Friday, June 24, 2011

Alone in a Crowded Room

Anyone else would have embraced the opportunity presented: a room full of industry people actively hoping to form a network of writers, directors, producers, actors and more. Lovely setting. Early enough to not be confused with clubbing.

Anyone would have taken the opportunity to put out a hand and make some introductions. Anyone except me. Instead I stood in that crowded room full of well-meaning, connected people and fought back tears of frustration.

I simply lack the capacity to approach someone and make small talk. I lack the imagination (which bodes poorly for a writing career) to make my answer to, "What are you doing now?" sound interesting.

"I want to…"

"I'm hoping to…"

"I'm thinking about…"

All of these seemed to be conversation killers the few times I actually engaged.

I knew about this event when I quit my job in April. Not so secretly, I thought networking might finally be possible for me—out of necessity, if nothing else. I allowed myself to hope that the leap I took was a leap into this pond – that I'd feel less like a total outsider. This event would prove that the chance I took was based on the belief that real opportunity was right around the corner. Foolish.

Instead, that panicked, "Oh God, what am I doing here?" feeling was followed immediately by its twin sisters: "You are never going to make it in this industry if you can't talk to decision-makers" and "these people want to be interested in you, and you can't make it happen—good luck getting the people who don't care to listen."

I walked in telling myself to be confident and bold. I internally nattered to myself that smiling would invite people into my orbit. Last time I read a freakin' self-help guide.

Apparently the "F**k you" on my forehead is not limited to single, dateable men. It extends to all people because no amount of joker-like smiling was going to tempt someone into anything even vaguely resembling my orbit. In fact, I'm fairly certain I actually repelled people.

I tried the Bridget Jones approach, though stopped short of actually bringing up Chechnya. I suppose on the mortification scale I did rather better than Bridget as I did not make an embarrassingly bad speech, nor did I go home with a womanizing man named Daniel. Also, I did avoid asking any important writer types for the loo by standing in the corner hiding behind my smartphone. God bless Twitter.

I might have oozed intellect if it weren't for my pathetic attempts to discuss new media and … the weather.

Perhaps, in the end, I am far better suited for solo manifesto writing in a cabin than I'll ever be as a screenwriter in Hollywood (though let's substitute beach for mountains, please). Can you picture me in a writers' room? Disaster. I'd have to set my chair up behind the white board.

I live and want to work in a town entirely based on relationships—the one thing I do not seek.

Maybe I should have mentioned Chechnya?



Anasazi said...

I can't even give you brilliant yet witty advise. I'm the same way. What you need is a social wingman. Kind of like Larry; he can go for a sandwich and come out with a phone number and job offer. I don't get it. To be honest though I don't envy his gift. I've seen him in action, and I always think, I don't care, don't talk to me, and I wonder what's on tv. It's too much effort. So that's what you need: a social wingman. Someone who enjoys chatting with complete strangers.

Carey Hagan said...

Yes, I completely agree with Anasazi. I need a social wingman, too, so find me one, as well. It occurred to me that your Ex was your social wingman for years. No further comment. Heehee.

Dee Murray said...

Maybe just the observation of social creatures in a social environment was enough of an exercise for you? You can't write about how people interact without observiing people interacting. Don't be hard on yourself. Your magic moment will come quite unexpectedly. I am the same way and am better at counting ice cubes than talking to people. or maybe a shot of bourbon first next time?

danielletbd said...

I don't think it was an f- you on your forehead. I think it may have been your honesty and no-BS approach. Everyone who goes to those networking events in the film industry is there to put on a show, to seem more important than they really are (yet), to sell themselves so people want to buy what they're peddling. By saying "I want" or "I hope," it tells them you're not doing it yet and unfortunately (like in dating) they've assessed whether or not you have anything to offer them-- to do for them-- by the time you've finished your thought. Theyre there to get their big break or next big paycheck anyway and you just effectively told them you can't help with that. They tune out. BUT that's where the writer in you comes in: create a character; a larger than life version of yourself that you know as well ad you know yourself before you go in. Dazzle them with all the films you have produced (positive spin) off the bat so their gears are turning before you admit you don't have the next project lined up yet. Does it suck you have to
put on a show and sugarcoat? Of course it does but men have short attention spans and those in Hollywood are even worse!

Anonymous said...

Well being alone in a crowded room is a problem for many. Many people just lack the self confidence of saying Hi to a girl in a party. This is mostly due to fear of rejection.
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