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NETWORKING: HOW TO DO IT AND WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU AS AN ACTOR

Gerald Langiri
March 21 / 2014

I like attending film related events. Name them: movie premiers, film/acting workshops and seminars, wrap parties (the ones I can manage to gate crush just incase I am not invited) etc  For the simple reason that I get to network and it is one of the sole reasons as to how I have managed to advance in my acting career. (On top of many other factors) but networking is one of the top 2 reasons after marketing. In fact, you really cannot separate the two if you ask me.

So what exactly is NETWORKING? 

www.career-advice.monster.co.uk defines networking as : “…getting to know people who can help you develop your career prospects. You don't need to be a big shot or the most outgoing person in the world to network effectively.”

What that means to you as an actor is basically selling and MARKETING your BRAND and to create or act upon a business opportunity- i.e., get an introduction to a producer/director/casting director/fellow actors or get to know of those private auditions for a role a series or movie.

A lot of good jobs/auditions never make it to the public or on or website(actors.co.ke)  or on that notice board at KNT.  They get filled by word of mouth, referrals and the more “out there you are”, the more often it happens this way.

Even if the audition is advertised, it HELPS ALOT (not a must but increases your chances) to know someone people inside the industry who can give you the inside info. They may even end up auditioning you and that will always make it a less stressful experience and besides, they’ll be friendlier and more receptive  to you in that audition room because they have met your acquaintance before opposed to a total stranger because that is just how human beings are, we are social creatures.

What is the goal of networking? Well, to get to know people in the film industry who matter and more importantly, getting people to know you by exchanging contacts and do follow up calls, meetings,auditions etc.

TIPS ON HOW TO NETWORK

1. Research on the people you are going to meet to start a good conversation. Yes,PROFESSIONAL STALKING! If attending a movie premier for example, get to know who the producer, director, actors of the movie are so that when you finally get to meet them in person, you will have something to talk about. Being knowledgeable about THEM is the strongest approach. It's just being prepared.

Be positive in your approach, be grateful, gracious and sincere. People like to be appreciated - they're impressed if you know something about them and their work. Everyone works with people they like not just those who are talented and hence the age old acting adage “Talent alone is not enough”. Research is key and google.com is one great website to get know more about people and information in general.

Say you meet a producer; a good ice breaker could be “hey, I'm so honored to finally meet you - Your film/series are phenomenal!   I think you did a great job in casting/ writing/directing that TV series/movie.I'd like to be in one your films. I am so and so, an actor. Here is my business card I’ll be looking forward to hear from you incase you have a project that fits me. (.This is hoping you actually have a business card, if not..Make one!).

These producers/directors etc will probably meet many people on the day and might forget you the next day. So a business card will come in handy to make you memorable.

2. First impressions count - both face-to-face and even via the phone or email. Always stay sharp. I get emails or phone call or facebook inboxes that read “Hi, Can you please hook me up with an acting gig?” My immediate thought is usually “who are you? How do you know me and what makes you so sure that I can “hook you up” with an acting gig? Do you know and understand what it is I do? Did someone tell you that I have an acting gig just sitting waiting for you to come inbox me so that I can “Hook you up?” etc etc.

Just like in point number one where you need to create a good icebreaker, you need to come up with a self introductory speech that can sell you within seconds. State your achievements, what project you are currently on, what auditions you have been attending and basically who you are and how you are doing something to get ahead in your acting career. How you convey your message in writing is also very important. I know the new generation of teenagers like to write "Xaxa, hae, pouwa" but start a message like that and you already ruin your first impressions. I mean, if you cant type well, how am I supposed to take you seriously?

DO NOT give your sob story either!! “ Hi, I have been auditioning with no luck” or “ I dint finish high school” or “I am an orphan and..” SO WHAT!! Do not make people feel pity/sorry for you in order to get work. That is emotional manipulation.

Like Gwyn Gillis says “Networking is like a blind date. You need to look and sound impressive! Be excited! “

So introduce yourself like " Hi, I'm________________ currently doing____________ in___________ with_________ because of my passion for__________________and my commitment to__________so that_________________will be a major success!. You can get to watch my showreel on youtube or my film at_________”

Short, precise and to the point.Write your "speech", practice it as if it were a monologue and PERFORM IT! Then whomever you are networking with will feel they haven't wasted time talking to you or that you desparately need them. No one likes needy people. Top professionals in film premieres hate getting stuck in the corner talking to someone out of politeness who will have little value in their life/career. Make yourself valuable to this person.

 Do not oversell yourself either because, if you really are “a very talented actor and the best the industry has ever seen..The next big thing that we have all been waiting for” you would have done something by now and be somewhere.

3. Don't ask directly for a job. Again, it makes you look desperate and people can take advantage of that. Networking is not a job fair; it's an opportunity to gather potentially useful information and build your network.

4. Know when to stop. Don’t bore people with how great you are or want to talk for hours on end. Give that producer just enough time to get a taste of your personality and intelligence. It's more about those qualities than your credits anyway. Say hello, perform your introductory speech, see if there's any interest to continue talking ...if  not(they could be busy and have no time), leave graciously of course having left your business card. Lastly:

5. Patience is a virtue – Networking is a continuous process just like marketing yourself and auditioning. You need to keep on doing it. Meet people. Don’t expect to land a job at your first meeting. It is laying your foundation and planting your seeds for the fruits that will come later on in life.

By Gerald Langiri

You may also want to read this:

-MARKETING 101 FOR ACTORS AND FILMMAKERS - PRESS RELEASE

-HOW TO KICK START YOUR ACTING CAREER IN KENYA

-HOW TO ELIMINATE YOUR COMPETITION..

-5 REASONS WHY MOST ACTORS DONT TAKE TIME TO LEARN THE BUSINESS OF ACTING

-MARKETING 101: HOW TO GET NOTICED AS AN ACTOR AND GET THOSE ROLES.

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