Teach Me Tuesday: How and where to network

(Bri Castellini) #1

Welcome to Teach Me Tuesday! Today’s topic:

How and where to network

Especially if you’re very, very, painfully awkward. All tips and tricks welcome!

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(sam lockie-waring) #2

i know people always say go to film festivals, but i’m not a huge fan of dressing up and if i don’t have a project in the running it seems kind of awkward. plus you have to pay to get into them sometimes. maybe @Meredith_Burkholder can speak to those, but for me, networking happens mostly online. i’m still figuring my own shit out so i see networking more as people i can ask for advice/give advice to… i’m not looking for gigs. just support. so i’m open and present and try to be involved so when i ask for help i’m not just a leech. it’s all about give and take.

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(Bri Castellini) #3

This is from my film festivals/general networking article:

  1. Business cards. Making business cards for my show is the smartest thing I’ve ever done. I carry at least ten with me at all times, tucked away in my wallet, just in case my show comes up. And because the bright streak of red in my hair exists solely because of my show, it usually does come up. Having a card with a logo and a website or social media URL makes people considerably more likely to watch your show later. It also makes you, as a person and creator, look more professional, which in turn will make you a more viable candidate for future collaboration, at least in the eyes of all these people you’re networking with.

  2. Value friendship and respect first. A big mistake first-time networkers make is their focus on a person’s utility to them in their career rather than a person’s… personhood. The best connections I’ve made through networking are with people who I genuinely enjoy and respect. Making friends should always be your first priority, because their humanity is important and because, pragmatically, friendship is almost always a better indicator of future help and collaboration than professional cache.

  3. Ask questions. Starting conversations with strangers is awkward, but if there’s one truth universal to all humans (and artists in particular), it’s that they always want to talk about themselves. What show are they attached to at the festival? What’s it about? What was that process like? Who else from the show is in attendance? Ask them questions you hope they’ll reciprocate in asking you, because the goal of networking is to make a mutual connection you can use in the future. Watching the shows you’ll be featured alongside before getting to the festival will make this easier.

  4. Circulate. If you’re an awkward person (and you’re a writer, so you probably are), the conversation will fizzle at some point, even if it’s going well. That’s ok! You’re just meeting! The best way to peel yourself away from a dying conversation is to thank them for their time and say something along the lines of “I think I’m going to circulate a bit more, but it was so great meeting you, and I can’t wait to watch your show!” Rinse and repeat.

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(Jane) #4

I like to find a more exuberant friend in the industry and just follow them around like a puppy lol. Like, find someone who’s already good at networking and finding networking events, and then let them take you along. But then… the trick… is not spending the whole event with them. Because you already KNOW them… so once that person gets you out of the house, just find them for the ride home, because otherwise you may as well have stayed in and watched Hulu.

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(Jane) #5

You are KILLING me with these no capital letters.

(sam lockie-waring) #6

sorry

(RJ Lackie) #7

Twitter! Honestly, I devote as much time to my social media presence as my writing (which works out, because one can only write so much a day before they wear out their creative juices; Twitter, not so much!). Just as long as it;s in a professional, connection-building way: conversation, sharing links, encouraging other creators. Instagram and other social networks are all good in their own way (my sister owns a food truck and Instagram is absolutely key to their strategy, and works gangbusters), but for creators and filmmakers, I feel like conversation is the ticket to networking, and that works best on Twitter.

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(Bri Castellini) #8

I agree! I love Twitter! It’s where we met/fell in love/etc!

Question about that (I was actually talking to @Diane_Chen about this the other day so she should get in on this too): Do you spend a lot of time thinking about your personal “brand” on social media, or do you just make sure you’re engaged and involved in filmmaker/writing-relevant things? Like, are there things you WON’T/don’t tweet about because social media is a part of your career?

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(RJ Lackie) #9

Oooh. That’s an interesting question.

So, I joined Twitter 6, 7 years ago when I was still a student. Back then, I was very aware that I wanted my social media to be a professional space, especially because I was joining with no resume and only a handful of friends on there. So I very much limited my non-brand-related personal chatter and never talked politics.

Becoming politically aware, and then politically active on social media (even about rep issues) was something I actually wasn’t comfortable with at all until a couple years ago. Even now, I try to be very careful. If I haven’t done reading on an issue, I won’t speak on it, and I might RT some articles I’ve read. And there are a handful of issues I won’t touch with a ten-foot pole in any sense, because I’m not comfortable getting involved in a conversation where I’m not sure my voice is helpful.

Social media, especially Twitter, is now in a place where if you aren’t politically engaged, your silence will be noted, so you need to be comfortable to a degree in talking about these things, and pay attention to the community. But if you step in shit, the blowback can be bad, so you have to balance what will hurt you more: not speaking on a topic that you’re not totally up on, or speaking out of ignorance and potentially making an ass of yourself. Which means sometimes you have to do the work of keeping caught up, if only so you can participate in these conversations in a healthy, helpful way. (Of course worth noting here is that, oftentimes, keeping caught up on this stuff also makes you a better writer - and a better person - so it’s worth the work.) Also, listening to folks when you piss them off and learning the art of the genuine apology are key.

Back when I was getting traction, there were a couple things that really helped:

  • RTing interesting links and/or voices involved in my professional sphere. [Note: when you’re smaller and your followers are less likely to know your POV, it’s more likely to be assumed that RTs = endorsements] Find a few sources that you think are interesting, figure out ‘what types’ of things you want to read and share, so that people know when they follow you they’ll get x and they probably won’t have to suffer through y.

(Your strategy can evolve over time. For example: I used to RT pretty much all casting announcements in TV; now, I’ll usually RT series regular castings, but almost never recurring ones. It would eat up my whole feed, and less of my base is looking for me for pure industry news dissemination.)

  • Livetweeting. My first real burst of momentum was when I would livetweet guest lectures in whole-year mass classes at Ryerson, which had the double purpose of helping out my friends (as my feed would essentially take lecture notes for them) and disseminating the lecturer’s points more publicly. (Note: Nowadays, with livetweets more common, you wanna keep an eye on whether other people are doing it and whether the event is livetweet-friendly. Some are intentionally non-public, to encourage a lecturer’s honesty.) My second was livetweeting panels at the Toronto Screenwriting Conference, which had the same effect for my screenwriting peers - even those who were more established than me. That helped me connect with some legit Canadian TV writers, which was a huge little networking coup for me as a uni student.

I’d say, the more of a following you get, the more leeway you have to be ‘boring’/personal because the more people will be interested in you, rather than you as a resource for things they’re more interested in. But alternately, the more following you have, the more responsibility you have: to share accurate information, to be politically active, to be respectful of your followers’ feeds by not clogging them up, etc. Now that I have a decent following, I’ve loosened up my rules about talking about personal things (though I still keep it vague because it’s still public), and I even joke sometimes - but I’m also careful not to be an asshole, where I can help it, because my voice is louder now. I expect, if my following continues to grow, I’ll have to keep evolving - especially because, as I’ve seen for celebrities, the rules of the game are very different and kind of scary.

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(Bri Castellini) #10

DUDE.

(RJ Lackie) #11

Yeah, I… think a lot about this stuff, haha.

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(Bri Castellini) #12

Meee too. Especially because I got my Twitter account back when I was like 17, so it was always much heavier on the “live-tweeting flight delays” side of things. I don’t know what my brand is, really. Still working that out, because I want to still have a personality (ie not just a “corporate” account for work things) but I am also aware that I’m easily Google-able and that is a definite consideration for future job opportunities.

One thing I do know is that I really really dislike people adding me on Facebook for networking purposes, for the most part at least. I talked about this with @Pablo and @jonathankyall a few months ago, but I see Facebook as being my personal network, and Twitter (and here, I guess) being my professional one. Facebook is where I post photos of my boyfriend and talk to close friends from back home. Twitter is where I spend an hour every Wednesday totally clogging up people’s feeds with a conversation about the web series community.

(RJ Lackie) #13

Same! Though my problem is - those lines blur with folks you work with (actors, directors, etc.), who become friends but also exist in a work context, and then folks you’ve worked with but have less of a friendship with start adding you… So, since I don’t particularly like FB anyways, my line on Facebook is mostly ‘I have to already know you’, but both are kind of professional networking zones for me. Which is fine, because I don’t really post anything on FB anyways, except project announcements I want my family to see. (I don’t have a personal life.)

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(Bri Castellini) #14

Haha well if I know them personally or we become friends past casually tweeting at each other once in a while, I’m fine with a FB add. But about a month ago I posted a link to the Stareable forum in a women’s filmmaking group on Facebook and one of the women who liked the post/commented how excited she was about it added me on Facebook right after, which seemed… fast. Also someone who did some press coverage for Brains added me, which also seemed bizarre. I just feel like I need one safe space where I can control exactly who sees my posts and thoughts and not have to worry about how marketable they are.

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(Chris Hadley) #15

For the past 4 years, I’ve attended the Louisiana International Film Festival, which takes place in Baton Rouge (where I’m located). I’ve also attended the Fairhope Film Festival in Fairhope, Alabama, and the New Orleans Web Weekend from 2014-15. Back home, I attend a monthly meetup for local screenwriters at the local library.

I’ve met some great people at those events, and have cultivated great friendships during that time. I’ve also had the chance to collaborate with them, and I feel that my filmmaking efforts have gotten better because of those collaborations.

While meeting people in public does have its advantages, doing so in a crowded and loud setting can be less than ideal - at least from my experiences networking with fellow filmmakers. Nonetheless, I always make an effort to ask them about what projects they’re working on, and what they do in their careers.

I’ve told many people about my series The Late, Late News, and about the other work I do as a writer for Snobby Robot and Film Score Monthly. Like Bri, I also make sure to carry around business cards with my contact information wherever I go. While social media is a good way for me to make contact with people, meeting them face to face is the best way to accomplish that IMO.

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(Jason) #16

Fun fact: Most of the time I suffer from very extreme social anxiety so I rarely elect to leave the house to attend networking functions, parties, mixers, etc. In fact, it sounds like grim death most of the time. I would say maybe like twice a year does interacting with strangers even sound remotely not terrible to me and it’s never really ever fun.

But, unfortunately, networking is part of the process so I have learned to do it in a way I (and my pesky anxiety) can handle which for me, ironically, entails going with a group of people. Attending festivals or screenings with as many of my cast/crew as possible helps create a more comfortable atmosphere. Even just bringing my best bud whom I write and direct stuff which can help immensely as I have a security blanket of somebody I know, who knows me and I can be myself around. Also, when you roll with a posse it’s a little easier to make more of an impression. I let my charming and social actors promote the show while I flop sweat in the background, it works.

Also, and this surprises some people, but I have also found that performing can be it’s own form of networking and oddly enough, despite my crippling social anxiety I’m actually fine on stage doing stand-up or sketch or emceeing a show, etc. I think the formality of having a microphone and telling myself it’s a performance helps, it isn’t just me having to think on my feet or make small talk, I have a job to do and I know what I am going to say, etc. I’ve made great allies and gotten to work some amazing guest actors from the Seattle comedy scene by doing live comedy and letting my material speak for me.

Along those lines doing a podcast for a while was a great way to get people outside of my network involved in my stuff. Either appearing on other people’s podcasts to promote my show/myself or hosting my own podcast and meeting comedians, actors, creative people as guests who I was able to connect with, stay in touch and who guested on the web series later (and therefore promoted their appearance on the series).

Basically just do what you’re comfortable with and play up to your strengths. Networking can be an intimidating word but to me it just basically means getting your voice and your “brand” exposed to more people which can take many forms. Hell, I know somebody who was able to carve out a little name for themselves in the Seattle comedy scene by making an indie comic they distributed for free around town at local coffee shops, bookstores, etc. Very low budget, zine style with 2 staples down the middle of 2 xeroxed sheets but it was funny and written well and she developed a following who found her on social media, etc. And there was very minimal talking involved!

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(Bri Castellini) #17

I feel this so much!!! I definitely think it’s the performative aspect- I felt the same way when I worked as a barista. It’s easier for me to interact with people when it’s transactional, versus personal, and transaction is inherently performative to a certain extent.

So sometimes I try and think of person to person networking as a type of transaction or performance, to sort of dissociate from my normal “but what if I never left my house??” personality long enough to make connections.

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(Maurice Tyson) #18

Film festivals are broad spectacles with various personalities doing more brown nosing than ever. But, what if you seek less leeching & more reaching for SPECIFIC aspects regarding your project. Promote with the logo of your film / webseries on a T-shirt to break the ice when breaking ice at the bar. A good fisherman knows when you bait the hook for a curious fish, half your work is done. Just stay centered in spinning your tail into something spectacular!

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(Herman Wang) #19

One of my favourite networking techniques is to do something for someone, and by that I mean more than the somewhat common retweeting or participating in conversation.

For example, if you know two people who are basically looking for each other’s skills, make an introduction. It doesn’t hurt to be thought of as a good connection person.

Or if you come across a specialized festival that doesn’t apply to you, but is a good fit for someone you know peripherally, point it out to them. Even if they already know about it, I think it comes across positively that you meant well. Once, I encouraged someone to enter a B-movie (not my style at all) festival that I knew about and he ended up winning an award. If I ever need to ask a favour from him, it won’t feel awkward at all.

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(Meredith Burkholder) #20

Hey Sam, I can definitely speak to those! I think you’ll find that web series festivals have a totally different vibe. There’s a lot more of a community feel and creators, broadcasters, platforms, and distributors can all enter on the same playing field. It’s really quite different than the posturing, segregation, and a$$ kissing you find at some film festivals. Debate, disagreements, collaborations and thoughtful discussions are what it’s all about! In addition to sales, we’ve had a quite a few creative collaborations come as a result of Webfest Berlin ‘networking’. (I put that in quotes just because, to me, I think these connections are more honest and thoughtful than your run-of-the-mill networking). I definitely recommend checking out whichever webfest you can make it to!

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