Web of Trust

In last week’s Your Turn, I mentioned the Web of Trust, in answering a question about preparing for a pitch. Today, I’d like to share a visual with you, which should really help you map out your industry relationships.

My partner Keith Johnson started talking about the Web of Trust years ago, as we began working more and more with actors, who tend to be concerned with the whole “it’s who you know” thing, when it comes to booking acting work. Actors were lamenting the fact that they couldn’t get into a particular casting office because they weren’t repped by a particular agent, and Keith kept breaking it down to its simplest terms: Hollywood operates from a Web of Trust.

Picture in your mind that you’re in the center of what will be a very complexly woven spider web. The strands of spider silk extend from your heart to the heart of every person with whom you come into contact, in this industry (and outside of the industry, but for the purpose of this week’s column, we’ll go with just the biz). The thickness and strength of these strands of spider silk is based on the health of your relationships. It indicates how much trust exists between you and the person to whom you’re connected, with each strand. A newer relationship is going to start with a very thin, very fragile connection. A person with whom you’ve done business for decades gets a very thick, very stable connection.

Can you visualize this? In addition to all the strands that connect you to others, others are connected to one another through their own strands of varying thickness, based on their history, based on their connections.

Great. You see it. A Hollywood that is built on relationships that weave these intricate, fragile, but sometimes very strong connections. Connections that are being reinforced or weakened with every exchange. These connections are easily trackable (here comes that Show Bible stuff, again), if you spend a little time on IMDb-Pro, The Futon Critic’s Devwatch pages, CastingAbout, It’s on the Grid, and of course the trades.

Now, here’s where the Web of Trust gets really cool. Everyone in this business is looking for some introduction to make between two people that, when things go well, makes him look like a rockstar. A CD is looking for the chance to expose a director or producer to a new actor who will rock their world. An agent is looking to sign the hot actor who will be a hit in the casting offices. Writing staffs, production teams, talent reps, casting people, everyone is looking for ways their connections can be strengthened via new connections between others.

Back to the visual Keith loves to share: Let’s say you’re at a networking event hanging out with a director friend, and she’s lamenting the fact that she has not yet found her male lead for a short film that’s shooting the following month. You listen. You ask your friend what sort of actor she’s looking for. You hear the type description and you start thinking of a guy from your acting class. He’s actually exactly what this director is looking for, type-wise, and you believe this actor is talented. You’re about to make a move within your web of trust.

You’re going to take a bit of the spider silk that connects you to your director friend, and a bit of the spider silk that connects you to your classmate, to create a new connection between that director and that actor. Yes, that means that your connection to the director, and your connection to the actor, have both gotten a little more fragile, and that’s because you’ve borrowed from their strands to build a new connection between those folks.

Now, if everything goes well, if your actor friend shows up early, is professional, prepared, the rockstar you know him to be, and he solves your director friend’s problem, that’s awesome. Likewise, if your director friend is a total dream on the set, creates a great work environment, and is prompt with getting awesome-looking footage to the actors who did the work, that’s awesome. These two now have a bond that you helped create. Their webs begin to knit together between their hearts, without you. They’ve started a connection that will continue to build, over time. And you, as the person who created that connection, get that spider silk you loaned to make that connection BACK. Your relationship with each of these people is stronger, because you proved that “your picker” is good. You proved you know good people. You proved you don’t introduce folks to flakes or wannabes.

Let’s take that same introduction and say everything goes wrong. The actor’s a flake, he’s late, he doesn’t know his lines, he sucks. The director’s a diva, she has a horrible attitude, the set’s totally unprofessional, and the whole thing is just a disaster. Oops. Okay, so now, the spider silk you borrowed from each of those relationships is GONE. The two people you introduced have no interest in creating a bond or building together as collaborators, going forward. You don’t get back any of the spider silk that created their connection, and, because the silk was borrowed from your existing relationships, those bonds are now weaker. The director doesn’t trust you the next time you recommend an actor. The actor doesn’t trust you the next time you suggest he work on a particular director’s project.

The Web of Trust is only as strong as the people we connect are GOOD together. Sure, sometimes we misfire. But if, over the years, we consistently put great people together, our Web of Trust is healthy and we regularly hear, “You know so-and-so? Oh! I love her! She’s the best!” because the connections made are GOOD ones.

The Web of Trust is in use when you’re asking for a referral to an agency for possible representation. The Web of Trust is in use when casting directors bring an actor in front of producers for a larger role than the actor may be ready (on paper) to book. The Web of Trust is in use when a manager picks up the phone and says, “You’ve gotta see this new client,” to a casting director. And how well the Web of Trust works hinges upon the strength of those strands of spider silk. A manager who sends a casting office an actor who is late, unprepared, and bitter? That manager will have a harder time getting the next actor through the door. The manager who continues to ONLY send in the very best actors a certain CD has ever seen? Red carpet, baby. That’s a casting office that is wide open to actors within that manager’s Web of Trust.

So, map out your Web of Trust today. Yes, even if all you’ve done are a few indies, some student films, self-produced projects, and a load of training. You have a Web of Trust and you would be crazy to think that some of the folks currently in your circle will have no impact on your future in this business. Sure, a lot of the folks you connect with at the beginning of your career will move along and leave the biz, but others will rise right along with you (or faster than you, or slower than you) for decades. To this day, I do business with people I met in the 1980s in Atlanta, right here in Hollywood. You betcha.

Who, in your Web, is someone for whom you cannot wait to help make something happen? Start looking at your friends and colleagues that way and focus on how you can make connections for others, first. Being a connector between creative collaborators is a beautiful thing! You’ll find people looking for ways to repay the favor in no time. πŸ™‚ Fact.

So… ready to share? Who — when you look at ’em — makes you say, “MAN! I cannot wait to let the rest of the world know you exist?” And for whom are YOU that person? Let’s chat, below! πŸ˜€


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 http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001494.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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