Join Koura on Episode 15 of Filmmaking (Actually) to learn about...networking! Defined as a group or system of interconnected people or things, a network is not just about computers when it comes to your work as a filmmaker. It's been said that it's not about what you know, but who you know! Listen as Koura explains what it means to truly collaborate with other artists so that all can work together toward mutual ends, instead of just seeking to better yourself at the expense of others. And, you know, you might learn something (actually) - ta-da!
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Below please find a transcript of this episode. Episodes are also available as audio-only podcasts here or with subtitles in this video:
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT NETWORKING ACTUALLY
Hi, I'm Koura, and welcome back to my podcast Filmmaking (Actually). Ta-da! So I wanted to do a little episode on networking because I feel like it's really important in today's world as, well, anything. I know film festivals and all that is on hold, and the future is uncertain, but there are still so many other ways to connect as a filmmaker. I figured it was still worth it to just put this out there for now, and I'll probably come back to this later once there's more solidity in how the creative world will be moving forward.
But first of all, there's this idea, especially for creatives, that to be a - pick a specific sort of corner of the creative world - you need to know how to do everything. So if you're an actor, you have to also be a cinematographer and an editor and a makeup artist and a hairstylist and all that. Now, yes, especially in this sort of post-COVID world where there's a lot of self-tapes and a lot of self-filming, that all really helps. But you can do a lot by collaborating with other people. You don't have to do it all by yourself. And honestly, it's usually a lot better when you don't. Having individual people able to do each function allows them to devote their full attention to that thing. Well, that isn't to say that one person can't do an amazing job by themselves, because that's been proven over and over again. It's just like anything in life. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and if one person has to worry about everything, they just don't have time to give the same attention to detail that they would if, say, 10 people were working on the same thing. So, don't ever feel like you're, you know, admitting to your own inadequacy by having people help you or work with you, or if it's something where you're, like, “I'm doing this all by myself”, make sure you give yourself the time to give attention to every little detail that you would, were there to be individual people only focusing on those individual things.
So, first, I'm going to go back to that word, “collaboration.” What does that mean? I see it all the time on Facebook posts and Facebook groups and all that stuff where someone is looking to "collaborate" on something. It usually means, “I'm looking for people who want to work on my project for free and do what I want for me, and I will give you a piece of the resultant art”. Which is not actual collaboration. Collaborating as artists has kind of become a buzzword, and I think that sucks. I mean, technically, yeah, collaboration means working together to create something. So technically, every artistic endeavor as a team of people is a collaboration, but it also carries with it the idea that everyone has creative input. Now, a couple of episodes ago, I talked a bit about business and rates and how that works in the world of creativity. Collaboration is a big part of that. On the one hand, having a friend with a cool camera rig or other gear come shoot your project so they can get cool footage for their reel is great, but if they intend to get cool footage, their heart might not be in the project and getting the shots that best tell your story. Even if those shots don't look great on their reel, it may be the shots that you need. So, the first thing to do when looking to connect with collaborators is, honestly, just be transparent. Want to use someone's gear for free in exchange for footage for their reel? Great! Make sure that the exact shot list that you want is outlined ahead of time and make sure the shoot day, or shoot days, or whatever, includes some time to get some money shots for their reel outside the project. You know, maybe you'll end up using those shots in your thing too, maybe you won't, but at least the cards are on the table and it's super transparent. You have a shot list you need, and they have flashy stuff that they want, and you're able to get both and you don't end up sort of locking horns at this kind of, your hearts are in two different places and you're trying to do the same project together.
That brings me to what the biggest part of networking is, in my opinion. Networking is about building connections. It is not about ,”what can you do for me for free”, or even just, ”what can you do for me?” So many people, especially in film, or the arts in general, have this idea of, like, I need a 'fill-in-the-blank' professionally, who can do it for free? And they want to "network", so they can use their network to get and make free stuff. That isn't how networking works.
A network, by definition, is a group or system of interconnected people or things interconnected. So it's like a two-way street. One thing Spacey and I are known for is we have a giant network, and I don't just mean, like, a million Facebook friends or whatever, but actual people we know and work with and who know us and will work with us in return. The majority of these people, we met through film festivals or Facebook groups, or LinkedIn actually. But those networks are two-way streets. And when we collaborate on a project, the idea is collaboration, meaning both sides are contributing and both sides are going to get something out of it. Whether it's, you know, one side is hiring the other and they're going to get paid, or where one side is contributing a lot artistically and the other one gets to keep the artistic project. But it's all very transparent and kept kind of in the forefront of the conversation. When you're creating a network, you can't go around looking to give the work for your project to someone else, you know. “Hey, can you get us funding? I'm just going to give you this project and you find the money for it and come back to me when it's funded”. Or, “Can you produce my movie? I've got a great idea. You produce it for me. I have an idea. Can you bring it to life for me?” Honestly, those are the most annoying questions to be asked, because if someone actually is producing films, not only did they go through all of the time and effort and learning curves of learning how to do that, but they're probably already busting their butts to make their own projects happen, and then to just be kind of dumped with, “Here - can you make this for me?"
This is probably the one time I will say where a network can come into an awesome, like, sort of collaborative unification, if you will, is, let's say you're a college student and you're an actress, and you're at film school and, you know, writers and people who want to be directors and people who want to be cinematographers and people who want to be, you know, gaffers or grips or whatever or are willing to do those things. Directors need people to direct and they need stories to be directed. Writers need actors to perform their words and they need directors to bring it all to life. You can find a group of people that are at the same place in their career and are looking to kind of learn and grow together and want to come together to make something with the idea of we're all going to fill in the holes for each other. But someone in there is going to have to be the producer, and they're going to have to kind of bring the baby to life, if you will. So, you know, it's one thing to just get hired to do something, and that's different. But it's another thing when people just want to connect with you so that you will use all of your hard-earned experience and your connections to do free stuff for them. These are my networking tips, and I don't know why I'm big on lists right now, but I made a list. So here it is:
Networking is a two-way street. Don't just look at how you can benefit from other people, but how can you help them?
Never be afraid to be kind to someone else. You can never be wrong by being kind. If they take advantage of you or hurt you because of your kindness, that was their mistake, not yours.
Be responsibly kind. Like I said in the episode about the business side of all of this, you have a responsibility to yourself to charge a proper rate and to make sure the people you work with are paid or fairly exchanged with. Can you cover someone's gas? Can you buy them lunch? Can you make them lunch? Can you send them cookies? Be realistic about what you can afford and support your network by contributing to it. A photographer trading prints with a model, that's viable and awesome, but you have to be upfront as the photographer. This is a specific look that I'm going for. Maybe the model wants another look. Let her do that (or him) and take some extra shots just for them. Let them have that look and take a couple of shots of what they wanted to or whatever. But you can't just go around looking for people to do things for you and give things to you and constantly be on this, like, self thing. It has to be an actual collaboration where everybody is contributing in some way to each other. And part of that involves not letting yourself be taken advantage of, either if you find yourself really pouring your heart and soul into a project. Know when to pull the brakes and know when to either solidify a contract, or get a payment, or whatever. There is a lot of the art world that kind of involves free work - putting together a spec, putting together a pitch, putting together a plan. All of that usually happens before a deposit comes, but if it doesn't look like that deposit is coming, you may want to shift your gear because you're going to put as much effort and energy into the next thing as you would into this.
This is probably the hardest thing I have ever learned and I still struggle with this. You have to be nice to everyone. I don't totally struggle with that, but I struggle with the idea that you don't have to be their friend or work with them. Not everyone is going to get along. They just aren't. And that's OK. You can meet someone, not click, and move on.
The best example I realized recently and this is for fellow fans of The Office. (If you haven't watched The Office and you want to watch The Office, there are some spoilers ahead.) If you've seen The Office, you know everyone loves Jim and Pam. Jim is, like, the perfect guy. He's so sweet, amazing, wonderful, and, like, the best guy ever to Pam. I mean, so much so that, in the last episode, one of the questions at the panel is, "Pam, how could you not realize how great Jim is?" But, remember the character played by Amy Adams? To her, Jim was a jerk who strung her along, on-again, off-again dating, and then randomly breaks up with her on a boat where she is stuck for the rest of the night, and she doesn't know anybody else. Total jerk move, Jim. And then there's Karen. She moved to Scranton to be with Jim, and to her, he was never fully committed. He broke her heart. She cried forever over him. He would do things, like, he made her stay living at a hotel instead of agreeing to her getting an apartment down the street from him because it was, quote too close to his place. He lied about liking Pam. I mean, he was a total jerk boyfriend, but to Pam, Jim was pretty perfect. And, you know, obviously, he was a really bad fit for these other women. So in the long term, it was better for them that he broke up with them. But to some people, it's just not going to work, and to some, it's going to be a perfect fit. And that's OK. As long as you're not, like, actually being a jerk to everyone, or breaking the law, or doing toxic things, and the people around you are just, like, terrified of you, so they kiss your butt all day long. Like, that's not healthy. But if you're a good person, it's OK to just connect with the people who kind of go with your flow.
Find people you can contribute to and learn from and work to build up the people around you and stay in touch with the people you meet. Even if it's only, like, once every six months, you let go through the pile of business cards that you've collected and you send them an email. Or, maybe, you have a little email list and you send out updates, or you go through social media and send a little, "Hey, how's it going? Just wanted to say hi! I hope things are well. Let me know if you need anything." There was one person, we messaged each other on LinkedIn, like a year apart. One would message, and, because neither of us was really on LinkedIn, six months later, the other one would reply, and then forever later, the other one would reply. I mean, that's not for everyone, but hey, it worked for us! Literally, after several years of this, we ended up connecting and we worked on a couple of projects together. So, you never know. The most important thing about networking is to do it, to connect with people genuinely. Don't just do it to see what you can get out of it. This sounds super, like, high and mighty and whatever, but live to be of service to others. You know, it's OK to be hired for your work, but work to help facilitate others while working on your dreams. I feel like, especially in the creative world, if we all did that, we would just be lifting each other up a lot more and it would be more of, like, how can we help each other and how can we collaborate in actual collaboration? So, yeah, that's a simple thing.
I just realized I didn't actually cover how do you network? Like, where do you find people? Honestly, go to Vistaprint. I'm not paid. They're not a sponsor. That's just a thing. Wait for them to have a sale where it's, like, 20 bucks for five hundred business cards. Or, if you know you don't think you're going to use that many, it's, like, ten dollars for one hundred, or whatever. Spend ten bucks on business cards. Make a business card that's got your name and some basic contact info. Make it super generic if you're not sure what your actual career path is going to be. Go places, like once you know film festivals and things like that are happening again. Bring them with you. Carry them in your purse. I've given my business card out to the most random people because we just get to talking and they're like, "Oh, you do blah blah blah?" And I go, "Oh yeah, here," and I give them my card. You can also ask people for their cards. If they don't have a card, you can connect with them on social media. You can also join Facebook groups. That's a little bit less successful, in my opinion, because usually if somebody has time to be living on Facebook, they aren't doing a lot. I mean, it depends. Sometimes some people are active and busy in life, and they're also on Facebook a lot. But I've found that a lot in those groups are do things for me. "How can you help me?" "I need this." So just kind of find your way in that carefully. But, yeah, when you're at places, once the world is open again and you're able to connect with people, start conversations, go to not just your own film screening. If you're at a festival, go to other film screenings, go up afterward and talk to the filmmakers. Go to any of the mixers that most festivals have once those are happening again. For now, there are a lot of Zoom calls and live chats and things like that where you can connect with people, so I would just look for those as well and just find ways to meet people. It does kind of suck. You do kind of have to be a little extroverted. I usually end up standing in the corner, terrified, and then my husband, like, talks me into talking to somebody. And as soon as I get going, I'm OK. But it may mean that before you can network, you just have to find one person who can help you talk to people or who can talk to people for you or whatever.
So, yeah, anyway, this was kind of short and sweet. Hopefully, it's helpful. I know it's kind of all over the place and very vague, but these things were kind of on my mind and I just wanted to share. Stay tuned for future episodes. Be sure to like and subscribe and all of that stuff. I'm trying to get these out more regularly. It may be kind of like this, where I record a bunch and just release them all at once. I'm trying to get on to a pattern of every Monday, but feel free to reach out if you have any questions or if there's something we've covered that you want to know more about. You can reach us at filmmakingactually(at)gmail(dot)com. You can also follow us on Instagram, at Space Dream Productions, and on Facebook at Space Dream Productions. OK. I think that's it. Bye! You've been listening to Filmmaking (Actually) with Koura Linda, a Space Dream Productions podcast. Subscribe to us on any or all the podcast platforms, but we especially recommend our sponsor Anchor. If you like what you hear, leave us five-star ratings and positive reviews on iTunes and Stitcher. It helps more listeners like you discover the show. But the best thing you can do, if you really like the show, is to tell a friend. Want to leave a comment or ask a question? Email us at filmmakingactually(at)gmail(dot)com. This is Spacey speaking and remember, the opposite of networking is not working. Get it? And we'll see you next time.
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