Today, I attended an industry meet and greet. A rarity for me because I tend to find these “informal” get-togethers uncomfortable, earnest, awkward, and always permeated by that unmistakable stench of desperation. “Hi, I’m Bill Swizby! Love your show! I hope to one day write for a production of equally high calibre!” (subtext: “Hi! I live in my mother’s basement and my single daily meal usually consists of liquid cheese. PLEASE, give me a job!”).
To be fair, there’s no shame in networking, and people who are good at meeting people tend to do well in this business, often making up for a lack of talent by having the right connections. The sad reality is that as much as WE all loved Stargate, no one in Los Angeles really knows the show and no one in Toronto seems to care. People aren’t going to hire you if they don’t know who you are so it’s not a bad idea to put a face to name on the script and make a good impression. My problem is that the individuals I tend to make a good impression on are the people who can’t really help me out in that regard, fellow writers or production personnel who I end up chatting with for the simple reason that…they’re fun to talk to. This afternoon, for instance, I met a wonderful VFX guy, a lovely freelance writer, and a positively delightful coordinator who – bonus! – also happened to be a huge Stargate: Universe fan. None of the aforementioned will help me sell a show, but they’ll all, no doubt, make great company over a few rounds.
Early on, during the scrum for seats, I did manage to flag down one network executive and had a brief and pleasant chat with her, but that was about the extent of my accomplishments on this day. Okay, that’s not exactly true. I managed to sit through the panel without fidgeting too much. And I did have that big chocolate chip cookie.
I did make an effort. Once the formalities wrapped, I stood around in five minutes increments,
waiting to talk just quickly introduce myself say goodbye to the various network execs. No dice. It was like a wedding procession where you’re waiting for the groom’s drunk roommate to move along so that you can hand over your envelope. One fellow was like a mime on crank, wide-eyed, animated, gesticulating wildly, commanding undivided attention. Another couple, from a local production house, took a page out of the Brooklyn Nets playbook and actually boxed me out when I approached. THEY had gotten to there first and they weren’t sharing!
So I finished my big cookie and went home.
If nothing else, today’s experience did provide me with some invaluable pointers for the next meet and greet:
#1. Sit close to the front and wear comfortable shoes so that you can outrace the other attendees to your target.
#2. The complimentary baked goods are a planned distraction on the part of your enemies.
#3. Laughing at absolutely everything anyone says is no guarantee people are going to like you.
#4. Wear something distinct that will set you apart from the crowd AND leave an impression (ie. a monocle or hip waders).
#5. Find creative ways to monopolize your target’s attention and keep your rivals at bay. This, for instance, is a design I’m working on for next time which incorporates tip #4 as well:
#6: Be interesting. Or do something interesting that you can talk about on the day (ie. invent a popular app, save a life, learn to drive a rig, etc.)
#7: In the unlikely event you aren’t interesting (and can’t manufacture it), then make sure your pitch and/or script is interesting.
#8: Finally, in the unfortunate event neither you nor the project your pitching is interesting, make the best of things by stocking up on those complimentary baked goods and coffee.