Hollywood Networking Mistakes: Ten No No's
Schmoozing Don'ts in the Entertainment Business
In my article on Schmoozing, I listed some of the positive steps a newcomer to the entertainment business can try to take to improve their networking skills. This article will focus on a few of the No No’s. My experience as an agent in Hollywood since 1991 has given me ample time to discover (the hard way) all the little things that people in the biz find irritating. Obviously this list may not apply to everyone that is in a position of power and not everyone will necessarily agree with me. Perhaps, the best thing to do is look at this list as a group of suggestions from one who has been there.
1. Don’t ask for an autograph. If you are trying to be a working professional in show business you can’t be all ga ga around the movie stars. When you are meeting them, whether it’s on set, or in meetings, you are supposed to PART of the business. Asking for an autograph sends the signal that you are an outsider to this world and they will see you in that way. If you get to know someone really, really well and your mother is insisting on this… maybe you can ask. I shudder at the thought.
2. Don’t ask to have your picture taken with them. Again, screams tourist. I know that you will see a billion pictures of celebrities with various deli and taco stand owners. If that is your work and you are trying to promote your tacos – ok. But if you are trying to work as a professional in this business, whether its as a writer, director, actor etc. then NO. If you are dying to get your picture taken with the celeb, have a close friend snap one discreetly without being observed. Personally, I wouldn’t even risk this.
3. Don’t give them your script. When you are at a meeting or screening and you get into a conversation with a BIG DIRECTOR, just talk to them intelligently. See my previous list for how to handle a conversation. But unless by some miraculous chance they should ask you if you have a script, you can certainly say yes, but don’t run to your car to get it. Ugh. Smacks of desperation. Instead get their card and send it later. Or even email them a copy.
4. Don’t get into controversial conversations. Most of Hollywood is VERY liberal in their political and religious views. Be very careful about getting into conversations about gay marriage, abortions, the current political goings on. You can listen. You can nod your head. But I suggest staying very neutral. The truth is the power brokers tend to be more conservative politically and fiscally than the creative talent. So don’t just assume that everyone agrees or doesn’t agree with you. Even if they agree with you on one issue that they may not agree with you on everything. You might be very surprised to find that producer you have been chatting up is secretly a gay Republican Christian who is pro capital punishment and open borders. He might have hired you if you hadn’t been shooting your mouth off. I once had an office assistant tell me that she could no longer be my friend because of how I voted in a particular election.
5. Don’t drink so much that you do something stupid. Some Hollywood parties can get out of control. Don’t be that girl that jumps naked into the hot tub. Someone once said to me as several naked people dashed past us to leap into a pool, that the people who take their clothes are usually the people you didn’t want to see that way. I don’t know anyone in my entire career that truly achieved any professional leg up from behaving badly at a party. But I do know a few people who are no longer in the business because of their stupid choices.
6. Don’t bad mouth the film you have just seen. If you are at a screening and the film is HORRIBLE, wait until you are home or with friends you can trust before you loudly announce how obnoxious it was. It could be that the person standing behind you while you are delivering your brilliant critique, is the writer, or the mother of the writer, or the producer. Or the network executive. Dumb.
7. Don’t wear a stupid outfit. Even if you think you are the trendiest or sexiest person in the world, don’t make a screening, party, or meeting, your opportunity to show how wild you can be. You will get the wrong kind of attention. Wear something that is flattering, comfortable, and appropriate. Once you are comfortable in a group of people and really know them well, you can be more creative. But until then, err on the side of modesty and reasonable taste.
8. Don’t be on time to parties. Everyone in Hollywood knows that if a party is starting at 8, you shouldn’t get there until 9. If you arrive promptly at 8, no one will be there but you and the host and it will be AWKWARD. After all a happening person like you, has LOTS of parties to go to, right? You are just stopping by.
9. Don’t be late to screenings, meetings or dinner parties. Some places won’t seat you if you arrive after a film has started. This isn’t a local movie theater, this is a screening you have been invited to. These film people take their films very seriously and expect you to relish every moment. Most execs in Hollywood are very busy. If you are late to a meeting with them, you just may miss the boat. Obviously if it’s a dinner party, they will tell you that dinner is going to be served at a particular time. You don’t want to be late for that. They may hold dinner for you and everyone will hate you.
10. Don’t be desperate. Hollywood loves to create the illusion that everything is fun, casual and easy. Of course everyone is trying to get a job or sell their script. But you can’t act like it. Your goal is to make it all seem effortless, that your life is not dependent on whether you get this job or not. No one wants to be around someone who is clingy and who laughs too loud at everything. Leave that behavior to the stalkers.
I hope this brief list helps you avoid some of these fatal faux pas, that can mark you as a hopeless outsider. Of course the best advice is to be yourself. Just show a little restraint and good sense and you will be on your way.
If you would like to read more about careers and skills needed for a show business career please check out these articles: