For screenwriter Debbie Lollie, there’s no question that breakfast is the most important meal.
Lollie has developed a budding professional relationship with producer Ralph Winter, has had four screenplays optioned, and is meeting with an independent film producer who’s advising her on financing and distributing a script. It’s all thanks to the Hollywood Networking Breakfast, which for 20 years has opened doors for aspiring industry pros by helping entertainment bizzers connect with each other.
The first monthly networking studio event of its kind, the breakfast has attracted some of Hollywood’s biggest players, from U’s Ron Meyer and Showtime’s David Nevins to talent including David E. Kelley, Wes Craven and James Burrows, all of whom have at one time or another volunteered as guest speakers.
Initially held on the Paramount Studios lot, the breakfast now takes place at Hollywood’s Raleigh Studios on the last Thursday or Saturday of every month.
Sandra Lord, the brain behind the breakfast, said she created the org when she moved to L.A. from St. Lucia and found that existing networking events didn’t allow attendees to intermingle, or for newcomers to be heard.
“People were thrust into a room, and most people kept to themselves, passing judgment on others, watching who’s important and who’s not,” said Lord, who’s also CEO of the nonprofit Changing Images in America and the production company Lord Entertainment Group. “So I thought that there was an opportunity to do something different and to provide access to everyone.” Anyone, including walk-ins, can attend the breakfast as long as they pony up the $45-$55 cost.
At the event, every attendee is allotted 15 seconds to introduce themselves to a room of 100 to 250 entertainment bizzers before the scheduled speaker from the film, TV or music industry takes the floor. Lord and her staff choose one attendee to either meet the guest speakers again for a lunch date or visit them at their place of work. For instance, “Two and a Half Men” director James Widdoes, who spoke at the HNB two years ago, allowed an attendee — a Broadway production stage manager, who had moved to L.A. to become an assistant director — to observe him on set. Widdoes hired him as a stage PA on his ABC Family pilot and Hulu Web series.
“As I say to anybody, whether they’re starting out in the business or they’ve been at it for 30 years, you have to get your product in front of people every opportunity you can,” Widdoes said.
Lollie knows exactly what he means. “(The breakfast) is a really good way of keeping ahead of things happening in Hollywood,” she said.
In this town, that and a cup of coffee will get you far.
(Pictured: Erin Murphy and Bryce Dallas Howard with HNB founder Sandra Lord.)