We work in an industry that has no definite road. You can step off the bus tomorrow and land a job. You can be in a reality show in any town USA and become a “celebrity”. And you can struggle for years and years before you get any sort of break. But somehow in the haze of uncertainty, I always look for a thread; some sort of through-line that makes my logical mind find logic in the story. The constant I have found is the importance of relationships. This is a relationship business. It is essential in my blue-collar view of the “business of show”. Eighty five percent of the time, your next project is based on the relationships and experience you had in a previous project with someone you met in the process. Because you are not the star and therefore, not the moneymaker in this version of the story, you have to rely on the relationships you’ve made.
A lot of people at your level probably have talent that can match yours. What they don’t have is your life, the road you’ve walked down and the people you’ve met. So I say make the most of it. I know this may sound like a no-brainer but relationships cannot be built if you have your head down and are looking at your phone for eight hours of a ten-hour day. I don’t want to point fingers but I’m going to address the age group that I see doing this the most: the twenty-somethings. The good news is you can do far more than most of us when it comes to technology and this is a wonderful thing that can keep you steps ahead in the online world. The bad news is I have seen you working for months on a project and no one knows a thing about you, except what the top of your head looks like. I have told many a set PA, lift your head up, put your phone away and go look someone in the eye. These are the people you are living this life with.
Hollywood will be here when we’ve all passed through. We rent this town for the time we’re here. Besides having the ability to live a creative life, we have the good fortune of meeting and getting to know different people everyday. We need one another to play with, so get in the game. If you don’t connect on some human level, no one is going to remember you enough to call you back in for round two. I was on set the other day and there was an extra that was given a featured bit. While they were rehearsing the scene, she had her head down the entire time, texting with ear buds in. When the 2nd AD tried to get her attention to “play the scene”, she looked up confused as to how she even got on set, probably because she walked to set with her head down the entire time just shuffling along with the person in front of her. Later on when they were setting the scene again, she wasn’t there. Whether you’re an extra, a day player, or the star, someone is noticing you and what you’re doing.
There are thousands of people looking for work. You have to build relationships if you want to make a living in show business and you don’t have to do a cartwheel through set to be noticed. Simply connect, say hello, talk to people, smile and be present. Anyone might have the potential to help you get your next job. Don’t assume the important people are “over there” and the rest of us are “over here”. A lot of times, the “over here” people are the friends or family members of a person “over there”. It’s a win-win because if nothing else, they can become your friend and the person you share a history with twenty years from now. Make them a key player in your show business history.
I have a handful of friends I met when I was seventeen while working a minimum wage job. Today they are up the ladder of success and have given me opportunities many times. So while you may be texting, submitting online, emailing, commenting on Facebook, or chitchatting (all things I’m guilty of), do it during lunch or for five minutes every few hours. In the meantime: head up, eyes lifted and look someone in the eye. When I was growing up, the entire town was built on relationships. You got to know the baker, the pharmacist, the butcher, the jeweler all by name. And you would likely see them at a family member’s wedding. You knew these people and they knew you and that’s what made the town work. It’s not much different in Hollywood. Each job I move on to is almost always connected to a previous one I’ve worked. Usually from a personal relationship I established on set or a recommendation I received from them. You don’t need to have a big, outgoing personality. You can even be shy… just put the phone down, look up and be present. Try it out and you’ll be surprised how many connections you make!