Networking Breakfast Opens Doors To The Entertainment Industry
For 15 years, Sandra Lord has united producers, directors, agents, actors, musicians and others working in the film and TV business. She founded the popular Hollywood Networking Breakfast in 1993 on the lot at Paramount Studios. This year, Lord moved the breakfast to the Beverly Hills Country Club.
“I saw the breakfast as a means of facilitating connections,” said Lord, who is a manager, writer, producer and founder of the non-profit organization Changing Images in America (CHIA), which promotes diversity. “In Hollywood, it’s all about who you know. And most importantly, who knows you.”
Voted by Backstage West as the “Best Networking Event” in 2006, the breakfast continues to be a huge success, drawing hundreds of professionals each month to hear heavy-hitters talk candidly about the business. Those who have attended the event have had access to many powerful players in the entertainment world.
This Thursday’s speaker is Ron Meyer, president and chief operating officer of Universal Studios. With Meyer at the helm, the studio has produced such hits as The 40-Year Old Virgin, the Bourne Identity series, and Brokeback Mountain.
Prior to joining Universal, Meyer founded Creative Artists Agency, Inc in 1975 and was president of CAA, one of the leading talent agencies in the entertainment business.
Past guest speakers include: billion dollar producer Paul Wagner, who teamed up with Tom Cruise for projects and recently departed from United Artists, director Garry Marshall, who created Happy Days, his sister Penny Marshall, an actress, producer and director, David E. Kelley, who created The Practice, Ally McBeal and Boston Legal, and Greg Berlanti executive producer of Dirty Sexy Money, Brothers & Sisters and Eli Stone. The list goes on and on with Mario Van Peebles, John Singleton, Spider-Man producer Laura Ziskin, and CSI creator Anthony Zuiker.
Lord said the excitement of attending the event, which is geared toward professionals working in the industry, is receiving an insider’s look. Only a limited amount of aspiring talent is permitted to attend the breakfast.
“We want to have attendees who have projects whereby others can benefit from them,” said Judith Smith, who partners with Lord in promoting the breakfast. Smith has worked as an entertainment writer for award ceremonies and stage production. The two classy ladies put on a top-notch event, which has attracted visitors from different states and other countries including London and Australia.
“In 2005, we had a Native American writer from Wyoming come to meet Henry Winkler, Golden Globe-winning actor best known for his role as “The Fonz” in Happy Days,” Smith added.
With the Internet becoming a new avenue of airing well-produced projects, many actors, writers, producers and directors packed the breakfast in May to hear online talent scouts Jason Nadler and Barrett Garese of United Talent Agency discuss the opportunities in the emerging market.
One highlight of attending the Hollywood Networking Breakfast is winning a one-on-one personal meeting with the guest speaker. Lord said she chooses one person who needs a leg up. They either meet for lunch, at the office or shadow the speaker for one-day.
“If you are green don’t apply,” said Lord. “We look for people who really put in some time. They have a script, built credits and just need a break.” She added, “This is not just a social event. It’s for those serious about their career and looking for opportunities.”
Lord, who was born in St. Lucia, an island in the Caribbean, moved to Los Angeles 18 years ago, is a success herself. She started singing at the age of three and performed at Madison Square Garden. She serves as a consultant, coach and strategist to professionals in and out of the entertainment field. She’s currently producing a TV pilot and writing a book on the importance of networking and strategizing.
The cost of the breakfast, which includes a buffet, is $40. Tickets are sold in advance through www.changingimagesinamerica.org. Tickets can also be purchased at the door for $50. The event starts at 8 am and is held at 3084 Motor Ave.