27 Rules for Networking in Hollywood

One of my favorite Hollywood behind-the-scenes blogger, Doug Richardson, shared a story about a dad who wanted to break into entertainment:

“I got so friggin’ tired of trying to climb the hill,” claimed the preschool dad. “But it’s such a who-you-know business. Without the connections, guys like me can never get ahead.

Here’s the truth, Doug writes:

Nearly everyone in showbiz began with zero Hollywood connections.

(If this resonates with you, I’d recommend picking up Doug’s book, The Smoking Gun: True Tales from Hollywood’s Screenwriting Trenches.)

I want to pick up where this post left off:

How do you start building connections?

In a nutshell: Drink with as many people as you can.

Below are my 27 rules to “doing drinks” in Hollywood.

This is how I went from waiting tables (Ozumo in Santa Monica — no longer there — and Natalee Thai on Venice Blvd) to working with Dennis Lehane (Boardwalk Empire, The Wire, Shutter Island).

This is a methodical approach. Some might call it “cold.” They wouldn’t be wrong.

I’ve found it works for people like me, who read books like How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi because the idea that I could “just be myself” triggered blinding anxiety that made me want to throw up.

(I keep notes on every book I read and make them publicly available. My notes for Never Eat Alone are here.)

With that said, your mileage will vary. All rules are meant to be bent. Some broken. Here we go:

27 Rules to Doing Drinks in Hollywood

  1. Take nothing personally. Last minute cancellation? Enjoy your free night and try again
  2. Always drinks, never dinner
  3. Short invitations. “We should do drinks. How far out are you? I could do next Thursday”
  4. Schedule 3-4 networking drinks per week. At least 2 will cancel. See #1
  5. Google the shit out of people
  6. Keep a list of go-to places. Picking a location should take 2 minutes, not 9 emails. Here’s what my list looks like
  7. Keep it convenient. No meet-n-greet drinks in Burbank if you’re coming from Santa Monica
  8. Avoid loud places
  9. Avoid 3-4 person group drinks  
  10. Get their phone number
  11. Remove the words, “today was crazy” from your vocabulary
  12. Order your usual drink. Stick to what you know
  13. Share something cool you did this weekend
  14. Do something cool on the weekends
  15. Admit you stalked them. “I saw online you did X. That’s awesome, how did that happen?”
  16. Stop with the phone. Silence it and put it face down on the table
  17. Listen
  18. Take notes on them. I dictate notes as I walk back to my car
  19. Add notes to their contact information
  20. Put their contact info into “buckets”. “A” means you’ll reach out 1/week, “B” 1/month, “C” 1x every 3 months (h/t Keith Ferrazzi)
  21. Follow-up like a pro (next day). “Great to meet you. Here’s that script I mentioned. Looking forward to reading/watching X”
  22. Follow-up like a pro (2 weeks). “I got through 50 pages of X. The writing was good but it wasn’t for me. Thank you for sharing, I really appreciate it”
  23. If you can give, give. Scripts, screeners, information  
  24. If you need, ask. See #23
  25. Keep a short list of people you want to see again. This should be about 10% of the people you meet  
  26. Use multiple mediums. Get off email. Text, gchat, or Facebook message people you want to build a relationship with
  27. Do drinks back-to-back. Advanced only. Maximize your time with back-to-back drinks when possible

What did I miss? What rules do you follow?


Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk

My #1 Sleazy Networking Strategy – And Why It Works

I’ll get into my sleazy networking strategy, but first wanted to share a story about my friend’s recent birthday:

The other day, I called her to wish her a Happy Birthday.

“Thank you!” she gushed. “OMG, I totally forgot yours…” blah blah blah. “How did you remember mine?” she asked.

“I put it in my calendar,” I said.

“Oh.” She thought about that. “Then it was like, an electronic reminder. It’s not like you really remembered. Or care.”


“Uh, I cared enough to put it in the calendar, and then to call you.”

“But it’s not like you cared enough to remember on your own.”

Uhhhh… huh?!

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Zen Assistant: How To Quit Your Job (Part 4 of 5) – Networking

In this Zen Assistant series we’ve been talking about how to quit your job.

We covered the reasons to quit, whether or not you need your next gig lined up, and creating an exit strategy.

In this post, I’ll cover how networking plays into quitting.

Using Your Weak Ties

A huge component of your exit strategy is tapping into your network, what Meg Jay calls your “weak ties:”

Best friends are great for giving rides to the airport, but twenty-somethings who huddle together with like-minded peers limit who they know, what they know, how they think, how they speak, and where they work. That new piece of capital, that new person to date almost always comes from outside the inner circle. New things come from what are called our weak ties, our friends of friends of friends.So yes, half of twenty-somethings are un- or under-employed. But half aren’t, and weak tiesare how you get yourself into that group. Half of new jobs are never posted, so reaching out to your neighbor’s boss is how you get that un-posted job. It’s not cheating. It’s the science of how information spreads.

If the reason you’re thinking of creating a network now is because you need help finding a job — then you’re already too late…

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Doing Lunch and How to Save $20,760

I only had one major gripe with Keith Ferrazzi’s wonderful book, NEVER EAT ALONE: what a shitty title. I thought, That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. The world would be a better place if everyone learned to be comfortable in his or her own skin, and being alone (whether you’re in a park, at a movie, or eating lunch) is integral to that. Years later, I realized I completely missed the point Ferrazzi tried to make.

Cui Bono (Who Benefits?)

Ferrazzi’s point is “never eat alone” if your alternative is breaking bread with another person and developing a relationship. They probably realized this was too long of a title, so they shortened it. I thought the title suggested this layer of insecurity about eating by oneself. Later I realized it’s not about insecurity, but cui bono: who benefits when you eat alone?

Nobody. Which is what this post is about: how to strategically maximize the opportunities when you go out for lunch, and reap benefits when you choose not to…

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