A few years ago, I had just finished a major conceptual proposal and was calling around some yet-to-be colleagues to find some references and tips for submitting to a streaming giant, I needed a producing partner with all the hook-ups to gain traction. Let’s just say it was a project I wanted to share with “JetFlix.”
I went on IMDb Pro and found similar projects and connected producers and made a loooooong list of people to contact. I am not afraid of a good-ol’-fashioned cold-call. So I got to it.
I had questions about:
- Submission format (dropbox download link or independent website download link… or even a google doc share)?
- Will the email get flagged and tossed if it includes an attachment for first contact?
- Did producer ___ submit directly to Jetflix? Or did they use an outside company? and
- Would you recommend working with producer ____ professionally in the future if I wanted to approach them about a partnership? And so on.
I made cold calls to mutual connections first and then on to strangers until I happened upon a stranger at a strange company who had the time to answer all my questions. I repeat, this yet-to-be colleague answered ALL MY QUESTIONS. It was bizarre, I was treated like a friend so easily. I didn’t even know this was a possibility.
This career fairy godparent asked me to submit all the materials to them directly and I did. I heard back from this fairy godparent later that same day and they gave me the direct contact and directions to submit to Jetflix’s preference. Everything I needed all in one miraculous place, their trust in me and my project was shocking. And affirming. It felt right. I felt seen.
But this career fairy godparent gave me one last note:
I know they didn’t want to be cited as a reference without permission, they didn’t want Jetflix to know they gave out a direct email, but they also didn’t want to take public or private ownership in any way. This was a no-strings-attached favor from a stranger. This resulted in what has been 3 years of kind career fairy godparent favors as well as multiple convos with Jetflix over numerous projects and submissions. This was selfless AND it was fruitful. I am forever in their debt.
But the question you’re likely asking yourself is… will I share this with you? It’s complicated, so lets start with why I won’t: I didn’t get permission to share this email with any future colleagues, my initial contact with Jetflix hasn’t resulted in a specific project making it to pass (yet), and I want to use the same judgement as my fairy godparent- I have to judge the materials and the submitter with the same gatekeeping mindset as my godparent. I ask myself if they are ready, if they are open to any advice I share, and will they be a kind and equitable employer. And, yes, I have paid this favor forward to those who have come to me with a project ready-to-go many times by now.
My career fairy godparent gave me access to several other studio execs and streaming execs over the years. I will pay this person back over and over and I will pay it forward over and over, but I feel a responsibility to be the best version of me to be deserving of this gift and I excitedly wait for close friends and colleagues to need to call upon this gift from me – hoping to be a generous giver and good steward. I want the future of the industry to be a kind and equitable place, but I also want to be able to put my name on those references – I don’t want my reference to be a secret for fear of losing my good standing with an exec, I want to be so proud of the next person in line that using my name as reference is a truthful stamp of approval. That takes a lot of trust. Thus, I know that sometimes I will say no. And that’s hard to admit. But since I surround myself with so many selfless, kind, equitable, talented, and hard working people – the odds are ever in my favor to be as giving as I hope to be!