Inside The Chaos: Networking: Conversations Tips – Part 2

We’ve all been there, haven’t we?

You’ve finally made it to that big party/event/social and you desperately need to/want to talk to people for any number of reasons. It may be to get yourself noticed, spread an idea of yours, talk up a new accomplishment, gather opinions or simply make friends. It’s a difficult thing, and as easy as it looks in the world of television, it can be really hard to turn your brain thoughts into mouth words.

I am by no means a conversation expert– I certainly have stuffed my foot into my mouth on a handful of occasions. I have also been on the awkward end of a terribly sentence when the whole room shuts up at once and suddenly everyone important hears the Alphagetti Vs. Zoodles debate you were slightly drunkenly having with your neighbour. It’s okay. It happens.

But I can say that, on just as many (if not more) occasions, my conversation has gotten me business cards, interviews, coffee meetings, important contacts and yes, even jobs. So take this with a grain of salt, but below are my tips and tricks of how to hold a conversation with a near stranger, how to engage them, and, most important, how to get the heck out of there when it’s not going well.

PHASE ONE: Open Your Mouth

This is the hardest phase. Even for an extrovert, sometimes you open your mouth and stupid things come out and panic ensues and you suddenly find yourself running into the valley to nervous-puke into your own handbag. Relax. You’ll be fine. Probably.

At crowded Parties

  • Sidle up to a group of people who you’d like to speak to, stand to the side of them and listen to what they are saying. Notice who is dominating conversation, or if they are all having half-conversations with each other. Wait for a catching note– meaning a topic that you either a) have an opinion one b) want to learn more about.  Consider the following,
  • ” Oh sorry, where you talking about (Insert topic) I just heard about that on  (Insert place, newspaper, radio). What have you heard?”
  • “I’ve seen that (insert movie/show/play/ and (insert how you felt about it)”  OR ” I’ve heard (good/bad/mixed) reviews on that, how did you find it? Did it have a good plot”

Now, ice breaker over, move into deeper things.

  • “That’s a fascinating point, what do you think makes the best writing/photography/technical design/plot twist.  I’ve always thought (insert brief opinion)
  • “Well I don’t know much about that issue, however I always assumed (Insert general opinion on topic you may not be totally informed it. If that is the case, be honest, but acknowledge that you are unread in this area and are open to learning about it) “

Phew. At this point you’ve engaged one or more people in some kind of conversation. Congrats!

PHASE TWO: Develop Context With Your Mouth Words

You’re succeeding in talking to a person or people. You’ve connected with them on a personal basis. Great! Surprisingly, it is NOW that you ask the get-to-know-you questions. If you ask them first time you  open your mouth, you risk jarring the natural flow of the conversation. Insert them casually, and after communication is already underway.

  • So you work in /at/ worked on  (insert industry event, social event name, wrap party production name). Awesome, how long have you been doing that?”
  • *My personal favorite* “How did you get into that line of work? There are so many positions in this industry I love hearing how people  fall into which areas”
  • “I’m (Insert name) by the way!”

Big thing here is ASK QUESTIONS. It generates interest in the other person, engages them and opens up context for you. If you’re here solely to network (Which I personally don’t recommend) then you can fast track to see if this person is someone you would like to establish a business relationship with, or not.


At some point, the person will likely ask about you.  BE HONEST. Suuuuuper important here, do not lie, do not let your “mouth overload your ass” so to speak. That being said, if you are currently in between jobs or it’s off season and you’re a barista at starbucks and you don’t want them to know that, then say the most recent industry job you had.

  • “Me? I just finished up/finishing up my last contract on (Insert show)
  • “Oh, I work in (Area of the industry)  mostly, I worked on (Insert last show)”
  • “I freelance, so I’m really doing anything in the industry I can get my hands on, I haven’t found a job I don’t like yet!”
  • “I enjoy production work/office work/ post-production work and my main focus is”
  • “I work at  (insert company) and (insert title) “
  • PHASE FOUR: Continuing and Closing (or brain thoughts meet mouth words)

    The basics are covered now. You’ve made introductions, established common ground and are in a conversation. Keep it up by using the following tips.

    – Go into every meeting looking to make a FRIEND. Don’t network with anyone you wouldn’t honestly want to have a drink with. Why? Because it’s a business based on friendships. Having a high profile industry contact is well and good, but people call crew into work when they A) know them, B) Like them, C) like their attitude. Being friendly is the best way to get a feel for that. Be a genuine person, with a genuine curiosity about others, and let the pieces fall where they may.

    -Be honest. Talk about your strengths, but don’t lie  and say you are more skilled and better trained than you actually are.

    – Humble bragging is great. But use it sparingly. If you don’t talk about the things you do, people may not know, but once you’ve said it once or twice, let your accomplishments speak for themselves.

    – Wherever possible, and when the moment feels genuine, offer to help others. Ask them to link you to their website, youtube channel, twitter feed and offer to like, share or retweet them. Do this for people who share similar interests to yourself and people you’d like to support professionally. It can be worth it’s weight in gold to support the people you believe in.

    -TALK ABOUT STUFF THAT’S NOT WORK. I know it’s hard. If you actively work in the industry, then sometimes it is difficult to have non-work related things. But talk about hobbies, interests or topical issues. Allow the other person to see you are not a robot, and you have lots of opinions, thoughts and ideas about the world around you, that you engage in the world around you and that you have a LIFE outside of work!

    When you’re about to leave or exit the conversation and you would like to grab the person’s information, be careful. If the person is someone you consider to be VERY high profile, or someone with little connection to you, it may be best to simply shake their hand, thank them for their time and wish them success in future, or comment on working/seeing them around again. That’s it. Then leave. If you see and speak to them on several more occasions in a fairly short time, then maybe you can dabble with adding them to Facebook, it is very context based. Don’t rush anything.

    If it is someone less higher-profile, then a good thing to do is offer them your card, or another form of contact.

    – ” I’m heading out soon, but it was so nice to meet you. Will I see you again at the next (insert event)
    – “I’ve got to go say hi to a friend, but it was lovely bumping into you, if I don’t see you again, I’d love to grab your  (insert card, Facebook, etc. **warning— some people only use Facebook for personal reasons, and don’t add people they just met. Be prepared to offer alternate forms of contact)”
    – “I’m grabbing another drink but if I don’t see you again we should exchange  contact information. It’s always good to know  a (insert their  occupation)”


    If they are a stranger you have never met before and they’re mean, rude, not talking, not making eye contact, giving you a weird vibe, making you otherwise uncomfortable,   best bet is to get a way out. Try the following  – “I’ve just seen a friend I promised I’d say hi to, enjoy the party!”
    – “Will you just excuse me for a moment, I’m grabbing a drink/need to take a phone call/ have to leave”
    -“Hope you’re evening turns around, I really have to get going.”

    Happy mingling, my partygoers!! NEXT INSTALLMENT: Following Up with Your Contacts and How To Work That Room!

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


-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…”


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.


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.


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

Inside The Chaos: 5 Rules for Your Short Film

We’ve all heard it before – your short film is a calling card for your work in your industry. A highlight reel of your best work. Many of us come out of school having made one, or on our way to making one. We often pour our hearts, hopes, souls, and paychecks into their creation. But are they good?

Today we will be analyzing the very first step of making a film: Crafting the script. Below are five major things that help shape a good script into a great script.

*Note: Rules are meant to be broken. There will always be films that make it big that transgress the general rules. But it is also true that the elements below will be found in more successful films than not.

effeciency.jpg1. EFFICIENCY

Bow down before this God. Your film must be efficient. What does that mean? The baseline definition follows ” to accomplish something with the least waste of time and effort; competency in performance” (

What does that mean for your short film? There must not be a wasted line, useless character or excess action. Every act and every sentence must do one of three things 1) assist in the goal 2) conflict with the goal 3) Pass on crucial information.

Even in comedy, where banter can be a source of humor, that banter must be directed towards the task at hand, and it must resolve with information being passed.

Consider Abbott and Costello’s Iconic “Who’s on First” sketch. This piece is nothing but quick and witty banter about a confused identity, but at the center, both characters are attempting to pass along vital information. Every line either assists that goal, conflicts with that goal, or passes on information.

originality.jpg2. ORIGINALITY

This is a tricky one. It can be argued that there are no new ideas. And countering against that, film genres like Romantic Comedies have been successfully exploiting the same plot arch for decades. Bottom line: Make sure your idea hasn’t been done before. And if it has, look for a way to get your emotional goals across in a slightly different way.

Research your concept! Has it been done before? If it has, find out how well it worked and why? How can you make your concept be the story you want to tell, without being a story that has already been told.


A classic rule of cinema is “show, don’t tell”. Don’t tell us character X is having money problems. SHOW character X’s credit card being declined at the grocery store, show them digging in their pockets for bus money, show them walking past a pile of “urgent” bill notices in their hallway. Trust the audience. They will get it.

make us feel.jpg4. MAKE US FEEL

Like any true art form, there is some unknowable sense of magic in this element. I once went to a stand-up comedy class where the teacher said, “I cannot make you funny. But if you are funny, I can teach you tricks to make your funnier.” This is, essentially, the same deal. From the most novice writer to the most advanced, this is the jewel of a short film.

Whatever you are writing- comedy, tragedy, drama- we need to care about the character’s goal. We may hate them, we may love them, we may want them to win, we may want them to fail- but we, as the audience, need to want something from the character and their goal.

How exactly does a writer accomplish this? It is a highly subjective debate. But it starts making the character unique and still relatable. If your character is a jerk, they need to be a jerk in a way that everyone in the audience can relate to. If they are unknowable and horribly evil, they need to have a moment early on where they imply their reasons for being evil- and they have to be understandable, even if horrible. (Ex. “There is no good and Evil. Only power and those too weak to seek it”) If they are the dramatic hero, we need to see a human element of the hero within ourselves.

It is a tricky thing to accomplish, but if your work can make us feel, you have accomplished your primary goal.

take risks.jpg5. TAKE RISKS! (but educated ones)

Take some risks! Start your piece in the middle of the action. Make your main character a deplorable villain. Leave us on a cliffhanger or twist ending- but make sure these risks are measured, educated and, most importantly, well executed.

Your film should have one major over-arching goal: Leave the viewer with a feeling. You can take chances in your attempts to get there. The only guideline is to make sure those chances work. Want your characters to have a big twist ending? Great! Make sure it works sensibly and clearly, and that twist is air tight.


Short films are their own unique beasts, but a good short film can scream out to the industry that you are a professional who knows your stuff. These five guidelines are good ground rules for anyone taking the initial steps in crafting a film

Inside the Chaos: How to Eat Healthy on a Movie Set

movieset3.jpgby Kierston Drier

We’ve all been there.

You know what I am talking about the great divide that is your health and the workplace. It’s no different for the industry of film and television. Oh wait… yeah it is. Juggling health, cost and time is always a hassle. And let’s not forget those five to ten servings of fruits and veggies followed by that roughly 90 minutes of cardio at least once a week.


Long working hours

You’re probably working a 12-hour day plus lunch and commuting. So lets round that up at a 15-hour day. (One hour lunch, plus approximately one hour in commuting each way.) Add an average eight hours for sleeping  (and yeah, who REALLY gets that much?!) and you have “drum roll please” one extra hour in your day! One whole hour to do everything else in your life like showering, checking emails, paying bills, answering personal calls, seeing your friends and/or family, maybe unwind with a glass of wine and somewhere in there maybe fit in some step aerobics.

High Stress- High Energy Job

Any job on set is usually specialized, and there’s normally a lot of pressure on set “get the right shot, meet a deadline, hit your mark, and do it all with a smile on your face.” Regardless, while life in production has a lot of hurry-up-and-wait, and standing around, it definitely makes up for it in the times when it is go-go-go and totally hectic.


Almost constant access to food

Enough said. Between catered meals and craft tables, on any show above a student-level film, you will likely at least be fed.

The great debate is how to manage hunger, boredom and hectic lifestyles with the constant access to food of all kinds around you!

I’m not a nutritionist, a dietitian, or even someone who claims to be super healthy, but here’s how I break down a (fairly) guilt-free day of set-snacking. While set calls vary by show, I used a standard 12+1 hour daytime schedule.

4:40 a.m.– I’m up and out the door for a 6 a.m. call. I’ve showered the night before, check my emails on the streetcar, and grab a 1/2 a banana on my way out to jump start my metabolism, wake me up and follow my grandmothers’ advice (“never skip breakfast!”).

6 a.m.- My actual call time. Hopefully your crafty is on set and has the basics out, which hopefully includes the “hot and ready” breakfast. If you have this luxury, I advise to take advantage of it. I always vouch for a high-protein option to fill me up. Eggs and bacon are my go to if I have them, but for vegetarians and vegans look for oatmeal or a granola with non-dairy milk.

8:30-9 a.m.– Sometimes you miss breakfast, and sometimes you only get the tiniest bite before you have to run off! Regardless, three hours into call, craft services should at least have the two Big C’s: coffee and carbs. In my opinion, this is the time (if you have it) to grab something carb heavy. You have the whole day to work it off, and it will keep you from being super hungry later. I’m a morning person, so I usually skip the coffee and grab some more fruit: pineapple, cantaloupe, fresh berries with maybe a small yogurt, will keep me going. Note: Also, now would be a good time to grab a bottle (or two) of water!

11 a.m.- If I’ve missed my chance to grab food, this is when I’ll grab coffee number one. As a personal rule I don’t add sugar to any beverage; sugar wiggles its way into so much food on set, I do what I can to limit it when I have the option. I usually grab a coffee with a non-dairy option (almond, rice, or soy milk). If a sub is going out I ask myself this system of questions to decide if I take the AM sub or not: Am I hungry? Do I really want this sub? Is it better to have something smaller now (like a piece of fruit) knowing lunch is coming?

1 p.m.- Usually lunch time! I fill up my plate accordingly:

1/4 plate: Hot veggies (Steamed green veggies like green beans, broccoli, asparagus, etc.)

1/4 plate: Cold veggies (Raw veggies, salad greens, mixed salads, marinated veg salads, whatever they have)

1/4 plate: Starches (Baked yams, squash or rice. You can also do pasta or potatoes!)

1/4 plat: Protein. (There is usually a vegetarian protein option, but I often go for the leanest meat I have access to. Chicken or lamb are good options, as is fish!)

Note: Remember to grab a beverage! My recommendation: water.

3 p.m.- This is when I get coffee. And I might take this opportunity to indulge with chocolate, a cookie or maybe even a handful of potato chips. If you’re really conscious about eating healthy, can those indulgences and reach for the trail mix, some raw veggies or fiber-filled fruits that will fill you up and keep you full!

5 p.m.- I’m usually not hungry around now, but if you are, grab a handful of one of the treats mentioned above! Try hummus and crackers, raw veggies or a banana/apple/pear, or even soup if the crafty has prepared some. Also, don’t forget to stay hydrated with maybe another glass of “dare I say water.”

7 p.m.- If all goes well, by now I am wrapped and on my way home. I try to use my time to my advantage “I check my emails on the bus”, and, if I catch craft in time before they leave, I’ve filled a thermos with a sugarless herbal tea to drink on the way home.

9 p.m.- Of course as it would have it, now I’m hungry, but trying to be good, I’m likely to grab something like cheese and crackers, hummus and crackers, soup I’ve made at home or even a bowl of popcorn. When I get home I usually make a snack, hop in the shower, call a friend or family for a brief chat, then put my feet up for 20 minutes and read or noodle around the internet until sleep time, at say 10:45 p.m.

movie set1

movie set2.jpg

Inside The Chaos: When to Walk Away from a job.

When to Walk Away from a job.jpgby Kierston Drier

An adage in my family has long since been, “Some of the best jobs are the ones you don’t take.”

I can’t believe I am writing this, but for this first time since entering the world of film and television, I turned down work.

Not just turned it down, but walked away from a job that was handed to me. Walked out in the interview. And I firmly believe it was the right thing to do. I gathered enough information during the interview to understand that the show I was being offered a job in would be far more difficult than the reciprocation they were offering. I’m going to share with you some of the warning signs for what to look for and how to tell when it might be better to let a job pass you by.


It’s important to start at the beginning here. There is a difference between getting an interview for a mass applied for job posting online, a call from a head hunter, and a personalized referral from a colleague or known source. Mass applied for jobs are likely to have a large pool of applicants, and head hunters can usually guarantee a certain amount of quality in their offers . Referrals are common and trusted in the film and television industry, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider the person who referred you, what your professional relationship with them is, and who they chose to send your information to.


Research the production company, the show, and, if possible, the team you’re with. Some shows are secretive and keep their information quiet, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t research the production company or tap your industry resources for reviews and references on working with the company or similar team. Listen to multiple viewpoints, and listen to everyone’s opinion. Don’t make an opinion on your own immediately, but listen to and tuck away what you hear from others and what you glean from your own personal research.


Know what job you’re going in for. Know it inside and out. Know what it takes to do your job correctly and what things you need the job to be able to provide you in order for you to perform your responsibilities. Need access to reliable transportation? Need to be promised a certain type of equipment? A specifically allocated budget? Know what you’d like to have, know what you need to have, and know what the happy medium would be between the two so that you can negotiate comfortably.


This is so so important. Know your rate! Know your personal rate, know the professional rate for that job in general, know what your worth is based on your experience and your craftsmanship. Make sure the people hiring you know what that rate is. Go in with knowing what you’d LIKE to make, what you SHOULD make and what rate is TOO LOW.

There is a strategy to working below rate and working for free. Sometimes it is done for experience, for a special credit, or for a passion project or for a friend. But remember when going in for a JOB, what is your relationship to the employer? If the job is one you have done before, and one you have experience in, then there is little reason you should accept any lower than the standard professional rate. Unless you are doing a favour for a friend or close contact, you should not be willing to negotiate that rate any lower than industry standard.


Walk away when:

-The company refuses to answer all your professional questions with clear, informative answers.

-The company or production makes unrealistic promises that they do not put in writing.

-The company  or production uses non-committal language while discussing details that are absolutely necessary for your job to be completed. (Ex. ” We’re pretty sure we’ll have enough money for that [insert absolutely necessary item].”)

-The production or company refuses to pay your kit fee, or supplement you for your own materials without prior discussed and written consent.

-The information you are basing your job around keeps changing.  (Ex. A craft person who constantly gets a different head count number than predicted; a location manager whose location requirements keep changing.)

-The job is physically more hours, labour or requirements than is legal.

Remember,  some jobs aren’t worth the headache!

When to Walk Away from a job2