How To Get Connected and Stay Connected
As we all know, networking is crucial to the Hollywood game. A personal recommendation can go a long way toward advancing your career in a town teeming with writers eager to get ahead.
The twist is that many writers despise networking. Networking can produce serious anxiety in those who worry that they’ll come off as awkward. Just as importantly: many of us don’t have time to do the networking necessary to advance our careers — many of us have responsibilities both at home and at our day jobs — and what little free time we have, we’d like to spend writing.
But since networking is crucial for your career, let’s think of a few ways to take your networking game up a notch.
No 1 – Consider an internship
If you live near Hollywood, there are plenty of internships in the entertainment industry to be had. Internships are time-consuming and often require long hours, and chances are you won’t get paid, so it isn’t for everyone. The upside is that you’ll meet a number of people in the business as well as build your resume — and you might even move up the ranks to a paid position.
If you live outside of Hollywood, check your local television or radio station to see if they have any internships available. You may find that you get more hands-on experience if the station is small. Plus, you’ll make contacts who will likely serve you well later.
No 2 – Enroll in an industry-related class
Many colleges offer classes in the entertainment business, some of them even at night or online, to help with busy schedules. You’ll gather information from the class and connect with the professor, of course, but you’ll also meet other students who are looking to break into the business.
Those friends may turn out to be the decision-makers of the future, and if you stay friends with them, you’ll have a leg-up on the competition. And who knows maybe you’ll even find a new writing group or friends to trade drafts with — both win win for the up-and-coming screenwriter.
No 3 – Become a part of an online community dedicated to entertainment
There are a number of great online sites that feature groups for screenwriters of all types – like this one! These sites can help you find a local writing group, which can be helpful, or it can help you connect with others who might be good online critique partners. You can also stay up to date on news and events.
Like enrolling in a class, an online community can help you find friends in the business who turn out to be the decision-makers of the future. Always a bonus.
No 4 – Join a professional organization and attend panels, seminars, workshops and mixers
There are a number of industry organizations you can join before you actually start working in the business. One of the first steps in seizing control of your writing career is to start calling yourself a writer. These events are a perfect place to practice talking about your ideas and also to start introducing yourself as a writer.
Many of them feature panels and seminars you can attend over a weekend, where you can meet other like-minded individuals as well as network with the industry professionals who are there to speak. Mixers are a great way to meet people in a relaxed setting over the course of only a few hours.
No 5 – Check out alumni organizations
A number of universities have active alumni organizations that feature mixers and special events.
Some even have alumni groups specially dedicated to those working in entertainment. Find out if there’s a local chapter for your university and sign up. ScreenwritingU has a rich and active alumni group. The great thing about these organizations is that you already have something in common with whoever it is you meet, so it takes some of the pressure off.
No 6 – Maintain relationships with everyone you meet
Once you’ve meet all these new people, follow up with them. If you’ve gotten an email address or phone number, invite the contact out for lunch or coffee.
It’s easy to get the info and then let it languish on your desk, but the trick is to stay focused and turn that simple email address into a real relationship. Check in with your contacts every once in a while and maybe send them a card or a token gift near the holidays. You needn’t spend hours and hours doing this; just be diligent.
The goal is to build real relationships with other people interested in entertainment. You never know when those relationships might come in handy — a job, a recommendation, a referral — and you’ll be glad you spent the time growing your network. The fellow intern you met while working one summer might run studio executive one day. Seize the day to widen your list of contacts and help others as they help you.