There’s some simple realities of the entertainment business, one of which is: It’s all about who you know. Some interpret that to mean it’s important to saddle up to Entertainment Weekly or Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful People in Show Business. That’s not really what people who are successful are talking about when they give that advice. There is a reason your eyes gloss over when people start name dropping- its because all of those people are inaccessible. They are outside of the reach your circle. I only get interested when I hear about someone I can actually meet and form a relationship with, like these guys-
A few months ago a buddy of mine, Ben, was coming home to Boulder, CO from his first year in LA. Originally, I was hoping to have a project ready to shoot for him, but as fate would have it I was attached only as the director and had no control over shoot dates. Instead, we simply made plans to have lunch on Saturday at our favorite sushi joint.
Meanwhile, in a small little haven of Littleton another good friend of ours, Lauren, found herself in a bit of a pickle. You see her life had been consumed with teaching high school children how to tell stories with video in an awesome after-school program. They’d been shooting their final projects for weeks, and this was the third and last big shoot that required real actors. She had two of them lined up for this role (you have to be prepared).
I was having a lazy Saturday morning, mowing the lawn and then taking a break between the front and back, checking my Facebook and Twitter accounts at my desk. I got an IM from Lauren.
Lauren: Hey are you there?
Chuck: yeah sure. (You see you have to play it cool as if you’ve always been there waiting for your friends)
Lauren: Do you know any actors? Both of mine flaked out.
Chuck: I know a few (Ha! I know plenty thats what I do. I get to know actors and then beg them to do stuff for me in exchange for hot home cooked meals- I’m an independent film director). What kind?
Lauren: 20s, blonde, male, not creepy
Chuck: I’m having lunch with… Ben Whitehair
You can literally hear the squeal of delight all the way from Littleton.
Lauren: do you think he’ll do it?
Ben had posted on his blog before about spending his days with kids and playing awesome characters like Dr. Poopy (yes Poopy) for the Young Storytellers Program in LA, so I was pretty sure he’d be hip to helping out the kids.
Chuck: Yes I think he’d totally do it. Here’s his number and if he needs a ride I’ll go pick him up in Boulder and drive him down there to Littleton myself.
And Ben was game.
The first time I met Ben in real life felt like a slow motion scene out of Entourage. He had the Vinnie Chase sunglasses and smile; I was more of a cross between Turtle and Suit-Hating Billy Walsh. He walked from his car pulling off his reflective shades and sticking his hand out for a shake.
His arrival on Lauren’s set was described as “squeaks, squeals and whispers.” “OMG OMG he’s so CUTE!” went up on every teenage girl’s (and a few of the guys) Facebook pages within a half mile radius. The other actor began to worry as he was just starting out in the local denver scene. (This jealousy happens amongst actors before they realize they’re all in this profession together.)
Lauren reassures him, “Don’t worry he’s from LA.” meaning he’s not going to take away any jobs in the local market.
Ben and Lauren hug. Lauren’s student assistant Sydney is very professional except when Ben looks away she bites her thumb cutely and thanks me via Facebook chat on Lauren’s account.
They knock out the rest of the day like rock-stars.
On Sunday, Ben and I shared sushi and drank saki bombs. I have a feeling we were just testing the waters and that someday there will be a proper sake bomb celebration somewhere in Los Angeles.
When you find these kinds of quality people, people who think the needs of a friend outweigh a lunch you’ve been looking forward to for 5 months, people who think acting is acting whether it’s your first Network Guest Star or this after-school high school project because its fun, people who took your first updated head shots before you headed off to LA in exchange for a bowl of fondue, these are the people you surround yourself with and keep them close for your entire career.
Cherish them, maintain them, and add to them. We can never have too many good quality people in our lives as we break into the hardest business on the planet.
Both are now based out of Los Angeles and would love to meet other filmmakers.