Networking, or building up your network of contacts, is something that gets a bad rap. It can be viewed as a phoney or a fake way of making friends. And if you do it badly, it is. But even if you do it badly, you’re still going to be ahead of those actors who don’t do it at all.
I learned about networking from this post over at Manager Tools. They are some fantastic coaches of managers and their podcasts and advice on how to get along in the business world is fantastic. Definitely listen to their post and see what you get out of it but I’ll outline the basics here.
- Building your network is much more about maintaining contact rather than going out and being social.
- Start a list of people that you want to stay in contact with. This can and should be anyone: casting directors, ADs, production assistants, agents assistants (today’s assistants are tomorrow’s real deal!), directors, actors, costumers, drivers, whatever. Anyone that you come into contact with through your work can go on the list.
- Put the list into a system where you will get a reminder to contact that person every 3-4 months or so. I made a special calendar in google calendar where each person was an event that recurred every 3 months. But you can use any system you want!
- When that person’s day comes up, send them an email or letter, or call them or tweet at them. It’s best if you contact them to mention something that they are involved in, rather than just saying what you’re up to. But you can also mention what you are up to.
- Don’t expect an answer back and don’t require one in your contact with them. All you need to do is keep the contact alive.
- Over time, add details to who they are: what projects are they associated with, what are their kids names, when are their birthdays (and their kids birthdays!). You may or may not use that information in your contact, but its good to have it handy if you need it.
- Also over time, add/remove people as necessary. You can easily keep in active contact with 200 – 500 people this way. If someone is not responding or asks you not to contact them anymore, then take them off your list! If you meet someone cool on a set or a class, put them on!
As Manager Tools states: having a strong network means one where the contacts are alive and where you aren’t only contacting these people when you need something. If the only time a casting director hears from you is when you want them to cast you in something, they are far less likely to think well of you than if you write to them on their birthday or when you congratulate them on a show they cast that you really enjoyed.
And remember, this is a marathon. There are contacts that I have kept up (because I like the people, not because I think I can get something from them) that have been able to help me directly as an actor only after 5 or 6 years! So keep it up! It will be incredebly rewarding when you do!
Also see the Backstage article on where to go to meet new people in the industry!