It’s All about Relationships

Last week, on Canadian actors discussion forum, I was asked to clarify a statement I had made, as it seemed to discourage industry newbies.

Every booking comes from a relationship. Period.

Discouraging information? It shouldn’t be. It is true. And what is also true is that you probably have more relationships in the industry than you recognize.

A fellow casting director once told me that he brings people in for their first auditions with him feeling as though he already knows them. Why wouldn’t he feel that way? By the time he brings an actor in, he may have received that actor’s headshot and resumé dozens of times. He may have a stack of postcards, show flyers, and headshots from that actor. He may have heard the actor’s name from agent pitches, buzz about a show, conversations with other casting directors about who is up-and-coming. The actor may have done a show and the casting director may have attended the first act only, having never picked up a presskit or dropped off a business card, and may have scribbled a note about the actor in the playbill. Since one would never know about any of that, there is no reason to assume that you have no relationships in the industry, just because you haven’t been in a particular office yet.

You’re building relationships every day. With every mailing, every show invitation, every networking event, you are creating and developing relationships that could result in bookings.

A word of caution: you should never go into any relationship expressly with the intention to develop it for the purpose of gaining work. That is the surest way to be considered a climber, a phony Hollywood type, a person with no longevity in the industry. And isn’t it a lifetime of work you’re looking to build? Certainly, if you only want instant gratification bookings and don’t approach your career as a lifetime of work, forget everything I’m saying. But if you have the intention of building a reputation as a consistently working actor, you must acknowledge that you are building a foundation to that end every day.

The book How To Make It In Hollywood by Linda Buzzell is one I read (cover-to-cover) in 1992, long before heading west to pursue my entertainment industry dreams. One of the tactics the author recommends in this book is that you keep an action log of your conversations, meetings, and networking activities. This is to remind you that you are investing in yourself and your career with what may seem like “uneventful” coffees and lunches. When you begin to feel as though you’ve done nothing to move your career forward in a particular week (perhaps because you’ve had no auditions or callbacks that week), take a look at how many people with whom you’ve networked. I don’t mean people who can cast you. I mean people who are in the industry, working.

We’ve all heard the stories about actors who are offered acting jobs without even having to audition, simply because someone involved with the project has worked with a particular actor before (or knows someone who has worked with that actor). That’s no accident. Frequently, there is no time to hold full-scale casting sessions and a few phone calls to actors will get a project cast almost immediately. When we are told we only have a few hours to pull together a cast, casting directors will hit the phones. We’ll call agents and managers whose taste we trust and whose clients have served us well in the past. We’ll call actors we’ve cast before and who always bring great feedback from the directors of the projects in which we’ve cast them. We’ll call acting coaches to say we need someone very specific and need an actor from their classes who matches that criteria and whose skills match those of actors we’ve used from those classes before. We’ll go to our files and call actors who may not even know they have a space in our filing cabinets.

All of these calls start with relationships. Being new does not mean you do not have any relationships. It simply means you are developing relationships and earning a reputation (hopefully) for being low-maintenance on the set, for doing good work, and for being reliably reachable on a moment’s notice.

Need help with creating relationships? Get involved. Join a theatre company, a showcase group, a resource collective of other actors whose interests and ambitions are similar to your own. Attend networking functions, see plays, and take in every freebie event you hear of. And if you’re doing all of that and finding yourself struck with panic over starting conversations or remembering people’s names, get Susan RoAne’s book How To Work a Room and study up on the art of the schmooze. Like it or not, developing relationships is one of the most important elements of getting work in Hollywood. Yes, your craft is important, but in a town where tens of thousands of you are after the same thing, there must also be an emphasis on the development of relationships that could lead to the opportunity to use that craft, publicly.

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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