Becoming masterful at networking in Hollywood is that you don’t have to learn an entirely new skill set that only applies to the film & TV industry to be good at it.
No matter what your day job is, you probably needed to have some level of skill at talking to people to do any job. Being able to have a basic conversation is a great place for your networking skills to begin.
Too often, people get intimidated and worried about networking because they think there must be some magical skill that they have simply missed out on or need to learn. The truth is, though, when you meet someone at a networking event you can start making a connection just by making small talk and “shooting the breeze” with them.
To get started, think of a few simple, generic, non-controversial topics you could speak about. One of the things I coach people who want to get better at networking to do is to have opinions on things! You don’t have to pick heavy duty, serious issues, but simply formulate opinions on small, inconsequential topics that you can play around with and have light conversation on.
Simple things like…. Who are your favorite actors, directors, screenwriters, and producers? Speaking about someone’s body of work or latest movie can be great for small talk at Networking Events. It’s not that you have open the conversation by telling them who your favorite actor is, but if you’ve thought about some of these things, you might see an opportunity to bring it up in some form.
When you have an opinion about whose work you appreciate — especially in the most recent films — you sound more engaged in the business. Every once in a while, one of my screenwriting or actor clients will have a phenomenal knowledge of television shows or films and the actors in them. Their knowledge and passion always impresses me. They actually LOVE film and TV and the artists who work in it.
You may or may not be that deeply interested in film and TV, but at least have your basic top 5 list to reference. You never know when you will get to express your passion. The name of an actor might come up in a conversation, and you simply say, “They’re one of my Top 5 favorite actors.” Or you could be talking to someone about a film that’s out and you get a chance to say, “Another film I thought was amazing recently was….” It’s just that simple.
Whether it’s some light fare I’ve mentioned or another inconsequential topic, you can improve your general conversational skills by formulating opinions and being able to talk about them for fun. Using this simple tip could help you feel more comfortable doing what some people call “networking.”
Another important aspect of networking in Hollywood is to be open and positive about film and TV, not just negative. It’s super easy to critique a film and say what’s BAD about it and what you didn’t like — anyone with a little screenwriting training can do that. But to be able to say why you really liked it…. that’s WAY better!
Years ago, I took a screenwriting seminar by guru Robert McKee, author of the great book STORY. In his famous screenwriting class Story Structure, one of the things he said was something to the effect of this: “I’m not trying to make you all Oscar-winning writers, my goal is to raise the overall quality of films.”
McKee had the most in-depth knowledge of films I have ever witnessed. His passion was apparent. That class made me a better screenplay consultant because it showed me that it wasn’t necessary for me to try to help every writer turn their script into an Oscar winner, but to simply help the writer improve it, make it as good as it could be, and to make it an enjoyable experience to read it.
When you can simply enjoy film and talk about movies, this is a great, simple networking technique you can use to mix and mingle and connect with someone initially. Little by little then, you can work the conversation into other ways that you might be able to work together.
Start there…. and you’re on your way.