Is It All About Who You Know?

A big reason why some people pay big money for film school is summed up in one word: networking. “It’s all about who you know” is the old adage in the film business. But is this really true?

Not really.

Since moving to LA, I’ve met a ton of what I would call “people once removed” from super powerful friends. Folks who know an A list celebrity or a powerful entertainment attorney or even the head of a studio.

The fact, just knowing someone doesn’t make much of a difference. In LA, everyone is sniffing everyone else’s ass to see who is hot and who isn’t. Even if you are bros with someone who has influence it doesn’t mean they are going to ask you to direct a movie. What are you going to do for them?

We’ve all seen big A Listers like Adam Sandler make sure his buddies like Rob Schneider always get a role in his movies. Joss Whedon typically recycles a lot of his favorites too. That’s a pretty high level friend helping out another acting friend. And it’s true that if you build a relationship with a director or producer over time, they are more likely to call on you for help on their projects. In fact once you are working in the business it is all about relationships, once you have proved your competence in whatever capacity you are working in… grip, PA, line producer, actor, etc.

But when people go to film school, they have a kind of “American Idol” fantasy about networking. As if you are going to meet one person who will magically “open a door” for you that you couldn’t get open any other way. I even saw a posting on craigslist where a guy was looking for a USC film student who could get him an agent. That would be a first.

Even the most talented kid at USC who gets a “foot in the door” will end up as a PA on a movie set. And he or she will be working right alongside people who didn’t go to film school.

A “foot in the door” is a weird term anyway. It’s really misplaced in film. In the business world, perhaps, you get an entry level position and work your way up. But if you want to direct a movie, there’s no corporate ladder to climb. You just do it. Like Tarantino, James Cameron, Chris Nolan, etc.

Everyone pays their dues in the film industry. The only question is…. are you going to do it the right way by working your butt off on film sets or making your own compelling projects… or are you literally going to try and “pay your dues” to the wrong person in the form of ridiculous tuition?

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