In a recent Forget The Box interview with director/producer Jack Ferry, we chatted about networking and collaborating at the beginning of your creative career. Obviously, in-person networking will almost always be more effective and meaningful, but in the web series community and in this increasingly digital media landscape, location isn’t quite as important as it once was. You can absolutely successfully network and collaborate with people without being in the same city, and here are some tips for doing that.
How to find your community
Sign up for industry newsletters and email lists
For filmmaking in particular, it’s not hard to find newsletters that are relevant to you. Newsletters are a great way to figure out where your peers are hanging out on a regular basis, get updates on upcoming events (online and off), and who in your industry you should be paying attention to. And might I just drop in to say that if you sign up for the Stareable newsletter you’ll also receive a 32 page eBook on marketing? Something to think about.
Listen to podcasts
You’ll find out about new and interesting people, projects, and organizations, and most podcasts make it easy to find their hosts and guests online. You may not get to connect with them directly, but you may notice certain people they interact with/certain organizations they retweet when there’s a job posting or an event. And might I drop in again to suggest the podcast Forget The Box, with 22 episodes and 32 guests, is a good one to start with?
Identify the community’s preferred social media/platform
Just like when you’re trying to find an audience for your work, trying to find a community of peers requires you to do some social media digging. I’ve found that Twitter is the writer and filmmaker haven, whereas Instagram is the actor and cinematographer haven and Tumblr [was] an artist’s. Facebook is still king for a lot of hiring in a lot of industries, because it’s had a head start, and you’ll likely find at least 5 groups that explicitly accept people of your particular demographic and artistic interest. Plus, I hear this community called Stareable has a great forum with hundreds of filmmakers from all over the world who gather to help each other out, share resources, and more!
See if there are special events to jump in on
I joined the web series community (and as a result met great friends, worked on great projects, and got a job at Stareable) largely because of the weekly Twitter event #webserieschat, hosted by my [now] pal @snobbyrobot. Every week, he picks a topic relevant to web series creators and moderates an online discussion in the hashtag, and it’s great. I learned so much from listening to other creators talk, and met so many wonderful people as a result of our conversations, but it only happened because I identified a community I wanted to join, what their chosen platform was, and then actually got involved. If you know of other special events (like Stareable’s own Shameless Self Promo Fridays, where you can share a shameless ask for followers and views), let me know in the comments!
Long-distance collaboration ideas
We’ve actually written an article before on long-distance producing, but today I wanted to focus specifically on the minor, medium, and major ways you can creatively support new friends and peers from afar, either to test the waters as collaborators or to make more concrete online connections.
If you’ve just met your new online friend, or the available time-commitment is small, here are a few minor ways you can help (or be helped) from afar:
Help write marketing materials (loglines, show summaries, basic announcement tweets)
Cross-promote each other’s work on a regular, coordinated basis
Include each other in supplemental content (podcasts, interviews, etc)
If you’re ready to take it to the next level, or one of you has a bit more time:
Help write and send out press releases
Help run or write for social media or transmedia
Help coordinate shopping for props and wardrobe
If this is the real deal, and you want to legitimately collaborate from afar:
Co-write a project and decide on one of your teams to film it
Co-write a project and use your unique locations to trade off episodes (a la The Uncanny Upshurs)
Have one person write and one person execute, depending on skillsets
Collaborate on an extended universe project for one of your existing shows/projects
There are tons of other ways you can get involved with projects outside of immediate transit distance, but my point here is this: don’t let your location keep you down. You legitimately can start your filmmaking career from anywhere in the world, and can work and collaborate with talented people no matter where either of you is based. Is it easier to build a network of collaborators and peers and work opportunities if you’re in a hub like LA? Yes, obviously. But is it absolutely necessary? Not at all. Don’t be discouraged- put yourself out there.