How many times have you been told that an acting career is all about networking? I’m guessing about a million and one, right? Well, there’s definitely a lot of truth to that statement, and you’d be a fool not to take it seriously.
If you want to be successful, working on your craft should be your number one concern, but let’s face it: Talent is not enough. That’s why you have to know how to network.
But what exactly does ‘networking’ mean? Some actors believe it’s about going to the right parties so they can meet the right people. Others think it’s all about kissing the right asses. Those are both valuable skills, but sorry, they have nothing to do with real networking.
Simply put, networking is creating relationships with industry professionals who might be able to help you in a direct or indirect manner.
1. Be professional
Adopting the right tone when you communicate is essential, as are correct spelling and grammar – no text-speak or slang. Keep messages brief, polite, professional and to the point.
You will meet thousands of contacts throughout your career, and forget most of them, unless you keep a record. Create a contacts file on your computer, and a profile for each person you have ever met in the business – every fellow student, tutor, playwright, actor, director, etc.; what they look like, where you met them, and so on. Add new people every week, and update once a month.
This isn’t school, where it’s cool to do as little as possible; this is the business where graft counts. To stay in the game for the long term, it’s important to remember to cultivate contacts in the generation before you as well as the established figures you meet. In ten years’ time the fresh-faced wunderkind you vaguely remember could be producing a movie with you in it – if they know who you are.
2. Start with those you know
You already have a network. The people you train with are your most valuable asset – there is a bond there which may survive a lifetime, so stay in contact and share those contacts. This is not just a matter of swapping names, it’s about going to see people in shows, meeting casting directors and writers and theatre directors, and then keeping a log of those you’ve met.
If you hear of a job going for someone you know, tell them. If you can recommend them, even better. Like for you, these initial contacts will gradually widen their own circles of contact and influence. Some of the people you share grotty flats with and see at old school reunions will end up running the very companies you’re both desperately trying to get work with now. Staying in contact with each other and promoting each other throughout your careers is essential.
3. Never turn down an invitation
Most actors tend to isolate themselves when they’re not working, and then reconnect when they are. But it is impossible to tell when you will make a valuable contact – and for that reason you must go to any gathering you can, to learn, and to network. This is especially true of something you’ve actually been invited to, and can gain entry for free!
Get out there, and meet people in the flesh. Go to first nights, to talks, to festivals. If you are invited to a play reading, be there, and stay and talk afterwards. Somewhere out there are people who could employ you, and would do so if they know you existed. Go find them.
4. Be the first to keep in touch
If you go to see a show you like, send a message of thanks to the director. Again, keep messages brief (two lines is good), businesslike and positive. If you get a casting, ditto: a short message of thanks to the director, producer and casting director. Let people know if you have a show on – send emails to everyone on your contact list.
These rules are not to be applied sometime, or next week, or when you feel like it. If you are serious about this career, they should be applied now, today, every day. Your next job may depend on it.
5. However, do not overstay your welcome
Majority of people will appreciate you coming over to pay them a compliment or strike a quick conversation about their work. However, don’t forget to leave them some breathing space and split when you feel the time is right (after making a connection, obviously). Plus, it isn’t such a bad idea to get to know more than one industry folk during these gatherings. Once you have charmed the soul out of that producer, let them miss you while you go and find your next target.
Ever heard the saying ‘It’s not what you know it’s who you know?’ xxx