Thursday, November 15, 2012
Networking in Hollywood
So you want to work in the film industry? It's not all showing up on set, drinking coffee and chatting with mega stars. Producers and people that want to hire you seem to settle on a 50/50 ratio in what they look for; "Can you do your job well" and "Do I like you?"
Allow me to elaborate.
Let's say that you want to be a cinematographer, you know that you need to start at the bottom, as a grip or electric. You need to know the skills associated with that job, how to wrap cable, the proper way to set up a C-stand, the difference between a single and double scrim, and a million other things (you'll learn more as you work, don't worry). The point is that you need to be competent, and smart enough to learn the things you don't know. The other side of the coin is that you need to be easy to work with. If you're a likable, helpful, and an upbeat person, you're good to go. If you're a dick, lazy, and complain all the time, you won't be working much, unless your uncle is Steven Spielberg. In which case, you don't need to read further, also email me, because I have a great script that he NEEDS to read (every one in Hollywood has a script, don't pester people with).
You need to have a 50/50 mix of these aspects. If you're great at your job, but no one wants to work with you, you probably won't get brought onto the next project. Flip side, if you're super nice, but completely useless on set, and don't know the difference between a 5K and a sheet of CTO, you also won't be hired often. Granted, if you are new to the business, no one expects you to know everything.
The way these experience are passed along from project to project is through the most important aspect of film making. Networking. Crew on sets love to talk. When you aren't around, you'll be evaluated, talked about, and ultimately decided on. Especially when you're the new guy.
You don't have to make friends with every one you work with, that actually might get annoying. But you do want to cultivate professional relationships. Keep a good attitude, DO NOT COMPLAIN, don't talk trash about people, and don't talk bad about the production. Always keep up with the work, and be proactive, even if you don't think any one is watching. You will be noticed, no matter what kind of impression you make, be it positive or negative.
My success came from networking, and not even my own. Because when you get plugged into a network of good people, you are plugged into their networks! Great example, I am fortunate to come from a film family, my father has a vast network that I was able to take advantage of.
He recommended me to his friend, who needed a very specific position filled at his visual effects production company. My resume fit with what the general manager was looking for, and I was hired. No interviews, no meetings, I cut a vacation short to start on a Sunday. Proving that I was willing to bust my hump for the company. Three months later, I'm being trained on a cutting edge film making technology that only a hand full of people are even aware of.
My situation is very rare, but the principles translate to any one. Be the person that other can only speak highly of, be reliable, and put yourself in the most advantageous positions, and good things will happen.
If you really want to be in this industry, but don't know where to start, go to film sets with a resume of your skills, and ask to speak with the Unit Production Manager or 2nd Assistant Director. Tell them that you are interested in being a PA and you'll work for free. If they have the time to talk, they may take a few minutes to evaluate you. More than likely, you won't get a job (get used to hearing "no"). Don't take it personally. Do this a lot, and that one time, if you get lucky, a PA may have called in sick, and they need some one to wrangle the extras. You could be that guy or gal!
Film school is also a great option. It can open so many doors that you didn't know about.