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Persistency vs Idiocy

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Katherine Di MarinoThere is a fine line between being persistent and looking like an idiot. Let me explain. I spent two and a half years working at a production company that was three doors down from a film school. You’d think we would have been inundated regularly with graduates banging down our door seeking work. Sadly this was not the case. I have a distinct memory of two people coming to see me looking for work. One was persistent bordering on mania…the other was not.

I took meetings with both of them to get some idea of their personalities, and where they were interested in going with their careers, took their resumes, and told them I’d be in touch if anything suitable came up. I gently suggested that following up with me once in a while might be a wise thing, so they didn’t fall off my radar, and that I knew they were still looking for employment. Apparently not the brightest idea I’ve had!

The phone calls began almost immediately. Within one week of our meeting one of these individuals called me to check in – all well and good. I thanked them for coming in and once again reiterated I’d be in touch if anything changed in the near future.

Next week same time, same day, the receptionist informed me this individual was on the phone once again. I sighed yet took the call. I informed them it would likely be awhile before I would have any news for them, as I didn’t expect anyone would be vacating their jobs within the next month…. but thanks for calling anyways! I thought that was the end of it. It was not.

Next time the phone rang I told the receptionist I was busy and to take a message. An hour later I walked past the front desk and was informed they had called back again. “Take another message” I grumbled.

This went on for several weeks with the calls now coming in daily….then every couple of hours. I had long since stopped returning them. This was not a deterrent. As I worked in my office after hours my direct line had begun to ring, and expecting it was my ex-husband I picked up. It was this most annoying human being once again, and in that moment I thought to myself this had begun to boarder on stalking.

This all goes to say being persistent and acting like you’re enthusiastic is a good thing. Annoying the hell out of somebody is not! If someone tells you to follow up they mean in a few months time. It’s not like you’re going to be gone from their head that fast, that it requires a regular check in to see who quit their job this week.

Finally giving up on me, this person set their sights on another individual within my company. I had not brought her up to speed, and being kind, she gave him the contact information for one of our showrunners. A couple of weeks later this man contacted us in a complete tizzy saying he was being stalked and could we help him. I laughed to myself knowing exactly how he felt!

I’ve heard horror stories of people trying to break into the industry acting like imbeciles in a bid to get noticed. Trust me it doesn’t work. It just makes you look desperate and ruffles a lot of feathers. The strangest story I’ve ever heard was a broadcaster going into the washroom at a television conference, sitting on the loo, when suddenly under the door slid a one sheet outlining someone’s project. Yes she had been accosted while attempting to take care of her personal business. Once your promotional materials have been on the floor of a toilet, trust me they are going directly into the garbage! And no one would be interested in meeting the person who felt this was appropriate behaviour.

A lot of people do this kind of stuff while trying to pitch a project. They sidle up to people during parties and start talking their ear off while interrupting the conversation you’re in the middle of. Asking if someone can spare a few moments or if this is a good time, is always the place to start. Maybe they are there just wanting to blend into the crowd for an evening and don’t want to talk shop. Everybody is human and sometimes they want a few hours off. If they are enjoying a drink, maybe that’s what they want to do, and don’t want to hear the saga of the best feature film the world has yet to see that you’re looking to get funded. “Hi my name is so and so and I’ve got a project I’d like to discuss with you. Is this a good time or would you prefer to set a meeting during office hours?” They will be taken aback by your good sense and decency.

There’s a reason you see the broadcasters skulking around conventions with their name badges hidden. Nobody can take being talked at by the hordes for days on end. And if they agree to speak with you on the spot don’t linger. I once got cornered at a party and I swear this woman did not stop speaking AT me for nearly an hour. There was no breath for me to interject and say I’d like to move on. It felt like a verbal assault, and that’s how I will remember her. Not someone I want to do business with because she has no boundaries and does not respect other peoples. Remember to be respectful of someone else’s time. Don’t plant yourself there for the evening or for a lengthy meeting where you’re the one chattering your head off. Get in and get out! Brevity and succinct communication is noticed.

As for our stalker friend it was the other one that got the job that came up. The one that followed up with me two months later and I liked during the interview. They hadn’t made a nuisance of themselves; they made a good impression, so when a position opened up for a production assistant they were offered it. The rest is history. This person had gone on to become a successful producer who I still stay in touch with. The other one? I think they freaked out so many people I would be amazed if they ever got their foot in the door… because a lot of people were hiding behind their doors trying to figure out how to make it stop!

Follow through is very important in this industry. Looking like a keener is a good thing. Even offering to volunteer some time is a good thing. Just asking for a meeting is a good thing – because as I noted earlier it was mind boggling to me that so few film school graduates made their presence and interest known to one of the largest production companies in the city. Do stick your neck out and ask to be considered… just do it the right way not the wrong way!

Don’t verbally assault people unless you know they’ve got the time and the interest in hearing what you have to say! Don’t keep calling or emailing incessantly! Don’t linger, unless the meeting has taken on a social bent, and you feel you’re welcome to do so! And don’t accost people at inappropriate times in inappropriate places! Nobody wants to be disturbed while sitting on the throne! Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If you wouldn’t like it, they won’t like it! Words to live by! Now go forth and find a job!

Katherine Di Marino

About Katherine Di Marino

Beginning her career in 1994 as the Producer’s Assistant on the TV series Highlander, Katherine was eventually awarded an Associate Producer mentorship by the CMPA on the Showtime series Dead Man’s Gun. She went on to gain a broad knowledge base throughout her work at Peace Arch Entertainment and Omnifilm Entertainment in the areas of development, production and business affairs. During her career she has been involved on many projects including Francis Ford Coppola’s sci-fi series First Wave, David Steinberg’s comedy series Big Sound, the ½ hour dramedy Robson Arms, five Lifetime Network movies, the animated series Pirate TV, along with nine documentaries. She also did two stints at Creative BC as an Analyst. She has done work for over 20 broadcasters and won numerous international awards. Katherine just produced the movie “Rio Heat” – a Canadian/Brazilian co-production featuring Harvey Keitel.