Clay grad finds Hollywood nicheWritten by Michael Stainbrook | | email@example.com
Many burgeoning visual and performing artists make the trip to the City of Angels, but only a select few grow their own wings upon arrival. A local man managed to do just that when he made the cross-country trek three years ago.
Nick Amrhein, a 23-year-old Clay High School graduate and lifelong resident of Oregon, drove to Los Angeles to pursue his passions of photography and video and found a place among some of the biggest names in the media industry. He has since returned to Northwest Ohio and now runs his own media company. But it didn’t start out so easily.
“I worked at Marco’s Pizza and worked my butt off and saved money just to buy this camera,” he said, referring to his Sony VX-2000 camcorder, his first piece of video recording equipment. The first camera he used for photography was a Pantax that took black-and-white photos.
During his freshman year at Owens Community College, Amrhein found out he was diabetic. It was a discovery he did not make until it was almost too late. A normal blood/glucose level should remain below 180 milligrams per deciliter in diabetic adults, according to the American Diabetes Association. Amrhein’s blood sugar topped 1,000.
“It was pretty gnarly,” he said. “The doctor told me if I showed up an hour later, I might not be here today. That really persuaded me to take actions and follow my dream.”
Amrhein had wanted to go to Los Angeles ever since he began skateboarding at age 13, but it was not until a friend came back to Northwest Ohio that his dream became was realized. A high school friend, Mico Montes, had returned to Toledo but was planning a trip back to the West Coast. Amrhein saw this as the perfect opportunity to act on his aspirations.
“I decided to go out there together and give it a shot,” he said.
The duo’s trip was anything but luxurious. Amrhein drove to L.A. in a Honda Civic with 200,000 miles and with just $1,000. He spent several hundred dollars on gas and didn’t have a steady job waiting for him when he arrived.
“We lived in Orange County for about a month couch surfing,” he said. “For the first couple months out there I survived on peanut butter and jelly, just barely scraping by.”
Amrhein networked with photographers he met and began earning $50 for assisting with small-scale photo shoots. Eventually he, Montes and a third friend found a one-bedroom apartment 15 miles north of Downtown Los Angeles. Amrhein and Montes shared the bedroom, and their friend slept in the kitchen. It cost each of them $375 a month.
Amrhein then found two jobs, one as a hotel worker and the other at a Los Angeles clothing store. He continued this line of work for the better part of a year, but then he realized his dreams were not being fulfilled.
“I kind of took grasp of why I’m really out here,” he said. “I’m not able to pursue what I came out here for.”
That was when he caught his first big break. While working at the clothing store, Amrhein noticed a very fashionable customer.
“There was a guy — he had a crazy style — walking in the store,” he said.
Amrhein was the cashier on duty, and he noticed signs that the customer might be a photographer from the images on his credit card. The man proved to be Jim Jordan, who does photography for some of the best-known magazines in the country. Not much time later, Amrhein was helping out with photo shoots for Vogue.
“After that it was like, ‘this is it,’” he said. “I ended up leaving both jobs and started doing freelance photography at that point.”
Amrhein went on to photograph and shoot video of a number of celebrities, including professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdrek, Pete Wentz (Fall Out Boy), West Coast Customs and Guns N’ Roses. He wound up with a photography internship with Loyalty Creative and moved to within a block of the beach. He made some extra money by working at a Mexican restaurant.
“People started recognizing some of my work in L.A.,” he said. “Being there for three years, I felt I got a grip on what L.A. was about and what the industry was like.”
Amrhein’s internship ended when Loyalty Creative had to make cuts. At that point, he decided to come back to Toledo.
“I was just kind of worn out. I wanted to be with my friends and my family and kind of take in all that I’d done.”
Since returning, Amrhein has worked on starting his own studio to expand his company, 3byOne Media. 3byOne operates out of Toledo and Los Angeles; he still makes regular trips to the West Coast.
Amrhein reconnected with the local skateboarding community and helped start the group 4 Down 4 Life. The group meets weekly and uses Toledo-area skate parks to build community. Local skate shops sponsor the group.
“I was the guy who was always taking photos at the skate park,” he said. “Now that [my friends] are older too they’re really supportive of me.”
“Skateboarding will always be in your blood no matter how busy you get or how busy you will be.”