In Los Angeles, going out to network is work. It’s a rare occasion that I’m jazzed enough to tack on an extra three hours of Hollywood shop talk on top of a long day. Many if not most of us got into the film business because we love to talk movies and genuinely like proselytizing to the unconverted outside the business, who just don’t understand that “Moneyball” isn’t really about baseball or why they shouldn’t be fooled that the old Eddie Murphy is “back” with “Tower Heist.”
Yet, when I’m looking at an evening of engaging in conversations among my own kind, often a group of modern-day Sammy Glicks, who talk at you about last weekend’s box office report as if you don’t read the trades or about a four-quadrant spec as if it really has the potential to be good, I start to wonder if the evening wouldn’t be better spent catching up on Netflix – watching good movies rather than talking about bad ones in potentia.
But even though we live in the era of “The Social Network,” we can’t hope that online media will handle all of our networking for us. Once in a while, we must emerge from our edit bays, soundstages or from behind our laptops for some face time with other creatives, executives and potential collaborators. Like diving into the dating pool, it’s always a crapshoot as to if you’ll meet someone you’ll eventually hook up with professionally. Fortunately for all of us, there are some young, motivated networkers and entrepreneurs who have stepped up to use industry contacts, social media and low-cost alcohol to make the process easier.
“All day, every day, Hollywood people talk Hollywood. And all night, too, while doing drinks,” noted Perry Kalmus, formerly of United Talent Agency and who now runs DrinksLA, which attracts the young Hollywood business crowd – agents, producers, mangers and studio execs – for boutique alcoholic beverages at unique venues all over the city. “The number-one complaint you’ll hear about drinks in Hollywood is ‘All he or she did was talk about scripts.’ That person will have trouble making it in this business.”
Jessica Balsam realized her colleagues at Sony Pictures needed a way to decompress after work, yet still have the potential to network. She founded Thirsty Thursday four years ago and grew it to involve people from all over the industry, many from the post-production and technology sides of the business. The events rotate around the Westside, including a monthly get-together at Culver City’s Rush Street.
“I’m old-school about outreach,” Balsam said. “The events are all about word of mouth and email, not Facebook or Twitter.” Like a matchmaker, Balsam likes to know something about each of her guests and actively facilitates conversations between people whom she thinks should talk.
Gabrielle Pantera heads up ScreenPlayLab social events, targeted at industry artists, including actors and writers. “Struggling artists imagine they want networking events that are swarming with big names, but that doesn’t work because the result is everyone screaming ‘Pick me!’ and nobody being picked.”
She notes how much better it is for artists to scope out events like hers, where they’re not pitching themselves directly to the decision makers. “More than 100 actors and writers have gotten agency representation as a result of being referred by friends they met at ScreenPlayLab. Meeting the friend of an agent or producer, someone who if he or she likes you can make a phone call on your behalf is more helpful.”
“People love to party and they love to do something different,” said Kalmus. “Networking is not about meeting someone in the business. That’s lame. We believe it’s about forging a relationship and a bond with someone in the business. Most people stay close with the people who can discuss something other than Hollywood.”
For more information on DrinksLA, visit DrinksLA.com and for more information on ScreenPlayLab, visit ScreenPlayLab.com.
Gina Hall is a writer/producer with more than 10 years experience in television, documentary and feature film production. She is a graduate of USC’s school of Cinematic Arts and lives in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @GScottEnt.