The adage "It's not what you know but who you know." is probably closest to being true in film. Writers need producers, directors need cinematographers and editors, actors need directors, everyone needs actors, producers need everyone.
This is the most collaborative of all creative mediums and the personnel often change from project to project - producers especially need a large network of contacts to succeed. Do not despair if you don't have a large pool of contacts as meeting, getting to know people, and turning casual contacts into useful ones are skills which can be learned. What you know actually determines who you know.
Although we all try to network, many of us in the industry could be better at it. This article is primarily written for producers but everyone from actors to zoom operators will find it useful.
Why make films? Why tell stories? We are filmmakers because we have something to communicate. Communication implies other people.
Perhaps in certain fields of human endeavour one can become successful through skill and talent alone - maybe seismologists don't need many relationships with others. For filmmakers however, social skills are as important as creative ones and to be effective in the industry it is necessary to assidiously develop both.
To work, raise money or get any recognition we must establish professional relationships within the industry, networking is the most effective ways to start off these relationships. For some people networking comes naturally but most of us have to work at it, and work at it we should for our careers may well depend on it..
What is Networking?Edit
Having lunch? Speaking on the phone a lot? Using friends to find work? Using acquaintances to find work? An excuse to socialise rather than finish that difficult treatment?
Networking is not only about meeting people but also about building trust with those people and making effective use of our relationships with them. It is not good enough to briefly meet Steven Soderberg at an event and then send him a script - he probably gets that a lot . Networking is about building a *relationship* and to do that you need to help people.
The key to networking is helping people, selfish people are very poor networkers. If you are possessive about your time and contacts you will fail at it.
If for example you have a contact in Greek Television and you meet someone who happens to be making a film with a Greek actor - pass the contact on, the person you met will remember you and be more inclined to help you later. Some help you can give people:
- Supply information
- Supply introductions
- Give ideas and advice
- Give personal support
- Give free or discounted services
An effective skill to learn is how to spot opportunities for others. Every offer we turn down as inappropriate may be perfect for someone else in our network. To quote Dale Carnegie, "You can make more friends in two months by becoming really interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.". This is just another way of saying that the way to make a friend is to be one.
Networking is not a game so don't keep score. I once asked a friend who has been in the business a lot longer than I for an introduction and was stunned by the response, "No you haven't really done enough for me to justify my giving that away.". This business moves in cycles and those down and out today may well be in a Tarantino film tomorrow.
Who to Network WithEdit
It is tempting to network with those people who we have a lot of common ground with and spend more time with them, forming close friendships. While it is wonderful and crucial to have friends it is only by reaching out to those who we may not have much in common with initially that we will actually build our networks.
These so-called "Weak Ties" are important because friends are likely to be exposed to the same sources of information as us and therefore don't have fresh news or relationships outside our circles. Those with whom we don't have huge amounts in common with will have access to other groups of people and other sources of information.
Don't network with dodgy geezers or dilettantes - they will sully the reputations we are busy building. A crucial element of networking is building and maintaining trust and nearly all effective networkers are held in high regard by their peers and have exacting ethical standards.
Selectivity is important in other ways. We will spend a lot of time helping our network of contacts so time is best spent on those who:
- Are good at what they do
- Understand networking and are willing to enter into the spirit of a mutually beneficial relationship
Don't help one person by placing a burden on another, look for win-win situations.
I once made passing contact with a high level staff member working for Soros Private Equity (Venture Capital) and then promptly emailed him the CV of my friend who was looking for a job with a VC. This was premature. A better tactic would have been to, over some time, give him info about events in the high tech market he may have not spotted. This could have got him feeling obliged and relying on my information at which point I could have asked him to meet with my friend who was looking for a job in VC.
- If a contact shares interesting information that merits passing on we must ask how confidential it is.
- Always ask permission before passing on a contact's personal details.
- Let the person who gave us the information know the outcome of their introduction.
- If things work out show our appreciation.
- If we cannot help or pass on information explain why.
By subscribing to online groups and better yet contributing to them it is possible to make many useful contacts and perhaps even be remembered in face-to-face meetings. Networking At Events
Remember that most of the others at an event feel just as out of place and uncomfortable as we do, try a conversation opener to break the ice. Closed question which supply the answer ("Busy tonight isn't it?", "You early too?") are nonthreatening and work well, this should be followed with an introduction and a business card.
To join groups of people conversing hang about next to the group and spot who's doing most of the talking (If I'm there chances are it will be me!) and when the opportunity arises ask that person a question, you will soon be included in the conversation.
It sometimes feels like we should meet as many people as possible but flitting from group to group is ineffective. Better is to concentrate on making a couple of meaningful connections at each event this will soon expand our networks.
Whether it's a palm pilot, a mobile phone, a super rolodex or an ipod it is a good idea to use a system to keep lists of contacts current and backed up - digital is easier but not essential. A back up or a photocopy of the contact file is critical - knowing George Clooney is no good without his phone number.
To keep up contact with many people some form of system is essential. Recommending a specific system is beyond the scope of this essay but consider investing in good address book software or some form of CRM system and update and organise lists regularly. Like going to the gym updates are best if done regularly at a scheduled time.
Uber-networker Harvey Mackay organises his contacts daily and spends one Sunday per month going through his (thousands of) contacts, reconnecting with some and pruning others. Business Cards
You need business cards - they are inexpensive, Printing Direct made me 250 full colour cards for £50.00, their prices start from £24.00. Having cards immediately raises your level of professionalism.
Rain Making: The Professional's Guide to Attracting New Clients, Ford Harding, ISBN 1-55850-420-6
Networking on the Network, Phil Agre: Internet Article, http://dlis.gseis.ucla.edu/people/pagre/network.html#section6
The Anatomy of Buzz, creating word of mouth marketing, Emanuel Rosen,ISBN 0 006531601
Networks in the Global Village: Life in Contemporary Communities, Barry Wellman, ISBN
Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You'll Ever Need, Harvey Mackay, ISBN 0385485468