We have covered many of the basics of breaking into the entertainment industry, and we have learned how to market yourself for entertainment, or any industry that you choose to participate in. For the sake of this column, we will assume that the industry you have chosen is entertainment.
Networking is a skill that is important if you want to be successful in anything in life. Some people are naturally good at it, while others are not so good. The good news is that it is a skill that can easily be learned by anyone.
Those who are naturally good at it, are usually people who are somewhat outgoing. Someone who is a "people person", namely someone who enjoys being around lots of people and who likes to talk with and socialize will have an easier time networking. Maddy Howard is a wonderful new actress who is fantastic at networking.
Maddy is from Canada, so she had to get her work visa before she could work as an actor in the US. Before she was even able to work, she had already developed contacts with a member of the press, who would take her to Hollywood premiers. She also had meetings with an executive vice president in charge of casting at one of the major film studios... Lets explore networking.
Networking for the sake of this topic would be defined as working on getting ahead and finding work in the entertainment business by contacting and communicating with the "movers and shakers" of the industry. This would mean people who are producers, directors, casting directors, power agents and/or managers.
For film and television, it might also include stars who are also co-producers. Many stars now co-produce their own products, because it gives them more control over the kinds of projects they do. It is not very easy to get the opportunities to network with these kinds of people if you are an unknown person. However, there are sometimes opportunities to network with other people who work in the industry.
For example, let's say your friend's wife is a makeup artist or wardrober. If she is experienced and/or is respected, she might be able to get you a meeting with a casting director, or a producer.
You need to make sure that you have lots of comp cards and resumes and the photos on the comp cards need to be "A list" if you want to eventually end up on the A-list of stars, or at the very least an actor or model who is working regularly.
If you are not well known, you need to make sure that your abilities are up to par. For actors who don't have an agent, I suggest that you try to get into acting schools or local theatre groups. Some acting schools have afiliation with some producers, directors or casting directors, and theatre groups do performances that are called showcases, where casting directors and producers are invited to the performances, and they may see you perform, and ask you to come to see them at their office.
To find out about acting schools and/or theatre groups, go to Samuel French's bookstore, either in person in NY city or Los Angeles or visit them online. They will have publications that advertise, such as Backstage West. You also need to always keep comp cards and resumes in your car.
An acting friend of mine met Al Pacino in a Starbuck's coffee shop. You never know when you are going to meet someone who will change your life. Always be prepared, and always make sure you look presentable in public. That does not mean that you have to wear a Versace gown and be made up for the red carpet at the Oscars.
What If I Am Shy?
If you are painfully shy, you may have to think about whether you are cut out for work in the entertainment industry. The best way to get over this is to go to as many parties as you can with some friends.
Practice by going up and starting conversations with total strangers. This will help you get over inhibitions, and soon you will feel comfortable doing this and it will change your life for the better.
There are some people who are very shy, who are the best at what they do in the entertainment industry. For example, the greatest talk show host in history is Johny Carson. He was very shy and a private person, who did not enjoy going to parties at all.
He always said that he was fantastic with 10 million people, but terrible with 10 people. You don't have to be the life of the party to be a good networker. You need to practice. If you have a great smile on your face and present the best body language, people will approach you and start a conversation.
It may sound strange, but I tell young actors/models to practice different facial expressions and body poses in the mirror at home. This is something that you can then use at a party or meeting.
I think it's a great idea to meet and socialize with other actors/models. You can invite them to parties or events related to the entertainment industry that you are invited to, and they can reciprocate. A bit of advice about this... make sure that it's ok to invite a friend or two.
I think that in general, if a young producer invites you to a party, they want to make sure that there are lots of young attractive people at their party. Another advantage of having other friends who are trying to do what you do is that you can help each other out by doing scenes together so that both you and they will perform better at auditions.
You may also hear about auditions that they don't know about and they may hear about auditions that you don't know about. It's very important to always treat your peers with respect and be a good support system for each other. This industry is hard enough without dealing with negativity.
Some Final Words
You have to understand that in the entertainment industry, you can be more prepared than ANY of your peers, and know everything there is to know... however, it's not what you know, it's entirely WHO you know.
Having great contacts will absolutely get you to the top more quickly and easier. I have heard people say that they know that someone important that they met owes them a favor, but they don't want to use that favor now. They want to wait. Big mistake! That later opportunity may never come. Use whatever favors, and resources whenever they become available. Good luck and get out there and network it!!!
Photos By Lori Smith.