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Why Artists Are Leaving Los Angeles

Why Artists Are Leaving Los Angeles

“I didn’t move to the city to count all my pennies,
and worship the Hollywood sign.”
-Rich Love, by One Republic

It’s no surprise artists and creatives are moving, but the real question is why artists are leaving L.A. Every week someone else in our community decides to leave. It can often be overheard, “Are you leaving L.A.?” or maybe, “Are you headed to Nashville, Austin, Atlanta, Florida?” Just last week we went to a screening for a film being released next year, and as we talked to the casting director next to us, we realized, she too had already left California. She flew in for a few days to do business and flies back to out. There are websites and Facebook groups to help you plan your transition to life in another state, and to find connections in media, film, and other art forms. People often joke, “If you’re the last one to leave, turn the lights off.”

How the Pandemic Changed the Industry

The truth is, the industry has changed quite a bit during the pandemic. People who were required to be in-person for their work were now required to work from home. This included TV show editors, special FX teams, video game developers, writer’s groups, and the list goes on. As a result, emerging from the pandemic, people realized how much production, editing, and negotiating for contracts can be done without stepping foot in L.A.

How the Culture Changed

The second transformation was the degree to which L.A. has become more inhospitable to families due to the homelessness, crime and degrading quality of life. It’s one thing to step over homeless people passed out from doing drugs, while you are taking a walk by In-n-Out- walking with a few other single men and women. It’s entirely different when you are taking a walk with your kids. People of all kinds of different political and religious beliefs start to question whether this is going to get better and whether it is where you want to raise a family.

How the Content has Changed

The third transformation is the slowest transformation. It didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen over the pandemic. It happened over decades. Content that used to be mildly offensive has become more overt. Content that made slight fun of Christians in the past, has been followed up by shows that demonize religion and Christians. From Disney adding same-sex kisses into the content for kids (Lightyear), to HBO’s Handmaid’s Tale, the attack on religion and family are at an all-time high.

If you try to portray a Christian family honestly, you’ll be told you can’t pray in the name of Jesus (Duck Dynasty), and you can’t have political views other than the approved views of your left-leaning producers and network executives. They may proclaim diversity, but there is no diversity allowed when it comes to religion, belief in God, or their elevation of sexual identity above all other identities.

Even if you were to agree with some of their views, the intolerance for any other view is dangerously totalitarian when it comes to content. Hollywood is not tolerant. It wouldn’t be so offensive if they said, “Sure, we think Christians should be able to create shows without us forcing our agenda and politics into it.” But this is what they simply can’t do. Over and over, they take content written by Christians and add some perversion near the end of the movie or the end of the television series.

Reasons to Leave

There has always been a myriad of reasons to leave L.A. (or New York for that matter). So many people who move here with a dream of working in the entertainment industry, the media complex, or in the art world, end up quitting and moving home within 18 months. The cost of living is high, and the competition in the market is tough. These two challenges have been true for a century.

If you don’t come here with solid talent and tremendous tenacity and patience, you simply won’t last. What is new, is the third challenge – producing content that glorifies God. This challenge has been getting harder and harder to overcome over the last couple decades. Add on top of this the rising cost of living and the current inflation (which has no sign of stopping soon), and pressures to leave can be overwhelming.

What if You Thought You Were Called to L.A.?

If you were called to L.A., can you leave? This is hard for people who had a real strong sense of God calling them to L.A. But God is free to call us into one place for a season, and then call us to another place for a new season. If you’ve taken my calling course, you know that your calling can change over time. Different seasons call for a different focus in your life, and the multiple callings God has given you must be weighed and balanced in each season. If this sounds foreign to you, check out our Online Artists’ Calling Course. It will bring a lot of clarity to your spiritual and vocational life in this challenging season.

Consider the life of the Apostle Paul. God called him to many cities, and eventually to submit to being arrested and taken to Rome. All of this was God’s plan. We need to be careful about restricting God’s plan and vision for our life. Just because He called you one place years ago, doesn’t mean He won’t call you somewhere else later on in your life.

Reasons to Stay

Well, as you may expect, I get the same question from family and friends, “Are you staying or leaving?” As my wife and I reflect on those questions, a few key things come into focus. I am reminded that we didn’t come to L.A. to make it rich, to find a better life or to raise our kids in an idyllic, serene community. We counted the cost, and knew it would be tough raising kids in L.A. with no relatives who even live in the same state.

My wife and I came to L.A. because we felt God had called us to disciple creatives who were working on the front lines of the culture. We saw the need to challenge church leaders to support and embrace artists and creatives and we saw the deep need for artists to have someone to mentor and disciple them who ‘gets them’. As artists ourselves, my wife and I have been able to fill that vacuum for over 20 years here in L.A., and many more years before that in New York, and other cities. We have created numerous online resources and classes, and continue to meet artists and creative professionals hungry to learn how to honor God while making a living in the art world or entertainment industry.

We never want to leave simply because life is challenging. Sometimes God calls us to challenging circumstances in order to draw us closer to Him, and to work through us in those unique circumstances. Just because a storm is coming, doesn’t meant God isn’t with you (in the storm). We cannot judge only by external factors. We must seek obedience over comfort or conveniences.

Questions to Consider:

If you are thinking of leaving, why?

What key factors played a role in your decision?

If you are staying, why?

And what role has prayer played in making these decisions?

I would love to hear your thoughts in response to this article. Each person and family are unique, and your circumstances are unique…what has been helpful for you in this process?

Copyright © 2022 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

22 comments on “Why Artists Are Leaving Los Angeles”

  1. Michael Pitts Reply

    Great article on Leaving LA! I think you handled this difficult question very well, particularly about how God’s Calling in our lives is not fixed geographically or vocationally.

    I had to deal with this very difficult question 2 years ago after many years in LA. I have likened it to the Israelites following the Pillar of Cloud by day and Pillar of Fire by night.

    I wonder if we are entering a time in our culture where we will need to withdraw in the manner proposed by Rod Dreher in his book “The Benedict Option” where we renew our Christian Community while waiting our culture to face the consequences of their collective bad choices. Yes we are to be Light and Salt, but we are also at a certain point needing to shake the dust off our feet and move on.

    The disruption of the Pandemic along with the changes brought by Streaming opens up entirely new opportunities for Christians to reach the world bypassing the traditional gatekeepers. Let us continue to pursue excellence in our calling wherever that might be.

    • Joel Pelsue Reply

      Indeed. Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option gets more attractive when the culture is this hostile. Miss seeing you brother, but glad you are doing well.

      Indeed, so much has changed… in the industry and the culture. God is definitely opening up doors for Christians in other markets and through online opportunities. It would be hard to predict what the new normal will be in 5 years.

  2. LPS Reply

    Wow! this hit close to home! Thanks for asking tough questions.

    One thing I am grappling with is whether I can serve my calling better and toward the same end with more resources and a more nurturing community. Honestly IDK

    • Joel Pelsue Reply

      Totally understand. Those are great questions. The lack of nurturing community takes are real toll on each of us and our families. This is definitely a season of change. Options that were unthinkable a few years ago can now be realistic options.

  3. Leonardo Ramirez Reply

    I wholeheartedly agree that we should never leave a place because it’s hard. The 9-5 job that I’m in now attests to that yet God has been faithful and merciful in the last few months of being in it. Having said that, I also believe that there are times where God infiltrates a society and changes things up to remove the strength of kings and gatekeepers who control a narrative or goals. He did that with the Tower of Babel. It was also logistically better for the disciples to be scattered throughout. It may be why production of “The Chosen” is in Utah. After the pandemic, it became clear to me that God is shifting things along these lines. I believe that we’re in that season of change now. Exactly how remains to be seen but as your previous post mentioned, I’ll hold the candle in my hand until He shows me the next step. He won’t start something and not finish it.

    • Carrington Kingsley Reply

      Joel & Michelle,
      What deep & amazing thoughts in your article!! Thank you. I left California for about a year & a half during the pandemic. My business went on hold no clients on offers. I moved to Summerlin, Nevada close to family. When the pandemic lockdown lifted, my California clients (majority of my creative business) began calling me again in droves. I am back in Cali with blessings so overflowing that I’ve had to expand the business. And it keeps on multiplying. I praise for our God for the mountains I’ve had the climb & the valleys I’ve had to experience with Him right with me – before me, behind me & surrounding me – with His armor of light. I am where He leads me if it’s back in Cali presently or another adventurous road outside of the state. As I flourish, I serve Him. As He has me wait, I serve Him. Lessons in life abound in His glory!!

  4. Wendy Wolff Reply

    We have lived in L.A. for quite a few years. There is an expression I have thought about many times. That is,
    “There is a tendency for some people to move to L.A. for what they can gain/ glean from the city, not for
    what they are willing to give/contribute to this city”. I think that this approach nurtures strong independence as well as
    a feeling of transience. I am grateful for those of you who have made L.A. home enough to love this city and be willing to invest
    themselves into the community in one way or another making it a better place for all of us to live!

  5. Mara Reply

    Thank you for being here!

    We live in the San Diego area and don’t make it to LA that often. My daughter and I really enjoyed your hospitality and a conference you held several years ago and the shared experience with other artistic, creative people was priceless!

    We stay in California because of current family responsibilities and my husband is a native…but we sense God’s small, gradual urge in our hearts for a change down the road. Maybe. God has a way of getting our attention when he wants to guide us somewhere.

    • Joel Pelsue Reply

      Mara, that is a great point. Family can play a real role in all this – especially when we have to take care of elderly relatives, or younger relatives who need our support. Thankfully God gives us the strength we need as we rely on him. Always great to hear from you.

  6. Rholan Wong Reply

    Thanks for this timely and helpful article. I comfort myself by affirming that God has called me to Los Angeles. But if He ever changes my call, I’ll move gladly. (Plus, as long as my adult children are here, I’m not going anywhere.)

  7. Andi Mandel Reply

    What a wonderful writer u are. Hope I can read your book soon! Are u going to have book signings?
    Have friends that settled in Nashville several years ago ,Franklin – Brentwood area , very happy but politics changed when LA music industry took over so they moved 3 years ago. Do U thiink that the bottom line here is cost of living? All those taxes! I notice that so many recent movies are from Canada studios….and filmed in south like Where the crawdads sing…a favorite book of mine and now movie.
    The movie business is a topic I enjoy…and art installations. Haha I could go on and on having a conversation with myself!
    Take care dear ones…Andi

    • Joel Pelsue Reply

      Andi,

      Indeed, cost of living has always been a reason people leave L.A. or N.Y.C.

      Movies and TV shows operate in other states, Canada,and Europe because of lower cost and greater tax credits. California still doesn’t get it or they’d back off on new restrictions and taxes.

  8. Martha Reply

    I thought long and hard about leaving and prayed for a few years about it. Ultimately it became an issue of stewardship for me, of time and money.

    I don’t need to be in LA to do what I do, and I still have the professional relationships I cultivated for decades. The lockdown helped steer me, since I spent that time developing even more relationships with creative execs and my fellow writers and directors – on Zoom. These days most first meetings are on Zoom, and follow ups are scheduled far enough out to be able to book a ticket.

    During the lockdown, doing those meetings by Zoom, I realized how much more time I had, not driving back and forth across town. Time to practice my craft, not work on patience in LA traffic ( 🙂 ) I was calmer, and could be more focused on my creative calling. I have been more productive.

    The other issue quite frankly was financial. After spending decades in LA, my available resources did not match what it would cost to stay. I didn’t believe that ‘staying in faith,’ was wise, or that I was being called to do that.

    I spent several months ‘testing the waters,’ in various locations I had been invited to consider. Virginia did not feel like a fit for me, as much as I love horse country. I had my heart set on Charleston, SC until I went there and found closed door after closed door. Finally, I visited Nashville, kicking and screaming (at least in my heart). God opened so many doors, it was unmistakable that this is the place.

    The creative community here is strong, especially as more folks transplant themselves. I’ve run into a lot of people from LA that I know! I’ve also encountered an openness among the folks I’m meeting, and some great churches. It will be hard to land on just one. One of the very exciting things for me, is that there is a growing community, especially of people I used to go to church with, who have all felt called here. We meet and wonder, what is the Lord up to? And here we are, please use us!

    I had struggled for over a year trying to raise the money to continue to make the short films a director needs to do, to move up the ladder. Doors were not opening, money was not coming, and it was frustrating. Here, the cost of living is so much lower, I have already socked away funds towards that next short, if I have time, because…

    Finally, about 10 days ago I was offered not one, but three jobs, after having a long dry spell in LA. I took two of them, and it’s nice to be working again at my craft.

    Relocating might not be for everyone. It was very clear to me that my exit wasn’t an ‘escape,’ but a next step. Come visit!

    • Joel Pelsue Reply

      Martha,

      Thank you for sharing your journey.

      Stewardship is a huge part of this. life in the pandemic and the proliferation of Zoom meetings sure has changed so much. It is so great to hear about open doors for you and great churches for creatives. We have so many friends in common who have also moved to Nashville. Thankfully, we can still connect to all our friends via Zoom, and through our online resource… and we may have to take you up on your offer and come visit some time!

      Blessings.

      • Michael Pitts Reply

        I’m glad you are enjoying Nashville. We relocated to East Tennessee/Knoxville-Oak Ridge, but this is my hometown with family, so it was an easy choice. Nashville has a very strong Christian Art tradition not just Contemporary Christian Music and Gospel (though it is the center of that world), so there is a very supportive community indeed. I can see a blossoming redemptive Film/TV industry arising there along with Atlanta.

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