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Dream Career Toolkit: Your Map of Relationships and Hitlist - What They Are and Why You Need Them

Shawn Tolleson talks about how to make the phrase, "It's who you know" work for you through your map of relationships and hitlist.

You've all heard the phrase “in Hollywood, it’s who you know.” It’s said so much that it’s almost lost meaning, right?

relationship map

Well, what it means is that the quality of your relationships, as well as the type of relationships you have, has a great deal of influence on your success.

So, how do you put this to work for you?

To start, first you need to know who you know. I like to call this your Map of Relationships. It’s great to make a list, or better yet put something on the wall, showing who you know and what they do. Having categories like producers, directors, casting directors, production managers, actors, etc. can be very instructive.

When you do this you can see who you actually know. If you’re an actor and you know mostly other actors and one or two casting directors, this can be a problem. Directors and producers are the people who will hire you, so you need to know more of them!

Often people say “I don’t know anybody” without having done this work. You might not know very many people, but you do need to know specifically who you do know so that you can build on those relationships. Most of the time, when my clients do this work they are stunned to see how many people they actually know.

Also, it doesn't matter how you know them. Your kids can play together. Your mom can know their mom. You can do yoga together. Now, transforming a personal relationship into a professional relationship takes strategy and skill, but it can be done to great effect. But you have to start with your Map of Relationships before you can do any of that.

Now, if your Map of Relationships is who you know, your Hitlist is who you need to know. People confuse these two things surprisingly often. The key is that you need to identify both. To identify exactly what type of Hitlist you need to make, look at your goal and see who you need to get into relationship with to accomplish this goal!

If you’re a writer with a script that you want to get produced, you’ll need to know producers and directors for a start. If you’re a young editor who wants to work in studio features, you’ll need to know editors and assistant editors who work in studio features. The key is to identify who can hire you, refer you, or partner with you in order to accomplish your goal.

The thing to remember about your Hitlist is that until you know who you need to know, you will have a hard time getting to know them. Just like people are usually surprised by how many relationships make it on to their Map of Relationships, people are often shocked by how closely connected they are to people on their Hitlist. They realize that their neighbor is a showrunner on one of their target shows, or they go to spinning with a producer who makes films like the one they are trying to get produced. But it’s impossible to make these connections until you have made your Hitlist.

Once you've done your Map of Relationships and your Hitlist, start to look for the connections between them. Look at the IMDb for the people on your Map of Relationships and see if they’ve worked with the folks on your Hitlist.

As you do this, you can start to strategize how to approach the people on your Hitlist. Each person will be different and will require thought, attention and strategy. But, you've got the foundation for making “it’s who you know” work for you! Good luck!

Shawn Tolleson is a career coach working with screenwriters and other entertainment industry professionals. She gives you the practical tools you need to accomplish your dream career. Check out blogs, videos, classes and more at!

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