[2021 Release, Los Angeles]  ~~  There I was at a networking event in Beverly Hills. Lots of people milling around, hoping for their chance to meet someone who could do something for their career — like give them a job or option their screenplay. I didn’t want to be there, but part of doing business in Hollywood is ya gotta get out and meet people!

Plus the event was put on by a friend of mine — and another thing we gotta do is support our friends’ events — so there I was. The events by my friend are always great, but you know… you gotta get ready and get yourself in a good happy space and so on, and I wasn’t in the mood for it.

But I went anyway.

Since I was not in a super talkative mood, I decided this would be a night of listening… listen, listen, and more listening. Although to get myself into a listening situation, I did have to take the initiative to actually go there, and then once I was there, I then had to gently and smoothly insert myself into a circle of people talking… and then engage a little bit. And so I did.

I walked over to a circle of 4 or 5 younger-ish women and just kind of squiggled myself into the circle and listened. Every once in a while I asked a question of one of the people talking, to get them to say more about the thing they were talking about… and sometimes I made a small comment about some aspect of it that I could relate to… but I never took over the conversation telling stories about myself. I simply engaged with whatever they said.

When I saw an opportunity, I probably threw in a small phrase in passing, like “I work with actors, and I hear [that] a lot. A number of my actor clients have been telling me lately they’ve been having trouble with [xyz] a lot more than in the past, too.” 

 I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I do remember it was true. If the gals there were interested, they could ask me what I do and I would tell them then. And that would be a way better opening than “HEY! I help Actors Get Agents! or I help Screenwriters get their scripts to production companies…. and a BLAH BLAH BLAHTY Blah!” 

And just about that time something happened…

This moment alone made my time there worth every minute!

I had been standing in this circle for at least 20 minutes by then, when an attractive woman walked up and interrupted our conversation. She shoved a long arm inside the circle with a handful of business cards and loudly pronounced, “Hey, I don’t want to interrupt you guys, but here are my business cards. I’m an actress if you want to call me. Thanks.” Then she blessed us each with her business card by quickly passing one to each and every one of us… and then she disappeared into the next circle over.

I then smiled to myself and said PERFECT!  This is why I came.  It was so I could Forever After have a REAL LIVE EXAMPLE of EXACTLY what NOT TO DO in networking.

This was the perfect example of the Worst Possible Way to network if you are for real.  She would be the last person in the room I would want to work with, because her personality spoke volumes about what it might be like. She was completely oblivious to how she came across and had no interest whatsoever in anyone else.

Don’t be that girl. Don’t barge into a group of people, force them to take your card, then shoo them off, as you walk off into the sunset none-the-wiser about the disdainful looks you are then getting.

Instead, you need to try to get to know people… at least a little bit!  You don’t need to become best friends with them and you don’t have time to. In fact, sometimes if you get too close to someone, it becomes awkward to ask to be part of their projects — you worry that they might think you’re trying to use them and blah blah blah.  You don’t need to become best friends, but you do need to try to find that sweet spot of professional relatedness and friendliness.

If you spend some time in a circle like I did, you can learn a little bit about some of the people, and it gives you time to find a common interest. And you might be able to figure out how you could help them.  If you have a need, sure, let them know you’re looking for a D.P. for a low-budget film (Director of Photography). They might be able to help you — and they’ll be happy to do it, because then they’ll get some network equity with the D.P.  they refer to you; so it works for everyone! And likewise, you can listen for how you might help them. This is an opening to that business relationship.

I didn’t go to this particular event trying to promote my business — I didn’t even want to go, but I did it anyway. And I decided that since I was there, I might as well engage. If something came out of it, great. And if not, that’s okay, too. At least I went. Now I’m not saying this is the perfect attitude for networking, but I can tell you for sure, that if you at least get yourself there and start being friendly, and listen and engage, you have a lot better chance of meeting someone and beginning a business relationship than if you just stayed home and watched reruns of Friends or binge watched The Queen’s Gambit — though QG wasn’t out yet when this event took place — but you know what I mean.

And here’s the real ugly dirty truth about networking in Hollywood…

Even that girl who obnoxiously reached in and interrupted everything? I guarantee she had a better chance of making a connection that night than people who didn’t go at all. And in all honesty, people like that, as rude as they may seem, are often so bold and outgoing that they end up meeting people and making connections. Sometimes, someone like that is really just an oblivous, outgoing, nice person. And if someone says, “Hey, that’s kind of rude…” She may well apologize profusely and then you go on to get to know her and like her.

Or maybe not.  I’ve seen it all work and anything’s possible.

The most important Secret to Networking is to simply Show Up and Start Engaging.

Because here’s the God’s honest truth…  At any point, you are One Audition Away… maybe just One Conversation Away… or One Pitch Away from a huge opportunity in your career.  You could go to an event, talk to a handful of people, and connect with one of them in the next 24 hours. They you send them your script and they option it. Or they have you audition for a role and you book the gig. That conversation or that audition could lead you to your next agent, your next pilot. or even a series that runs for 5 or 10 years!

Once you have developed your skills to a certain level and you understand important basics of the business, you have laid the groundwork you need, then you just have to start getting out there and something magical could happen for you.  If you put yourself out there and in the mix, your very next audition or conversation or pitch could be the one that changes your life.

Before wrapping this up, I want to clarify one little thing. I’ve heard a few people say: “I’m not going to do that, I’m just going to attract good stuff to me!”  or “If it’s meant to be, it will be.”  I’m not even going to get into the problem with the logic of it, but even if we’re talking about good energy and how that opens things up, I can tell you this: “If you’re unwilling to go out and meet people, you’re resisting connecting and that itself is negative!”  If you want to be successful in this business, you gotta learn to mix and mingle with people and make the most of it.

You may not like networking per se, but if you’re hungry enough, you’ll figure out a way to connect with people or you simply will never have a chance to have your dreams fulfilled. 

You’ve heard it and it’s true. Succeeding in Hollywood has a lot to do with who you know PLUS networking and getting to know people, Depending on your personality type, the mere thought of networking might make you want to just forget about the the whole dream. I understand that. In fact, I started Smart Girls Productions to help actors and writers kick-start those efforts because I know thinking about networking can be very confronting.

In fact, I’ve found that for even the most extroverted of actors, the idea of networking brings up images of being fake, looking desperate, and just plain using people.  And if you’re a true actor trying to discover more soulfulness in life, this is the last thing you want to be doing. Not to mention writers who tend to love working alone to begin with.

Let me give you one more big SECRET: You just have to put networking in the right context. Think of it as simply being friendly and talkative.  A lot of people come across as fake and shallow in Hollywood, but there are a lot of creative people too.  The truth is there are some things you can get in Hollywood and there are some things you can’t get. You have to learn to discern the difference. This is NOT where you are going to find your soul. You will need to do that elsewhere — in your spiritual practice, your church,  or even in your acting class as you deal with yourself in the context of a scene or a character breakdown. Or perhaps you’ll find it in the solitude of a 4 AM writing session.  You won’t find soul in Hollywood. And networking is not meant to give you that.

Networking is simply meeting people and connecting with them about a mutual interest or need, trying to discover if you have something that can help them or if they can help you with something. You’re not looking for a new best friend. You just need to connect with people enough to learn what they need and see if you can provide value and show them you can be a valuable asset or resource for them.Re

The biggest mistake in all of networking
is focusing on getting something from someone.
Melody Jackson
Chief Smart Girl

For a simple starter, keep this in mind… Just as anywhere in life, people tend to like other friendly people who are in a good mood. It’s the same way in Hollywood with talent agents, personal managers, producers, directors, and everyone else. Imagine a sports fan shooting the breeze with someone about the Monday night game or some recent player trade.  It’s a way to connect with that other person and build rapport on a mutual interest.

Whatever topic you end up chatting about, you should be positive and say good things about others. You might keep up-to-date on what movies did at the box office that weekend, and then say something positive about it.  Never say anything negative when you’re networking because the person you’re speaking with may have a connection to the thing or person you’re talking about.

Learn to be conversational and practice engaging in small talk.  It doesn’t have to be about some significant meaningful topic when you first meet them. Networking is not the place for that. It’s a get acquainted situation.

When possible, bring your sense of humor to the conversation.  Many actors get too serious when they’re networking and get too worried about what the person thinks of them.  Screenwriters on the other hand too often either ramble on about infinite details of their story without permission to pitch or they stand there quiet and shy as a mouse.

Let all of that go. Instead turn on your personality in a way that is natural for you when the opportunity arises. Be your charming, friendly, and positive self.  It’s that simple! That’s what is meant by Be Yourself.  Just do your best to be your awesome friendly self.

When you look at networking this way, it can just become a conversation… And remember you’re One Conversation Away… from the Audition that could change your life. You’re One Pitch away from the conversation that could get your script started on the path to being a movie.  You never know when that conversation is going to happen. It could be at your next networking event.

Networking is necessary in Hollywood and a skill you need to develop. It’s so much easier than you think when you open yourself up a bit.

Once you get in touch with your own true authenticity, it even becomes fun…. If you REALLLLLL LY want to know all about that, ask me about my Authentic Branding Bootcamp for Actors, where we dig deep into helping you express yourself in a true meaningful and fun way. You can even get the intro module free here, just to get a taste of it!  For writers, if you’re interested you can ask me about a private pitch practice.

In the end…. I hope to God after reading this far you got something out of this because what I have told you here is the real deal. 

Go forth and be your authentic self… and be sure to take the best parts of your authentic self to your networking event… and HAVE FUN!

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