Well-connected contacts form the building blocks of a career, putting movie and TV professionals in touch with job openings, potential collaborators and countless opportunities.
Even in today’s technology driven world, face-to-face meetings and word-of-mouth recommendations are by far the best way to get yourself noticed. Film networking events, screenings and crewing nights are invaluable when it comes to building reliable connections to advance your career. However, with its ability to spread information at the click of a button, there is no doubting the internet has become an indispensable networking tool.
Today, most film professionals are selling their wares via websites, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn and Facebook pages. Whilst a website functions as basically an electronic shop front on which to advertise your skills, social networking sites are an invaluable way of meeting likeminded people, finding work, promoting your services and gaining feedback. Use the interconnected nature of sites like Facebook to draw fans to your page. Invite all your friends to join you and don’t be embarrassed to ask them to recommend you to their contacts. Interacting with your fans via polls or wall posts (for example ‘What was your favourite new release this summer and why?’) keeps your page visible to others and helps you gauge popular trends within your field.
The web is full of sites dedicated to film networking. Sites such as mandy.com, screenhub.com and filmcrewpro.com feature calendars of networking events, screenings and training opportunities, making them a fantastic place to keep in touch with local and international industries. Of course the major selling point of such sites is the jobs and opportunities board. Although the majority of positions advertised are low paid or expenses only, world-renowned companies such as the BBC and NBC also hire regularly from such sites.
To find higher paid jobs and network with strictly professional companies, try a site based on your specific vocation. Constantcasting.com for actors, productionbase.co.uk for crew and filmmusic.net for composers all regularly list well-paid professional job openings.
Many of the above sites offer subscribers a profile page, on which they can list their credits and qualifications, upload show reels and any share other relevant information. Whilst it might be tempting to skip the time-consuming creation of profiles and direct potential employers to your website instead, keep in mind that filmmakers will usually be bombarded with hundreds of job applications. Time poor, they will often use your profile as a gauge and visit your website only if they like what they see. Keep all your online profiles as professional and complete as possible to maximise your chances of success.
It is also worth remembering that you do not need to wait for your specific job to be advertised before contacting the filmmaker. It is a safe bet that a production currently searching for a costume designer will need an editor in the near future. By contacting the production company early, you show yourself to be proactive and enthusiastic. Whilst some directors may simply ignore your call or email, others will be keen to fill as many roles as possible early on. This can be an excellent way to land a job without having to compete with hoards of others in your profession.
All up and coming film professionals should have access to a database of current contacts and productions. Online sites such as hollywoodreporter.com provide a listing of all films and television shows in production and their relevant contacts. Similar sites exist worldwide, including theknowledgeonline.com in the UK and productionbook.com.au in Australia. Similarly, an IMDB Pro account (www.imdbpro.com) is a valuable asset for any film professional. Avoid the jobs board on this site- it is overflowing with questionable no-budget projects and snide comments from jaded wannabes- and head for the production database instead. This is a worldwide listing of every film currently in any stage of production. One click on the film’s page will tell you which positions have been filled, plus direct contact details for the director, should you wish to offer your services.
When networking and job hunting online, try to arrange a face-to-face meeting as soon as possible. A director or producer is much more likely to hire someone they click with in person, as opposed to someone hidden behind a username. Of course, today’s current economic climate, coupled with recent technological advances, mean more and more filmmakers are working remotely and hiring professionals from outside their home city. People including writers, composers and visual effects artists often fulfil their roles on the other side of the world from the rest of the production. In such cases Skype meetings can be a great substitute for face-to-face meetings and an opportunity for filmmakers to attach a face and personality to your demo reel.
As your network grows, it is vital to maintain and develop your professional relationships. A job well done has the potential to lead to ongoing work with a particular director or company, but it is important to keep yourself on their radar. For those you know on a personal level, keeping in contact can be as simple as a Christmas card or catch-up email. If your relationship is strictly professional however, consider producing a short newsletter outlining any of your latest projects and achievements relevant to each specific contact. Remember to personalise each email or letter. A generic mass mail-out is much more likely to end up in the trash folder. Be sure to keep up to date with your contacts’ achievements too.
Building a network takes time and effort, but it is difficult to get anywhere without it.
Spend a little time each day searching for new leads and cultivating existing relationships. Use the internet to create contacts across the world. After all, the wider your network spreads, the more opportunities are likely to come your way.