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The Art of Making Contacts in Hollywood

A few well-chosen and complimentary words to the empowered can be a wise thing for those hoping to crack the ”great wall“

The following are undisputable facts: Leaked sex tapes lead to international stardom, the toilet flush in an airplane bathroom is scary loud and making contacts in Hollywood is hard.

There’s an art to making contacts, keeping the contacts you make and making your contacts amount to something tangible. And you can never take a knee or rest on your laurels because, much like an "SNL" sketch, the task of making new contacts never ends. 

Years ago, before I had a credit to my name, I was trying to sell a TV show I created. I thought the show would be perfect for VH1. I didn’t know anyone at the network, so I submitted the treatment and a presentation tape with a cover letter via mail and it was returned to me. I learned that nobody in Hollywood accepts unsolicited material and the cool part (I’m being facetious) was that the lesson only cost me $1.48 in postage.

So there I sat, with a great idea and seemingly no way to scale the impenetrable "great wall"  surrounding basic cable. If I had established credits, all I would have had to do was have my agent arrange a pitch meeting, but I didn’t have an agent and without having ever sold a show I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get one. So I did the next logical thing, I built a tree stand outside the VH1 offices, bought a camo jumpsuit and waited until a development executive came out and pounced. Obviously, I’m joking … I wasn’t wearing camo.

What I actually did was research and educated myself on VH1 news and executive moves and it ended up paying off. I learned that a new development executive had recently been hired. I had an in!

I decided to play upon the human psyche and not make what I was trying to accomplish more difficult than it needed to be. At our core, people like compliments and we respond favorably to being congratulated. So I sent a short simple email congratulating the executive on landing the job and wished him my best. I told him how much I looked forward to working with him down the road. I closed the email by sharing a commonality between us… I said, “Since you’re the new guy at the network looking to buy shows and I am a new guy trying to sell shows, we should meet one day so I can sell you something.”

By the end of that day, I got a response. He thanked me for the kind words and said to call his assistant whenever I wanted to come in and pitch him. He signed off, ‘the new guy.’ It ended up being that easy, no agent – no tree stand.

Ever hear of the term "sold it in the room"? Well, that’s what happened. He optioned my show on the spot. I ended up making some money and developed the show with the network for about two months, but in the end it never made air.

Hey that’s the way it goes, point being I made a great new contact and I learned the power behind a well placed compliment!

BTW, has there been a more decisive leader over the last decade than Les Moonves? Man is that guy talented! Just sayin’.

Keith Fenimore is an award-winning creative executive who lives in New York and works for the King of All Media on original series and specials for Howard TV. He's also co-author of the book "Hire Me, Hollywood."