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Friday, January 30, 2009

Mentoring, Networking & Paying it Forward

So my friend Marc Zicree kept telling me about this amazing writer/director/producer/(add other hyphenates here) group that has met every single Thursday for 15 years in Toluca Lake. It's an invitation only group that has swelled to 500 members (not all of whom show up to every meeting, otherwise it would be bedlam). So I went last night, brought a friend and was just amazed by the warmth and support in this amazing networking group. My friend had just moved to LA from Kentucky a few months ago and really hasn't found a big group of like-minded creatives to connect with but I think he's found a home now, for sure. The cool thing about this group is that some of its members are Oscar winners and Emmy winners - and we even had a Hugo Award winner there last evening. The majority, of course, are not quite at Oscar/Emmy level, which is nice, otherwise one would be frozen with awe rather than really interacting comfortably.

The best thing about this group is the premise and the intentionality: Marc goes around the room (there were probably 50 people there last evening) and you first talk about what's going on with you and then you ask for what you need. It might be advice, it might be some editing equipment, it might be a new headshot - and then, because the group is so big and so multi-connected, someone offers to help introduce you to someone or otherwise get you what you need. It's networking to the nth degree. And I love that it's invitation only; it ensures that everyone in the group has been vetted by Marc and understands that this is a group interested in really, truly supporting one another.

Last night I came away with a few headshots for my table reads, the business card of an actor who does bookkeeping on the side and an offer to have coffee next week with a comedy writer. The cool thing is I could have asked for just about anything - does someone know where I can get the best deal on snow tires? I'm sure someone would have a friend they could introduce me to. People last night were looking for a variety of things and some people had some really great news about various projects they are working on.

When my friend and I left, he said wow, I had heard that people in LA were so me, me, me but this group really isn't. Very true. It isn't. It's like the It Takes A Village Creative Support Group. Marc is a huge believer in networking and mentoring and he's had a fair measure of success in his own career to prove how helpful that really is. So many of Marc's stories start off with someone making an introduction to someone else who opened a door and then...Marc got what he needed in the end. He's all about paying it forward and all about making a list of the people who are doing what you want to be doing and finding a way to introduce yourself to those people and just by making that personal connection, you are paving the way for a future involvement with them. I can't possibly encapsulate or sum up the way Marc runs his group - or The Table as they call themselves - but I was just blown away by the warmth of this group of people. And it all springs from Marc, who is one of the kindest, most generous people I have ever met.

If you live in the LA area, Marc runs another group called The Super Mentors class and I'm going to be sure my friend signs up for it. Mentoring, networking, paying it forward - it seems old-fashioned, but it's the foundation Hollywood was built on. And it's nice to see it alive and well at a small cafe in Toluca Lake every Thursday night.

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