I’ve always thought of networking with a capital N. It’s big, scary and involves you trying to look sophisticated, sipping wine and making witty conversation with people who are far more qualified than you. Except maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it can actually be fun and casual.
The DPS year started with me knowing that I wanted to work in the Art Department on films. However I didn’t really know anything about film. I enjoyed watching films but I didn’t push myself to engage with them, however this changed when I volunteered at the London Film Festival last autumn. Over the two weeks I watched a new film basically everyday, most of these with Q&As with the filmmakers after. Some I loved, some I didn’t, but no matter what I thought I was starting to engage with the industry.
I continued going to film screenings, smaller festivals and talks. By being at these events I was putting myself in the position to meet new contacts, whether this was being introduced to friends of friends in the industry or by talking to speakers after the event. I’ve attended a few screenings and panels at BAFTA in Piccadilly, not only were the events great but I also got the chance to hang out in their bar, normally reserved for BAFTA members and various film high-ups. I’m not saying you’ll come away employed but you might get an email or two and possibly have the chance to talk to an Oscar winning Director.
I’ll admit, I haven’t talked to every person I should have these events, however the more you the more natural it becomes. I went up to Cardiff at the end of March for a BAFTA Guru day. It may seem like a bit of a trek from London but it was completely worth it for me. The divide between speakers and audience was much less noticeable than at other talks I’ve been to in London. The more casual environment gave me the confidence to speak to a Graphic Designer for TV who’s work I have admired for a while. I realised that while I was little nervous to speak to him I didn’t feel uncomfortable. We ended up having a great conversation and after a couple of emails back and forth, the Art Director of Doctor Who how has a copy of my CV. Dare I say it, but I think I might be starting to get the hang of this networking business?
Ultimately my experience with networking has taught me that while you need to make an effort, it doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. It just about getting ourself out there, go to events which interest you. Go to enough and eventually you’ll end up meeting a few people who can put you in touch with a few more and so your network grows. Just remember always send that follow up email, or what’s even the point?