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Networking For Filmmakers

An easy Step-by-Step guide

We hear a lot about how networking is the way to get your foot in the door of such a slippery industry, but what is the successful way to go about doing it?

Here are 10 tips on how to up your networking game.

1. The perfect 10 minute pitch

When you are in a networking event with industry professionals, majority of people will be already tired or worked up from listening to loads of pitches, film ideas and different people trying to sell a new concept. So, it is paramount you are very clear and brief when you try to introduce your film idea in the conversation. Try to balance between talking about yourself and establishing a connection with your listener, that will allow you to start talking about your project in a smooth way.

Larry knows what he’s talking about

2. False connections are a no-go

Don’t take a networking event as a competition to talk to as many people as possible; your 10 minutes are not valuable to everyone or, put in other words, some people aren’t worth them. So, sometimes you will start talking to someone and you will feel that they’re not going to go with your pitch idea, and that is fine. Networking is about connecting with the right people who will understand your vision and will want to collaborate with you to make it happen. So don’t stress if the person you’re talking to doesn’t seem that interested, it is a trial and error process, which will eventually bring in the right people. Capitalize on the relationships that feel right and that flow, those are the ones that are going to take you places with your project.

3. Concise, concise, concise

We cannot stress this enough: try to keep your pitch as brief as possible. You need to know your story inside-out, what are the key plot points, what’s the main selling point, it’s logline etc. you must be able to tell your project idea in two minutes, and not only that but to grab the attention of the investor or producer, the most important part of the deal. Once you have gotten that, it’ll be easier to continue the conversation in more productive and practical directions as well as follow up with a lead.

4. Go to as many cocktail and happy hour events as possible (even if you don’t drink)

OK, maybe this isn’t for everyone, but taking advantage of cocktail events organized to meet industry people is the prime place to endeavor into making connections. Depending on what point you’re at in your career, you will need to go to more of these events or not. We’re not talking about “awkward- forcing- your project –onto someone — networking”, but the one where you go being your genuine self and try to establish real human connections. Those are the ones that will take you somewhere productive.

Dan from “Veep” is the real deal

5. Network whenever the chance arises

You don’t have to go specifically to cocktail parties to network, but the key is to find situations, which can serve you to network in a natural way. Maybe you’re working on a production as a PA or as an intern; the people you work with are great opportunities to establish connections that can lead to working relationships in the future. Be observant and be ready for any situation.

6. Create your own community

Don’t rely only on networking at cocktail parties or the odd time you get to intern and/or work for a production company. Surround yourself with people who are in similar positions to you. If you went to film school, keep in touch with your classmates, try to collaborate on projects together, establish friendships that can take you to a productive working relationship. Through your friends and acquaintances, you will get to meet other people in the industry, and that circle will keep on growing. Remember, in the end, it is a small community.

7. Take the opportunity, Say yes

Being a small industry, job opportunities are scarce; so don’t hesitate if you get a chance to work at a production company in a PA or secretary position. Everyone starts somewhere. What you have to think is if the job you’re offered aligns more or less with what you want to achieve in a relatively short period of time. That is why connections and knowing people is so important. The more connections you have, the more the stars will align so that someone that knows someone who knows you, will recommend you when they’re looking to fill in a vacant position. When the opportunities arise, don’t hesitate and say yes; make the most out of the opportunity!

8. Find what’s going to be your side job

OK, you take the risk and accept that entry-level job that you’ve been “so lucky” to get. The pay is usually ridiculous, so you either have a supportive family which can help you out, or this will mean having to have a side job that will allow you to keep working towards your goals of being an active part of the film industry; be it as a producer, director, screenwriter or whatever you want it to be. In the end, do what it takes to be able to continue pursuing your dream career. Unfortunately, not everyone makes it, and a lot of people will quit because they can’t keep up with it, something that hopefully will change in the near future.

Amy and Dan, ruthless networkers

9. Is your side job going to be within the industry or not?

When deciding what other job to take to make ends meet, we risk getting lost in a path we don’t want to go down. Is it better to take an industry job or some menial job that will leave us enough time to write and develop our own projects? It depends on what’s the job. If it’s a job that will allow you to get to know producers and people who will get you closer to, for example, being a sales agent, like a job reading scripts, then that seems a logical combination. But you don’t want to take on a job that is going to be draining and a career on its own, like, sound recordist at a studio, for example, so choose wisely.

10. Don’t network as if you were in the middle of a transaction

The most important piece of advice for networking: don’t treat it like a transaction. Don’t go into it thinking you will get out of it with a film deal. It never works like that. Networking is about connecting with people, letting people get to know you and see if there are enough affinities to embark on such a compromise as it is developing a film project. In the end, keep in mind that the path to a successful film career is never straight; there will be loads of detours. Plan where you want to see yourself in five or ten years time and see where you’re at once you advance towards those goals.

Have a clear idea of what you’re looking for in the short term, try to be yourself and get out there!

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