Film & TV Networking: The do’s and don’ts
Networking… a dreaded word for many. Film & TV Networking is a huge part of building your freelance career, and you have to be ready to do it at any time. But how do you turn an opportunity into a job? In this article we explore the dos and don’ts of networking.
The dos of Film & TV Networking
Film & TV Networking is actually very simple to get right, and there’s a few quick wins to becoming a word class networker.
1. Do your research
Never go into a room blind if you can avoid it. Preparation is everything. Before a screening, read up on the crew, from the director to the runner, that way when you bump into them at the bar have a toolkit of conversation starters: “hey, didn’t you also work on Frightnight? I heard that was shortlisted at LSFF? Congratulations! I’ve been meaning to see it, is it screening any time soon?”
A word of caution though, try not to come off as a stalker…be well-informed but tread the line carefully!
2. Ask ask ask
Film & TV Networking is very similar to dating in a lot of ways, the more you can seem engaged and interested the better. People love to talk about themselves so give them the chance to do so and be genuinely interested, listen and remember key points.
It’s also a good test of their character; if they’re nice they’ll ask back and be interested, whereas if they aren’t bothered then you know they may be best avoided. You can learn a lot about someone by their conversational habits.
3. Introduce others
Perhaps you start chatting to someone who needs an animator, and you’ve just spoken to an animator 5 minutes ago. Make the connection! Film & TV Networking isn’t just about you getting what you want, it’s about helping others get what they need and being the person to help them do that. Have a good chat with them first but then if you catch the other person, in this case the animator, bring them over and introduce them. The benefit of this is it also allows you to bow out and get a drink and network with others.
4. Business cards
If you turn up without a business card, then you might as well go home. Business cards are vital for Film & TV Networking, rather than having to fumble trying to enter phone numbers and email addresses into your dying phone, you can quickly and casually hand over a card without interrupting the flow of conversation.
You will also be inundated with cards so do your best to remember which card belongs to which person. An idea is to write something on the back of the card that will remind you about the person, such as ‘Sam, likes Rina yang, loves wasabi nuts”.
5. Follow up
All of these points are crucial to enable step number 5, which is where the transformation from opportunity to paid work begins. Using their card with the quirky fact on the back, and remembering some of the things they told you, follow up in an email. I normally wait a day or two but it really doesn’t matter, an example of what to say might be…
It was great to meet you at Film Networkers UK event on Thursday. I love your work, can really see the Rina Yang influence coming through lots of it, especially *enter film title*! I’m away for the next two weeks but once I’m back let’s catch up over a beer (and wasabi nuts of course), I’d love to hear more about some of your projects.
And voila, you have yourself an opening!
If you’re planning on sending some of your own work within the email then make sure you read our other article on how to create an awesome showreel.
The don’ts of Film & TV Networking
In short, the opposite of everything I’ve already said, but there’s some don’ts I didn’t mention which are useful to know
1. Don’t interrupt
If two people are having an in-depth conversation, don’t go charging in, all you’ll do is alienate yourself and come across as selfish. If you are desperate to talk to them then wait until their conversation has ended or until someone else has interrupted them, that way you can sneak in there when your target is the spectator of the conversation.
Film & TV Networking can require an element of bravery and bolshiness to go and chat to strangers, which you absolutely must, but timing is everything, and just because someone is on their own doesn’t mean they won’t be as valuable or interesting as the loud group.
2. Sorry, what was your name?
We all do this, it’s incredibly hard to remember names when they’re being thrown at you left, right and centre, but try your absolute hardest to remember the names of people when they introduce themselves. Referring to people by their name (again, another dating tip) breaks down a barrier and people warm up to you, suddenly it feels personal and that you care about who they are.
If you do forget their name just very politely say “I’m so sorry I’m awful with names, I didn’t quite catch yours earlier”.
3. Talk talk talk
The opposite of ‘ask ask ask’. Don’t go to a Film & TV Networking event as a salesperson. I don’t want to hear a sales pitch about what you can do for me, I want to get to know you as a person and see if we like each other before I’d consider working together. Equally a conversation is a two-way thing and unless I’m asking you to tell me more, you should have stopped once I started looking round the room for the nearest exit.
4. Think you are above people
The worst thing you can possibly do is be rude. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, there’s no excuse for it. Chat to the new runner or the aspiring camera op with little experience, they may not have been in the game as long as you have, but perhaps they have a wealth of potential and just want someone to give them a chance. These are the people who will sing your praises and recommend you to others.
Hopefully you’re already nailing the do’s and avoiding the don’ts, networking is hard at the best of time and we all make mistakes or let anxiety get the better of us, but if you can remain confident, calm and approachable then you’ll do fine.
Good luck and happy networking!