Ah the kryptonite of the up and coming actor. Networking. If you hear this word and instantly feel uncomfortable and anxious, I get it. But I’m pretty sure you’re thinking about it wrong.
Most of us hear “networking” and instantly picture the annoying guy at the agent showcase who Is shaking hands with every person possible, making references to his work/name dropping at random points in conversation when no one was even talking to him. Always has a business card or some trinket that says something smarmy like “actor/producer/rock star!” on it. You can picture him can’t you? Well annoying guy is actually not a good networker (regardless of what he may tell you). Let’s make some fast judgements about this stereotype (fun!) and then cancel them out with better info
Annoying guy networks at networking events.
Boo. Terrible idea. I’m here to tell you you ALREADY HAVE A NETWORK. What! Thrilling! Yes, you already have a network, and it’s made up of all the people you’ve met in the business that you’ve had a conversation with. Actors in your class, coaches, friends at the gym, casting directors you’ve been in for a few times and have some rapport with, your manager from work who is also a produce. You can’t throw a rock in LA without hitting someone in the business. So if you’ve been active in and outside of your career, you have a network. Does that mean it’s a long list of people you can ask favors of? No. But it’s a web [read: Network] of relationships. Some may be closer to you than others and that is absolutely ok. I highly recommend keeping them as a Gmail contact list though.
*note: it is especially frustrating building a network when you’re young, because chances are your network is going to be made up of other young people. Having the patience to age with your network, as you all get better jobs, more opportunities, and are taken more seriously with age…that’s the secret no one is telling you.
Does this mean I shouldn’t attend network events?? Not at all! Those can be really fun (and sometimes include a free drink ticket which makes $8 parking worth it). I like going and meeting new actors instead of aiming my sights to meet the three agents in attendance however, because those “select guests” are going to be inundated by Annoying Guys and if you instead causally say hello and then send them a note afterward, you’ll be much better off. Plus, you know I love actors. But if they make you uncomfortable bring a friend! Bonus points if you bring a friend who is in the business but not an actor, like a writer or producer, thus expanding everyone’s network at the event!
Why this is trash: you can’t actually do it. There is no way you can have a decent conversation if you’re rushing from one person to the next. This is a similar strategy to friending strangers on Facebook in 2011: the only reason to do it is for a total number of perceived friends and no one cares. Trying to obtain relationships for the sheer reason of having relationships is not the point, the point is so develop a network of others who see you as a multidimensional human and person of interest, and that it is a two way street! Speaking of that…
Gross. If you haven’t bothered to ask my name I really don’t want to hear about your web series. If you are singularly focused on “how can this benefit me” you’re losing countless opportunities to make actual connections. Ask questions of the people you meet/connect with and, here is the kicker, actually listen to the answers. Relationships are a two way street and it’s clear when you’re not on the same road.
You know that person you met four years ago that one night? NO. Of course not, what a vague sentence Sam! Right, so if you never sent a follow up note or thank you email to someone you made a connection with, how are they supposed to remember you…let alone remember what kind of actor you are and your casting? Follow up is essential. Email and social media are gifts for this, making it casual and yet also technically attaching a portfolio of your essence (your photos) along with it. Think of follow up as the ultimate reinforcement that you listened to someone in conversation and cared about what they said.
Honestly, probably imploding. No but really, if you base your worth on you network or bookings, we all know this year would have been a deep hole to fall into. But what can you do about your network right now? Easy solution: make a list of all the show runners, directors and casting directors you want to meet but haven’t and follow their social media. And when you feel ready, comment and start to engage. If they host a zoom or a live, ask a question and then follow up (see above!!) afterward to say thanks. Or (and I know this will be hard for some of you) you can ask your manager for their email so you can send a thank you that way instead, and TA-FREAKIN-DA now they’re on your Gmail contacts in your network. Does this mean you’ll get cast in their next project? . No. It means you’re on each other’s radar and can stay that way, perhaps building a more intricate relationship as time goes on. Networking is a long term process and being in a hurry for your network to work for you is only going to frustrate and dissuade you from keeping up with it. We both know Annoying Guy isn’t sticking around this business as long as you and me anyway .