Of course that adage is as old as the industry itself, and while many of us often use it, we don't really want to believe it. For some reason, we think that our talent and drive and experience and credits should be enough. We walk in to meet or audition with strangers and we "act" and believe that they will see what we see - a polished, professional and amazingly talented performer that they should hire immediately. And many times they DO see that, but they see that a lot - with many, many talented actors all day long.
We all need to get a clue on the clue train...knowing people, personally, through referrals, parties, events, gatherings...is a wonderful way to move forward in this business. Of course there are times when we get a gig or a job without knowing a soul involved, but as I get older, much of the work I get: the agent I just landed, the audition appointments, the last two major contracts...I got them because I KNEW someone and they like me. Yes, they like my work, but more often than not it is because they like me as a person; they respect my work ethic and know that I won't let them down. They like a LOT of people's work. What makes the difference is knowing me.
I bring this up at this point in my career because for the longest time I avoided "schmoozing." As much of a "character" as I am (i see all of your heads shaking now) I really was never good with going up to people and introducing myself or asking for favors from folks I know in the biz.
This year that has changed. I have begun to ask for favors. I have begun to schmooze. I have begun to meet people because I am putting myself in more situations to do so. And in doing so, I am already finding that it is making a huge difference. Some of it, maybe MUCH of it IS who you know and there is nothing wrong with that...as long as you have the goods to back it up and as long as your schmoozing, isn't smarmy. Two fun words!!!
So yea, I have an agent now because of who I knew. My play is beginning to move forward because of who I know and people I have met in peripheral circumstances that turn out to be beneficial for the play.
A friend of mine recently told me that I needed to spend more time at the theatre's in New York City and I was a bit annoyed. "It's not like the old days," I told her. "You don't hang out by the stage door and wait to be discovered." But that wasn't what she meant. She meant that you have to spend time with the people who are successful in the place you want to be successful. Going to shows yes, but also going to party's that your actor and director friends throw. Going to restaurants where show folks go. Volunteering for causes that are important to you that also happen to be important to industry folks...making it your business to know what is going on as much as possible. When I met Amy Gossels last week, I had looked her up on IMDB before going in and asked her about a new project she was working on. She seemed surprised but also pleased that I knew about it.
I think it's a balance of things...but getting to know people...making connections and networking is an important part of finding success...and I suppose true artists don't give a crap about success...but this little performer...typing this little blog entry tonight...DOES! And it's time I went and got it!