‘When it rains in Los Angeles, I run out on the balcony. You’d miss a bit of rain’

Wild Geese: Jordan Lawlor moved to LA last year to work in the entertainment business

Jordan Lawlor always wanted to work in the film industry. Just like the lead character in the film Cinema Paradiso, he worked as a projectionist at his local cinema before his career took off.

“It gave me an insight into the business from an early age and I knew what I wanted to do after finishing my Leaving Cert.”

Originally from Clondalkin, Lawlor and his family moved to Sallins in Co Kildare, where he went to school. "I was working at the Odeon in Newbridge part-time during my school years and started full-time as soon as I left school in 2010. It was a great way to start off in film."

After six years at the Odeon, Lawlor decided to move to Vancouver – a hub of film and TV production. "My goal was always LA, but Vancouver was so welcoming and the Canadian work visa was easy to come by."

Costing about €300 at the time, the visa allowed Lawlor to find work in the entertainment business.

“I got my first job on a Warner Brothers show. I went for an interview with a producer who gave me a chance, even though I was inexperienced. I had researched Vancouver and knew it was a popular choice for production companies but I didn’t fathom how many productions would be filmed there. There were around 55 productions happening at the same time. The city seemed to be one big movie set.”

Lawlor says the day to day regime of a production includes many moving parts. “You often do 15-hour days. I was managing and maintaining budgets, doing script breakdowns, taking care of copyright clearance and co-ordinating post-production.

“There’s always a lot going on and logistically it can be intense as you never know what’s going to happen next. Once there was a wild bear on set, another time there was a fire. It was crazy stuff.”

Lawlor found work as an associate producer on the Netflix show The Midnight Club and as an associate producer on A Million Little Things for ABC during his five years in Vancouver. Then Covid-19 happened.

“I was working on the Netflix show Midnight Mass and it was the first big-budget show to get back up and running after Covid-19. The shows were all looking at us to see how working during a pandemic would pan out. We needed an entirely new infrastructure, Covid-19 trainers and masks all day every day. But we got it together, like everyone else, and just got on with things.”

Despite loving life in Vancouver with his girlfriend, who also works in the entertainment business, by the summer of 2021 Lawlor was ready for the move to Los Angeles.

“LA was always on my radar. Vancouver offered valuable experience and I really enjoyed my time there. The city is fantastic, and you get four seasons in incredible surrounding landscape.”

O1 visa

In August 2021, he and his girlfriend moved to Los Angeles as per both of their career plans. "We went for the O1 visa for individuals with extraordinary ability in sciences, art and education. I had been told you need Oscars and Grammys to get it, but it was pretty straightforward."

Lawlor found work in the area of script clearance before finding a production role with a show on Apple TV+. "I made lots of connections in Canada, so I did lots of networking when I landed. Los Angeles is the city for it.

"We were lucky to find a place to live between Studio City and North Hollywood. It's near Universal Studios and West Hollywood. Rental prices dropped during Covid-19, and we managed to move in during that small window to find a reasonably priced apartment with a roof terrace. Needless to say, prices have gone up again since.

“I also have family and friends here too who work in the industry, so the landing here was very smooth.”

Lawlor says LA traffic is the only downside to his life in California. "Friends live so far away. It can take hours to get there with traffic, so you can't just go out for a swift pint like in Vancouver or Dublin. You really need a car in Los Angeles. Public transport makes it so difficult to get around. But we're not far from West Hollywood and, if I go out, we'll go to the Comedy Store.

“California weather is a reason to love Los Angeles but funnily enough, as much as I love the sunshine, when it rains, I run out on the balcony. I never thought you’d miss it but, when it’s not there any more, you’d miss a bit of rain.”

Lawlor says Los Angeles suits his personality and he has been well received there as his concise plans for the future impressed employers along with his career path. “I tell potential employers where I want to be in 15 years’ time and I’ve had people take a gamble on me as a result of it.

“I want to have my own production company and make big decisions on big productions. I also really want to start making my own movies and working on projects. I think people here are very open to collaborations and I have lots of family who are involved in the business. As far as my ambitions go, it’s safe to say, I’m in the right place for them.”