Imagine you are on a quest. You need a golden key for a door. Behind that door is the life you’ve always dreamed of and home, a place you know you belong. However, you have to fashion the key out of different parts. You have to collect them from people with blank, judging faces that are waiting to chew you up. Say the right words, and they give you the treasure. Say the wrong words and you’re ostracised forever.
All you have to do is talk to them. Daunting, right?
That’s exactly what networking is like.
With most artistic careers, networking is pretty much key to getting out, getting anywhere, getting all the way to the B – F – I.
That’s because there are hundreds and thousands of people aiming for the same gig – being paid to create movies for a living (or talk about it, but that’s another blog.) A billion faces and a billion talents, all vying for some sort of recognition in the field and all the tools they’ll need to get there. And talking to people is the only way to do it.
Problem is is that talking to people is legitimately the last thing I’d ever want to do, ever. Especially people who I perceive as important or people I’d admire. I guess most people feel like that too. Going into a conversation is somewhat of an gruelling and exhausting task, especially when battered by constant fear that you don’t belong in the career that you are vying for. You don’t know what to say, you’re sweaty and smelly, and you are pretty sure you confused The Godfather with Penguins of Madagascar as words fumble from your mouth.
Then you meet a dick that makes you want to check out of that conversation, the whole industry, and the whole world like…
After spending five years working my way through film circles, going to press events, running them , and actually meeting new and vibrant film people, you’d have thought that my shell of anxiety would have dropped somewhat. With many new people that I get to know, I often get praised for how easy I am to talk too or how hella beautiful or wonderful I am at just, like, communicating with people because I am ace (people don’t say this but I imagine they think it in revered hush tones.)
But IT IS A LIE! A big fat stinking lie. Sure, you may see me laughing and joking but what you haven’t seen is that I am wearing my fifth pair of underwear, I’ve shoved all my insecurities into the pits of my stomach, still bubbling away, and I’ve had like five shots. I look confident
And there are people I haven’t the balls to go up and say hello too. I see Mark Kermode, a complete idol of mine, and have absolutely no power in myself to go and say “hello.” Heck, one of the biggest bosses in my company is a serious heroine of mine and only NOW have I just uttered a slightly slurred “hi” at her. I still have a day of panic before press interviews. And at screenings, I stick with someone I know, using their presence to ping-pong ball my confidence out of the pit of despair within me. It’s sometimes awful.
There are people I know who are experts. Jo and Gloria from the site are genius at whipping up momentum and flitting through rooms with bouts of confidence and hilarious business cards. I know many people who can circle a room like a well-timed hoedown and come out with contacts. I know a guy who walks into rooms like he’s a celebrity and everyone flocks to him (he’s also the sweetest guy ever, so his natural charisma is earned.)
But let me tell you something: That too is also lies. Everyone you have ever talked to is scared or has been scared whilst entering this industry. It’s all about developing your own foundation for networking, and style.
So where am I going with this rambling article?
There is no denying the importance of networking, you just have to meet and no people, even if you are but there is also no denying the importance in believing in yourself. Networking is a tricky beast but if you remember some important cliches that’ll help you steer your self-esteem ship in order to acquire a healthy crew.
That metaphor really fell away from me. Still, it is good to remember that whilst there are people in higher up jobs, there is no one higher or more important than you. If someone treats you in a condescending or rude manner, you don’t need them on your deck. You also have skills and if you don’t, you have ambition, these are tools for plundering and grabbing the gold. Each person is dancing with steps that will eventually fall into the right pattern, skipping into a massive choral number. Hopefully, with pirates.
Most importantly, anxiety never goes away. But as a wise woman once said; “stay afraid, but do it anyway.” And that applies to networking. Eventually, you’ll get a swing of it. Just take the first step. Turn to that person next to you and strike up a conversation about anything; the food, the room, the films, your film, your favourite films…raccoons.
Any topic can work. Start with something you are comfortable with, and work into your filmmaking agenda. Bring business cards or a way of communication afterwards and then send follow up emails where your self-assuredness is like 2342902394723 times better.
Never let people with ghoulish faces or your own self make you afraid of making contacts or pushing forward. You’ll find this industry is full of film fanatics and artistic people just like yourself.
Not only will you make colleagues, you may even make friends.
What are your networking tips?