Film networking: a reality check

Film networking is one of the filmmaking topics that is most replete with fantasy, wishful thinking and downright nonsense. In this post I will share my experience of film networking and make a distinction between what works and what doesn’t, based on my own experiences.

Film networking: the fantasy

When people mention film networking, they usually mean some sort of social event in which a bunch of hungry filmmakers hang out and trade contact details. These events are a waste of time, because the last thing a filmmaker needs in life is another unemployed filmmaker. The limiting factor in a filmmaker’s career progression is money, not a rolodex full of unemployed film workers.

Don’t get me wrong – meeting other filmmakers and artists is great fun. I absolutely love it, and indeed it is one of the saving graces of film festivals. But if you think that these folks will propel your filmmaking career forward, I’m afraid you need a reality a check. Other filmmakers are essentially brothers in arms in the same plight; they will not miraculously appear from nowhere six months later and give you the break you have always dreamed of. Obviously there are rare exceptions, and equally obviously a famous filmmaker is a useful contact, but famous filmmakers generally do not attend “networking events.” Nor do serious film investors.

Obviously if you are invited to a film networking event, you should go, if admission is free. Socialising is fun and it’s all good practice. The point I want to make in this post is that you should guard against putting your hopes in the wrong form of networking, because it is most unlikely to yield the results you hope for, and you should not waste time on actively pursuing them.

Film networking: what has worked for me

In my experience film networking is part and parcel of shooting projects and forming relationships with the crew members and artists you meet in that process. This form of networking works because the participants get the opportunity to see each other in action: the director observes crew members and makes a mental note of whom to work with again in future, and the crew members observe the director and spread the word about his/her abilities. That is how the people who can help you will get to hear about you: not by meeting you at a lame networking event, but by hearing good feedback from folks who have seen you in action. It has happened to me and I can assure you it is very satisfying. It works like a charm.

In this way I have met an absolutely fabulous Cinematographer and Music Composer, not to mention actors, 1st Assistant Directors, Producers, and even an awesome dolly grip! Unsurprisingly, we have also become friends. On my next project, these immensely talented and enjoyable folks will be the first to hear from me when it comes to hiring.

You can do this too. Even if you are a new filmmaker and have never shot anything, your film networking progression can follow this path:

1. You shoot your first project and work with the best crew members you can get hold of. As a new filmmaker without a reel, you have no track record, so the quality of actors and crew members whom you can persuade to work on your project will depend on the quality of the script, your communication skills and some luck. Keep in touch with the folks you deem worthy of future involvement in your film projects.

2. You now have something on your reel. On your second project you will have more credibility because you have something tangible to show, so the quality of your next crew ought to be superior. Don’t forget the folks you liked from your first project, but be ambitious and always pursue the best crew you can obtain.

3. Repeat the process.

As a new filmmaker, you will typically be working with crew members who are many years ahead of you in their careers, if your work is any good. These folks might be able to help you in future, if they can. That is real film networking — shooting projects and letting other talented folks see what you are made of!

This is what has worked for me. As always, it is my hope that this post will save you time, energy and money. Good luck!

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