How to Relocate and Keep Working

Posted on: Feb 02, 2023

Boxes and car of a film production employee who's chosen to relocate to another state while still being able to work in his field.Photo Credit: SeventyFour / iStock

By Michael Roberts

Let me guess, you moved to New York City or Los Angeles so you could break into the TV or film industry. You’ve carved out a career, but your rent is astronomical and you’re living with three roommates who are all waiting for the one shared bathroom while your significant other is pooping. Your friends from your hometown own a home, have a kid and travel to Aruba every winter. You can’t ever leave the city because you won’t be able to work in your hometown let alone some other fantasy location that actually has grass, trees and affordable housing. Well, dear reader, I am here to tell you that you can. 


I’m a docu-reality editor who lived and worked in NYC for 12 years and LA for 2 years before relocating to North Carolina. My wife and I just bought a house, had a baby, and guess what? I’m working more than ever. 


How did I do it? I’m going to tell you, but I’m also going to share some of the downsides because I loved living in NYC and LA. The food, the culture and the energy can’t be matched in suburbia. But with the crushing weight of the economy and your biological clock ticking away, you may be ready to make the move. Here are my top tips.


1. Shore Up Your Network

Make a Rolodex, spreadsheet, or iPhone note with a list of everyone you’ve worked with. Put down their name, position, email address, phone number and what project you worked on with them. You never know when someone will be useful so you really should put down as many contacts as possible.


I try to focus on people who have hiring power, this includes executive producers, showrunners, and department heads. But don’t forget those people in lower roles as they’re often asked for recommendations and who knows when they’ll get a promotion where they need to hire.

2. Favor Companies that are committed to remote work

If you’re moving from a production hub to a smaller market, you won’t have many, if any, local production companies to work for. This means you’re 100% remote. Hybrid jobs are out the window, so you need to do some investigating to find out if the company you work for is dedicated to staying remote in the future. Talk to people who might know if they’re renewing their office lease. Is your supervisor floating a return to the office? Even if it’s just a couple of days a week, they’re unlikely to stay remote for long. 


If the company has no plans to return to the office, you’ll want to work with them over another company that might pay more or has a more interesting gig that is clearly motivated to go back to the office. 


Before burning any bridges, double-check with your current employer to see if they will allow you to work remotely if you were to relocate. You never know unless you ask.


3. Make Yourself Irreplaceable


No one can say for sure what the future of the industry is going to look like, so I can’t guarantee that your job is going to stay remote forever. But I can guarantee that if you kick ass at your job, your supervisor will not want to replace you. 


As a supervising editor on multiple network series, I help decide who to hire and who not to bring back for our next season. If you make my life easier, I don’t care where you live. You could work from the moon, and I’d be fighting for you to keep your job if you do it well. 


Everyone, no matter how high on the totem pole, wants a team they can trust below them.  Work hard, be dependable and you’ll keep getting calls for more work, no matter what time zone you’re in.


4. Be OK with making less money

If you don’t have relationships with multiple remote production companies, it might mean working fewer weeks per year. You may have to take some down weeks here and there until you have a bevy of remote gigs. This is not as much of an issue when you live in a part of the country with a lower cost of living. Outside of metropolitan areas, housing is more affordable, coffee isn’t a luxury item, and avocado toast doesn’t induce overdraft fees. 


There are different expenses when living outside of major cities. Public transportation is non-existent. You’ll actually have space for furniture in your home. So, while you’ll see savings over time, you may need some funds upfront for a car or something bigger than a full-size bed. The key is to keep living within your means and maintain a budget.


5. Spend time on your resume

Make sure your resume, cover letter, Staff Me Up profile, website and portfolio are always up to date and show you in the best light. With over 12 years in the industry, I use my network to get a lot of my jobs, but I’m still constantly applying to jobs on Staff Me Up. The people on these gigs are who become my new network as old connections fade. 


If you’re not constantly drumming up new business, you’re losing business. Production companies shut down, series get canceled, and people you’ve worked with leave the industry. Keep applying and always try to improve how you are presenting yourself.


6. Don’t be afraid

The biggest thing keeping me in NYC for years after I was ready to leave was the fear of losing out on jobs. You just have to be ok with the risk. The truth is it may not work out. But the good news is you can always move back. Moving isn’t fun, but it isn’t permanent. Take a chance and get started with the life that you want. I wish you luck.


Docu-reality editor Michael Roberts at home working on a new movie or tv show.

Michael Roberts is a docu-reality editor. He recently worked on Bravo’s ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta’ and served as the Supervising Editor of HGTV’s ‘Battle On The Beach’.


Looking for your next entertainment industry job? Staff Me Up has thousands of behind-the-scenes production jobs that you can apply for today.

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