by Bruce Edwin
One of the most important things we need to know in life in addition to “how to sell,” is “how to network.” In this article, I am not going to cover either of those topics, which will be covered in our upcoming seminars, but what I am going to cover is something equally vital to know as a producer, writer, actor, model, or anyone else in Hollywood looking to contact an agent, manager, studio, production company, producer, or financier. And that is; “How to contact a production company, studio, agency, or management company in the right manner.
If everyone knew how to write, network, and close a sale, then the majority of the people in the world would be wealthy, or at least would never have to worry about being poor. Unfortunately, these skills are mastered by only a small number of persons, and all mastered together—by even fewer still.
Know your target prospect. One of the first biggest mistakes I see writers, producers, musicians, bands, models, actors and more in Hollywood make is seeing them waste their valuable energy and time by going to the effort of trying to pitch themselves in an email, but not doing their research and using the person’s name. Would you cold call someone without using the name of the person you are trying to sell? Or would you go into a meeting with someone you are pitching without using their name? Of course not. So why would you send an introductory email or text message to someone you want to do business with, without using the same courtesy? Whenever I get a mass email pitch, or a pitch without my name used, it goes straight into the trash. In addition to the persons name, the company name is equally vital. And you have to spell it all correctly. If for example you are pitching a producer at Warner Bros., and you state in the heading line “Warner Brother,” you can guess that you might not get too far.
In addition to the basics of knowing your target prospects basic information of name and company name, you need to spend anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes or even up to an hour or more researching vital things about your prospect. I have a rule that the amount of time I invest into researching my target is contingent upon the amount of money I predict we can make each other. Notice that I said make each other. This brings me to another vital point I will address later. During your research, you want to know your prospects strengths, weaknesses, attributes, and what makes them unique. You want to see what you both have in common, and also what you may both differ on, so as not to let that become a point of contention during pitching or later negotiations.
2, Provide Value
After you do your research, you need to discover where and how you can bring value to them immediately. This is the second major mistake most people make when pitching. This is also the quite common mistake of so many actors, models, bands, and singers. They think only in terms of “what’s in it for me?” I once had an aspiring model and actress walk into my office for her scheduled appointment with a t-shirt on that read “What Can You Do For Me?” In big bold black block letters. I laughed when I saw it. She then asked me the same question, and I later told her “nothing.” I would probably be more polite about it these days, but that’s another story.
Similarly, when you approach a company in person, on the phone, by text, or email with the attitude of “this is what I want, now—what can you do for me,” you are not going to help your self or impress anyone. You need to be direct—yes, but you also need to be more diplomatic. Find out first what YOU can do for THEM. Deliver value immediately, and don’t assume that your great masterpiece of a script is going to be that value that they want that you are going to deliver them. Sure, maybe it is, but you need to imagine that they are like that world famous supermodel every guy hits on from a million different angles every day, and you are just the next schmuck who thinks you are going to sweep her off her feet. You need a better angle.
During your research is where you can determine what type of value you might be able to provide. A website alone can tell you a lot about a prospect. If for example their website or their public ad copy is filled with improper English (in the U.S.) or misspelled words, this is a reflection on their professionalism or lack thereof. Their photography they present to the world is also an indicator of their aesthetic sophistication or lack thereof. Perhaps you may discover a weakness on the prospects website where a video is missing they didn’t catch, and you bring it to their attention. This can be a powerful way to bridge communication and get your foot in the door so to speak, by offering help.
Maybe you read that they hate the same politician you do, and you know how to help defeat them in their next election campaign, or maybe you love the same charitable cause. Bring it up. Maybe you read they just bought a new car, and you happen to own the same model, or your friend works at the car company, and you can give them a sneak peek at the new model coming out that no one else has access to. Be creative. Find commonalities that can make them interested in you. In communication in Hollywood, you need to not only be interesting and get attention, but you need to be interested in others, and show them attention. So that’s really the first step.
You want to also specifically ask if there is anything you can do for them, and if you can and it’s ethical and fair, do it if you agree to. An example might be giving them a free ticket to that sold out concert of that singer they love at the concert venue you or your friend works at.
A model gave me a tie once for Christmas. Although it was a top name brand and expensive, I thought that it was one of the ugliest ties I had ever seen, and I never worn it once, yet I was happy at her thoughtfulness. When casting directors would ask me who some of my best clients were that were dependable and easy to work with and who deserved a special part, she was one of the names I always gave when her look fit.
3, Ask—Don’t Tell!
No this isn’t a political statement for the military, it concerns solicitation. Most any company, producer, agent, or manager who can do anything major for you will generally state that they do not accept unsolicited materials. What that means is, do NOT send them scripts, synopsis,’ treatments, taglines, loglines, your budget, top sheet, music, song, artwork, modeling portfolio, or whatever it is you are seeking to pitch. You have to ASK FIRST if you can send it. Then, if and only if you get the OK to send it, do you then send it. Our companies do not accept unsolicited materials, yet we routinely get many unsolicited materials in each week. This is not only aggravating, its potentially a legal liability for a company, especially if the person sending them materials is crazy or likes to sue. So be respectful and do NOT send materials unless you are first given permission to do so.
4, Be Humble
Another major reason people fail in Hollywood is due to their massive arrogance. There is a fine line between having great chutzpa and being a wise guy. If you’ve watched enough classic Hollywood cinema, you know that a wise guy thinks he or she knows it all and is doing the world a favor just to be in their presence. Maybe one day you will be, but remember, no star is too big to fail—especially these days. And no hot up and coming Hollywood player is too talented to ruin their own career by being too big of a jerk.
5, Don’t Flake
Everyone has been flaky at some point. I have a few times, and I can remember each occasion I did, and it still bothers me. But 99% of the time, I have kept my word. If you say you are going to do something, do it. That means, if you tell the person you are contacting that you will call them Monday to follow up, do it. Or if you tell them you will send something by a certain day, do it. There is a great book called “The Four Agreements” by Miguel Ruiz that I highly recommend you read, concerning this topic, and about integrity and life in general.
6, Handle Rejection Well
Another reason many fail in Hollywood, is that their ego is so strongly associated with their identification of who they are, that if they are told no, they feel personally attacked, dehumanized, and worthless. In that situation, many such persons will even seek revenge on the person who told them no. Once in a while, I would evaluate certain actors that I wanted to sign by rejecting them. I knew that if they would handle my rejection with grace and ease, that they would most likely handle the rejection well of casting directors and could manage the pressures of the business fairly well. I didn’t often apply this test, but when I did, it quickly proved my suspicion that the person would go from fake charm to scary maniac with just a few words. These days, I have a friendlier way to determine a person’s character and sanity level without any stress test, but we’ll save that for another time.
The point here is you must handle rejection well and not take anything personally. Of course, it may be personal, but so what? There are enough people on the planet to make you rich and famous. You only need one. Why waste your time getting depressed or angry at one person? Maybe they had a difficult day and just got in a fight with a family member. Maybe you remind them of their ex who broke their heart. Maybe they think you are too beautiful, and they don’t want to fall in love. Who knows? Who cares!
I got brutally rejected by a client I thought for sure I was going to sign for a sales deal once. I was so upset! We both hung up, and then five minutes later after I cooled down, I called him back and closed him for a total of around thirty thousand dollars.
So, if you get rejected by email, phone, text, in person, or whatever, pay it no attention. Just consider it a step in the sales / pitching process and realize you are just getting to know each other. If everyone got everything they wanted the first time they asked for it, there would be more millionaires than poor people. Rejection means NOTHING if you want something GOOD enough. If someone rejects you or your deal, thank them.
I’ve called people months, weeks, even days later after they rejected me and made closes. “Didn’t I just tell you ‘no’ the other day?! One guy asked me once. “You probably did! Yes, I think you’re right!” I replied. People tell me that all the time!” He laughed. I ended up closing him.
I was unemployed once before I became self-employed and desperately wanted a job. But I didn’t want just any job, I wanted a job that I knew I was specifically qualified for that paid far more than any other position of its type with a certain company in a certain luxury high rise building in Chicago. I interviewed with the company and was so frustrated I didn’t hear back. I must have called them literally about one hundred times, leaving countless messages. I had their phone number memorized I called them so much. Finally, the owner called me and asked what had happened to me. “You didn’t leave me a message the other day!” He stated. I got used to hearing from you! I was afraid something happened!” He told me I was the most persistent person he had ever met and felt like he HAD to give me the job. He then hired me as marketing manager which led me to launching my model and talent management company out of the same offices.
Never get offended by rejection. Rejection is your friend. Rejection is merely a stepping-stone to success. Thank the person for their time. Ask them if there is something else they are looking for. Ask them if there is anything with which you can help. Ask them what would make them say yes. Ask them if they would consider giving you a referral to someone who may say yes. Offer them a finder’s fee. Be creative.
7, Stay Connected
Another huge mistake people in Hollywood make often is that after they pitch someone and get rejected, they will never contact that prospect again. Aside from just trying to pitch them again or close a deal, you have to just stay connected to them any way you can. This means, you have, show, and maintain genuine interest in the life and career of your connection. Send them regular and random messages, asking how they are, if they need anything, or congratulating them on that great news you just read about them in the trades or whatever. I know that most people are not doing this, because firstly, they don’t do it with our company, and secondly, when I do these actions with other companies, they are often shocked and happily surprised that I thought of them. “Doesn’t everyone do this?” I asked a top CEO once. “No! They don’t!” They told me. Wow! Show interest. Show concern. Show that you care. Work your network!
8, Be Nice
This is another one of the most important things of all. Be nice. Sure, you don’t have to be. But if it comes down to a company funding a deal from the person who is kind, versus a similar deal from a person who is a jerk or really has no manners, who do you think they will go for? That line about “nice guys finish last” is a lie. Especially these days.
The world has enough cruelty, pain and suffering in it. Be happy in your work, have good vibes, spread good energy, and share the love. Make the world, and Hollywood a better place for you being in it.
This certainly isn’t everything you need to know to effectively network or succeed, but it certainly is a good start. Learning the tools of success and life improvement should be a life-long endeavor. Always be learning. Always be growing. Always be networking. And of course—ALWAYS BE CLOSING!
Bruce Edwin is CEO of Starpower Management, Bruce Edwin Productions, and Hollywood Sentinel Public Relations. He does not accept unsolicited materials. Visit: www.BruceEdwin.com
This content is © 2021, Hollywood Sentinel / Bruce Edwin, all world rights reserved.