What makes us Atlantans

The SoCal native who sought a more affordable way to live

Monica Bermudez
Bermudez lives in Grant Park.

Photograph by Johnathon Kelso

Monica Bermudez
Age 26
Executive producer’s assistant and filmmaker

After five years of working in the film and TV industry in Los Angeles, I needed a change of scenery. I drove out here in mid-February 2019, so I’ve been here almost a year.

I had never really spent time in the South. I have grandparents, aunts, and uncles in Fort Lauderdale, but that’s not really the South. I was open to going somewhere that wasn’t a big city, like New York, where it’s super expensive. In the production world, the best references you can get are from coworkers. And I’d heard a lot of people talking about the work going on here and how it was a really nice city.

It’s a wild city—the trees and nature. I come from Southern California where everything is brown, burnt, and dry. Going to a city that’s lush, untamed—that’s attractive to me. I was tremendously shocked and in love that it only took me 15 minutes to get anywhere. It took me 90 minutes to commute one way in Los Angeles.

Before I moved, I talked to a director who was living out here who said Atlanta is a place where you can redefine yourself. In the film industry, say you want to go from a PA to a director of photography. Or from a camera operator to a director. Atlanta seems like the kind of city where you can grow pretty quickly if you make the right move and focus on your development.

I like to say Atlanta’s a hidden gem. Some people will have heard of Atlanta, the TV show, or as the place where OutKast is from, but they never had a reason to come to Atlanta. But once you’re here, if you fall into a group of people you like, it’s definitely charming, and you get why people like the city.

My housemate, Jill Frank, is a photographer and professor, and she opened up her world to me. I’ve been able to see the city through that spectrum of creativity. I wanted a place where I could experiment and see what I can do on my own. Atlanta is definitely a DIY city where people are making their own art and their own scenes. There’s a wide and supportive community of people exploring that side of themselves.

It’s a city built upon pockets of little communities. That’s familiar to me in the sense that Los Angeles is a city with little microscopic towns inside it. I could drive through and say, this looks like a party part of town, like Edgewood Avenue. Then, you hit Midtown.

It’s easy to have fun here. My friend Graham is in the music scene. He invited me to a party at his place, where I met another musician who invited me to his house show. There, I met my friend Madeline. That’s not easy to do in a bigger city. In L.A., you go to a bar and only talk to people you came with.

I don’t have an end date to my stay here. I’ve been lucky to keep working and staying employed. I actually got my Georgia driver’s license two weeks ago. I have to get plates for my car now. I’m totally committed! I can vote!

In the industry, you can work distant locations, which means the company will pay you to be in Arkansas for six months, or Savannah. I’m actually looking for that kind of work. I want to spend some time in New Mexico. But I’m not trying to leave anytime soon.

Getting my driver’s license, that was the moment—ah, I’m here. That’s the legal moment. But last November, my housemate and other Atlanta artists had a huge show here called PROJECT. Going to that made me feel I had a community where I’m comfortable and can say, “This is the city, and look at what this city is doing. You’ve come and proven yourself in the way you wanted to those nine or 10 months ago.” I produced a short film, Lady Justice, in January in Los Angeles, and that made its way to Atlanta a few weeks ago to the Georgia Shorts Film Festival. I wanted to replant myself, cross-pollinate, and grow, and I think I’ve done that.