Recently, I met a woman who was looking for her first job in the film business. Like any seasoned entertainment professional, I asked about the progress of her networking in the film industry, she responded, “I’m not good at networking, how do I do it?” For over 15 years, I have worked in the film business as a development executive and an independent producer. This has required me to fine-tune my ability to access and communicate an idea. But, what do you do if you are shy? Unsure of what to say? How do you meet people that can help you get an entry level position in the film business? Here are my 3 tips for networking in the film industry.
Practice being brave.
Years ago, a producer told me that he had to practice being a good boyfriend. He said monogamy was challenging so he started by being completely attentive one date at a time. Practice being friendly and for some that means being brave. Make eye contact with a stranger in the elevator, smile and say hi. In line at the grocery store, ask the person next to you about an item they have bought. Why do they like it? It’s much easier to practice where there is nothing at stake. Plus in LA, you could be standing next to Jennifer Garner at Whole Foods — ultimate networking move in the film industry.
Go to film related events and follow up.
It sounds simple and it is: go to events that have to do with film. Unfortunately, posting on Facebook is not considered networking in the film business (even if Gale Ann Hurd is your friend). Subscribe to thewrap.com, they offer free screenings followed by a Q&A. Infolist.com advertises reasonably priced seminars. Attend, exchange information then follow up. Don’t blow off someone because you can’t see how they can help you today. The good thing about this business is it is always changing. An unemployed writer may sell a script next week. The bad thing about this business is it always changing. Your best friend’s cousin at CAA who promised you your first film job can get fired with no warning. Keep in touch with everyone because you never know.
Shut up (or learn to listen).
Listening is an underutilized skill. If you are lucky enough to be networking in the film industry and meet a seasoned professional, please shut up. I know you graduated from Brown and feel entitled to share your thoughts on social significance of HER. However, understand industry vets may love movies but we see them as widgets. We are constantly analyzing why one widget is more successful than a similar widget. So if you can succinctly explain why the African American audience responds to the Tyler Perry’s Madea series versus Eddie Murphy’s NORBIT then you may piqué some interest. Otherwise, listen and learn. You may find out the vet needs. Are they looking for the next HUNGER GAMES? Are they scouring YouTube for talent? Do they need a fresh approach to a project in development? In this business, knowledge is power …so learn.
I got my first film job after meeting director Reggie Hudlin at a party where we chatted about comedies. Actually, he talked and I listened. Months later, he asked me to be his assistant on BOOMERANG. Go out, networking in the film industry may feel daunting but on any given Sunday your life can change.