Networking in Hollywood: the Scouting Trip
If you are considering a career in the industry, I suggest people do what I call a scouting trip in Los Angeles. Let people know you are going to be in LA and try to schedule them within this period. Leave time for extra meetings in case they refer you to someone. Plan this trip for a break in school, summer while in school, or before you move there after you graduate. If you already live there, just skip step one below.
Many people in the industry are actually quite nice. They, however, are often unable or unwilling to help. Contacts and opportunities in the industry are rare, precious, and thus guarded, and many are unwilling to share them. They do not want to risk that you could destroy them.
That being said, I do find that people will offer suggestions and advice, especially to those yet to fully enter the industry. There is a window to obtain this when you are new and/or young. People are generally sympathetic to those just starting off as we all once did the same, and we remember those who helped us at the beginning (as well as those who did not). Always start with a request for advice. On a rare occasion, people may actually do more. They may suggest someone else to talk to, for example. All that being said, this is rather rare. Treasure them if they do.
15 thoughts on the LA scouting trip:
- Find a couch/ friend on which to stay (if needed).
- Contact everyone you can ahead of time. Reach them via your family, your friends, or through anyone else. Check around. You never know who may know someone. Everyone thinks of those who work in the entertainment. Also think of those who don’t and find out who they know. Help can come from surprising places. Ask for help. Get used to it.
- When reaching out via email, use the referring person’s name in the subject line (for example, “Referred by George Larkin.”) if there us one. Otherwise, it could get lost. First, of course, make sure the person referring you is okay with this and that it will help. Sometimes people just suggest you email someone they don’t know. Email during business hours but don’t do it Monday morning or Friday afternoon. Emails are too easily overlooked then. If you are just reaching out to someone you don't know, have a strong subject line. "Student seeking advice." Are they from your college? Home town? Reference that here.
- Be short and direct in your email. Long emails annoy people. Three lines are not too little. More then three paragraphs are too many. Just try to establish contact. Be respectful and polite. Being flippant is a high-risk strategy. Remember that anyone with any success in the industry has been through a lot and likely wants to be respected for it. CHECK YOUR GRAMMAR. Bad grammar makes people think you are less than intelligent or careless.
- When emailing, research on the business and the person. Google them. Check IMDB (IMDB.PRO if you can), their Facebook, and LinkedIn. Get a feel for the person. If you contact someone without knowing what they or their company does, you will look foolish.
- Get back to people within 4 hours. Anything slower makes people think you are disrespectful or less than competent.
- Try to set a meeting up a few weeks out but be prepared to be flexible. You may have to wait considerably longer. Plans in LA tend to malleable. Reconfirm a day before.
- Say you are just starting in the industry (or will be soon) and would love to get their advice. Most people are very willing to talk. Tell them when you are available to work there. Be definite.
- Offer to go to their work and buy them coffee. If you drop by, you might get a chance to meet others and see their work place. BECOMING A FACE to people is critical. Make it very, very easy for them to meet you.
- Be early and wait outside. Enter slightly early. LA can take longer to get around than you think. Use a GPS. Find out ahead of time where to park. Have a business card and resume ready just in case. Take theirs if they have one. Dress well, even if they aren't. They already have a job.
- Ask for ADVICE, not a job. If they know of something more, they will volunteer. No, people really don’t want to read your screenplay. They really, really don’t. Don’t ask. If they ask, do take them up on but there’s a great chance you will never hear back anything on it. People are far more open to watching something – a promo or trailer, for example. But keep that short with an easy link.
- Make notes on your conversation afterwards. This will help with following up and reconnecting later. Thank them afterwards via email or thank you card (old school and rarely done but nice to see). Ask them if they mind if you follow up with them later for any specific opportunities that arise. People likely won’t say no to this. And then DO SO. Following up may go on for years.
- There’s a fine line between persistent and stalker. Live there. Most people who have good jobs are this way.
- Send a follow-up thank you. If you were connected to someone, follow-up and thank them for having done it.
- DO NOT EXPECT them to remember to contact you if there is an opportunity. They may forget you the moment you walk out the door. You must remind them that you exist. You want to be the first person who comes to mind if they hear something. A contact now may only pay off in a decade. Networking is a long game.
You always have to be on the look out for the next project or job. Get used to asking for help because you will do so for the rest of your career, and hopefully at some point you will begin to provide it to others. Contacts can be immediate or long term. Establish and then maintain your connections. Start now.
Remember — not hearing back is the norm. If you do, be grateful. You need them more than they need you. But this, as everyone knows, can change quickly. Having a job is usually the best way to network and have people want to network with you! Good luck!
Dr. George Larkin