It's pretty common to hear people complain about Los Angeles. Truthfully, the first three years I moved here from New York City, all I could hear was myself, complaining. From the hours spent in traffic to the often vapidness of the entertainment industry, it seems like everyone has an axe to grind. But strange enough, this New Yorker started to like, then love, my new city. And now all I hear is my voice telling all my friends in NYC to "make the move already!" (see Moby's confessional) I knew I was a goner when I laughed loudly and knowingly at a new webseries, Only in HelLA, from filmmaker Rory Uphold, an actual, rare LA native.
Only in HelLA explores the ups and downs of living in the city of angels through sarcasm and schadenfreude. Uphold spoke with me about growing up in LA, her clothing line and the show's viral success.
You grew up in Los Angeles and have described the show as your "love/hate letter to the city" and I think a lot of people can relate to that. What do you love the most about LA and what do you hate the most? I think LA is what you make of it, which can be extremely hard when you first move here. For me, LA is a collection of incredibly talented people who inspire, support and challenge me. LA is my ramen crew, it's game night in a friends back yard in January, it's getting together to watch the latest episode of Orphan Black, and it's watching my friends successfully following their dreams. That being said, it took a minute to get to where I'm at now... LA is also the place where I've been robbed, where I've been cheated on and lied to, where I've been told I'm not good enough, not pretty enough, not funny enough, you name it. It's a city of opportunity which means there are lots of opportunists, and lots of dream killers, and that blows. But all of that is considerably less funny than some of the day-to-day idiosyncrasies of a city driven by kale and sunshine.
LA is very much a character in the show. Was there a specific moment where you decided to write a series focusing on the city? Yeah, it was two things... One, I felt like it got suuuuper trendy to hate on LA. Not that it's ever not trendy to hate on us, but I felt like there was a surge on sites like buzzfeed and LA Weekly (see link). And simultaneously, I realized that all of the shows I was watching, both on TV and the web, (Girls, Louie, Broad City, Srsly, Curbed, The Mindy Project, etc.) were all based in NYC... I wanted to show LA from my own POV. Plus, HelLA is a pretty sick title, so I had to do something with it.
What sort of insight into the city do you think being an LA native gives you? I've seen it from all ages... It's kind of like when I saw Clueless for the first time in elementary school and I loved it, but I never really got the jokes till I was older. Well, I've grown up with LA, and I loved it, but the older I get the more humor I find in this city. Plus, I don't need GPS. Baller.
Being the center of the film industry, LA is probably one of the most depicted locations in entertainment. What makes Only in HelLA different? Considerably less zeros... and a lot less bureaucracy. I don't have anyone telling me what's going to sell or appeal to people. This is my version of LA, a series of snapshots from sarcastic point of view. Above all, I hope that it reads as authentic, because that's the most important thing to me as an artist, as an actor or a filmmaker. I'm not really concerned with being "different" I'm concerned with being authentic. I hope that answers your question.
What's your favorite neighborhood in LA? I grew up in Hermosa Beach, so it's always going to be home. I feel a strong sense of ownership there: I walked to school everyday on the greenbelt, I've been eating at the same Mexican restaurant for as long as I can remember, I went to pre-school with Patrick of Patrick Molloy's (on the pier), and I sold Girl Scout Cookies in front of the same grocery store that my mother still shops at.
Can you walk us through a perfect day in LA? Sleep in. Grab a coffee at Handsome Roasters on my way to the LA gun range, followed by brunch and bloody mary's at Little Dom's. Kick it with my friends, hanging out in someone's yard. End the night with Ramen and X Lanes in Little Tokyo or a concert at the Hollywood Bowl.
Where in LA would you not be caught dead? El Coyote, Chick-Fil-A, anywhere that's openly opposed opposed to Gay Marriage. Also, Rodeo Drive... major yuck.
The first two episodes have passed a million views on youtube and funny or die-- what do you think has caused the show's viral success? I've been asked this a lot... and the truth is, I'm an actor and a filmmaker, not a media/marketing person, so the answer is, I don't know. But I worked really hard to make videos that would make people laugh and I tried to do it in two minutes or less. I think I was successful with "Shopping in LA..." The support that I received from friends, tweeting about it and sharing it on Facebook really helped get us to the first 5k.. Around the 10K mark I got a message on Youtube saying that, "Le Reddit Army is here.." which meant nothing to me at the time. I was like, "cool". But a couple hours, and 100K views later, I was fully aware of Reddit and its incredible power.
What's your hope with the Only in HelLA clothing line? Any plans to expand it in the future? Hopefully people will want to wear it! I just thought it was a great way to help cross-promote and brand myself as well as the series. I think that when your'e creative, you can't limit yourself and sometimes that means coming out with your own line of apparel.... I also have a really cool limited edition shirt that I designed that's coming out exclusively for the kickstarter at the end of February. I'm really excited about it...
What's next for you? More content for the web, another season of HelLA, or a return to film or music? I'm working on season 2 of HelLA and shooting my second short film Our Secret. For now, I'm focused on acting and filmmaking, but then again, it's LA, anything could happen.
New episodes of Only in HelLA air every Tuesday at www.OnlyInHelLA.com. You can find the series on facebook at www.facebook.com/OnlyInHelLA or follow them on twitter @OnlyInHelLA.