It must be one of the key things to do when you are working in the creative industry; networking. However, there is still a taboo on the word, and if mentioned it often creates a faint sarcastic smile on either the listener’s or the speaker’s face. Such an attitude is not very clever, as never before have there been so many great opportunities to network.
Let us focus on the offline networking for now and keep the online stuff for another post. Although the ‘creatives’ amongst us might not have fully embraced the concept yet, other facilitators around us have. It is a fact that one-on-one communication is still crucial in basic areas such as funding, distribution and promotion.
It is really quite simple. Who are you, what have you done, what do you want, what do you want the receiver to think. They are basic questions that you need to think about before you get out there.
Let’s stay topical; the festival season is here and we need to make the most of it. The IDFA has The Forum, Rotterdam has CineMart, Sheffield Doc/Fest has the MeetMarket and the list goes on. They are networking events in case that wasn’t clear. Sure, these are pre-organised events but nevertheless they provide an opportunity to speak and be heard – it is accepted and even required that you advertise yourself and your work. In fact, you should do that everywhere at the festival.
Beware though, one plug is acceptable but you do not want to bore people. Try to find the right balance, show you know the industry, the people you talk to, other films. You are an expert – or at least that is what people should believe.
The same goes for being in the big bad world. There are a few other pitfalls though that I like to address and I will do it by means of an example that you can relate to.
Anyone who has been to a screening plus Q&A knows how annoying it is if one member of the public holds on to the mic for dear life and starts every question with “I remember when I made MY film….”
Bla bla bla a little longer and you just lost all sympathy from everybody in the room. They are never going to like you again – sorry. However, the intentions of this more-than-annoying person are good.
So how can you approach a situation like it?
Well, going to other industry events, that on first sight have nothing to do with your own project, is good (good here is the equivalent of a Facebook LIKE).
First of all you make sure you know who is there. The who-is-who follows after regularly attending industry events – which is a must. So the more you do that, the more you know, the more you are seen, the more you can tell, the more people like you, the more you can ask of them. And voila, job done.
Another pitfall is the sucking-up strategy. When have you ever met someone without an opinion of their own that you trust and like and would invest time/money/knowledge in? Right, never.
Things we like to see
Now, as I said, make sure you have a short pitch ready, be able to sum up your project in one minute. Be a part of the community or become part of the community, and be interesting.
Another great piece of advice someone once gave me was to make sure you have an ‘eyecatcher’, a little something that people can remember you by; the guy with the red shoes, the girl with the green scarf, the woman with the Donald Duck notebook – you decide.
This way your job is almost done. There’s one last thing to remember, this is that there are no bad contacts. You might not be able to help people now, they might not be able to help you, but who knows what you both will undertake in the future.