February 17, 2023
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Your Guide to Networking in the Film Industry

Chris Cullari
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From the outside, Hollywood might seem like an impenetrable fortress. Gatekeepers man their posts, overlooking moats full of rejection. But there’s a secret way in, an exciting back door that can create opportunities for anyone willing to put in the effort: networking in the film industry. 

Despite the importance of this skill, no one is born knowing how to do it. Networking in the film industry is as much of an art as writing, directing, producing, acting - and it takes just as much practice.

The good news is it’s never too late to start. If you follow these tips for networking in the film industry, you’ll be well on your way to making a lasting first impression.

Why is networking important?

Before we dive in, let’s take a second to explore why networking in the film industry is an essential component to a successful career.

A Beginner's Guide to Networking in the Film Industry - Wrapbook - Mental Confusion
If you’re new to networking in the film industry, it can seem overwhelming. - SOURCE

Hollywood is a town built on relationships. Entertainment is a difficult, expensive business, and people like to work with talent they know and trust. If you’ve never set foot in the business before, it’s easy for someone to tell you “no.” The best way to a “yes” is through getting to know people. Lots of people.
Hollywood networking also broadens your horizons and introduces you to people from diverse corners of the industry. Filmmaking is a team sport, with each project relying on the expertise of dozens or hundreds of talented craftspeople and dealmakers. You never know where a great idea or contact might come from.

Most importantly, networking in the film industry is a path to building lasting relationships. It’s about more than going to the right parties, shaking hands, and smiling. Successful film networking is a combination of trying networking tools, finding the right opportunities, and finding a balance between what you need and what you can offer. 

Know your role

Before you start setting up coffees or attending entertainment industry networking events, take time to think about who you are and what you want. Are you a producer seeking financing? A director seeking scripts? Or a writer seeking a producer?

Where, when, and how you network should take cues from your goals. A director seeking scripts should prioritize writer’s mixers, while an agent looking for the next Timothée Chalamet would probably have more success at acting showcases and afterparties. 

If you are more than one of these things, great! You don’t have to limit yourself or your creativity, but it’s smart to approach each Hollywood networking opportunity with a clear identity so you don’t overwhelm potential partners with ideas and requests. 

Remember: film networking isn’t just about other people. It’s about what you bring to the table, too. Presenting yourself the way you want to be seen will help new contacts remember you in the future. 

Craft your pitch

Once you’ve landed on how you want to present yourself, it’s time to craft an attention grabbing pitch. This will probably sound slightly different depending on how you’re choosing to present yourself.

If you’re the aforementioned producer seeking financing, you’ll want to practice a thirty-second “elevator pitch” that sells the film you’re producing. You should be able to summarize the core characters and conflict in a couple of sentences that leaves the person hearing the pitch wanting more.

If you’re a director, know what kind of projects you’re looking for. You don’t have put yourself in too small of a box (“I direct Latinx sci-fi horror films about motherhood.”) but be clear about what interests you. 

If you’ve just started networking in the film industry, this may feel like you’re limiting your opportunities, but it’s better to know your voice than to sound like you’ll take any opportunity.

Remember that Hollywood networking is about saying enough to be memorable, but not so much that you hijack the conversation. 

A Beginner's Guide to Networking in the Film Industry - Wrapbook - Stopwatch
Film networking is about brevity and impact. Don’t be afraid to practice your pitch with a stopwatch! - SOURCE

This is important for two reasons. First, everyone has “something they’re working on.” You don’t want to be the person with a laundry list of details that puts the rest of the room to sleep. 

Second, brevity is the source of wit - and most good ideas. A punchy, powerful idea conveyed in one sentence is much more likely to stick in someone’s mind than a meandering one, no matter how personal or well thought out.

Listen first

Picture this: you’ve spent six months practicing your pitch and networking in the film industry. You’ve met a great group of passionate film fans, but you’re still waiting for that big opportunity to get in front of someone who can help you advance in your career. And then, one night, it happens! You find yourself in casual conversation with the producer/director/executive of your dreams. The pressure is on. Your pitch is on the tip of your tongue.

A Beginner's Guide to Networking in the Film Industry - Wrapbook - Networking Mixer
You’ve spent months practicing how to network in the film industry. Your moment has arrived. Stay cool. - SOURCE

Stop. Take a deep breath. Remember yourself that listening is as important as talking when it comes to networking in the film industry. You might only get one opportunity to shoot your shot, and you don’t want to waste it. 

Wait for a natural segue in the conversation; a jumping off point that allows you to share your passion and needs without seeming desperate or aggressive.  If that segue never comes, that’s okay! Talk about what they want to talk about and you’ll find that new doors open naturally. It’s more important to make a connection and form a genuine relationship with someone new than it is to rattle off your pitch. 

At the end of the day, the most effective networking results in friendships, in shared trust, in the kind of camaraderie that lifts all boats. This means you won’t successfully connect with everyone you’d like to - but that’s part of the process.  It means you’re doing it right. A few meaningful relationships are much more powerful than a hundred business cards.

Attend film networking events

Of course, these opportunities will only come your way if you put in the effort to pound the pavement - and what better place to do that than at in Los Angeles or New York? These two cities are home base for networking in the film industry because they are host to a wealth of film screenings, Q&As, and festivals. 

(Attending film festivals is such an important part of building a career in the film industry that we’ve published a guide to mastering them, as well as a list of upcoming festivals to keep your eye on!)

A Beginner's Guide to Networking in the Film Industry - Wrapbook - Theater Marquee
Networking in the film industry should be as much about celebrating the art you love as it is making new connections. - SOURCE

Once you pick an event to attend, don’t stress about who you might meet or who might be able to help you. Let your passion guide you! The people who attend these events are film fans first and foremost, and it’s best to approach them that way. 

Have your goals in mind (and your pitch drilled into your muscle memory) but have fun. Let the conversation flow naturally. Think less about Hollywood networking and more about making friends.

And if you don’t live in LA or New York, that’s okay. Many cities have active film communities, whether that means they’re watching, making, or discussing them. They most likely advertise their events online, so seek them out and get involved.

Find your tribe - in and out of the industry

In fact, some of the best Hollywood networking you can do might not actually be in Hollywood. This is especially true when you’re just getting started. LA is a small pond with too many big fish and it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.  

There’s nothing wrong with learning how to network in the film industry wherever you are; however small, however local. The importance of networking in the film industry isn’t just about meeting a studio executive who can make your dreams come true - it’s about making your dreams come true with the people already around you. 

Your family and friends might have the skills and talent to make a movie. Maybe they just need your encouragement. And that doctor down the street - you know, the one who throws an Oscar party every year? - might have the financial clout to pitch in on a budget.

This networking can also extend to meeting people outside of film-centric circles. The best relationships often form over shared interests. Do you volunteer at an animal shelter? Play frisbee golf on the weekends? Flex those networking muscles wherever you spend time.

Jump online

No matter where you live, it’s easy to expand your film networking reach by jumping online.

There’s no better way to network with a worldwide audience than through social media. Apps like Twitter and Instagram give you incredible access to people working at all levels of the industry, while others, like YouTube and TikTok, allow you to broadcast your art to billions of people at once. 

A Beginner's Guide to Networking in the Film Industry - Wrapbook - Apps
If you’re wondering how to network in the film industry, you don’t have to look much further than your phone. - SOURCE

But like any strategy for networking in the film industry, you’ll only get out what you put in. For instance, if you’re a comedian, it’s not enough to have a Twitter account that posts a joke every other week when the mood strikes. You should be posting at least once a day and interacting with other accounts both at, above, and below your level of success. 

This kind of networking is about building community and being a constant, unforgettable, positive presence in the lives of other users.   

Expand beyond social

Getting online doesn’t mean relying exclusively on social media. 

A vibrant community of film blogs and forums still exist in the wilds of the internet. Whether it’s legacy sites like Slash Film and No Film School, or subscription newsletters like Formerly Dangerous, Hollywood networking moved online in the early-aughts and never looked back. 

While these sites aren’t the entertainment news juggernauts they once were, they still attract an engaged fanbase of film lovers and industry professionals who chop it up in the comments. Even better, the community members who stuck around are die hards; true blue film fans. Their passion will fuel yours.

Another hidden benefit of networking on sites like these is the relaxed nature that comment section anonymity provides. Since you don’t know who “GeorgeLucas420” really is, it’s easier to focus on a “friends first” style of relationship building, instead of more mercenary Hollywood networking.

Add value

Of course, the best way to make connections through Hollywood networking is by providing value to someone else. Having something they need. It might seem obvious, but the most successful film networking happens when both parties get something out of an exchange.

A Beginner's Guide to Networking in the Film Industry - Wrapbook - Helping Others
Helping each other out is Hollywood networking at its finest. - SOURCE

That’s what can make networking so frustrating. That big exec already has an overwhelming amount of projects on their plate. That agent already has too many clients. 

But maybe they do need an assistant. Or a restaurant recommendation. Or a meeting with that in-demand composer who just happened to be the best man at your wedding.

These might not be the things you set out to network about, but they are the bedrock of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” Hollywood networking that can advance your career. 

Follow up

No matter how small the initial “in” might seem, listening and deciding where you can add value is another essential piece of how to network in the film industry: it allows you to follow up.
Even if it’s as simple as providing that restaurant recommendation, you can ask for an email address or a phone number to send more information. Or, if you give the recommendation in person, ask for contact information so you can follow up to see how their experience was. This might open another door of conversation. Then another. Then another. Five years down the line, you might find yourself with a new best friend. 

Who just happens to buy shows for Netflix.

Keep going

Finally, remember that networking in the film industry is a career-long process. Meeting people is the first step, but the real goal of Hollywood networking is to build long lasting, meaningful relationships. That won’t happen overnight. 

Hone your pitch and identity, maintain your social media presence, attend as many film networking events as you can, and make sure to follow up and check in with your new contacts every couple of months. 

Wrapping Up

Film networking can be an imposing skill to learn, but it’s a rewarding skill to master - both personally and professionally. At its core, the film industry is an ever-growing community of artists and there’s room for you, too. You just have to put yourself out there. 

After you’ve taken the first step and got the hang of how to network in the film industry, take those skills and hit the film festival circuit or dive even deeper and become a business savvy filmmaker.

Disclaimer

At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

About the author
Chris Cullari

Chris Cullari is a writer/director based out of Los Angeles. His most recent film, THE AVIARY, is available for streaming on Paramount Plus and Showtime. You can find him tweeting about monsters, pro-wrestling, and horror movies.

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