Networking is about building an authentic, professional community. Surround yourself with “your” people – peers, advocates, mentors. These relationships act as pillars of support, holding you up in the entertainment industry. Building connections with new and existing contacts takes your career to the next level. Let’s get into networking for newbies.
This takes time! Yes, time. Throw away instant gratification. You are becoming a smart, proactive, and productive writer by building a solid career foundation.
Networking for Newbies is part of a four-week series to help you break into the industry! Check out week one How to Become a Screenwriter: 6 Starting Points and week two What You Need To Know To Pick Your Next Project.
The bigger networking goal might seem like it should be to get people to read your work, but if you go into every encounter with this attitude, things probably won’t go well. People will assume you are desperate and coming on too strong, even if your material is genuinely good.
Think of it like dating. You’re on a blind date with a stranger. They have no manners, self-awareness or interest in you; however, they really, really love talking about themselves. When you try to make a polite exit, this person grabs onto your arm and makes sure you know how much they want to sex you up and settle down. All you want to do is get the hell away from them.
Don’t be a horrific date.
Simply meet and remember people while making a good impression. Connect. Get to know them and their interests.
Talk about yourself in a way that is positive and engaging. Give them more information about your writing if prompted.
We all have ‘em. Sometimes people come at you with the “so, what do you do?” so fast that you don’t even have time to think.
Other times what you do and what you want to do are two separate things. You are not alone.
It can be scary to put yourself out there if…
- You don’t feel like you have anything to offer.
- You don’t feel established in your screenwriting career.
- You don’t feel important.
- You don’t feel certain about what to do and say.
- You don’t feel ready to chat up people you don’t know.
You have to start somewhere. It’s okay to be new at something. You will grow and get better every time you put yourself in a place of opportunity.
First Try Your Comfort Zone
Look at your existing networks and become active in the groups you have easy access to joining.
This is especially useful in places like LA, where you could accidentally play in the same softball league as an industry veteran.
- Alumni associations
- Nepotistic relationships
- Writing groups & workshop groups
- Religious affiliates
- Sports leagues
Reach Out to New Organizations
What entertainment industry organizations would you benefit from joining? A fee usually accompanies a membership, so buckle down, save up, and choose something worthwhile for you.
Pick an association that caters towards your interests. If you have a skill set you want to evolve, join a class of peers and better yourself through coursework and shared experience.
It’s easier to build an organic network through activity-based interactions.
- Women in Film, Film Independent, Junior Hollywood Radio and Television Society
- Improv classes & shows (UCB, I.O., Groundlings, Second City, etc…)
- UCLA writing extension
Choose How You Want to Interact
There are three main types of networking: group, one-on-one, and online.
- Group interactions tend to be mixers, panels, events, and conferences. Any organization or community you join will have shared activities requiring everyone’s participation or attention. Learn how to navigate a mixer here.
- One-on-one is when you do coffee or drinks with someone. It’s easily my favorite kind of interaction because I love talking to people face-to-face without the shenanigans of a mixer.
- Online connections are easily accessible no matter where you live. There are communities all over social media. Various websites have built in communities, like Reddit and Stage32. Sites like The Black List and TAPA even hold mixers.
You can find, build, and engage your network if you choose a place to start and actively participate. It takes effort, but schedule out time to do it. Go in with a positive and maybe even excited attitude. That will make all the difference.