Today we’d like to introduce you to Erman Baradi.
Erman, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Thank you for your time in hearing my story. My journey began like a lot of interesting stories do – I got fired. I was 20 at a fairly comfy office job at my college where I was attending film school at the time. I was able to pick my own hours, come in for extra hours if I wanted… it was good. Then, I made young person mistakes and was let go. That was my first and only office job. Three months later, some opportunities started falling into my lap just based on being a good person and networking. One internship led to another, which eventually gave me enough on my resume to apply for a Hollywood internship.
Hundreds of emails were sent that summer (2012) and I only heard back from two companies. I chose to go with Mosaic, which produces big movies and manages A-list clientele. After those two months, I came back home to Virginia, which is literally across the country from LA. I had to think of something fast to stay relevant. So, I created a catchy social media handle @Erman_LA and began networking with anyone who was in the entertainment industry. Some folks caught wind of me and I was invited to work some events as they thought I resided in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, as a strategy to network with agents, managers, and publicists, I took up a pro bono gig writing and interviewing for a digital magazine. Between interviewing and events, it was basically no money. However, I saw the end game. Currency for me was emailed. These gigs allowed me to learn the names of people in what position at many Hollywood companies as well as keep track of their emails. All that snowballed for five years of me laying down a foundation in LA and NYC, frequent self-paid flights back and forth. I didn’t want to relocate until I knew more than a 100 people by name. I wasn’t going to be the one to hurry to LA and find a job that took up nine hours of my day that I hated, only to go home and sleep from exhaustion, then do it all over again.
Finally, I found the opening to utilize my growing connections to give myself value. I was going to get recognized. As someone who sought a career in writing and producing (and eventually directing), I had to find what made me unique and stand out. So, I started doing my own events. I combined elements of Q&A’s and panels and combined them with a party element or social gathering. We all know the entertainment industry is tough, so I provided a platform for those in the industry to connect with attendees. Even on my end, I know it’s hard to get in the room with Hollywood execs, so I found a way to get Hollywood execs in the room with me.
I’ve booked well over 400 film, television, and music guest speakers in LA, NYC, Virginia, Miami, Chicago, London, and Toronto. The purpose of it all is to help others get jobs all the while getting connected myself. It’s funny when industry pros are hitting me up to make a personal connection to someone else! You’d think they would have the resources to make the connection themselves, which they do, but I think they ask me anyway because they see what I bring to the table. I’ve had folks get jobs from attending events or make contact with managers or agents or collaborators. I’m going to create content with people I met over the years, both attendees and speakers.
Over time, I met my current business partner Brandon and we created MixKnowledgy for our events together as well as The Film Empire for our Hollywood mentorship contests. Over the last year, we’ve had mentors from your favorite movies and shows for our filmmaking, screenwriting, diversity, cinematography, composer, visual effects, horror, and women in film contests.
In 2018, I launched my new LLC, Ermantourage, which produces the similar film, television, and music events but I donate a portion of proceeds to charitable causes or foundations. We will also be creating content, so be on the lookout for that. Some organizations I’ve been collaborating with include #HashtagLunchbag, THE PLUS ME PROJECT, and I’m working towards a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The entertainment industry can break someone down. and a lot of people I know in LA are struggling emotionally. I hope to work more with them. In the next few years, I’ll be collaborating a lot more with folks I’ve networked with so I am very excited about that!
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I’m not just someone who’s in a creative industry. I’m also running a business. It’s tough trying to be a writer or produce content while also trying to make money and balance a personal life. I’m putting on this mixer and that party and working on this script and putting together that lineup, It can be tiring. And just because I know a ton of the right people doesn’t mean my blockbuster is going to hit theaters next month.
I was featured in The Huffington Post as “a top networker in Hollywood.” There’s probably a level of expectation for me to manage. I can’t send someone a subpar script. That would be embarrassing. That’s why it is taking me a bit longer to “break in” fully, I’m taking my time. Still, when I’m ready to dive in, I’m jumping in head first.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Ermantourage – what should we know?
Currently, I’m known for three things. I co-founded MixKnowledgy for Hollywood events and The Film Empire for Hollywood mentorship contests. Then, I have my personal projects under Ermantourage. What sets us apart is we were never some big entity like Variety or The Hollywood Reporter, yet we get the best guest speakers and mentors together as possible. When it comes to these things you’re only as good as your lineup, so we pride ourselves in who we bring to the table. We’re also extremely affordable compared to others out there. We know what it’s like to be a broke artist, so we keep that in mind. We’re grassroots, kind of like for the people by the people. Ultimately, the entertainment industry is not just the business of movies but it’s the business of people.
You’re selling names and personalities. You go to a movie to see an actor you like not just as a performer but as a human being. That’s why it was important to build my social media presence before doing anything major. I can’t fill up seats if you don’t know who I was before. I can’t get a special guest involved if they looked me up and found nothing. I don’t have a gazillion followers but it was vital for me to pivot my personal brand into a business. And that’s why I continue to grow my personal brand. If what I’m doing with partners and collaborators falls apart, I still have me to continue with. Under the radar, I’ve been in touch with some collaborators other endeavors I can’t quite talk about yet, but I’m sure you’ll hear about those shortly!
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Being relatable. I love this question! I think people rock with me because they see I’m just like everyone else, but pulling off some crazy things. It’s one of those “if I can do it, so can you” kind of situations. People understand I’m just like everyone else trying to make it in the industry. Everything I’m doing is a means to an end. I want to make a name for myself and make enough money to launch foundations and charities and make donations. I hope to be a Renaissance man. I have huge dreams like everyone else!
Someday, I don’t want to just be known as someone who made a movie or two. I don’t want to create a computer, I want to create the concept of the internet. I don’t want to design the light bulb, I want to discover electricity.
On the flip side, what’s really worked for me is this aspect of mystery. I’ve had some people who came to a function I put on after a whole year of following me online to finally see what I’m about. One time, I went to a friend’s event and a mutual friend who I didn’t physically meet yet jokingly said he thought I was a myth and was surprised to see in person. Other times, people are like, “Is he in Virginia right now? LA? New York?” I kind of live nomadically because I want to immerse myself in different communities and cultures and meet people, and because of that people are like, “When can I finally meet him?” I love it.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: instagram.com/@erman_la
- Facebook: facebook.com/erman.baradi
- Twitter: twitter.com/erman_la