring, or running a 5k just because. This city is full of interesting opportunities and interesting people. Take advantage of that!
KF: My mom always told me growing up, “You can always come home.” The point being – now is the time to get out there and explore new places and enjoy different experiences. Boston isn’t going anywhere!
LH: My roommate, who’s been here for a few years, told me not to believe the hype that LA is a lazy, “glitzy-glam” town. People outside of LA don’t always realize it, but the vast majority of people (especially in our industry) work really, really hard.
SS: Well living in The Valley was bad advice, although I live here now with my family 🤣 I don’t specifically remember any advice, I just remember putting my head down and working, hoping that the effort would payoff and I would say it has, so far.