Inside the Chaos: Networking: How to Work a Room – Part 1

Like many people new to the television industry, I hear all the time about the importance of networking. “You’ve got to meet people! It’s all about who you know!” It can almost sound disheartening for a young aspiring person in television, as some of us who do not “know anyone” may have felt. Here are some of the tips I’ve found in my travels. I am by no means an expert and when it comes to “working the networking room.” There are multiple ways to talk, meet and mesh with the right people, but if you find some of my tips helpful, take them, good reader!

PART ONE: Getting IN

GO TO EVENTS

-This is where you get out your planner, your phone, and Google and start looking up industry events in your area that are free. Ink Drinks, People and Pints, Relaxing Events, Meet and Greets, open launch parties, etc. Google them, pencil them in and then get out your phone and text your film friends to come! Do this for several reasons. 1) Opening the offer to friends increases your friendship. 2) Going with other film-industry people around you assists your game plan.*

*THE GAME PLAN – Get your friends together and, if you don’t already do this, give it a try (but use caution). When you go to an open event with friends, make sure you both know what the other is doing in the industry. When you start mingling, refer to your friends accomplishments and vice versa. Talk each other up. Get your friend’s name out there. It’s a great way to span your potential sphere of influence. Just remember, do not over talk anyone, boast without cause, or lie. An example: “Oh, you work in post? My friend is doing that at [insert show] and loving it! They are here somewhere. How did you get into doing post…”

GO TO PARTIES

Yes, parties and events are different, of course, but both offer different fertile ground to work with, networking wise. By parties I mean short film launches, film festival launches, wrap parties, studio launch parties, etc. These might be harder to find as not as many are widely publicized and they are typically much smaller, more intimate gatherings. My advice here: if the invitation or opportunity exists and you are able to take it, take it! If your a PA on a show and get a mass email to a team event like going to see a show together or a baseball game, don’t think, “Oh that is just for the upper management!” YOU GOT THE INVITE, YOU ARE INVITED. I once got a mass invitation to a launch party for a show I was on. We were still in prep and I had yet to meet anyone on the shoot. I went and ended up at a party with all the executive producers (the only people who came!) and for the rest of the show, they always smiled, nodded and said hello to me by name when they saw me.

VOLUNTEER

Use your best judgment with this one so as to not get taken advantage of. When I first started out in the industry (the first six months or so) I did a variety of free work for specific credits I was looking for. Some of them led to paid work down the line, and some of them did not. But offering people your time, at your discretion, and on projects you are sincerely interested in, can help create new networking strategies. Offer to read over an idea to a peer, offer a day of PA work for a non-union gig, offer some names for volunteers you know who might be interested in a project or event offer to tweet, like, or promote someone’s idea. Everything helps to instill you as a person who goes out of their way to support others in the industry and that is a valuable aspect in any instrumental friendship.

MAKE FRIENDS

It’s not any easier now than it was in grade school, so I get why that is, for some people, a terrifying notion. But here’s the thing, never feel like you are using people in the industry. I’ve heard a lot of friends express concern that “networking” feels very artificial and lacquered over. I’m sure it can be, but try to re frame it in your mind. Do not look at a person and think, “Hmm, what can they do for me?” Look at the person and think, ” What can I learn from them? What can we learn from each other?” And when you talk to them, sincerely listen. And sincerely care. As a general tip, talk to everyone you can, but network with people who you would legitimately want to grab a non-work-related beer with.

Part Two: Conversation Tips for Networking will be coming up next time

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