Photographer Daniel Sorine, in 1974, thought he was just photographing two random mimes in Central Park, only to discover 35 years later that he had captured a then little-known Robin Williams on film.
This sort of thing happens surprisingly often when you work in the entertainment idnustry. One of the first movies I worked on featured Josh Gad. This was way before Book of Mormon and Frozen, so he had, like, fifth billing. He was a very nice guy, pre-fame. I have no idea what he’s like now, because he’s super successful, and I’m still just semi-internet famous.
The movie wasn’t very good; I don’t think it’s even got an IMDb page. If you had told me one of the actors would become a huge star, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. And if I had to predict which one it would be, he definitely wouldn’t have been my first guess. Which just goes to show what a great talent scout I would be.
Don’t Be Weird
Because I made the cast list, I still have his phone number and email. And like I said, this sort of thing happens fairly often. Big stars all have to start somewhere,2 and I’ve worked with a few at the beginning of their careers.
But that doesn’t mean we’re friends. We were co-workers, barely more than passing acquaintances. It would be super weird to text him now, like, “Yo, dude! Remember that shitty straight-to-DVD movie you were in a decade a go? I was a PA on that. Wanna read my pilot?”
And yet, there are people that do exactly that. When someone becomes an “overnight” success,3 old acquaintances come out of the woodwork to ask them favors. You, dear reader, should not be one of those people.
If you weren’t still in contact with them (texting, hanging out, whatever) during their lean years, a celebrity isn’t going to think fondly of you now that they’re famous. You’ll just be one more wave in a sea of noise.
Don’t be a weirdo. Wish them well from afar, and regale your friends with stories of, “I knew him when…”
If you bump into them on a future show, you can strike up a conversation about old times. But don’t expect to turn their success into your networking opportunity. That’s not how you get ahead; that’s how you get banned from basecamp.