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Secret Agent Man

How to Maintain Your Network

How to Maintain Your Network
Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

A few weeks ago, I met with an actor who had moved to Los Angeles from New York about two years ago. The guy was frustrated because he was finding it difficult to get a foothold in the industry. So we talked for a while, and he ended up making a comment that revealed why he was having such a tough time.

At the end of a meeting, I always ask actors if they have any questions. It’s a good way to signal our time is almost up, and it gives the person sitting across from me one last chance to gain or share information. In this case, the actor used the time to mention that a certain casting associate on a CBS show was a fan and had promised to bring him in when the role was right. That’s a great thing to share, but this guy was behind the times. What he didn’t know was that the casting associate had changed offices three months ago and was now working for Amazon.

Oops!

As an actor, especially one who was relatively new to town, he had no excuse for not keeping track of the few people he knew. A smart performer would’ve known about the move and would’ve sent her a congrats note or something. But this guy had come up a dollar short three months late.

There are direct lines of connection between everyone and everything in this business. Actors who see those lines increase their chances of working. Those who ignore them fade away like an oil painting that’s been left out in the sun.

READ: 7 Tips for Networking in the Film Industry

Hey, you guys love homework, right? Great. I’ve got some for you. Crack open a beer or uncork a bottle of red and sit down with a pen and some paper. Now make a list of everyone in the industry who knows you and would respond if you sent them an email. To be clear, that eliminates the agent you spoke to briefly six months ago at a party who wouldn’t remember you if his life depended on it. No, I’m talking about the people who really know you. And don’t forget to include assistants. They tend to move up in the world, and you’ll definitely want them on your side when that happens.

(Full disclosure, I am currently enjoying a Kennedy-Oswald–type relationship with a former assistant.) 

The finished list should include contact information, how you met, and, most importantly, the last time you connected. Looks good, right? Now review it once a month. Make sure the specifics are up to date. And reach out to every single person on that list, not asking for something, just making contact in a way that doesn’t involve you being needy. 

For example, if the person is casting a show you happen to watch, send an email referencing the last episode and how impressed you were with her choice for one of the parts.

And there’s no need to get down on yourself if you’re a newbie to this business, because I’ll give you the first name for your list. Me. That’s right. Just put SAM at the very top and you can be one of the hundreds of actors who send me private messages on the Backstage forum.

Hey, you gotta start somewhere….

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