Coffee Chats: Referrals and Relationships


There’s a phrase in the entertainment business that you’re probably familiar with, the ole, “It’s all about who you know…” saying.   There’s a lot of truth in that statement, in and outside of the entertainment business.  How many times have you gotten a great deal on a car, a hotel, or even a better seat at a restaurant, theater or concert because of someone you know?

In Hollywood, relationship building *and* maintaining those relationships is truly a major component to success.  The *maintaining* part is something that recently smacked me in the face.  I was under the impression that a half-dozen or so, of my decade + long relationships in the tv industry were solid and unbreakable.  I was mistaken.  It hurt.  Like hell.  As the hurt subsides some, the realizations come forth.

One such realization brings to my mind an old-saying from the late, great, Paramount Pictures producer A.C. Lyles.  See, A.C.  had his own version of that famous phrase, and was often heard saying, “It’s NOT who you know, it’s who knows YOU.”

On the surface, that might seem the same as the original quote, but if you really think about it – there’s a big difference.   See, I might believe I “know” Susan, Joe, and Mark – and maybe I do, or at least I worked with them once upon a time, and have fond memories that made a lasting impression on me, BUT, do Susan, Joe, and Mark, KNOW me?   If someone asked them if they know me, what would they say?    Would they vaguely remember me, would they say oh yeah, I know Leah, or would they have to think back into the memory banks to conjure up how exactly they know me?

Now, if these are folks that I’m wanting to work with or partner with in some way, it’s more important, as A.C. said, that they confidently and without hesitation acknowledge that they know me!

Not only, is this important for “getting the job”, but this is also extremely important for next tier auditions and leveling up in areas of actor representation; agents and managers. See because, if you haven’t realized this already, industry referrals, unlock many a door that seemed impenetrable before.

Just a few months ago, I had three important meetings on my calendar.  All three of these meetings came from referrals.  A director referral, an actor referral and a producer referral.  All three referrals got me into meetings that I had previously been unable to obtain on my own.

So how do you make the jump from someone “you know” to someone “who knows you” well enough to confidently give you a referral, that could give you that boost you’re needing to reach the next rung of the ladder?

That my friends is where the maintaining of relationships come in.  What that looks like varies, and depends on the people involved, but in this industry, and especially in cities like LA and NY, there are ample opportunities.

One of the easiest ways to do this is social media, and in fact, social media enables you do this in two ways.  The first, is taking time to like and comment on and about good news – professionally and personally that your industry peers are sharing.  The second is to take it one step further, and share that good news, that new project, that Variety article etc. to your own pages.  You can also show support by physically attending colleagues’ plays, one woman shows, table readings, festival screenings, art openings, etc.   Just a few minutes of face-time goes a long way.  People will remember that you braved LA traffic to come to that book signing they had or gave up your Sunday afternoon to participate in their table read for that script they just finished.

But here’s the kicker, and this goes back to the lesson I learned recently, maintaining relationships with people that you want to work with, or have worked with and want to work with again, is a long-term effort for the duration of your career.  This includes holiday cards, congratulation cards, even birthday cards – and it couldn’t hurt to send a yearly career update postcard or email. Let them know you haven’t given up, left town, or switched careers.

Keep in mind, that an accomplished showrunner, producer, director, writer, meet hundreds if not thousands of new actors every year, they can’t possibly remember everyone.  However, if you’re making a solid effort to sustain and maintain those professional relationships, chances are you’ll remain fresh in their memory and you’ll no doubt see for yourself, “it’s not who you know, it’s who knows YOU.”

In closing, I’d like to give a great big THANK YOU to anyone who has ever referred ME to a job, an opportunity, a great service provider, etc., without your generous referrals and solid votes of confidence, my life wouldn’t be nearly as full!