David Couper is a career coach working in the Entertainment Industry in Los Angeles. His latest book “Outsiders On The Inside: Creating A Winning Career… Even When You Don’t Fit In! was published in August 2010 by Career Press.
How important is networking in the film industry?
Networking is vital in the film industry. Unlike other industries where jobs are posted on online websites and in the press rarely are jobs for actors or models ever advertised. If you don’t know the people who know about these opportunities you won’t get the job.
Can you tell us one personal success story of yours on networking?
I am a member of the British Academy of Film and Television – Los Angeles with 1000 members. To become a member you must have worked in the film and television industry in Britain or with a British connection and be sponsored and seconded by a member. Because of my networking I knew a producer who was respected in the group and who could propose me. Without that connection it would have been impossible to get into this group.
I have heard of actors and models landing a big acting gig without any auditions, is that true?
Rarely. As an actor, even if you are at the top of the ladder, you need to be ready to do an audition. As someone who has written and produced many videos in the past I know that casting is a complex issue. The audition is not just about how the actor performs but also their look, the chemistry between them and other characters and how they will take direction and how they will get along with the team. The producers and directors want to know that you can do the job.
Why are some of the best acting and modeling jobs never advertised?
Acting and modeling are very competitive fields. There are far more actors and models than jobs so organizations and individuals don’t need to advertise to find people to fill their open jobs. They can easily fill them through word-of-mouth and agents and managers promoting their clients. When a job is advertised it is either because the producer and director don’t know people because they are new to the business, or because they want something different and unique. So for example, a job was advertised in Los Angeles for a child actor who had a British accent from a particular region of Britain. It’s unusual to find child actors in the US who are either British or can do British accents so the producers had to advertise.
With who, where, and when should you network?
Anyone, anywhere and at anytime! You never know who knows someone who can hire you and you never where or when you are going to meet them. For example, when I wanted to break into writing sitcoms in Los Angeles. I was working in a Chicago suburb not in an entertainment company. I asked one of my co-workers about about California and the television industry. He told me that his brother was a stand up living in Los Angeles and that he had just pitched a sitcom. I met up with him and he helped me with my career. Don’t assume that the person in the line at the supermarket, at your kid’s ball game, or even in the doctor’s office doesn’t know either information, contacts or job leads in acting or modeling even if you don’t live in the major hubs – LA or NY.
Who are the best kinds of network contacts?
The best kind of contacts are those people who can hire you. For actors those are producers and directors. For models those are the clients and agencies and sometimes photographers. Often new actors and models hang out and network with other actors and models. That’s OK but most of those people can’t give you a job and are actually your competition.
What are some of the best venues for networking?
The best venues for networking are where you can be yourself. People want to get to know you, build a relationship and then see if they can cast you as an actor or place you as a model. Working in a not-for-profit such as a homeless shelter or an animal sanctuary where you can enjoy volunteering with like-minded people is a great place to make connections. Going to a film festival or being involved in a theater production are great places to meet other people who can help. Any place where professionals might hang out is good. This could range from a coffee shop near an ad agency where you can meet people who hire models through to a movie theater where a screening of a new movie is being given for the Writers Guild where you can meet top writers who can help an actor with his or her career.
What’s the biggest mistake new actors and models make while networking?
Focusing on a job rather than focusing on a friendship or relationship. Many actors and models will ask people they don’t know for leads to jobs. That is often a turn-off for professionals in the business. They don’t know the actor or the model so they don’t want to help. If you get to know them and build a relationship with them in time they will be ready to help you with a referral or a job lead.
Sometimes, you hear a story in a magazine or newspaper where a famous director is looking for a particular character in an actor and you are perfect for that job, but you have no idea where or how to approach? What would you suggest in this situation?
You have to act fast! If it is in the media chances are that it is already been filled or will soon be because of the exposure. Network with your contacts to find anyone who is close to this director. If you don’t have any contacts find out where the director will be and either try and approach them directly or send them something. Get your verbal and written pitch down so you are ready. Be clear why you are perfect and be ready to counter their opposition to you. Prepare mentally. Be confident. Believe in yourself. And be the actor who will get that job.
What’s the one thing an aspiring actor can do right away to get work in the film industry?
Find local filmmakers. Nowadays with cheap video cameras, YouTube and the spread of social and traditional media people everywhere are making short videos and full-length features. Look to local colleges or schools, search online or go to local newspapers and magazines. Then ask to help the filmmakers out with their productions. Do anything – get coffee, paint sets or help stuff envelopes for fund-raising and soon you will be able to get a part on camera because you are involved on set and trusted by the team.
About the Author
David Couper is a career coach working in the Entertainment Industry in Los Angeles. His latest book “Outsiders On The Inside: Creating A Winning Career… Even When You Don’t Fit In!” was published in August 2010 by Career Press.