Schmoozing: Ten Tips for Networking in Hollywood
Learn how to work a room!
If you are coming to Hollywood to get into the entertainment business you will quickly discover that your ability to make anything happen is based on who you know – on learning to network effectively. It’s all about relationships. In my job as a literary agent for 18 years I had to learn to schmooze or lose! Amazingly in a business that is as competitive as show business, you might think that talent is what counts the most. Wrong. Talent matters. Talent is what will keep you employed over the long haul. But networking is key. I have represented many fine, talented people who were absolute duds in the networking arena. By the way, networking is called schmoozing in Hollywood. Here are a few tips to help the shy, socially awkward, or just simply naïve person navigate the world of Hollywood.
1. Go out. If you want to be in the entertainment business you have to get out of your house. Yes, I am talking to you writers, editors, and everyone else that likes their solitude. To do this you have to go somewhere that people are. This shouldn’t be news to you, but I am amazed at how many people don’t get this simple first step. Go to the movies, go to screenings, go to union meetings and seminars, go to parties and get togethers, comedy clubs and anywhere people might be!
2. Research. Ugh. I know, this sounds like school. But if you really want to get anywhere you need information. For example if you are going to a party, or a screening, find out in advance who is going to be there and then look them up on IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base). Or Google them. If there is a director or writer or producer that is going to be there, try to become familiar with what they have worked on. If possible even watch their latest film or television show. Or at least part of it. Look at the reviews. IMDB can pretty much give you information on anyone that has worked on any produced movie or television show done in the last 30 years or more.
3. Read the trades (Hollywood Reporter, Daily Variety). Read a newspaper. Read People magazine. Watch Entertainment Tonight. In other words get quickly up to date on what’s going on in the business so that you can talk about it with some degree of knowledge. You don’t have to know everything. Just the big stuff that is going on.
4. Wear black. I know this sounds odd but if you are in doubt about how to dress for ANY event – black is always ok. What you don’t want to do is wear anything that will make you stand out too much. You want people to remember you, not the odd outfit you had on. Obviously if you are an old hand at schmoozing you can wear what you want… but then you wouldn’t be reading this article.
5. Have a drink. Once you arrive at your party get a glass with something in it (it doesn’t have to be alcohol – especially if you get stupid when you drink) just something that looks like alcohol, like ice tea or ginger ale. What you need is something in your hand so that you won’t feel nervous and out of it.
6. Talk. Find someone else who seems to be alone and comment on something that you can agree on. Like the traffic, the weather, the great food, the weird food. It could be “ The 405 was completely empty on my way here. That has NEVER happened.” Or, this sushi is awesome. It reminds me of the sushi at …. (Insert name of favorite sushi place). The idea is to be REALLY casual. Not desperate to get them to talk to you, just offering an observation. If they respond continue the conversation. If they don’t, move on.
7. Ask a question. If you have done your research and you see the producer, director, etc. where you can talk to them. Go up to them tell them how much you liked their last whatever and then make a specific comment about it. Like – “I loved your last film, how did you get that shot of the shark eating the boat?” A compliment is great. But a specific question that shows you actually watched their movie may get a response and even better, a conversation.
8. Know when to hold and know when to fold. If the person talks to you, continue the conversation. If you can tell by their body language i.e. they are turned away from you, looking at their watch, looking anywhere but at you, then thank them for the answer, shake their hand and say, “By the way, I’m Joey Nobody – it was great meeting you, I better go find my date.” And then leave. If the conversation goes well, give them your card or better exchange cards. You do have a card, don’t you? I encourage even my film students to make up cards that at least have their name, email and address on it.
9. Write it down. When you get home – write down the names and details of people you’ve met, so that when you run into them again you will remember what was said.
10. IT’S NOT PERSONAL. If no one pays much attention to you initially. Its ok. It’s a cumulative effect that you are after. This is so important. The goal of getting out and networking is to get to know people over time. The more times you get out, the more times you will run into people you have met and each time you will have little more to talk to them about. This is about business and meeting people. This is not about whether people like you personally. Hopefully they will, if they get to know you. But since everyone in Hollywood is insecure enough to know that you just might be someone very important (or related to someone very important) they will be nice to you. And the more they see you, the nicer they will be.
Keep trying. These are just a few beginner tips for you. You just have to get out there and try! There are lots of books you can read on how to successfully work a room. I have included a few at the bottom of this article. In my next article I will talk about some of the major NO No’s that you should be aware of as you start networking in this exciting and glamorous business! Happy Schmoozing.
For more information on working in Hollywood see my other hubs.