The Game of Hollywood: Relationships


“Hi, my name is {Insert Name Here}. I’m an actor/writer/producer, and I’m working on/performing in/in-so-and-so’s class {Insert Name of Short Film/Play/Casting Assistant’s Name or Name of Workshop Here}. I love your work and would love to work with you someday,” said the desperate Hollywood player, handing the “big-wig” a business card, with her face printed above the title “Actor-Producer-Writer-Poet-Human,” and some obscure quote on the back about going for your dreams.

For the love of all things Thalberg, stop approaching “higher up” people in Hollywood like this! When I first started pounding the pavement of Hollywood, traipsing around film festivals and forums, I quickly realized the one’s who succeed did not use this sad, overused pick up line. They didn’t pass out their business cards like candy. Instead, they strategically collected other people’s business cards. And, the one’s who succeeded followed up.

In Hollywood, the game is won with relationships.

Approach a new relationship with a potential writer, producer, director, actor or anyone you would like to work with, like you would a potential mate. If a dude in a bar, came up to you bragging about how he works out three times a day (aka model/actor), drives in a supped up Honda Civic from the 90s (aka is in a crappy play in some unknown theater in the Valley) and invited you over to his place to cook and clean for him (aka “Come spend three hours of your Friday night watching my one man show”), you’d be totally turned off, right?

The worst way to approach any new relationship, especially in Hollywood, is by asking, “What can you do for me?” Any variation of “Hire me” or “Make me a star” fails. Every time. Why? Because the question is focused on the least important person in your potential new friend’s world…you. This question is a total turn off! It reeks of both arrogance and desperation. Secondly, they don’t know you! Aside from a mutual respect for you as a fellow human being, they don’t care much about you. Why should they? Your initial meeting consists of you wanting to use them to better your life, not theirs. Nobody likes to feel used.

When I was starting out as an actor-writer, I wanted to learn more about scriptwriting. I attended the Playhouse West Film Festival. The opening film was a work of passion, a moving piece that struck my emotional core. That was the type of movie I wanted to be in! The kind of movie I wanted I to write! After the film, in true festival fashion, the producer was interviewed. I loved how he approached film, and thought, like many of my fellow attendees, “Now this is a guy I would love to work with!”

Afterwards my fellow actors herded toward him, business cards in hand. I could have done the same and been lost in the oblivion his pockets, only to be tossed in the garbage later that night. Instead, I approached him, and told him I would love to intern with him as a PA, office assistant, script reader, whatever. I just wanted to help him make great movies, in whatever way I could. (Ding, ding ding!) I focused on what I could do for him, instead of what he could do for me. I didn’t say this out of manipulation to get into his office. I truly wanted to be a part of what his production company was creating. He gave me his email and I sent him a message the next day.

Never did I see any of my fellow festival compadres in his production office, when he brought me on as a script reader. Did I know how to be a script reader beforehand? No. But, I had the experience of reading a lot of plays and scripts in my acting class, and I just Googled the rest. But, like in any good relationship, it’s based on trust. When I got lost in the mound of submitted screenplays in his production office, I asked for help and admitted when I didn’t know something. This gave me respect from the producer, because it showed I wanted to learn. I wanted to be better. That desire, in any relationship, is better than thinking you know it all. You don’t.

Having this experience as a reader prepared me to be a writer, which then got me my first writing job on a feature film, which then got picked up by Lionsgate. Relationships build on relationships. Nearly every job I’ve worked on has been kindled by my relationships.

Here are four ways to create better relationships with Hollywood players, so you can stay in the game and stand out from the crowd.

  1. People love talking about themselves; so let them! Allow your potential industry friend to talk about what he or she does, rather than you rattling off your resume and how awesome you are. Be genuinely interested in who they are!
  1. Lose the expectation for them to help you in any way. Instead focus on how you can help them. Offer to work as an intern in their office or take them to lunch to pick their brain (Do not have them pay if they’re giving away their hard-earned life lessons about their career for free.)
  1. Talk about a mutual interest: THEIR film (not yours), food, Hollywood, a binge-worthy Netflix show, travel, hobbies. Go off of what THEY are interested in, and find a common ground in that. Common interests breed camaraderie.
  1. Always keep learning and allow your potential new friend to teach you something new. Watch a movie they recommend. Show that you care about their opinion.

Now get in the game…and reprint your business card without the title of “Human” on it. (Seriously, someone gave me their card with that as their title. It went in the trash.)