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The Gift & Curse of Being a Top Networker: Interview W/ Erman Baradi

Hi Erman, welcome back to VENTS! How have you been?

From interviewer to getting interviewed! I love it. Thanks for catching up with me. A lot has happened since we last spoke. Started my new LLC for my personal brand, Ermantourage, which we’ll get more into in a minute. Turning 29 this year! I’ve learned a lot about myself and what 

I want. It’s crazy, it’s like I am turning 30 before knowing what it’s like to be 20. I host and attend parties but it’s more so from a business angle. In a way, I sacrificed my 20’s so the next phase will be even more evolutionary. It took me about five to six years but I finally launched Ermantourage this year. 

LA and the industry overall can be pretty tough to break through for actors and other types of entertainers. Does the same tend to happen for networkers like yourself?

Networking can mean a lot of things. It’s a way to get what you need for your own career while helping others at the same time. Networking itself isn’t a job, but it leads to jobs, for instance, an acting gig. For me, I may know, hypothetically, half of the big players in Hollywood, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be writing the next big franchise in three months. Knowing people is only the percentage of the prerequisites to success. You still need talent and drive and, yes, sometimes luck as well.  

What would you say have been some of your biggest obstacles?

In LA particularly? Man, you know, I’ve been extremely fortunate to connect with those I’ve met thus far. I’ve come across amazing individuals. Still, being labeled as a “top networker in Hollywood” is a gift and a curse. Don’t mistake this answer for being a rant because it’s not, it’s just a cautionary tale. Finding authenticity in this town is tough. The moment people read my bio, I’ll get some DM’s about asking for help meeting this person or that person or asking to help them find an agent. Some folks will even ask me to read their script. Sometimes they’ll say all this without even saying “hello.” Additionally, at some point, you come across a lot of people who want to collaborate, yet aren’t able to offer something new. That’s why I barely collaborate outside my circle of friends. I spent years developing my platform, developing my voice, establishing networks and relationships, and people may want to take advantage of that like, “Erman do all the work and let me jump in and benefit from it.” I get what I worked years for. I have a 10-year plan and I’m sticking to it. The harsh truth is the more I cater to others’ needs, the less time and focus I have on me. It’s okay to be selfish from time to time. It’s necessary actually. The industry pros I connect with, there are specific reasons strategically why I reached out to them. There are boxes on my checklist, too, so you asking me to ask them about this project you want them for, that takes away from what am building a relationship with them for. I got this far by doing what I need to get done for myself and my own name and brand. I’m not going to drop all that to make someone else happy. Growing myself is how I get the amazing lineups on board. I found a way to make me stand out from a lot of other people, so I hold quite a few things close to my chest. If someone asked you how many screenwriting or film or acting organizations are out there, they could probably name over a dozen groups that do exactly the same thing as the next one. How many people can you say do what I do at the rate I do it? On the flip side, I have to walk a line when it comes to the contacts I establish so I don’t come across as that guy who became friends with someone just for a gig. I’m not going to elbow a producer or writer or casting director on one of my favorite shows and ask to work. Eventually, I do want to work with these folks but there’s a way to go about it that’s appropriate. 

The climate in LA (and I don’t mean the weather) is ever changing. How do you tackle different topics at your events since the industry is constantly growing? For instance, for a period of time, one trend may be what’s hot, and six months later it’s another trend. So do you run into issues where you have a panel and a few months later the topic negates what you just spoke about at the previous event?

For this very reason, I like to stay away from specific topics. There are conferences that are focused on what’s trending. I like to keep our events broader and more general to avoid having information that may not be relevant a year from now! If it’s a screenwriters panel then we focus on the craft of writing and the personal journeys of the speakers, for example. 

How much would you say your background as a writer has influence and enforce your networking skills?

It actually became a necessity! Going back to what I strategized to get me recognized. I only relocated fully to Los Angeles in 2017. Before that, I was back and forth from Virginia and California, crashing on couches, sleeping on mattresses and floors, eating Ramen noodles. The question I asked myself was, How do I make myself stick out from the millions of others trying to be in entertainment? You can start networking before you move somewhere. Thank God for the internet and social media. I produced events in London and Toronto because I wanted to establish communities there. I can produce a project in NYC and technically not have to show up. I’m not a full time writer yet but there’s an end goal to all this. I also have the producer itch, so I want to dive more into that as well. I did a tiny bit of acting back in college for friends’ projects, so while that may not be my biggest passion, I think it would be a fun thing to be a part of even if it wasn’t my central focus. 

Having been named a top networkers by some big outlets – how does that push you to become better in your respective field?

This circles back to the whole gift and curse situation. I have the connections. Now, I have to make sure I have the skills to go alongside that. I work on my craft every day (or as much as possible, of course). Cool thing is as of last week I have five bench ads around Los Angeles with my name and face on them. So, people are going to see me even more if they haven’t already.  As long as I grow, the events and the contests and the other projects grow, and vice versa. When my career hits it big, then everything I do around it grows.

You also recently got yourself a manager – what actually draw you into this decision?

What’s funny is I am signed to a new boutique called Emagine Content which is growing pretty rapidly. Emagine’s founder Ben is a friend of mine who attended my first few events in LA and was inspired by the events that he went and launched his own company. In a way, it’s come full circle. He knows me well and my writing style, so it was fitting to sign with a company I could grow alongside rather than be with a more established company that had 500 clients on its roster. It’s never a bad idea, I think, to have a team behind you that roots for you and has your interest in mind. We shoot each other ideas all the time and if we don’t think it’s beneficial to our goals, then we are honest and open about that in conversation.

What else is happening next in Erman Baradi’s world?

I consider myself a blossoming “Ermantrepreneur.” I like to keep my hand in more than one endeavor. When you’re in LA, you have to do that! For those who keep track of my social media, you’ll see that the last few months I’ve been doing a number of events that spotlight a cause. In this case, our Hollywood panels and mixers have given focus to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and its endeavors towards suicide prevention. I’ll be experimenting with different event concepts. I’ll be doing less party events and more intimate fireside chats limited to 20 people or less. That way, they get a better experience with more one on one time with special guests. At The Film Empire, our team has launched several new film and screenwriting mentorship contests. Our last contests featured mentors from Marvel Studios, Warner Bros., Sony Pictures Television, and a ton of other really cool companies. We just launched our next round of Diversity Film and Screenwriting contests so check those out at thefilmempire.com. I am also soon launching ermantourage.com for events, merchandise, and vloga. On the content creation side, in 2019 you’ll see a bunch more on our end. I am developing some film projects alongside cool names I think I’ll be able to talk about another time. I also launched a Patreon page! One of my first passions was interviewing. I am utilizing that skill to give back. I am interviewing people that I find inspiring, not just in film and music, but across industries. When you become a member of the page, your membership fees go towards a cause. The two right now are the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and THE PLUS ME PROJECT, an LA-based non-profit that helps middle school and high school students find their voices. On a personal note, I’m trying to get my parents to travel more so I am establishing events more internationally so they can travel with me! 

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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