You’re invited to your local film festival after party. You’re looking for a new DP (Director of Photography) and you know that almost every filmmaker in town will be in attendance. If the thought of starting a conversation with several strangers sent an unimaginable shock through your entire body, you’re an introvert. As an introvert, there’s a 90% chance that you’ll talk yourself out of attending the event—PLEASE DON’T. Occasionally, my social anxiety wins, but I never let it keep me down for too long.
As filmmaking is a collaborative process, you’ll sadly have to meet new people sometimes, and that’s okay! You don’t have to attend every networking event, but attending a few would be extremely helpful to your career. Here are a few tips to help you overcome your fear and network.
Bring a friend who is also interested in the industry
If your friend is an extrovert…even better! I’m sure there is science behind this tip, but when you already know someone there, it’s so much easier to meet people. Both my brother and I are introverts, but when we attend events together and always stay together, we’re networking demons! We’re meeting new people and talking about our projects and the fear just disappears.
Attend a structured networking event
I was once invited to a “speed dating” style networking event. The “premium” attendees were seated at tables, while the other attendees (20 of us in total), rotated tables every 5 minutes. This style of networking helped me a lot! I tend to be more comfortable when I’m not confronted by a room of people and hundreds of choices, but rather a specific person at a time. This style also gave me the opportunity to introduce myself to everyone. An event I attended at the Chicago Comedy Festival last year combined “traditional” networking with “speed dating”. A bell would ring every 2 minutes and we would randomly have to find a new person to meet (minus the tables).
Arrive early if possible
There are a few reasons that I like to arrive early for any networking events. 1. My anxiety lessens with the number of people that I’m confronted with. As I mentioned earlier, I feel more comfortable talking to only a few people. Part of my anxiety is caused by large groups. 2. I can offer to assist the organizers or introduce myself to them. The organizers are more than likely familiar with some of the people in attendance. Once people gradually start coming into the event, the organizers will more than likely approach a close friend and say, “Hey! I just met (Insert your name), they’re looking for an AD position and I know you’ve been looking for crew.
Avoid networking events
If nothing I mentioned above is helping, stop attending networking events. I know this advice sounds counterintuitive, but networking events aren’t the only way to meet new people. If you went to film school you probably already know a few people in the industry. Email each person, letting them know about your new project and what you need. If you didn’t go to film school and don’t know a single filmmaker, join a film industry based Facebook group and post your project and what you need. Meet a friend of a friend for coffee or lunch. Reach out to filmmakers on Stage 32 or even Instagram.
The moral of the story is “never give up!” Anxiety is real and it’s out to ruin your dreams. With therapy and a strong will to never be ordinary, I’ve accomplished a lot in the last two years. I’m by no means a success, but I’m more equipped to succeed.