As anyone in the industry can tell you, there is a certain attitude that you learn to embody. Some people are born with a natural extroverted need to talk to everyone and schmooze it up whether they’re at the grocery store, or out in a bar. Others find it a little more difficult engaging people at social networking events.
Regardless of your predisposition for professional elbow bumping, the film industry continues to be very much a people industry, and as such, you want to make the right impression. One part of this is basic common sense: Don’t be outrageously egotistical, don’t insult people’s mothers during luncheons, try not to fart in closed spaces if you ate eggs for lunch, etc. The other part is your attitude.
Often times people going into interviews, meetings, or first dates think making a great first impression is the first step, but really there is a step even before that. This “pre-first step” is one of the mental hurdles that keeps shy people from asking for raises, “nice guys” from getting the girl, and great actors from getting great roles. Simply put, this step is your own personal, mental attitude before you even shake your first hand or crack your first smile.
In an industry where an impression can make or break you, and a partnership can start or end over a martini, it’s important to go into any interaction with a predisposition for success. Personally, I like to think of a few great accomplishments I’ve had to get pumped up. Hey if I could jump off a moving train, travel the world, and confront my own mugger I could damn well walk up to this director and introduce myself!
Even if you haven’t tamed lions or climbed mountains you can still prepare yourself in a way that makes sense to you. The fine line is of course not becoming so full of yourself that you sound like a dick and talk only about how great you are. In general, meetings, interviews, and events are a little like a first date; Looks may be important for the role, but on a deeper level, you want them to like you, you want to like them, and if you have to pay for a drink or two that’s fine as long as you’re getting something out of it. Ultimately you want to be friendly, but you also need to know when to cut losses and when to make a move.
Having business cards, or even a personal pitch can be a great way to close on a positive conversation. Inversely, remember if someone doesn’t seem interested, or it seems like you’re not a good fit, there are always more fish in the sea! Don’t get discouraged-just let it slide.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking they can just move to LA, make a million dollars and live the easy life. You will struggle, you will get rejected, and you will have to hustle harder than you have in your life. Do make plans, do try to establish networks, and do be prepared in as many ways as possible.
This is the only industry where you can get turned down for a job because you’re not pretty enough, your hair is too long, or you look like you’re too young. I recently got turned down for a role because I “looked too much like a cool kid.” It was a job demoting attack wrapped in the most unusual of compliments, but at the end of the day I had to take it and just laugh. One of my favorite quotes an agent ever said to me to soften my rejection letter was from Danny DeVito. He went to 200 auditions, and endured rejection after rejection, after rejection. Each time he kept reminding himself “Someone out there is looking for a Danny DeVito.” And sure enough, someone was.
Someone out there may very well be looking for you, but you’ve gotta have the drive to get back up after getting knocked down 199 times, you’ve gotta have the attitude to keep smiling at luncheons, and you’ve gotta have the optimism to say you know what, someone out there is looking for a me.
Corey Max Brenner: Actor, Screenwriter, Stuntman