I hadn’t been a big movie fanatic as a kid. By the time I finished high school I felt like I had missed out on a lot of standard films that kids see as they grow up. So in a plight to ‘catch up’ I started watching all the great films I had always heard about but never watched. Overwhelmed by the magic of the movies I suddenly decided that I had to be a part of making movies. (See my blog post about how a moth inspired me to make movies)
When I first realised this I was a doey-eyed girl who wanted to tell great stories, create pretty pictures, make my own movie magic and entertain people. What I didn’t think about was the process of getting there, all the stuff that happens behind the scenes and the people.
I started film school in 2007 and was keen to lap up any wisdom that teachers could pass on. Two points stood out to me; Firstly, networking is your best friend. Secondly, It’s a small industry. I never questioned these ideas as they seemed pretty obvious to me but years later I am coming to truly understand and respect them.
The importance of networking
Once I finished a few courses in film I was out on my own and keen to finally become part of that industry that I had been dreaming about and working towards for the last 5 years.
I had worked hard to build my skills as a cinematographer but didn’t realise that having talent was only the start. “It’s a small and competitive industry and the key to success is ensuring that the right people know about you and what you can do – it’s not necessarily who you know, but who knows you” (Creative Skill Set)
Regardless of being reminded of the value of networking all through school, I didn’t really think that they were talking about my peers. I was so blind.
By the time I was out of school it was too late. My class mates had all moved on, found their own niche groups and all the international students had gone back home. If I wanted to make movies then I was just going to have to build a team around me from scratch.
Things to remember when networking.
- Record and follow up your contacts
- Join professional groups and associations such as networking groups (Wrap
- Look out for networking opportunities, such as festivals and film screenings.
- Don’t pass up a wrap party. Even though you have met the team, it’s a great opportunity to get to know them better and find out what they are working on now.
- Don’t be afraid to ask more experienced filmmakers out for a coffee to talk. Most people don’t mind. It’s a great opportunity to get advice, get to know them and more importantly for them to get to know you. (See ‘Tea and Biscuits with Nicola Daley’)
- Be prepared to do a few favours. Support your contacts and generally they will return the favour.
So if there is any lesson I can push on you it is to network. Get to know your classmates if you are still in school. Talk to them about what they plan on doing when they graduate. Discuss developing a production company or a film group or even ask if you have a script later down the track if they would be happy to meet up with you for coffee to discuss it. If you are already in the industry or just starting out, go say hi to the gaffer or the soundie, touch base with people you have worked with before.
I know it may sound laboured but at the end of the day if you don’t know crew people who are you going to call on when it comes to making your own project?
It’s a small industry
It’s not groundbreaking news that the film industry is small. Thousands of people trickle through the system each year but only a small percentage sustain a career in the business. So you really need to work hard, be good at what you do and play all your cards right. Since I’m discussing the importance of networking I have two specific points to keep in mind when trying to get into the film industry.
When I finished film school it seemed that there were two groups of filmmakers.
There were those who scrambled to get to work with the biggest people in the industry on the biggest films. A select few got small jobs working as production assistants, runners etc. They were getting a great credit but not necessarily building their skills by doing jobs that were in-line with the career they wanted.
In the meantime the others were working in bigger crew positions on smaller productions (and probably for less money). These people, though not gaining the same highly regarded credits, were building their skills.
Neither of these directions are wrong. Either way could lead a person to where they were aiming to go. However, overall (and this isn’t everyone) I saw people keeping job opportunities to themselves, hiding contacts, putting others down and making ‘friends’ with someone to use them to get an opportunity. They were doing whatever they could to get ahead. What it left were many isolated independent filmmakers. No one was working as a team and, to me, that seemed like it wasn’t the best way to go about things.
I wanted to share these words of wisdom that a DOP passed on to me.
She said “Don’t turn your back on the people around you who are also starting out to meet the more successful filmmakers, because when all of those people have retired your old classmates will be successful and you might have to go knocking on their door for a job.”.
The second point I wanted to make was to be on your best behaviour. Watch your mouth.
Don’t talk about someone behind their back, don’t bad mouth one filmmaker to another, don’t laugh at the mistakes of one production to make friends on the next – it’s such a small industry, chances are they may know the people you are talking about. Word can get around easily. Not only that, but it makes you look bad. The film industry is hard enough to crack with a good reputation – so don’t screw it up by looking like a gossiper, double crosser and manipulator. People wont respect it and won’t trust you either.
If you want a good, respectable and long career in film, work hard in your role but also get to know people and mind your manners.
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“With my head in the stars, a twinkle in my eye and a love for cinema and nostalgia, filmmaking is a fun, creative way to express myself.”