We’ve all heard the saying “It’s about who you know” and it’s even truer in the film industry. We’ve also heard the phrase “it takes a village…” probably too many times. But I can attest from my own career and the careers of friends that both these statements are a must to succeed in the film/content industry.
My career is owed to dozens of people who helped me along the way. So, it is very important to know how to build and grow your industry network. With that in mind, here are 5 things you need to know in order to build a reliable and effective industry network. One that trusts you and can be relied upon to get your work out into the market.
Network Horizontally: Most people put all their energy into networking ‘up’. They want to get a meeting with a studio executive, they scour the internet for his/her email (which is almost always out there somewhere) and they dive right in with an email asking them to read their script. This almost never works because that person has no context for what value you bring.
Instead, network with people at your level. For example, I got my job at Endemol because I was one of many on the production department at a much smaller production company (fairly mid-level gig) and had worked tangentially with that Endemol employee who was in a similar post. He and I struck up a report and he recommended me to his boss. I came in at the same production department level and the next job they had, they promoted me to lead producer. Had I gone directly to his boss, I probably would have been shut out.
Meet Industry Insiders In Non-Industry Setting: You would be surprised who that person is sitting next to you at your favorite coffee shop. You know, the one who orders the extra foam coconut milk latte every day. The one you may have even chatted with before. Or maybe that person in your Zumba class is secretly a high-powered exec at a major production company. Strike up a conversation (you’re too shy? It’s going to be a long road). Most importantly, take interest in them. Don’t ask them for shit. Ask them about themselves. Meeting people outside of their work feels more comfortable to them, more genuine and relaxed.
Know That It Takes Multiple Steps: When I sold one of my web series’ to MSN. The first contact I made was the moderator of a panel at a conference I was attending. They introduced me to someone, who introduced me to someone who introduced me to a buyer. It’s rarely about talking to the person at the top of the food chain and sell them on your idea. Knowing that it takes a few steps will stop you from trying to rush it.
Ad Value: Most decision makers have inboxes filled with, “Hey, read my script” or “watch my teaser”. Instead, give them something. Recommend a writer or actor for their next project. Make an introduction to someone who can fill a need for them. Just as valuable, recommend a dog walker or a babysitter. Anything that makes their life easier. This is no joke. It puts you in the light of problem solver. Soon you will be set apart from the slew of other people who simply want something from them and be elevated to the status of someone who gets stuff done….a professional.
Follow Up: Once you make a connection, reach out fairly regularly without being a nudge. If they get a promotion, congratulate them. If their kid graduates from 8thgrade, send a note. If they’re going on vacation, wish them safe travels. This keeps you top of mind and lets them know you’re serious without being pushy.
None of this takes more than a few minutes a day. If you’re not doing these kinds of things or think it’s too business-y, the other alternative is to wait for busy and important people to reach to you and we can all take a guess where that leads.
In the end, having a network you can rely on is a huge component to building your original content business. Having a handful of people you can pitch to or just run ideas off of will keep you working for a very long time.