Real people

Some executives choose to build relationships through philanthropic endeavors.

In Hollywood, networking is everything -- showing up at industry events and buzzworthy venues around town is practically a job requirement for young Hollywood executives. And while socializing at the hottest nightspots a la HBO's "Entourage" has it perks, some civic-minded Next Gen'ers make it a point to connect with their industry peers while also giving back through philanthropy.

The benefits, they say, are varied -- not only do they derive satisfaction from making a difference in the lives of others, but they enrich their careers by meeting other like-minded professionals from all walks of the industry, including those just starting out in their respective fields.

On the East Coast, VH1 digital media vp Tina Imm uses her involvement with the 4-year-old Hip-Hop Assn., a New York-based organization that seeks to facilitate social change and critical thinking through hip-hop, as a way to build contacts and stay in touch with the community while she climbs the corporate ladder. "This is one way for me to stay in the loop and get fresh, relative contacts and hear new music," Imm says. "The idea of education through hip-hop is a running theme throughout the organization."

Imm helps develop new business strategies for the association and also assists in planning its H2O (Hip-Hop Odyssey) International Film Festival. "So, it goes both ways as far as my sending people over, and then I find people and possibly use them on some of the stuff we're working on within our company," Imm says.

Closer to home, Damon Wolf, a principal founder and head of the print advertising division of Los Angeles-based Crew Creative Advertising, already devoted a great deal of time to nonprofits, including the Family Pride Coalition, where he sits on the board and has hosted two of the organization's annual National Awards Dinners at his own home. But through contacts he's made at work, Wolf now also has become active with both the Help Group, which serves special needs children, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Dinner of Champions.

Socializing with clients at charitable events ultimately strengthens working relationships, Wolf says. "You work with your clients on such a personal level for such a long time, you really get to know them," he says. "You really get an insight as to who they are as humans, and they're not just clients anymore."

This summer, a group of CAA trainees recently learned firsthand that giving back can enhance interoffice relationships. In June, 18 trainees flew to New Orleans to spend a weekend aiding rebuilding efforts in the hurricane-devastated city. Ben Blake, a CAA trainee in Bryan Lourd's office, organized the outing after being inspired by a similar trip Lourd had taken to assist in the reconstruction.

During their stay, the trainees worked on Habitat for Humanity's Musicians' Village, a venture supported by CAA client Harry Connick Jr., and paid a visit to children from Louisiana's Freedom Schools program, sponsored by the Children's Defense Fund, an organization that CAA also supports. "It's a connection for us to put a face to this charity effort we, as a company, have been (supporting) for the past year," Blake says.

Blake agrees with Wolf that building work relationships through charitable efforts quickly strengthens bonds, often to a greater degree than grabbing drinks after work. "Partially, it's about building a culture that's beyond the work, and the drinks and the regular day," he says. "You learn so much more about a person, I think, and that makes you a better worker and better person to spend time with five days a week."

Mentorship is vital to molding future Next Gen'ers, and through Imm's membership with the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications, a trade association that encourages diversity in the telecommunications industry, she has met new talent just beginning to climb the corporate ladder. She serves as a mentor through NAMIC's L. Patrick Mellon Mentorship Program, which she says has given her "so much more insight, as well as how to look at things differently. It's been a two-way exchange of information."

Like her involvement with the Hip-Hop Assn., NAMIC's mentorship program keeps Imm attuned to new ideas. "It's really nice to see someone who is just fresh out of school, who really just wants to get involved and to give me their fresh perspective on where they see the industry today," she says. "The longer that I'm in this industry and the more responsibility and the bigger the title gets, it's really hard to get such hands-on feedback on that one level."

Wolf, too, has reached out to talented up-and-comers in his field through The Hollywood Reporter's Key Art student sponsorship program. "It's a wonderful way to pave the way for the next generation of creative people that work in the same business that I do," he says.

While he's not necessarily working with future industry professionals, Norm Golightly, president and partner of Saturn Films with actor Nicolas Cage, has participated for several years in the Fulfillment Fund's mentoring program, which pairs junior high-aged students with mentors who assist them throughout the course of high school. Although he resists thinking of his volunteering as a networking opportunity, Golightly says his commitment to the Fulfillment Fund has added a dimension to his work as a filmmaker.

"Film, like any art form, is to some extent a reflection of the real world and the human condition," he says. "It's a little too easy for all of us to get trapped behind our Hollywood walls and forget not only how lucky we are, but that indeed, from points of such privilege, we are capable of making a difference."
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