How to Launch Your Film Career with Relationships, Not “Contacts”

launch your film career

© Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig – Attribution License

One of the most frequent requests that we get here at Voyage Media is, can you give me some names and contact information? Or, how do I get contact information for producers so I can send them my material?

Getting contact information is actually quite easy. I can tell you right now exactly how to do it. You get an IMDB Pro account and research contacts yourself. You can find their production company contact info, their representation info, and info for their agents, lawyers, managers, and so forth. Pay a small subscription fee and you can have it all right there at your fingertips. But there’s nothing special about getting that information.

Why “Contacts” Are a Dead End

The problem is that it’s not the contact information that matters. Even if you have some incredible pitch prepared, that contact is not going to take your call in the first place. And even if they did take your call, odds are, they’re not going to accept your script or whatever it is you’re trying to send them.

There are simply too many people out there with books or screenplays or projects in development, trying to get something to happen for their project. There are so many people out there doing this that if you don’t have some form of credibility and you haven’t been vetted by someone trustworthy, there’s no reason why they would spend any time with you. These agents, managers, and producers have 30 other projects on their desk that have been vetted by the industry in some way and have proven their credibility….

How Do You Gain Credibility?

This is really the key question. The traditional model of being credibility is having an agent or manager. The problem with that model is that if you’re not well-known and therefore seen as credible, you can’t get an agent or a manager. It’s a catch-22.

The other method of being credible is to have a relationship with somebody who can introduce you. If you’re a screenwriter or author and I know you and I like you, I like your work and I know a certain producer or the executive of a specific production company, then I can introduce you. This way, they will take your call and gladly spend a few minutes with you, since I’ve already vetted you.

So then logically, your next question should be, how do I become credible to someone who knows someone? How do I get that first kind of break?

The answer lies in being in the relationship business.   You have to be in relationship with people, not just trying to get something from them. If you wanted to be friends with somebody, you would not call them and ask them to loan you $100 upon first meeting them. You wouldn’t ask them to loan you their car or help you out of a jam.   Those are things you’d only do once you were already friends with the person.

You have to be friends with somebody first to be in a relationship with them. The highest leverage thing that you can do to become friends with somebody is to add value to their life somehow, or be in the business of solving their problems.

Once you’re in that business—and that’s not an easy business to be in—you will start flowing down the river instead of fighting to swim upstream.

Ask the Right Questions…

For example, what do you know about the person you’re trying to connect with? Have you done research on them? Do you know what they care about either professionally or personally? Does what you have or what you care about connect with what that person needs? Do you have something to talk about that’s interesting to them? Something that makes their day a little more exciting or a little more interesting or a little more fulfilling?

Do you have a project that satisfies the current market need that they’re trying to fulfill?   Have you read the trades about them? Have you engaged them on social media?

Give WAY MORE Than You Get

A friend of mine, who is a confident networker, has become one of Richard Branson’s best friends. It’s been a very strategic thing that he did for his business purposes to become friends with Richard Branson. His initial way to gain this friendship was to be the largest donor to Richard Branson’s charity. And he didn’t do it with only his own money.

He rounded up a group of people, all of whom donated money into one pool, and then he presented that pool to Richard Branson. It was the largest donation that the charity had ever received.

Richard Branson invited him down to his private island. They ended up getting along and Joe, my friend, has continued to bring value to Richard Branson’s life.

So there’s another framework of relationship success that we as filmmakers often just do not live by, which is: if you want to be in the relationship business, then you need to be a giver and you need to give 20 times more than you ask to receive.

There’s this notion of give, give, give, get. Give, give, give, give, give, get. Give, give, give, give, give, get. But as filmmakers we’re always out there needing. We’re like can you read my script? Can you give me some advice? Will you finance my movie? It’s all give me, give me, give me. Never, what can I give you? What can I do for you?

Once you’re in the what-can-I-do-for-you business, then like I said earlier, you’ll start flowing downstream and things will emerge for you.

How Can You Get Into The Relationship Business?

Your first step is to make sure your material is helpful to the people that it needs to be helpful to. Make sure that your project satisfies the market need, which can get broken down into several factors. Does it work for financing market need? Does it work for an actor’s market need? Does it work for a director’s market need? Does it work for an audiences’ market need? Does your project help all of those people achieve what they need to achieve?

 

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the helpful tips. Knowing that your are in the relationship business with many people in the entertainment industry, as a writer, how can I get more producers interested in reading and optioning my book, When Brooklyn Was Heaven, for a possible movie or T.V. series? I have been told that my stories about the Catskill Mountains would make for a wonderful sequel to “Dirty Dancing.”

    Reply
  2. Happy Christmas whatever, Nat.

    Reply

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