Suzanne Lyons discusses the importance of networking and offers great information on creating relationships within the Entertainment Industry.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in your career for a year or for twenty years… we all get stuck from time to time. Maybe it’s a rejection that cuts a little too deep, the fear of not knowing how to do something, the fear of failure, the fear of success, a conversation in our head that tells us we can’t, or that the time’s not right, or that we’re too old, or the economy is bad. Whatever it is for you, it feels real and true and most importantly, it stops you!
Let’s talk about goal setting. The best goals, intentions, timelines, strategic plans… they all go out the window when we’re stuck. What do we do? How do we handle it? How do we get back on track? And how do we get back on track quickly?
I had a friend who, during an audition, had a bad experience where the director was very rude to her. It was three months before she went on another audition. My film partner and I had a similar situation happen to us. We had successfully produced films in other countries and were planning to produce our first film here in the U.S. We did a fantastic business plan and movie poster, had a great investor’s package, had everything organized and were ready to go out to investors. That was December of 2004. All of a sudden it was March 1st 2005! I had gone unconscious about the project and didn’t even know that I was stuck. The fear of raising the money stopped me cold!
I think getting stuck from time to time is inevitable. The question is, how do we deal with it and how do we get back on track in record time. Here are a few ideas from some of my entertainment industry guests who joined me for my MTT video. They’ve experienced being stuck first hand and they have some valuable advice for us.
CREATE A VISUAL DISPLAY: CEO of Now Casting, Bob Steward, feels that having your goals clearly plotted and broken down into a timeline with milestones is key. “But most importantly,” he says, “have it clearly visible at all times. That way you’ll stay conscious and engaged in your career and you’ll notice if something is wrong. So you’ll find out ‘oh, my foot’s stuck’ as opposed to ‘holy cow, I’m knee deep in quicksand.’
KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE: Actress Mary Stein says that for her the best and fastest way to get unstuck is a daily practice of staying in touch with her vision. “Stay focused on the big picture,” she says, “and keep your eye on the prize.”
FACT VERSUS FICTION: Director/Writer Mark Rosman suggests that we look at the facts. “When I notice that I’m stuck,” he says, “I look at what is the story that I’m telling myself and I write it down. For example, after a producer called and said he didn’t want to option my script, I thought, oh, I’m not talented enough… I can’t write dialogue, and a whole ton of crazy things went through my mind. I wrote the long list on a piece of paper and then I compared it to the facts. The fact was, that producer didn’t want my script… period! That was the fact. So instead of looking at my interpretations of what I made it all mean, I decided to just look at the facts. All the drama disappeared in an instant and I got back on the phone and started pitching again.
HAVE AN ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER: Comedy Central Executive Kris Emery suggests that we have a buddy that we stay in touch with on a regular basis. Kris and her accountability partner speak (or blog) daily or weekly supporting each other with their goals and all the ups and downs that go along with reaching them. And they’ve been doing this for over 20 years!
IT’S A GOOD THING! IT MEANS YOU’RE GETTING BIGGER:
So says TV and feature writer Alison Lea Bingeman. She believes that “if you’re stuck, that means that you are breaking through to some new ground… some new level. She says that “there’s something new that you’re learning and that you’re processing and that you’ll come out on the other side with a lot more knowledge and a lot more wisdom.”
As I’ve mentioned, we are all going to get stuck from time to time, whether from internal reasons or external sources. We’re human. It happens. The question is… for how long are you willing to stay stuck? Minutes, days, weeks, years? How about seconds? Wouldn’t that be a whole lot better? Let’s cut down, way down, on the time we spend being stopped and stuck. Start using these suggestions and get masterful at getting back on track immediately.
It’s Time to Put Your Butt on the Line
In my last article on ‘Goal Setting’ I stressed the importance of setting goals, creating a strategic plan for your career, and following a timeline with clear specific actions to ensure that your goals happen. It’s all great… in fact, it’s all fantastic if you’re the type of person who jumps out of bed in the morning eager to get started on the tasks for the day, loves a challenge and can’t wait for that first obstacle to get in your way, that rock to fall in your path. My guess is, that’s not the case for many (if any) of us.
This paper is the last of my three articles on this super important subject… How to get a mentor. In my first and second articles I looked at: Why should we have a mentor? What is a mentor? Who makes a good mentor? How do you approach mentors? What do you want from a mentor? And the importance of being prepared when you get on a phone or in a meeting with your mentor. This time, I will focus on mentor etiquette… the “Do’s and Don’ts” that go along with having a mentor.
Firstly, here are a few of the don’ts to keep in mind. Don’t put them on the spot by asking them to hire you, audition you, or read your screenplay. If they request it, that’s fine. But don’t put them on the spot by asking.
Don’t have them be the one who works to generate the conversation. It’s your job to be totally ready. And don’t ever use their name without permission. Just because they might mention a show you would be great for and they mention that they know someone associated with that show, if you decide to get in touch with that person, and you want to use your mentor’s name, it is imperative that you get their permission to do so. Remember, you are going to them for their wisdom, not their rolodex.
Here are a few items to remember as far as the do’s are concerned. Always be prepared, really prepared, with your list questions as well as information on them and their company. Make sure you’ve done your homework. Make good use of their time. Keep your word. Call when you said you’d call. Show up at the meeting on time. Really respect their time and acknowledge them and thank them for their time and wisdom.
Remember that it’s a business relationship. So respect the term of your arrangement. If you’ve agreed to have three meetings or phone calls over a month long period and you decide you want to continue the relationship then get permission to do so.
When I was shooting my YouTube series for my YouTube channel on this subject of getting a mentor, I interviewed film and video game producer, Ruby Lopez. Ruby has been a volunteer at Women in Film for many years and their mentor program is a year long, so they are very strict about mentor etiquette.
“Having a mentor is not a time for you to look for a job or be an intern” she says. “It’s more about gaining knowledge. Also, remember that their time is valuable so if you say you’re going to meet them at certain time, do that. If it’s a ten minute phone call or a half hour meeting, keep to your promise and don’t go overboard.” She tells us that “this is not about you pushing yourself on them. If the relationship is meant to evolve, it will. Sometimes all you need from a specific mentor is the knowledge they give so you know how to move forward in your career.”
Ruby feels that “it’s a perfect time to explore different people, different areas that you’re interested in and to find out where you’re missing your knowledge. So when you’re meeting with them, know what you want to talk to them about and what to address.”
One of the do’s that I really really want to spotlight is acknowledgment. It is so so so important that you acknowledge your mentor each and every time. As I’ve mentioned in my other MTT articles and videos, acknowledgement is sadly missing in our industry. When MTT’s acting coach, Diane Christensen, joined me for my YouTube series she shared about the importance of giving and receiving acknowledgement. “I know that having a mentor in Hollywood is special,” she says “since they are the busiest people of all and they are so busy that they don’t even know they need acknowledgement. So for them to receive it and have that gift given to them is so special and such a truly needed moment in their lives. What better reason to mentor than to receive that acknowledgment and to have people grateful for it.”
That’s brilliant advice from both Ruby and Diane. They are giving you gold here, so be sure to use it. And remember, we all should have mentors in our lives and careers. As I mentioned in my first article, everyone loves and wants to contribute and there are thousands of people in our industry who have many years of experience and would be honored to share their knowledge and expertise with you. So take the information in all three articles and of course watch my YouTube channel and the Master Talent Teachers video series on this subject, and go out and get yourself a mentor or two. I promise it will be well worth it.
What a Mentor Can Provide
In my first article on “How to Get a Mentor” I touched on a) What is a mentor? b) Why we should have a mentor and c) Who makes a good mentor. In this article my focus is on a) How do we approach mentors, b) What you can expect from your mentor, and c) The importance of being prepared when you get on the phone or in a meeting with your mentor.
In all my years in the entertainment industry, I’ve come to believe that having mentors is one of the single most important things you can do to help speed up your career and ensure your success.
There are so many aspects to this topic that I’m going to break this into three separate articles and in each article I’ll address different issues. For now, my focus will cover these areas: A) Why should we have a mentor? B) What is a mentor? C) Who makes a good mentor?
Firstly, why have a mentor? Well if you haven’t noticed there are 7 billion of us on the planet. And chances are there are tons of people who have done what you are planning to do. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel and I think in the entertainment industry we often feel like we’re a Lone Ranger. And you don’t have to be. The one thing that all human beings have in common is that we love to contribute, so please allow people to contribute to you. It will help you avoid a ton of mistakes and open up doors that can save you years moving forward in your career.
What is a mentor? A mentor is someone you respect and who is in a position to advise you on your project goals, your strategic plan, your target list… even help you finesse your pitch. You can also request guidance on areas where you’re stuck. A mentor, in a sense, is an advisor. What they are not however, is a coach. So please don’t expect them to be. A coach is someone whose job is to kick your butt and push you outside your comfort zone. Like a coach in sports or a career coach. So with a coach, if you are making promises to make five phone calls today or send out twenty headshots or write five pages of a script, they will hold you accountable to that. That is what a coach does. That’s their job. That is not the job of a mentor. A mentor is more of an advisor.
Who makes a good mentor? Once again, it will be someone who you respect who can advise you. And it is not necessarily someone who does what you do (although it certainly can be). For example, a mentor for a writer who wants to sell his screenplay, may be a director of development, or a reader or a producer. For an actor, it may not be an agent or senior actor, it may be the supervising producer of that TV series you love, or a director you respect. Also, a good mentor is not necessarily the biggest name. Often the big names are too busy to give you the time and attention, so I always suggest that you have an A list and a B list. Write down the names of four or five people that are the big names and four or five people that are the more “gettable” names.
When I was shooting my “10 Tips” YouTube series on this topic, I had the pleasure of interviewing writer/director/producer, Heather Hale, who has had a number of mentors in her career and has been a mentor herself. We discussed the question, who makes a good mentor? Here is what she had to say.
“I would encourage people to make a hit list of ten people who wear different hats. Shoot for the pie in the sky person, but don’t have a list of ten pie in the sky names.” One of the things that helps Heather create her list is looking at her all-time favorite films. “Make a list of your top ten movies,” she says. “Who worked on those films? Who is it that shares your value system, shares your sensibility? Look at who would you be honored to work with and go after them as a mentor.”
As I mentioned I will be writing two more articles on this topic and in the next one I’ll focus on how to approach the mentor you want. I’ll look at how to best use their time and I’ll address the importance of being prepared. Then in my last article I will go over the necessity of mentor etiquette and look at all the do’s and don’ts. However, in the meantime, work on your A and B list. And if you decide to move forward and start approaching possible mentors, it is essential that you treat it like a business arrangement and also make it easy for them to say yes by keeping the time requirement brief. In the Flash Forward workshops I led over the years I suggested three ten-minute conversations over a four week period, or a half hour coffee meeting or a one hour lunch meeting for example. Something that makes it easy and doable for them.