Networking daunts most of us, but it is essential in acting/modelling, where the normal career pattern consists of short term contracts for a variety of employers interspersed with meetings which may bear fruit in the future. Once you have met and worked with someone, and you’ve done a good job, chances are you’ll do it again and again.
But networking is how you initially meet new people, and meeting people for the first time is how you get that first, all-important job with them. Nothing will work like personal contacts – by people thinking of you before they go to the casting directories.
But of course, you hate networking. A lot of people feel like this even in the commercial world, but the problem is exacerbated in the arts, where there is a lingering feeling that an actor who approaches their career with a strategy is somehow compromising their artistic standards. This is amateurish rubbish. It matters hugely in this business who you know, not because it is ruled by nepotism, but because personal recommendation lies at the heart of all casting.
Basically, no-one recommends you for a job unless they’ve seen your work themselves, or met you in person. Now networking is something I’m very new to myself. I say I’m new to this because I’ve never purposely gone to what’s referred to as a networking event, until last week.
Last week I was booked for a promotional job through one of my modelling agencies, all I really knew about this job was the name of the client that booked us and what our job role was for the day. Even then when I got there I was still a bit unsure as to why I was there and what I was actually meant to be doing. Turned out it was for a big corporate event run by Headz Up, and this particular event was in aid of International Women’s Day which was very inspiring.
As you can imagine a lot of these women worked within I profession that I knew nothing about and that I was not a part of but what I did notice was there were a photographers taking pictures of the event and interviews were being filmed, there were camera’s, a lot of camera’s. That’s where I saw my opportunity.
When the photographers/cameramen where having a break, or wondering around, that’s when I would talk to them. I didn’t want to bombard the guys with ‘Hi I’m a model! Put me in front of the camera!’ That’s too much. I wanted to be confident not cocky!
That’s when you just strike up a normal conversation, asking people more about their line of work, how they got into this industry, what other projects their working on. I ask these questions because I’m genuinely interested, from there if they have mentioned something which I think I’m suitable for then and only then I mention what I do for a living, what I’m currently working on, my previous experience (kinda like a mini interview, highlighting the best bits).
After exchanging details with a couple of photographers I followed up and contact my new potential colleague within a couple of days. Just as a gentle reminder of who I was, along with my portfolio. Now those photographers might contact me about a job in the future.
The word “might” is a crucial part of that sentence. Not all relationships have a payoff. So don’t spiral into a suicidal depression if a producer doesn’t return your e-mail after you bonded at a party.
We need to realize that networking can help you in both direct and indirect ways. For example, let’s say you created a relationship with that casting director you met after your Pilates class. Assuming it goes further, there are two possible outcomes. The casting director might bring you in for an audition. That would be direct help. The casting director might also get you a meeting with one of her agent friends. That’s indirect help. And they’re both equally valuable.
In a perfect world, every actor would be judged on talent and nothing else. But the business doesn’t work that way. That’s why the ability to network should be right up there with your ability to create a character xxx