Last night, we held the second-ever edition of our filmmakers’ drinks night at 1000 Springs Tokyo, in Yotsuya. We had a fantastic turnout, packing the bar with old and new faces, including directors of photography, composers, actors, and writers. I heard projects being discussed, collaborations being arranged, and deep conversations happening about favourite films, acting, and politics.
I am taking this opportunity to write about my own networking experiences, over the course of my (short) career. Networking works. I can personally attest to this, having obtained my current, full-time job at ELFS Japan as a direct result of schmoozing. Certainly I must acknowledge the element of luck involved, as the chances of me being a bilingual Japanese citizen, living in London at the time, and being knowledgeable about filmmaking, played a part in my being in a position to hear that Rory was moving to Japan to found the film school, and to ask him whether he was hiring anyone. Yet I also worked to put myself in the position to encounter an opportunity like this.
The event I was attending was a regular monthly filmmakers’ meetup which I had made the conscious decision to go to. I had built up a relationship with Rory over a good few years of attending these nights (which he organised as part of his work at Raindance), and had come to know both him and the other regulars during this time. I would argue that this built a trust between us: he knew me and the people I had worked with, and knew I had the necessary skills for him to entrust me with my current role.
Professional relationships are all about trust, and are even more so when working on passion projects. When you are looking to work with a new cinematographer or a new editor, for example, you may wish to take the opportunity to hang out with them a little first, to make sure you are on the same wavelength and can work well together. There is no point in hiring a fantastic cinematographer if you will clash with them all the way through production to such an extent that it negatively affects the project. This is where networking events are so fantastic for finding people to work with — you can meet a great range of creatives and find the perfect partner for your project.
You may hate the act and the idea of networking. I certainly do. But remember, many of the other people in the room hate it as well. The good news is, if you’re at a filmmakers’ event, you’re all there because you love film, so if you’re ever lost, you can simply walk up to someone, asking them what their favourite films are. I wouldn’t stress too much about getting people to commit to your project there and then, as they are probably inundated with people pitching them their films anyway. Instead, try and make a personal connection with them: get them to believe in you as a person rather than as someone trying to recruit them for a film. Make sure to get people’s contact info, and remember to actively stay in touch with them; it’s very easy to meet somebody great, send them one email, then, because you’re not making anything in the very immediate future, let the relationship disappear into the ether.
I don’t pretend to be a networking expert (in fact I think I’m still pretty bad at it), I’m simply a guy who happened to get a job from doing it. So for more, probably better, advice, check out the following links:
Kirstie Brewer, “Shhh, Quiet: An Introvert’s Guide To Networking“, The Guardian.
Rebekah Campbell, “An Introvert’s Guide To Networking“, You’re The Boss Blog, New York Times.