Remember the old Hair Club For Men commercial? The one where Cy Sperling bobble-headed his way through the benefits of membership before proudly proclaiming – “I’m not also the Hair Club president, I’m also a client”? Well in some ways, minus the stammering and the head bobbing, I guess I’m sort of a modern day Cy Sperling. I’m not only the CEO of Stage 32, I’m also a member.

Further, like you, I am a screenwriter. I also dabble in acting and producing. But over the last couple of years, my primary focus has been seeing my work through from concept to completion, from page to screen. It’s been an interesting ride. One filled with glorious complimentary chatter followed by chilling radio silence. From “Let’s do lunch!” to “Who are you again?” From “We’re a go!” to “We’re gonna have to back away.” Like a poker player’s tale about a bad beat on the river card or a fisherman’s yarn about the big one that got away, there’s a commonality, a relatability, to a screenwriter’s horror stories. We all share the same experiences – the rejection, the near hits, the promises not kept. All of it used to weigh on me. But not anymore.

The genesis of my new found attitude can be traced back to November of 2010. I was in Santa Monica attending the American Film Market with my partner in Fair Warning Productions, Curt Blakeney. Our goal was to find a production partner for a project we were developing. We had Val Kilmer attached, some other name actors waiting in the wings, and investor interest.

AFM basically works like this: Thousands of filmmakers, producers and screenwriters from the four corners of the globe bring their concepts and completed films to the Loews for a week of pitch meetings with hundreds of production companies seeking content. If you’ve been around this business for any period of time, that may sound like the logline for a horror movie. And for many, it is just that. Relatively speaking, only a handful of attendees will crack deals. The rest will go home defeated. But not before stopping off at the Loews bar to share bloody battle stories with their empathetic brethren.

A couple of days after AFM, Curt had a thought: What if there was a way for these creatives to make new connections, market themselves, and promote their work for the other 51 weeks of the year? The notion grew legs. What if an actor in New Orleans could audition for a project in Michigan? What if a screenwriter in London could connect with a director in California? And then … what if we could connect all creatives globally without them having to leave the comfort of their couch?

Thus, Stage 32 was born.

In our 5 short months of existence, our member base has grown to nearly 50,000 spanning nearly every country on the planet. As important, the site is serving its intended purpose: People are finding work, getting projects off the ground, locating funding, and, in short, making valuable connections that will help further their careers. Further, Stage 32 networking meet ups are happening around the world. In the last month alone, Stage 32 members have convened in Los Angeles, New York, Denver, Florida, Alabama, Amsterdam, London, Athens and Sydney. Dozens of projects been launched as a result of these meet ups, proving once again that who you know is just as important as what you know. And, assuming you have honed your craft, the more people you know, the greater the probability of success.

I’ve met a ton of talented screenwriters and producers through Stage 32. We’ve exchanged scripts and project ideas. On a few occasions, people have been generous enough to pass my work along to managers, agents or producers. In one instance, my script, “Lucky Lorenzo,” landed in the hands of a manager at a major firm that also has a production arm. He loved the script and wanted to speak about representation. That conversation led to another and, suddenly, there was talk of the firm producing the film as well. Then, unfortunately and alas, there was a firing, a retirement, and no more momentum.

Under normal circumstances, having flown so close to the sun, this news would have been devastating … a major psychological setback. But, now with Stage 32, I found resolve. I put myself back at it, networking every day, and within two weeks, I landed an agent. The connections that placed my script in that agent’s hands all were made through Stage 32.

I’ve been asked many times what the biggest mistakes aspiring screenwriters make. I think there are two. One, reading screenwriting books as opposed to screenplays add a means to learning the craft. And, two, spending too much time writing, and too little time networking. The greatest concept in the world won’t mean a thing if it doesn’t get exposure. Marketing yourself is equally important as marketing your work. That notion, especially if you lived outside of Los Angeles, used to be daunting. But with a site such as Stage 32, there’s no excuse. Networking needs to be part of the work day.

If you’re already a member of Stage 32, I thank you for joining and strengthening the community. If you’re not, I welcome you to come on board. I believe you will find it to be an invaluable resource. Upon joining, your first wall post will be from me. I hope you’ll take the time to respond and introduce yourself. Remember, I’m not only the CEO, I’m also a member.

Richard Botto is the co-founder and CEO of Stage 32. He is also the CEO of Fair Warning Productions. His most recent foray into the crazy world of independent film was as an associate producer of Sam Levinson’s first film, “Another Happy Day,” which premiered at Sundance in 2011. Botto is also the former publisher and editor of Razor Magazine. His screenplays have been quarterfinalists, semi-finalists, and finalists in various screenplay competitions including the Nicholl and Austin.

To view the original Hair Club For Men commercial, click here (

7 thoughts on “The Power of Networking”
  1. Loved this… loved hearing how the idea for stage 32 came along.

    One thing I love about Stage 32 is the mix of people, talent and their roles in the industry. We hear from those just selling their 16th screenplay, the trial and tribulations of working with stars (Bruce Willis seems like a trip!); but we also hear voices of those of us trying to get in, get noticed, get repped, get produced. I can tell stage 32-ers that PhotoShop is kicking my butt on a children’s picture book I’m writing, that I hope the Vampire sagas stay in vogue because I have a killer one (of course), and to keep good thoughts on my one act in competition at Santa Paula’s Full Frontal Humanity program. (Decision in April, staging in June… my fingers crossed.) I guess I learn a lot from the pros, but I also share a lot with the gonna-be-pros — and what we are all doing to work in — out-of-the-box ways to get our work before the world…and industry. At stage 32 it isn’t an all me attitude, I’ve reached out with reading and feedback and what small contacts I have; others have reached out to invite me into their local screenwriting groups, meetups, and online discussions. People on Stage 32 are reachable, from the new members, to the guest bloggers… to the CEOs… that’s new and different.
    If we have 50,000 members, why not start a fund… $2 from every member twice a year… stage 32 ers vote which projects to fund twice a year. I know $4 to help launch 2 projects is definitely in my meager budget! What could some of our indie filmmakers do with that kinda backing? Harness that power guys! lol (That or sell the darn t-shirts! Whatever the cost plus $4. Available twice a year, different shirts. (One guy online is hogging them all. —KIDDING,… but yeah I want one! I may just make my own just for me… I am getting better with PhotoShop! And there are lots of nice photos of YOU, ceo ! )
    Anyway, great idea, great virtual “town square.”

  2. Excellent post Richard. I enjoyed reading your story about how Stage 32 came to be, and its role in helping you bounce back from your travails with Lucky Lorenzo. You’re just right, it’s much easier to take inevitable setbacks in stride when we’re part of a group of people striving to bring our work to the world, and when we’re opening doors as a normal part of our daily life. Bravo!

  3. Outstanding article Richard. Great advice on networking and using social media to further our careers.

  4. I enjoyed the blog. I found it interesting, RB, that you said it’s possible for new s/w’s to spend too much time writing. After thinking about it, I would agree. Producing a fantastic, topnotch screenplay is a given and certainly one has to devote plenty of time, energy, and attention to that end. But as you wrote, a killer concept/product is wasted if it’s not properly marketed and promoted. So my goal will be to strike a balance between writing and self-promotion. Thanks for the insights and sharing of your AFM experience. And of course, for making Stage 32 happen!

  5. I appreciate all the positive feedback, guys…As well as the very kind and generous words about Stage 32. I’m obviously biased, but I believe truthful and factual as well when I say Stage 32 is populated with the most creative people on the planet.

    Marc and Eide, I enjoyed your comments and believe, in a way, they form two parts of a whole. One of the great thing about being a screenwriter is the overwhelming sense of community…In my opinion, screenwriters, even more than actors and directors, love to pull for one another. Be it through writing groups, online forums, or simply moral support, screenwriters prop one another up. They’re overwhelmingly empathetic.

    To that end, and as you alluded to, Eide, it’s easy to get wrapped up in choking our work to death, we don’t take the time to network, to join a group, to trade pages and ideas, to share contacts – all the things that would benefit our ultimate goal, which is to sell or be produced (or, hopefully both).

    When I see a 40 post discussion in the screenwriting section of the Stage 32 where people are sharing ideas on structure, inciting moments, or producers looking for specific content, it always leaves me glowing. Years ago, we only had ourselves to lean on. We’d lock ourselves in a room and write. And when were weren’t writing, we’d lock ourselves in a room and read a book about writing. Now, we can discuss the finer points with our peers. We can share our work more easily. We can make contacts from our couches. It doesn’t get much better than that.

    Thank you again for reading, for being members of 32, and for all the positive energy.


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