Let’s get something out of the way first... What networking is NOT.
Networking is NOT meeting someone in the industry and instantly asking or expecting them to help you succeed. That’s trying to USE someone. And surprise!!! No one has the deep secret desire to be used that way. No one.
Networking is NOT going to an industry get together or party or screening with a script under your arm to give out. Or with business cards to give out (unless someone specifically ASKS).
Networking is NOT going on some screenwriting board or twitter and after having a known writer answer your question or comment on something you said, using his/her name to as a reference to try to get your script read. (This has happened way more than once and again, SURPRISE, producers, agents, and managers check references.)
Networking is NOT expecting anybody to do ANYTHING for you.
It IS all about building relationships and your skill as a writer. Period.
We’ve all, in our lives, built relationships with people. Emphasis on “built”. Friends who are lifetime relationships. Friends who for any number of reasons end up being temporary relationships. Friends you make and lose touch with, but still have meaning to you. You can quantify every one of these. You care about them. If it’s a true relationship, they care about you. Even business relationships work this way. You know the person you’re dealing with and trust them because that trust has been BUILT. It’s not instant. It’s a bond that takes time and effort and sincerity.
And that’s where I lose a LOT of screenwriters. TIME? I don’t have time. I want my script sold now. My mom loves it and thinks it should get made. Have you seen the crap that gets made? My time is now. EFFORT? Hey! I just spent a good part of maybe a month writing this script. You have no idea how much effort that was. Effort to get someone to help me? No way. They should want to help me because they’re already there and I’m not. SINCERITY? I don’t have the time and I don’t care about them. What about ME???
I’ve been to the industry gatherings and parties and screenings. I’ve seen the best and worst of networking. I’m not surprised that the best networkers and most sincere people are usually the best writers. They have made the effort to understand what it takes to be successful beyond having written great scripts. They are at these things to foster good relationships within the industry. To meet people, not to USE them. To get to KNOW people as people, not as things who can help them. And if that ends with them getting some mutual business benefit from it at some point, great. If not, great too because you’ve still got maybe a friend out of it.
When you network correctly, you have to throw your ambition out the door for a while. Not in a calculated way either. Really toss it. Network to learn. Network to grow. Network to build your circle of friends.
Again. You need to get to know people as people. I know this sounds ridiculous on the face of it because you’re thinking, well... duh. But a lot of writers forget that successful writers and producers and agents (well, some agents) and managers are just people. With lives and interests outside the industry. Nobody just wants to talk business all the time. Nobody. And nobody in the industry is dying to help you. They just aren’t.
Successful producers and writers and directors and agents and managers all have their radar on, watching for people who would try and use them. They have to. It happens more than you could ever imagine. The second they even get a whiff of that you can see it in their eyes as they glaze over with the thought, “Not again”. I’ve seen it. Hell, I’ve experienced it both ways. Don’t think I didn’t make some horrendous networking mistakes in my young career when in my stupid ego induced state I thought some people were living their lives just to help me. It wasn’t until someone who loved my writing pulled me aside and set me straight about making an ass out of myself. And luckily, I listened instead of letting my ego rule (and ruin) everything.
And my eyes have glazed over when I've been confronted by writers who wanted my list of contacts the first time I met them. And no, I didn’t give it to them.
Networking is a slow dance. With someone who doesn’t want to dance with you at first. They’ve seen it all and they don’t like what they’ve seen. So you don’t walk up and grab their ass and pull them on the dance floor to dance to YOUR song. That never works and can hurt you in ways that can kill a career. You sincerely get to know them over time so that when their song comes on they don’t mind when you ask them to dance.
Oh… and you still have to have a great script at the end of the dance.
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