For the next couple of columns I am going to devote my time to "success stories" about people who made it into the business, with the inference that if you read about these successes you will learn and apply some or all of what they did to "get in" the business.
As I've mentioned in earlier columns, it is vital that you keep in touch with your contacts in the biz. You should have a short-term (four to six weeks) and long-term (three or more months) contact list.
One way of keeping in touch with your best contacts is to send revised resumes or newsy little letters about what you've been up to -- latest jobs and so forth. Postcards with news of significant career steps are also good.
Terry's story is a good example of how keeping in touch with contacts can pay off.
Terry was 19 when she first came to Los Angeles to find a job in the industry. Although her first love was acting, she felt she'd be happy with any type of work in the business. Her first job was as a runner for an agency. She would bring the agency's submissions to casting directors in town; often sneaking her own pictures and resume in the bundle. Having thus met quite a few casting directors, she decided that she'd stay in touch with a little help from Hallmark.
For every holiday under the sun she would send out Charlie Brown/Peanuts greeting cards, the purpose being to create a theme associated with her name in order to keep herself fresh in these people's minds. It paid off, with two television acting jobs and a good shot at a feature film. Her first job came from a casting director who said, laughing, that he'd hire her as long as she promised not to send any more Charlie Brown cards.
Due to the nature of the film industry, you can never tell when one of your contacts will result in a job. Pamela Jaye Smith's story is a good example.
For more than twenty years, Pamela has worked as a consultant, producer, writer and director of features, television shows, commercials, documentaries, and corporate films.
Pamela told me, "When I moved to Hollywood, I got a job the first day I went looking and spent six weeks at a script-typing service, which was great to learn format and see who was doing what in stories."
Then she tracked down some contacts she had made while working on a film for Paramount Pictures in her home state of Texas. "I had the good fortune of getting a job with a new production company headed by someone I'd met there on location. So networking was everything there On my own, I applied for and got work at Universal Studios, where I was in production for four years on TV series, movies of the week, and features. Contacts from those years have lasted for a very long time, and I still do business with some of the same people as we've all moved along in our careers. Some are among my very best friends and we consider each other family."
Pamela has even taken on menial work (production assistant, craft services) for friends when she really didn't have to take the work, but just wanted to help a friend on a production.
This is an important point that both Terry and Pamela stress: always remember the people who have helped you along the way. These people are special. They didn't have to take the time from their work to show you the ropes. They did it because they liked and respected you. And never forget that you are a member of a team. No one can make a film alone -- it takes hundreds of dedicated people.