Artistic and creative careers are among the most rewarding, but they also come with unique challenges. We asked some of the city’s best creatives to tell us why they choose to pursue a creative career.

Shahine Ezell | Writer, Director & Actor

When I was a freshman in High School, I booked my first professional acting job. It was an original play about a young kid that left gang banging because of his new found love for music. After opening night, a young kid came up to me and told me he was going to change his life because of the play. It was that moment that I knew I could reach more people through anything else. Read more>>

Danielle Lawson | Concept Artist & Creator

Growing up my mom always encouraged me to draw, and peruse arts as well as my teachers friends and family. They saw it was something I enjoyed and was gifted in. I recognized it as a talent once I got in school, I found myself consistently seeking out fun artistic opportunities and being volunteered for creative projects. I enjoyed every moment from decorating for the seasons as child to illustrating my own attractions and theme parks as a college student. From there I made the decision to pursue my passion full time, and ultimately get paid for bringing my ideas into reality. Read more>>

A.W. “Tony” Scott | Writer & Director

I was very involved in music, drama, writing and photography when I was young, including being a semi-professional musician in high school and college, which I absolutely loved. But I could not see a way to make any of those career paths work nearly as well financially compared to the paths I could take in business. So, I ultimately gave up all of those with the idea that maybe one day I’d get back in the arts for my own enjoyment later in life. After the downturn of 2008, I moved to Napa, and not long after my life partner Jean Su (who is also the co-creator of most of my projects and now producing partner) bought a house in downtown Napa – a house where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard lived while she was filming a movie in Napa – “They Knew What They Wanted”, the first Napa film festival happened. Read more>>

Takeshi Nakamura | Floral Designer & Florist Owner

I pursued an artistic and creative career because I always saw art as a way to connect with the world and the people around me. I use my artistic abilities to communicate and send messages through my unique floral arrangements and I always find that this method never fails to speak the right words. Flowers always send a message of love, hope. and positivity and I think that is so powerful. One example is an annual tradition Angeluck, Inc. does, where we design and send a beautiful, large floral arrangement to Michael Jackson’s burial site to show our true love and appreciation for him and his music that we always have for him, even after his tragic death. We usually create these arrangements to send not only the love and respect from us, but from the many fans from Japan as well, that ask for a place for their name and message on the arrangement itself. Read more>>

Ana Gómez Villafañe | Visual Artist

I don’t think I had to make a choice, in the sense that I never gave it a second thought, nor did I ever feel I had to choose. I was born and raised in a small town in Patagonia, Argentina. Most of my early memories of childhood are of me spending time in nature, drawing, and observing the world around me with a curious eye. In a way, it just came naturally. But I also think my environment played a big role in developing that creative inclination as I grew up, and by the time I was off to College it was very clear that if I didn’t spend my adult life pursuing some career path in the arts, I would not feel connected to myself. Read more>>

Serkan Altinoz | Artist

Honestly for so long I didn’t think that one day I am going to be a full time artist. I grew up in an artist family. My father is a musician and also he is a paper marbling artist. So when I was 8-9 years old, I started learning the secret of this ancient art form with my dad and also I practiced several musical instruments. But all those things was just a hobby to me, only thing i knew about myself was I like to discover, learn new things and work with my hands, After the high school I thought “logically’ and said to myself that you can have totally different degree and keep the art as a hobby, And I decided to have a bachelor degree on economics. It was not that easy as I thought. During my university years I got much more into arts and music than my economy classes. Read more>>

Cory Nixon | Director, Producer & Creative Director

I’ve ALWAYS wanted to pursue a creative career. When I was younger I wanted to be an actor. However, I never wanted to be typecast. The characters that I did see I didn’t relate to and often existed only to supply comedic relief. I didn’t see people like myself playing the roles I would have wanted to play. I grew out of wanting to act and into creating my own stories. I wanted to control the narrative and being behind the camera allows me to do that. If you want something done right, I guess you have to do it yourself. Read more>>

Erin Remington | Art Curator

For me I find art and creativity in everything. As an art curator, bringing together the visual and storytelling is essential in my life. As a kid I have always enjoyed art and creativity. Read more>>

Desi Houghton | Hair Stylist

I got interested in aesthetics at a young age, I would hair model for Toni and Guy as they used to have an academy in Long Beach. I was about 13. I knew I was meant for the arts and was torn between beauty or fashion. Coming from a single parent home, beauty school funded through Pell grants made it attainable. I was fortunate to graduate both high school and beauty school by 18. Being able to start my career so young and debt free was truly an advantage. Read more>>

Kitten Kuroi | Singer & Songwriter

It’s been a calling on my life ever since childhood, honestly. I’ve been singing and performing for family, friends and my childhood church:s choir since I was a kid. I just didn’t know untilI was well out of college that I could actually make a career out of it. In college, I would sing for everyone and anyone. I had internships with massive entertainment organizations like MTV, BET, VH1 and top PR Firms and sing my rendition of Happy Birthday to the executives, with the hopes someone would “discover” me. In 2007, I sang Happy Birthday on the answering machine for one of my friends from High School, just to be sweet. Not too long after, she called me to tell me she’d thrown my name into the ring as a potential background singer for Natasha Bedingfield. I ended up touring with Natasha for about 2 years. That call changed my life. Read more>>

Jonathan Pollock | Founder

Back in 2011, I left the corporate world and founded Ciao Andiamo–a boutique travel company specialized in insider journeys to Italy. After an MBA from Harvard Business School and 8 years in corporate America–with roles in finance, and marketing–I was ready for meaningful change. So, I gave my two weeks notice, and took a leap of faith on a passion project I hoped to evolve into a business that could withstand the test of time. My connection with Italy traces back to my high school days, when I first started learning Italian language. I kept up with it in college, and was inspired to study abroad in the small town of Sesto Fiorentino, just outside of Florence. The experience was transformational. I fell in love with all things Italian: the people, the culture, the natural beauty, traditions, and cuisine. Read more>>

Andrew Gabriel | Actor

Up until my junior year of high school, I was very much like most guys my age. My life was pretty routine and organized with school, family functions, and sports, which I enjoyed a great deal. I was a baseball player and I traveled a lot to play in tournaments and showcases. Besides school and baseball, I didn’t have much time to explore many other interests of mine. My junior year found me taking Theatre for the third year in a row as an elective that I enjoyed, but didn’t take too seriously. That year, however, changed my opinion as I was strongly encouraged to take acting classes and I got involved with a local improv troupe. Within a year, I was signing with an agency in Los Angeles and was seriously considering moving out there from the only home I knew in North Carolina. Read more>>

Susan Carter Hall | Artist & Designer

My grandmother was an artist and I grew up in the town she lived in. We were always making art – drawing, paintings, sculptures (she had a kiln) at her home. As well, the elementary and high schools I attended also had great art teachers, so I can with most certainty say I chose a creative career because it was encouraged from a young age. That and non creative workplaces frighten me. Read more>>

Megan Rose Ruiz | Visual Development Artist &Illustrator

I think a lot of my ambition comes from naivety. I made the decision to go to art school when I was 17. I was far too young to understand what choosing this career path would mean. I was idealistic. Growing up in a small town, I didn’t have a lot of resources. The difficulty of making a living off of being an artist completely flew over my head. All I needed to do was work hard, go to college, and that would make it easy to become a professional artist, or so I thought. No one ever sat me down to explain that my dream was near impossible. I didn’t have any financial support for my education. College, for me, essentially meant gaining a lifetime of debt. Because I was young and naive, I figured I might as well be doing something I love if it would cost me so much. Math and science bored me. Normal career skills didn’t come as easily to me. All I wanted to do was create. Read more>>

Justin Marmorstein | Music Video Director

It all started in Jr. High/High School when my aunt would send me to film camps during the summer (Stanford summer film program, New York Film Academy) . It all came together Sophomore year in high school when I was taking Spanish class and I was failing the class. For extra credit I was able to make videos speaking Spanish . I ended up doing all the projects by making funny Spanish videos which ended up getting me so much extra credit I passed with a C-. During this time I would come home after school and watch music videos on MTV’s TRL. My dream was to make a music videos that would show up on TRL. I love expressing myself through videos and by creating music videos it gives me a freedom to express myself. I have been wanting to be a Music Video director since 2004 and my passion and love has only gotten stronger ever since. Read more>>

Shaun Piccinino | Film & Television Director

This is of course a loaded question and one not so easily answered… But I believe at the route of why I pursue and continue to pursue an artistic and creative career has to do with fulfillment. Ever sense I was a young kid I found bringing a smile to someone’s face was the most fulfilling experience. To bring them joy and happiness even for the briefest of moments also brought me joy and happiness. This has transcended through out my life from the theater and stage to sitting in the audience during a premiere for one of my films. Beyond that the creative process has always stimulated my brain receptors to fire on all cylinders from the writing process to overcoming obstacles on set during production to racking my brain to solve an issue in the editing bay. The entire process of movie making is equal parts challenging, exhilarating, satisfying and ultimately fulfilling. Read more>>

Hilda Weiss | Poet &Curator

I didn’t start with an artistic or creative career. Poetry.LA fell into my lap as a project. It snuck up on me. I was writing poetry, going to poetry readings, and performing my pieces. At one event, a poet friend handed her still camera to my partner/boyfriend, Wayne Lindberg, and asked him to take some photos. That got Wayne thinking! And I want to give a huge shout out to Wayne because he came up with the project which became www.Poetry.LA. That was 2007. YouTube was only about a year old and Facebook didn’t host videos yet. But Wayne thought videos of poets in performance posted to YouTube could be exciting. With his video experience and my poetry connections, we got started. Redondo Poets at Coffee Cartel in Redondo Beach welcomed us with some trepidation at first (which has turned into enthusiasm over the years—shout out to Jim Doane, host of the series) to videotape poets at their open mic series. Read more>>

Jarae Holieway | Multi-Hyphenated Creative & Creative Powerhouse

Honestly, I couldn’t imagine myself not working without an element of creativity involved in my career. I’ve been passionate about the arts since I was a kid, and think it’s really important to show the youth that you can have a creative career and be successful! I’ve been working since I was 16, and held an array of jobs over the last 11 years… I got bored so fast with work that wasn’t fulfilling nor creative. So this just felt so natural to me! By taking this route I knew it would involve a lot of patience, and persistence, it’s truly been a labor of love. Read more>>

Josh Baum | Animator

My fascination with animation started as a little boy while watching movies like Toy Story and The Iron Giant. I remember sitting on the couch amazed and engulfed in the idea that a “cartoon” could show such emotions and movement. I must have watched those movies over 50 times, and I am still in awe of it. I started doing art when I was very young, but didn’t actually realize it. Creating with playdough, building with blocks, building snowmen, drawing characters, and creating believable world for my toys to play. I was a quiet kid and making and drawing for me was the only thing I was happy doing. I always had to be doing something hands on or creative. I always was doing a project and thinking of what project I was going to do next. Growing up and watching all the classic Disney/Pixar movies and going to Walt Disney World inspired me to become an artist. Read more>>