I am new to LA and I have heard a few actor friends tell the disturbing tale that in order to ever get work I must network like a mad woman, attending every quasi-political function and trendy club/party scene that I can find. This does not appeal to me at all, seeing as I am older, very definitely more of a character actress, and committed to the art and business of my craft, not to some banal social scene that I wouldn’t have fit into at 21 (let alone 31). The idea of having to attend these types of functions in the name of furthering my career is pretty damn disturbing, and seems genuinely disingenuous. I have been advised that my reluctance to “network” in this manner will result in the downfall of my life as an artist. Please say it ain’t so!
Bless your heart! I can feel your frustration. Truly. I used to be really BAD at networking. Eleven years ago, when I first came out here (as an actor), I would attend these mixers put on by various trendy Hollywood groups like the ones you’ve described and I’d nervously chat about the weather or laugh inappropriately as others told grand stories of slumming it with celebs in dark clubs. “Oh, I can get you in, if you want to join me!” No, thanks. I’d always leave these events wondering HOW on Earth this sort of thing was helping my career. Sure, I met a scene partner, a gym buddy, a friend-of-a-friend who took me to great parties, and I even learned who could get what stuff for what price. Gotta love Hollywood!
Turns out, it wasn’t that I was BAD at networking (which I was, but I’ll get to that later) I was just attending the wrong types of events. I wonder if you may be doing just that! I had been led to believe that I needed to “see and be seen” at these trendy Hollywood parties in order to move up the ranks of the working actor. Most of that sort of networking is purely social. Do deals get made in that “scene” sometimes? Sure! But more deals happen over lunch, in offices, over the phone, or via email. So, connect with folks at trendy gatherings if you’re the type who cares to go to such things. And, if you’re the type who prefers non-Hollywood schmoozefests, take heart! There’s plenty of networking going on in “your style.”
I’ve found it’s best to gravitate toward the groups that match your own way of doing business. If you’re into guest speakers and regular luncheons, join Women In Film or the Creative Actors Alliance. If you prefer meeting people after a screening and/or lecture, get in on the regular SAG Conversations, SAG Liferaft seminars, Writers Guild Foundation events, or Writers Bloc gatherings. If you haven’t already done so, apply to join the SAG Conservatory (PDF). Want to invest in your own power group and attend regular industry guest talks? Join The Actors’ Network or The Flash Forward Institute. Need an online support group? Google up the terms that apply to your kind of needs and sign up! Get posting! If you prefer to mix regular staged readings of works-in-progress with your networking, get involved with Naked Angels’ Tuesdays @9, Drama Garage, ArtistSalon, Screenplay Workshops, or Screenwriters, Inc. (a division of the Filmmakers Alliance). In fact, if you are a budding filmmaker yourself, also check into Group 101 Films, Indie Club, and IO West’s Video Circus. Heck, if you’re in an acting class or a member of a local theatre company, those are regularly-meeting networking groups waiting to happen! And if quarterly is more than enough networking for you, come on over to Hollywood Happy Hour on January 4, 2005. We always have a blast (and it’s way casual).
It is so important to find the scene that suits you best mainly because that is going to be the scene that attracts others like you in their personality and business style. And those are the folks you’d want to work with anyway. OF COURSE it’s uncomfortable to schmooze with people so unlike you that you wouldn’t even recognize one another’s lives! And THAT ENVIRONMENT makes it seem as though you may be BAD at networking. Or, perhaps, you actually are! I sure was. But I did something about that. I made it a goal to constantly surround myself with the best people I knew. And, any time I stood in a room where two of the best people I knew didn’t know each other, I’d make sure to introduce them and get them talking. In fact, Hollywood Happy Hour came about specifically because my co-host and I love getting the most talented, wonderful people we know together. And THAT is what networking should be!
Do you have to network in order to “make it” in Hollywood? I think so. But I think “networking” needs a broader definition than you’re applying. Most jobs come from great relationships. Relationships can begin anywhere, but they have to begin. Networking sets that in motion.
I hope you’ll join us on the 4th. Good luck finding the scene that fits you!
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000148.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.