The importance of building a strong network of contacts…
October 23, 2012 § 3 Comments
Networking and contacts build strong relationships and it’s the same in any business. You should never underestimate how important this is in your pursuit of a career. This is especially true in Hollywood where your contacts and relationships are your life’s blood to finding work and getting hired for jobs. Learn patience on your journey because it will take time to establish yourself as an excellent screenwriter before you can fully cultivate your film industry relationships.
I’m sure along the way you’ve already discovered that many contacts talk more than act. You’ll come across people who drop names and spin fabulous stories of their endeavors, but under closer scrutiny they’re really a house of cards ready to collapse. Professionals can immediately recognize an aspirant by their talent and the way they act. Given time, you’ll get better at recognizing those who are serious and those who just talk. If you always keep true to your word and focus on becoming a better screenwriter, your integrity will stand out and you’ll be on your way to building a solid reputation with those professionals who will recognize when you are ready, and will be happy to work with you.
As you build your solid network of contacts make sure that you are generous with those who deserve your time. If someone helps you—pay it forward. Offer help to others and it will eventually come back to you ten fold. If asked, read a contact’s script and offer notes. Help out with a script reading. Work on a contact’s film production or short movie. Support a contact by attending their film’s screening. Even if you help someone and there is no pay, always do your best work because you leave behind the imprint of your reputation. Show your contacts at every level that you are a talented and generous professional. When you project a professional attitude you will attract like-minded artists. As you gain experience over time, you’ll quickly learn how to weed out the aspirants and bullshitters from the professional minded folks. The professionals are the ones who you want to keep as contacts.
Professionals in Hollywood like to work and collaborate with people they can trust to deliver the goods on time. They will always evaluate you based upon your talent, but if they find it difficult to work with you, they will usually pick the writer who is a team player over the diva who is more talented. There just isn’t time to put up with a screenwriter’s ego getting in the way of a working relationship. If you’re a team player you will recognize those contacts that are team players and you’ll bulid trust. If you’ve helped them in the past, they will be more likely to go out of their way to help you when asked.
As you build a solid network of contacts—be a solid and trusted contact yourself. It can’t be a one-sided relationship. Respond to your contacts in a timely manner, help them when you can, and show them from your actions that you are worthy of being in their network. If you do ask a contact for help, do not play that card unless you are absolutely ready. I’ve kept many important industry contacts for years and never asked them for help until I was finally writing at a level to seriously compete as a professional.
The mistake many beginning writers make is prematurely asking a contact for help with their script before it’s ready for professional consideration. Learn patience and focus on becoming an excellent screenwriter first before you consider using your contacts for help. You must respect that when they introduce you or help pass your script along, they are sticking their neck out for you to their own contacts. The worst scenario would be if you used a contact to secure a meeting or a read and you blew the meeting or wasted their contact’s time. It would reflect badly on your contact and you’ll burn your bridge with them if you fail to respect working professionals.
Every project is either a new opportunity or a failed opportunity. It depends on the way you choose to play it. You never know where your contacts will lead and that is why you need to build a solid list through networking. Here’s a good example of my own personal experience: After I graduated from film school and I was just starting out, my girlfriend at the time had a friend who was a producer’s assistant and she believed in my spec script (my fifth script) and got another assistant interested whose boss was about to form a new production company. He opened shop and got his boss to option my script, they eventually bought it, produced the film and it sold internationally. My contact’s position in the company grew over the years, he eventually became the President of Production, and years later he hired me for over a half-dozen paid script assignments. You never know where your contacts will lead.
While you are networking and building your solid contacts, make it easy for people to contact you. Spend the money for professional business cards. Do not print them on your computer or use a typewriter logo or other icons on the card. If you’ve ever seen a true professional’s business card it’s plain, simple and clean. No fancy icons or director’s chairs—just contact information. This is part of your professional image that you project and your card will represent you long after you hand it out. I remember once spending a half hour talking to a guy who name dropped and inflated his projects only to have him slide me a business card printed from his computer. His card listed five jobs that he supposedly does including “director, writer, actor, producer, and P.A.” I’m not kidding. He listed production assistant with those other abilities. After reading his ridiculous business card, he lost all credibility and I didn’t believe anything that he pontificated about during our conversation. His amateur business card didn’t hold up to the professional image that he tried to project.
In this wildly competitive business, networking and solid contacts are the life’s blood of a screenwriter’s career. As you work on your craft and build your professional reputation, it’s important to cultivate your business relationships and respect the opportunities they can offer. But you can only utilize your contacts to the fullest when you are working at a professional level. When you establish yourself as a working screenwriter, your professional contacts are so important and will mean the difference between working and not working. So, keep networking and building solid relationships with a trusted network of contacts that can help lead you down the road to success.
“Action is hope. At the end of each day, when you’ve done your work, you lie there and think, Well, I’ll be damned, I did this today. It doesn’t matter how good it is, or how bad—you did it. At the end of the week you’ll have a certain amount of accumulation. At the end of a year, you look back and say, I’ll be damned, it’s been a good year.”—Ray Bradbury
“The professional respects his craft. He does not consider himself superior to it. He recognizes the contributions of those who have gone before him. He apprentices himself to them.” —Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”
“The key word in art—it’s an ugly word but it’s a necessary word—is power, your own power. Power to say, “I’m going to bend you to my will.” However you disguise it, you’re gripping someone’s throat. You’re saying, “My dear, this is the way it’s going to be.”—Elia Kazan
If you need professional screenplay consultation services please check out my website by clicking on the icon above for the link. You never get another chance to make a first great impression.