The other night, I went to the Bay Area Film Mixer. These events happen every few months, and it’s an opportunity to meet and make contacts with people in the local film industry. The event was organized in part by Marcus Sams, who is one of my improv teachers. He informed all of his students about the previous event as well, and though I had every intention of going, at the last minute I ended up making excuses for myself and chickening out. So, now that I’ve finally pushed myself to attend, here are a few post-event thoughts:
- It is incredibly helpful to have allies, particularly if you’re an introvert. I consider myself to be one, though perhaps not as much as I used to be, thanks to improv. I’ve had to teach myself how to be outgoing in conversations with strangers, but I am still extremely thankful when I see familiar faces, particularly in this sort of context. I was happy to run into a couple of other members of my improv community at the mixer, which gave me some partners in crime with whom to navigate the crowds, and allowed me to avoid shyly skirting the perimeter like a lost puppy.
- Business cards are actually useful, and specific ones are even better! I ordered a pack of 50 business from Moo about a month ago, after a good friend advised me to do so. The cards include my name and contact info, and describe me as a “writer, editor, and improviser”. This is certainly an accurate description, and I was glad to have them with me, but looking back, I realize it might be wise to have different cards for different occasions. As an actor, I really should be handing out something with my headshot on it, so people can have a face to associate with my name. Luckily, I did have separate headshots, which I left on the table near the entrance to the event. They quickly got lost beneath a pile of a thousand other people’s headshots, but it must have done some good, because I was approached by a producer who told me he’d picked up one of my headshots and might be interested in me for a potential project. Of course nothing is ever certain, but if anything, it gave me a boost in confidence!
- It is important to gracefully exit conversations. This is something I haven’t quite figured out yet. During several chats with perfectly friendly and interesting people, I began to sense the conversation winding down. At this point, I tend to go into panic mode, wildly grasping at excuses to leave, in order to avoid further awkwardness. I imagine there’s a better way to go about this, but I have yet to learn it. Looking back, I realize that “I’m going to go get a drink, but it was great to meet you!” would have been perfectly adequate. Thank you, hindsight. At least now I can employ that method at future events.
I imagine networking becomes a little easier each time. I can’t deny that my natural instinct is to think that it seems a bit superficial, to talk oneself up in hopes of benefiting from others. But I realize now that that’s the wrong way to look at it. It’s better to just think of it as an opportunity to become more confortable talking to strangers. And I do believe it’s important to remain genuine while networking. I certainly tried to do that.
They say that it’s important to do things that scare you, so on that note, I look forward to further opportunities to exercise this skill.
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There will be plenty more opportunities to network moving forward!
One more important thing that is a must in the networking process, something I need to be better at, are followups! When you get someones card, it is given with the expectation that you will contact them. Even if it is just a, “Hi, it was great to meet you”, at least that is something. It is all about creating relationships after all and that person could lead you to your next job.
Cheers to you, keep being brave, and dive in fully. =)
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