Thursday, January 19, 2006


Writergurl from Atlanta had an encounter with Ilene Chaiken from the L WORD. It got me thinking about a post on meeting celebrities. (NB: I am assuming that you aspire to work in Hollywood, or with someone who does.) I know, I know, I'm a cannibal. I'm pulling this from a post I made on her blog….
Rule #1: Have a plan. If you are going somewhere specifically to run into someone do some research: the name of the company (if the celeb has one), the names of execs and assistants at the company, the studio or network the company’s deal is at, the agency the celeb is repped by, etc.. Once you know why you want to talk to the celeb, things will make more sense. I’m going to do a post on this later as well.

Rule #2 Be a peer, not a fan. You will not become friends with this person. Forget that. It happens, but it’s like winning the lotto – you can’t tell your landlord that’s how you’re paying this month’s rent. If you admire and just want to gush, go ahead, but usually, talented people know they are talented. They appreciate the adoration, but after a while it becomes part of the background noise. They’ll notice it when it’s gone. Until then, compliments are great, especially when they are brief. In fact, probably the most awkward conversations are the ones with people are merely fans, not with other filmmakers who are interested in gaining insight into the business. After all, everyone enjoys the company of their peers. Some celebs do like people to gush over them or feel slighted when you don’t, you’ll know who those are as soon as you see them. There are also a good number of younger celebs who expect it, demand it, and misbehave if they don’t receive it. Be ready for that too. The people who are most likely to impart some wisdom to you think of themselves as craftsmen. They work. All the time. And that’s a good thing to learn.

Rule #3: Obey conventional rules of courtesy, but don’t forget your plan. Introduce yourself. Have a business card with your basic contact information ready. Be prepared to ask for and write down any contact information from your celeb. Have a specific comment about some aspect of craft you appreciate in his/her work (e.g. if your celeb is an actor, “You always find such interesting business for your character work.” If your celeb is a director “I dig your compositions because of the way you use blocking to describe the frame, is that a happy accident or do you do it intentionally?”). Don’t rely on things you (and he or she) can read in a review. This speaks to your craftsmanship, your level of understanding. Keep the comments brief, you don’t want to be one of those geeks who gets off talking about frame rates, (unless the celeb is also a geek), but you do want to show that you are talking the work seriously enough to study it.

I don't advocate stalking celebrities, however, YOU, as an audience member, support their lifestyle. It's sort of like you voted them into office. They aren't demi-gods, or even policy wonks for that matter. When they aren't on-screen they are just civilians, like the rest of us. Get your money's worth. Don't be rude or crazy, but don't forget to get your hustle on either. Think of it like Telemarketing - you are constantly cold-calling to sell your product. You can't give up because the customer is hostile, rude or holier-than-thou. Move on to the next name on the list. You do have a list, right? :-) You don't want to come across as someone to avoid, but you do have to start somewhere. So, if George Clooney was nice to you at a party, or you miscredited your favorite writer to her face, big deal. Show you understand the mechanics of what he/she does, the craft mastery that they demonstrate and you'll be fine.
Rule #4: Random sightings are a great occasion to pursue your questions because celebrities are off-guard and more likely to respond to you on a personal level. At a function, they have an agenda, even if it’s just to get through the evening without talking to random yahoos.

Rule #5: The follow-up is easy – if you asked a craft question, it’s fine to send a short note/postcard reiterating your gratitude for the time, reminding them of the event (not “I was the guy in the purple paisleys” but more “I met you at Sundance at the Skyy Vodka party”); if you asked if someone at the company would read your script, contact the office for a release form, and let them know you were specifically told to submit. Get to know the assistant, receptionist (I’ll write a little bit more about this later). If you asked for comments on specific agents and managers, send a thank you note, and be sure to follow up if you do have success getting representation or a read (e.g. “Last year you told me Bender Spink was a great place for baby writers, you were right!”) spread the news. Updates are nice. Some people toss ‘em, but some people don’t.

Remember: it’s a numbers game. The more at-bats you’re up for, the more chances you have to hit the ball….

Good luck to you. Send me questions, or comments. I’m new at this, so your help is appreciated by me!


writergurl said...

Ms Diva,
I JUST noticed your comment on my blog. First, thank you for your advice in regards to this particular incident. Unfortunately, I was caught flat-footed and ill prepared in this instance. No one was expecting Ms. Chaiken to be at this event. (There have been 2 previous events like this in Atlanta, and she's not been to either.) So, I was really just winging it. Basically, she just appeared at my shoulder out of nowhere, sans trumpets. :) You will probably be relieved to know that I choose not to send any sort of note as I highly doubt she would know me if I stumbled across her foot tomorrow.

Secondly, thank you for the in-depth exploration of this issue here as I am moving to LA soon and hope to be better prepared should I have another unexpected run in with someone like Ms. Chaiken. Your advice is sonething I will take to heart.

writergurl said...

Damn! *something