WHY REPUTATION TRUMPS TALENT
There is no Business like Show Business.
And possibly that is true, as there is no place, other than politics, that a good or bad reputation can travel faster than a supersonic jet.
You have to treat your reputation as your most prized possession in Hollywood. There seems to be a misunderstanding about what reputation truly means. A solid reputation is built on professionalism but even more so on how good a human being you are on a solid ground of authenticity and I, for one, quote more than once the saying, “ This is not Show Friends, it is Show Business,” because there has to be a definite approach to a career in film and television by displaying the proper business etiquette.
Ultimate success is achieved with both talent and relationships, and this combination creates a positive reputation.
As a freelancer and content creator, I want to remind you that you are the CEO of YOU, INC.
You have to treat your career primarily as a business first, with a VITAL element of authentic networking and genuine relationships from the very beginning.
Connection and relationships trump talent every single time.
How often have you seen a writer, director, or actor who wasn’t as talented as an A-Lister gain elite status because of close friendships with decision-makers?
How many times have you seen artists stand out from a crowd and get a sudden opportunity to skyrocket their professional career because of one call, made by a powerful connection, that mentors and champions such artist?
I’m a storytelling advocate. But I’m also known as a unifier and super-connector, with a “Rolodex” that I built over 30 years. I’m fortunate enough to have access to the best of the best worldwide, from agents, managers, celebrities, studio execs, distributors, international producers, and financiers. I was not an overnight success. What I did from day one is chose strategically and aligned myself with people I genuinely admired.
These people are my reputation protectors to this day.
I observe the content creators as they interact with me. I have seen it in emails, in person meetings, film convetions and while sharing the stage as a panelist or speaker in Industry events.
I am here to shine the light on the three things that will help your reputation and the three things that could destroy it.
I was on a yacht at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019 where my clients were pitched this little movie called “CODA.” Indeed, it was not a typical Summit title after Hunger Games, Anna, or La La Land. But I can tell you one thing: all theatrical distributors who were output partners at Lionsgate /Summit wanted to be in business with Patrick Wachsberger.
Many balked at the “smallness” of the story and not having major talent on board of “Coda”. Still, Patrick’s winning instincts and the relationships he built over the years, had the first round of buyers sign on to the film before production.
You can make these alliances, too, with three easy, actionable steps:
1. INVITE A LEADER TO LUNCH
You may not have the perfect logline, sales sheet pitch, deck, script, or sizzle but if you have a small budget to invest in sharing a meal with someone who can help your career, do that.
There is nothing like two people sitting at a table across from one another and conversing about life. Plus, you get the executive away from office distractions. When he first started working in Hollywood, Brian Grazer was working as an assistant in a studio lot. He would go into an empty office and call all the people he ultimately wanted to work with on his lunch break. Grazer sometimes would call them for months until finally, they would accept. He was curious about people and their life stories and made some of the most important movies and shows of our time as a result of creating meaningful connections.
2. BE OPEN TO FEEDBACK
I have seen writers, filmmakers, or even producers who do not accept critique from anybody way too many times. The content creators who are the most humble and easy to work with are the ones that decision-makers prefer to hire. We will take nice and kind over perfect and arrogant. Therefore, be open to the feedback of those who have been around longer than you. You are asked for adjustments to your material for good reasons. They’re not trying to destroy your work. They’re trying to make it better from a perspective of experience.
3. ASK QUESTIONS
Show interest and curiosity towards the person or company you want to do business with. It’s not about their credits, or whether they work with the biggest stars in Hollywood or they made box office successes.
It’s about finding particular things about their persona that drew your attention in the first place. You may have seen their animal advocacy work, or perhaps they are specific sports fans, or they had a unique mindset or approach behind their successful careers. You will be amazed how shared commonalities and interests can become a solid relationship foundation.
THE MOST POWERFUL REPUTATION DESTROYERS
Here is a truth nugget: the biggest turnoff and relationship destroyers I know are rooted in the ego and are easy to spot. Here are the most common ones.
You talk about yourself and your project non-stop.
I have listened to pitches where there is no courtesy hello or small talk. You don’t even know my name or what I have done in the Industry as far as I know. This is a huge turnoff, showing a lack of manners and pure selfishness.
You see the producer or Executive as a meal ticket.
You think that everything is due to you. The producer is not a bank, nor is sitting on a couch idle just waiting for a straightforward moneymaker that you believe you have to offer them. A producer is a champion who will be there by your side to help see your work get produced, sold, and distributed. They’re not a stepping stone for you, to make you famous or rich, for you to discard once you get what you want.
Hollywood is no walk in the park, but you have to remember that a producer or an executive will be able to tell right away if you’re looking at them as a way to benefit you and only you versus getting to know them and making sure that they will be your partner, your ally, your collaborator and treated with value and respect.
You do not know it all.
I have been in meetings or on calls with content creators to tell me that they know the business more than I do. When they have been around only a few months, they base their “know everything already” on what they have read and not what they have experienced. The ones that have the experience never pretend to be knowing of everything. They always strive to learn from others and get different perspectives because the business is constantly in flux.
“If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.”
D. L. Moody
The creation of opportunity from not only professional experience through authentic connections will not only be financially rewarding in the long run. Still, it will open up pathways you never even knew existed and make the journey to success more enjoyable and lasting.
That I know for sure.