I got my first agent (as an actor) when I was a senior in high school. I was riding the bus to school with a girl who studied at a performing arts center near my house on Long Island, and one day, she asked me if I wanted to come to the center. They woman who ran the place was connecting kids to agents and having them audition for TV and movies in Manhattan. I was interested and before I knew it I was studying (musical theatre, and dance) and heading to the city to audition frequently.
When I meet and work with writers, I field a ton of questions about representation and opportunities in the business. The questions come rapid fire, and they have all the curiosity that one might have when asking “How do I get to the moon?” The sense I get from most people is that making your way into the entertainment industry is a mysterious and thorny prospect. I tell my story about getting an acting agent, to point out that big opportunities are all around you.
In high school, I had a ton of interest in acting. I was in plays and musicals at school. But I didn’t go chasing an agent – I didn’t need to. This isn’t to say I was “special” – I believe this is the way things work in the world. It’s about connections and we’re all connected to someone or several someones.
Often, when I mention networking, new writers (and some veterans) look at me skeptically. It sounds like heavy lifting. People envision going around handing out business cards, and shaking hands with an insincere smile pasted on masking the desperation inside. Networking is not some false, pushed interaction. It can be easy and fun. And it starts with who you know.
Every writer, agent, manager and producer has a family. Those family members go to school, pump gas, shop at the grocery store. Chances are, you know someone who knows someone you want to know. The trick is to find the connection and ask for a meeting. The link between you and the other person doesn’t need to be iron clad. If you went to the same school as someone you want to meet, that could be enough. Maybe you’re from the same home town or go to the same church. Your job is to seek out the people who can help and advise you. Keep it simple. And keep asking. If that sounds scary, ask what you would do if someone asked to meet with you for help. Chances are you’d say yes. You’d be willing to talk and meet. It’d be no big deal, in fact, you’d be happy to do it. The same can be true of someone you want to meet.
When you locate someone try this:
1) Ask for a 20 minute conversation on the phone or over coffee.
2) If you get the conversation, be on time, be friendly and keep to the schedule.
3) Ask questions about the business. People LOVE to talk about themselves – so a great question to ask is “How did you get to where you are?”
4) End your talk by asking if there’s anyone else they think you should meet with.
5) Send a thank you note afterwards. (A hard copy note is best. An email is not as impressive).
6) Keep in touch (with a friendly email update or a note of congrats on their latest success).
You can ask about how to get an agent, writing advice or other tips for succeeding in the game. The goal, always, is to allow the other person to get to know you – so they might recommend you down the line for some opportunity. Opportunities will emerge. If you’ve made an impression, who knows what might happen.
My experience has shown me that if I keep talking to people – I find my way to folks who are willing to help me. I’ve been doing it for decades. And I keep doing it. Those conversations figure into some of my largest career successes. Things have happened that I couldn’t have planned or imagined because I kept networking and asking for help, and saying thank you and keeping in touch.
If you’re intimidated, let it go. If you’re capable of having conversations with anyone, you’re capable of networking.
And once you’re networking, your big opportunity may find you. When it does, I want to hear about it.
If you need guidance or support, reach out.