My first time attending an Asians On Film's event -- this one was an Asian Cinema Entertainment Mixer held at the Vaucluse Lounge on the west end side of the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, California. Other than the talent that were inside, there were also photographers, press and a Step-And-Repeat wall. I went there initially to meet new folks and promote two projects I have coming up. But, the latter, I decided not to do because, really, I just wanted to meet new people and reunite with old friends - especially the ones I haven't seen in ages (and Facebook doesn't count).
Like many mixers, it is a chance to network with like-minded people to hope someday work with many of the people you've met as well as elevating each others' careers. But, more importantly, as I have learned in the last twenty five years in this business -- the goal is to gain a group of colleagues who will, in time, become your most trusted and lifelong support group of best friends. That's really the goal at these mixers in my humble opinion...because this town (and specifically in this entertainment industry), unless you're one of the lucky ones, you will get eaten up and spit out before you even realize what happened. Heed my advice from someone who've been through it. By someone who was stabbed in the back by an ex-friend/ex-colleague I've known for eight years and after working together on various projects including two feature films; the first film giving us notoriety almost twelve years ago, he financially ruined my life. I'll just leave it at that.
Usually, I avoid mixers. That's just me. It's all political. And, judgmental. And, I know I'm eating my own words when I tell you about three groups of people (nice segue, huh?). You'll meet three groups of people. The first group I call are the "Veterans." They are people who've been through hell and back working in the Hollywood industry, have thick skin, some may still be jaded but always hope for the best and has every war story in the back of their hand (but tread lightly telling their stories because you never know who is lingering in that social circle you're blabbering in that might know that person you're talking about). They also have very active radars and usually size you up before you even enter the room. And, they are experienced -- meaning they know how to carry themselves. However, there are two kinds of Veterans. First, there is the friendly kind who is more of a people-person and who doesn't give a shit about what level career you're at (because what I learned is that you never know who will be the next big thing). But, that, in itself, shouldn't be the primary reason to get to know them. They, too will sense that and will slowly, in a courteous manner, move away from you. That last sentence leads into the second kind of Veterans -- "the fake-friendly-kind-but-they-don't-do-it-intenionally-they-are-just-protective-or-if-they-are-friendly-to-others-beneath-them-they-feel-their-own-careers-will-fall?" Yeah, I just don't get it sometimes.
The second group are the "Newbies-But-Are-Seriously-Passionate-In-Their-Craft." I like this group. They know they are new in this industry. They know that people will size them up and judge them. They know that it's all or nothing. They are survivalists -- when all else fails, they are smart enough to move on and won't look back. They know they are smart enough to keep the ones who look out for their best interests (and vice versa, of course) and rid those who do not. Yet, they are also the ones who give others a second chance to redeem themselves: they are passionate, caring and selfless. These are the types of people this Entertainment Machine needs to survive. These are the regular normal folks!
Then, there is this third group -- you MUST avoid. I've seen my share; heck, I've experienced my share. As soon as you gain some notoriety and respect in this industry, you will attract this third group. Most especially when it comes to deeper relationships outside work -- it starts to get tricky and weird. And, this is the first sign you'll catch to recognize this third group. They walk into a mixer, work the room just a bit and come up with this consensus: "Aw shit! There ain't no important people here! Where's Spielberg? Where's the Weinsteins? Not even the Kardashians will show their faces here! I'm leavin! We're leavin!! We all leavin!!!" (Really?) If anything, you'll instantly see this third group a mile away. Whether it's the dudes still rocking their Ed Hardy tees to women who still think the hoochie mama look is still relevant, whatever they are doing isn't going to win many people over especially if they are crashing into an A-List party. But, hey -- to each their own, right? You show aggressive gumption, A-Listers will recognize! I have seen with my own eyes this third group successfully grabbing the attention of A-Listers (who I will not name here). However, these types of friendships or relationships do not last long and it is the people in this third group that become victims of their own selfishness. Their selfishness is so high, it completely blinds them from what is actually going on. They start thinking conspiracy; it's them (pick a category: small town, gender, religion, ethnicity) against the World (the A-Listers). There were A-Listers who were giving opportunities for this third group of people (which is what they wanted in the first place) but, they found it difficult to function and started blaming others because they weren't ready and/or some A-Listers took advantage of this third group's blindness or desperation to fill their own voids. Laws of Attraction, I guess. It's sad but it happened.
So, to this day, after everything I've been through, I always go back (and try to maintain) my place of balance. Everyday, you must find your balance. Abusing drugs and alcohol are never the balance so you should stop that. Every day is trial and error. Everyday, you're a work-in-progress. (Nicole Kidman still goes to her acting coach for new projects). Do not think or accept the people who've made it have settled. No, they also continue to find balance. Because in a split second, everything you've invested in, goes just like that. And, other than family and friends outside Hollywood who support you from afar, it's your most trusted friends & colleagues who are your strong support group when things in your Life goes loopy.
"Home is where the heart is." To me, sitting together in a table is just that. And, when I sat there throughout the night, friends I worked with more than ten years ago to friends who I worked with just recently came to this table (below). I guess in all honesty, I just wanted to reconnect. For the last three months, I've been engulfed with projects that this night afforded me the luxury to be real again.