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Feminspire | April 16, 2014

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Hollywood 101: Is Networking The Key To Industry Success?

Hollywood 101: Is Networking The Key To Industry Success?

Marni Rothman was a beautiful red headed teenager that as a six-year-old, I couldn’t help but look up to. I remember going to her Bat Mitzvah and thinking I was the coolest kid in the world because she chose to play with me and introduce me to her big girl friends. As I grew up, my mother would constantly remind me to emulate her and follow in her footsteps. As my admiration for her grew, so did my need to express myself as my own role model. Whenever my mother asked me who I looked up to, I would answer, “I want nothing more than to be myself.” Still, anytime I hit a block or a hard place, she would remind me to give Marni a call. I always knew I could talk to her about anything and everything. She would give me advice on girl issues, performance ideas, how to keep pushing through as an actress, and eventually help with my college recommendations and this interview. Even though I may not have wanted to admit it, she has been one of the most influential women in my life, and watching her process has – and still does – inspire me all the way through.

Marni has worked on reality TV shows such as HBO’s “The Cathouse,” VH1’s “My Coolest Years,” MTV’s “College Life,” BRAVO’s “The Rachel Zoe Project,” and now is the producer of TLC’s hit show “Long Island Medium,” airing Sunday nights. Much like my friend Sarah Finn from my previous article, Marni was always involved in theater and film growing up. When she enrolled at The University of Michigan, however, she found that she wanted to work behind the scenes instead of in front of the camera. She majored in film and everything seemed to fall into place from there. “When I was in college, I knew I wanted to work for MTV. This was before Internet networking, so I mailed a letter to one of the producers of TRL. She forwarded my letter to the intern coordinator and they gave me the opportunity to intern for them for two summers. I worked my connections, kept in touch with everyone, and was offered my first PA job at MTV them when I graduated.”

Marni loved her job, had huge success, and was with MTV for quite a while. During that time, she continued to be an active learner, networker and worked hard to earn her promotions. Before she knew it, she was climbing the reality TV social latter and working for HBO. “At the time, I didn’t know that I was falling into the reality TV niche, it just kind of happened that way and I stuck with it. I do sometimes wonder what would have happened had I taken another route, but I really like what I do. It’s easy to navigate the industry once you have found your own niche, but it’s also hard to find your way out of it sometimes. I know people who have a hard time getting into reality TV, but I would have a hard time getting into scripted television.”

It seems like every successful industry executive I’ve talked to says they have gotten ahead by being good at networking and by talking to and making connections with as many people as possible, but is it the most important thing? I asked Marni to elaborate on what makes a production work. “Definitely the people, one hundred percent. The most successful productions come about when everyone works together to make it a success. Working on ‘Long Island Medium’ has proven to be just that. Theresa Caputo (he star of the show) treats us like family on and off location, and we really have become one, making this one of my favorite productions.” If the most successful productions come together when everyone works on the same level, then why do I see so much jealousy and competition between people working in LA? It seems that we are all competing for the same part and the same production materials, or that one writing option that could send your script to pilot. We are jealous of someone who is more successful in a field completely different than our own. We all want to be successful and will do anything to do it, but at what cost? On the professional level, Marni seems to always have a good time in the field, but has she dealt with this issue herself at her level?

“There are certain people in the industry who want to help you and pay it forward. I always take my time to meet with younger, driven people who want advice. But there are also people who are competitive and don’t go out of their way for others. I always think it’s sad, because as a woman I think it’s important for us to work together and inspire each other.” With the sheer number disadvantages that we women already have in this industry, I wonder why we don’t help each other instead of looking at each other as enemies. I know even I feel jealous when I see my peers acting on The Disney Channel, or hear their voices on Broadway Radio. It drives me crazy! When I take a step back, however, I know that even if I am up for the same part as someone, and we’ve both made it to the callback, it’s no longer up to me. It’s up to the producer. Maybe my eyes aren’t the right color or I’m not the right height. In the end, the only thing that we can really control is being the best that we can be. The same goes for anyone behind the scenes. From what I’ve learned, work gets work, in any scenario. The people I know who continue to get work are those who are pleasant to work with. If we want to work in this industry, we MUST learn to work together, regardless of our role in the project.

I think back to when I told my mother that I only wanted to be myself. Today, I know that I can be myself while following in the footsteps of the successful women I admire, and hope that my success comes from my passion, not my desperation to get ahead.

I bring you back to the question, is it really who we know in the industry that gets us ahead, or is there more to it? Who you know may be a huge part of it, but success may really depend on how you push yourself while you are building your creative circle. While Marni was able to make connections to help her get ahead, she also held her own. By working hard with her peers, she beat out all of her competition. I don’t know about you, but success with integrity feels a whole lot better than success from brutally beating another person down. When I become a successful actress (whatever that means), I hope that my passion beats out my need to win, because succeeding is different than winning.

Continue to follow Hallie’s journey through the entertainment industry as she interviews professionals in the field and forges her own path, which she will be documenting here on Feminspire! 

Written by Hallie Jordan