• James Stranahan

How to Get the Attention of Hollywood

Quick, what’s the movie? “Is anyone there? Anyone? Anyone?”

If you don’t know, then the state of American culture is falling fast. If you said Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, then there is hope.

In the movie, the clueless, monotone teacher takes attendance while the entire class does pretty much anything but pay attention to him. Getting the attention of Hollywood can feel much like that: you stand in front of the casting directors/agents/producers/managers and try to tell them that you’ve got the talent, the ability, the skills, and the right idea. Their answer? Dead silence.

“Is anyone there? Anyone? Anyone?”

I get it. I have run that gauntlet of indifference, and I have kept smiling big and wide as inwardly, I felt frustrated and wondered if I would even get a call back. Yet, here I am today. I have survived those years (yes: years), and I’ve got a few suggestions for how to get Hollywood to notice you. They are a stubborn lot, and they require some persuasion.

First, keep your cool. Never - and I do mean never - let them see you get upset. Save your venting for when you’re at home in your shower, where no one can see you or take your picture. You may feel like dropping an f-bomb when you get told for the fortieth time that “someone” will call you if they like you, but swallow it. Let only G-rated words come out of your mouth because you’d be surprised how fast you can develop a bad reputation. Right now, you may just be one of the hundreds of people who want a role, but as soon as you get tagged as “difficult,” everyone is going to know your name for the wrong reasons.

Second, remember what Hollywood really is: a business. What’s hot runs in cycles. Yesterday it might have been romantic comedies, and tomorrow it will be dystopian disasters. Pay attention to what’s going on and to what audiences are paying to see. Look down the road and see what’s scheduled to be released in a year. Then figure out where you fit in all of this. Yes, you can risk getting typecast, and I get it, no one wants that, but if your goal is to get your foot in the door, you’re going to have to start somewhere. In the end, it’s really about what you can do that will make money for the movie studio executives, so marketing yourself with this in mind is smart. If you want to be an action star but 95% of what’s getting made are documentaries and animated films, you’re going to have a tough time.

Third, try to be active even when your phone is not ringing off the hook. People who really want to be in the industry find ways to keep their skin in the game even though they’re not big players yet. They’re out there making short films, commercials - anything to keep building their resumes and to get experience. With so many ways to make a video or to be in a community theater, there really is no excuse for your resume to have a gap.

Last: network. You’ve heard it said before, and it’s true - you’ve got to meet people and remain on good terms with them. If you’re really in Hollywood to stay, then you’re going to be building relationships with a lot of people over the years to come. Get to know everyone you can and be genuinely interested in what they’re doing. I stress the importance of authenticity, as people in LA can smell a fake a mile away.

You’re entering a tough business, but believe it or not, there is room for you. If you’ve got the tenacity, drive, and talent, you’re going to find your place here. I did, and so can you.

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