Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Hazards of Networking

If you're like me, you're still a mostly unknown actor. I have finally reached the stage in my career when, in a group of people larger than say, five, someone will have seen my tv episode and everyone has heard of the show. In fact, there's a high probability that some of you have actually already seen me on tv... but nah-nah-nuh-nah-nah I won't tell you who I am. :) But even with that, I am still a total unknown. No one is stopping me on the street asking for an autograph. No papers are printing my name. No designers are begging me to wear their clothes on the red carpet.

To get from here to the next level -- which is still having an unrecognizable face, but at least a handful of recognizable credits -- it is a numbers game. I'm not established enough to be brought in to auditions on my resume alone (if you somehow missed my foul-mouthed tantrum on that subject, you can catch up here.) So my job right now is to generate as many audition opportunities as possible. Since we end up booking only a fraction of the projects we read for, we have to up bring up the numbers. Getting one audition a week, or -- eek -- one a month ain't gonna cut it. It would take waaaay too many years at that rate to get any sort of traction. And as if the general pressure of trying to just make a reasonable living weren't enough, we (and particularly us ladies) have the added awareness of the age-equation. The older we get, the more difficult the road.

There are way too many ways I'm working on this to mention in a single blog post, but one of them is attending premieres. I've worked my way into the indie film world and have been lucky enough to land a few invites to some of these red carpeted events. Let's be honest, they're for small films and there aren't many big stars there. I'm not rolling up with a driver, I'm wearing my own dresses and I don't have a publicist holding my jacket while the photogs snap my shot. I have two goals while I'm there: 1) get a picture on the carpet, and 2) walk away with business cards in my clutch.

The first goal is pretty easy. Most Hollywood events, even these ultra-indie types, have at least a small step-and-repeat. (That's the industry lingo for the panels behind celebs with all the sponsor and film logos. It comes from the actor's job to give an interview with one camera, then take a step down the red carpet to the next media camera and essentially repeat the same interview.) The picture above is a big one, but the ones I get to walk on are really just a single panel and seem kinda silly to me. I (the person) loathe being the dope who stands in front of the panel while someone snaps my picture. IT FEELS SO LAME AND WANNABE to me. But in the end, shots of you like this, when used correctly on your website or social media pages, do actually give the perception that you're sort of a bigger deal than you are. That's why publicists charge $3,000 a month to get their clients "out there". So I swallow my pride, grit my teeth, ignore my inner monologue and get the stupid shot for me (the actor) and for the sake of my career.

Then I work the reception room. There is an art to this, and somehow I was blessed with the gift. I usually go to these things by myself so I don't have to worry about entertaining someone I've brought with me. Being alone also forces me to engage in conversation, make connections and ultimately leads to that beautiful little dance of the business card exchange.

Every once in a while there are men who misunderstand friendliness for flirting. Most people get it -- I'm an actor, you're a director, you've just premiered your film, you get why I'm talking to you. If we make a connection, we'll exchange cards. Others aren't quite as astute. I have about a million of these stories for you, but a couple weeks ago there was one that took the cake.

A younger man started chatting with me and he immediately started trying to impress me. I can sniff that garbage a mile away. He went on about how he knew the lead actors and producers of the film (that's the bait) and how he was writing, directing and starring in a feature that was conveniently about to go into production (that's the hook). Then he wants to leave the reception and grab a drink alone. (Yeah right. Sorry dude, I'm here to make business connections, not land a date.) I politely declined. He tried a few more tactics, which only forced me to be more firm until he finally realized he wasn't gettin' any. (p.s. guys... don't force us to be rude!) I have never seen a man handle rejection so poorly. He got really awkward and stormed off mumbling about how I would want him when he was famous.

What?!? Really?? I couldn't help but laugh to myself, it's all part of this crazy crazy town. After that, I went over and exchanged cards with the film's director.  Boom.  Objective number 2 accomplished.

Don't be that guy. (And don't be the girl who falls for it.)

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