As I’ll tell you later on in this blog, I started out on Stage 32 knowing absolutely nothing about networking. To me, it was this big, scary word that implied a strategic, artificial approach and I wanted nothing to do with that. The more I build relationships here though, many that lead to getting work, the more I realize that’s not entirely true. Sure, it’s more than clicking 'add' or 'accept' and you should be aware of who you need to network with, but beyond that it’s just about interacting consistently with those people in a positive way. In this blog, I’ve shared some tips I’ve learned that have not only allowed me to create meaningful relationships with some pretty incredible people, but have also allowed me to maintain a steady stream of work for a little over a year now, as opposed to formerly getting one gig every year or two. Ready? Here goes!
Contrary to popular belief, networking isn’t about getting your information out there. That's part of it, but first and foremost, networking is about creating relationships. And not just relationships based on 'what can I get from this person?' but genuine relationships built on, 'Do I like talking to this person, do we have things in common?' Your strategy may be to connect with filmmakers or producers and that's great, but when you connect with them, that doesn’t mean you automatically bombard them with, 'PLEASE READ MY SCRIPT,' or 'HERE ARE ALL SEVEN OF MY LINKS TO MY MUSIC.' Nor should you use all caps. Ever. Do you like commercial breaks? I don’t. Sure, they might be a necessary evil, but you can at least do the world a favor and not be the screaming car salesman. All relationships start with “hello” - whether it’s a personal or professional relationship.
I get somewhere between five to ten messages per week. About half of those messages are from people who I have never spoken to before, which is totally cool - I love meeting new people! What I don’t like, is when only one or two of them maybe ask me how I’m doing and most of the messages just contain links to the sender’s work. Not even a "hello." Truth be told, I usually delete these messages. You haven’t taken the time to introduce yourself, much less get to know me at all. It’s a careless approach and if you’re not willing to put the care and effort into creating a relationship with me first, I’m less inclined to take time out of my busy schedule to look at your work. I make time for the things and people I care about. Make me care!
In summary, don’t treat people like they’re just stepping stones to the next gig. Take the time to get to know them. This will not only make you more memorable to them, but it will make them more inclined to care about and potentially carry forth, your message. Make the conversation (because that’s what you should be having) about them. Make the person you are talking to feel valued and engaged in the conversation.
Screenwriters are people. Composers are people. Filmmakers, producers, actors - even executives - are all people. Ask them how they’re doing! Ask them what they’re working on. In some situations where you may be crunched for time, you may have to cut to the chase a little faster, but at the very least, showing that you care about things and people apart from yourself and your bubble, will make people want to get to know you. How does the saying go... 'You attract more bees with honey than vinegar', or something?
If you’re so busy bombarding people with your links, or maybe you’re not interacting with people at all, how will they learn anything about you? You need people to move your career forward and part of that is letting them get to know you. Here on Stage 32, for example, we have the Lounge - a gold mine of opportunity if you ask me. If you’re using the Lounge strictly to post about yourself, you’re really missing out on a huge opportunity to build those relationships that you need to move forward in your career. Keeping with the Lounge as an example, it’s a great place to let people in on your interests. If other people find your content interesting, they will start to become interested in you. It can be absolutely terrifying sharing content online. What if people don’t find the article you posted interesting? Alternatively, how will you know unless you try? In addition to posting interesting content; industry news, tips, interviews, etc., the Lounge is also an incredible place to learn and grow. Sure, you can sit back and read comments on other members’ posts, but an even better approach is to take control of your education, by making the jump and asking those burning questions that have been in the back of your head for ages. When I first went into the Composing section of the Lounge, I felt so insignificant compared to the other composers posting in there, due to my age and life experience at that point, but once I started asking those burning questions, it allowed me to start learning, experiencing and growing as a result of those experiences. If you want people to notice that you exist, start interacting with them!
Because while it’s about getting to know people and letting people get to know you, it’s also about putting your best face forward. Sure, it’s fine to be a little goofy if that’s your thing, but if u wnt ppl 2 take u srsly, u need 2 b somewhat profesh lol. How many of you just cringed while reading that? Yeah, it hurt to write it. In all seriousness, using filmmakers as an example, they are trusting you with their babies. Using proper spelling and grammar is a way of showing that you are not only professional, but competent and worthy of that filmmaker’s trust. When going to meet your significant other’s parents, would you wear a muscle shirt and sweatpants, or would you put a little effort into your appearance? Which do you think will lead to a more positive response?
Another way of elevating your online appearance is punctuation. It may seem silly, but so much can be lost in translation through e-mail and online messaging. So help your reader out! If you’re really excited about something, sprinkle in a few exclamation points here and there! If exclamation points aren’t your thing, that’s cool too. The point is, this is another way to let people in on your personality and let them get to know you. If you don’t use any punctuation, it will make it very hard for your reader to understand what you are trying to get across.
Similarly, think about the formatting of your e-mail. Has it been a while since you started a new paragraph? If you send a message that is thirty sentences long and just one monster paragraph, it is going to be visually overwhelming to your reader. Depending on their schedule and/or how they’re feeling the day they open your message, seeing that may deter them from reading it. More important than just getting your information across, is getting your message across. Use things like punctuation, grammar, and formatting to present the information in a way that it can be easily digested, rather than just splatting the words on the page. That said, turn caps lock off.
When we decline network requests from people, there are good reasons and perhaps not so good reasons for doing so and sometimes these reasons can vary depending on your networking strategy. Good reasons might be: their profile is blank, they have no picture, or their bio is either blank or filled with links to their work, (which again, provides minimal information about yourself at best). Some not so good reasons to decline a network request would be, they’re from the opposite side of the world, you’re a screenwriter and they’re a makeup artist, or they don’t have a ton of experience.
Let me tell you a little story. It’s called TAXII.
I joined Stage 32 in January of 2014 and I let my account sit here and rot until roughly May or June of 2014. I decided that summer, that I was going to start putting my account to use and put myself out there on Stage 32. So one day, I accepted a network request from a director in Mumbai, India - his name was Arunjit Borah. I didn’t think much of it at the time, other than, 'Oh hey, that’s pretty cool. I’m from Florida and I just connected with someone in India. Gotta love technology.' Later that year, I was just perusing Stage 32, when an instant message pops up on my screen. It was from Arunjit.
We exchanged “hello, how are you’s” and then I asked him what he was working on. He said he was working on a thriller short and he told me a little bit about the film. I told him it sounded like an awesome idea. He then asked to hear some of my work. This is where I sent him a link to my SoundCloud page. After listening to my work, he told me that he liked my work, but none of it seemed appropriate for the thriller genre at the time. I told him this was because I had the opportunity to score a thriller before. He thought about it for a second and then told me, “Well, maybe we can try it out.”
A year later, Arunjit’s team and I have created a product that we are all incredibly excited about sharing with the world and it was all the result of both sides being open minded. If you’re not getting as much work as you would like, maybe think about accepting a few more network requests. You can’t walk through a closed door.
There are a few things that go into this one. First, read people’s profiles. If you’re a screenwriter and you’re trying to get a manager, make sure you read the person’s profile before you find yourself asking a composer to represent you. When I say “target the right people,” I don’t mean be selective about who you allow into your circle. If that’s how you want to go about it, that’s fine, but I am not suggesting that. I think it’s totally fine to connect with whoever you want to connect with, because you never know who can help you move forward in your career, or who will turn out to be your new best friend ('we all need somebody to lean on...' Professionally speaking though, the people you contact regarding your work should be people in fields that are conducive to your goals. Composers, for example, might want to seek out directors, producers and screenwriters. Why? Well, our goal is to score films. Who are the people who make films? Directors and producers. And nowadays there are quite a few screenwriters I’ve met who have gotten into filmmaking. So in this case, it’s good to focus on connecting with these people, but talking to a gaffer isn’t going to end your career.
If after reading this blog you realize maybe you’re not networking as effectively as you could, it’s okay! You can turn things around. Full disclosure, I used to be what some refer to as a 'carpet bomber.' I would sit on Stage 32 for an hour or so at a time and send random people on my chat list links to my work. I might have said "hello" to a few of them, but the conversation didn’t go very far once I sent them my links without them asking. I did the same thing in the Lounges from time to time! Terrible, I know. Once I realized how terribly I was going about networking, I was so embarrassed, but if you start using proper networking practices consistently and start creating a new 'face' for yourself, people are usually willing to put that aside and start engaging with you once they’ve noticed the change. Since I made these changes, I’ve been offered nearly twenty job opportunities on Stage 32.
I hope this blog is a helpful tool to get you started and if you have any questions, feel free to comment below or send me a private message! Wishing you all the best in your careers and happy networking!
About Brandi Thomas
I am a film composer specializing in Orchestral/World music, and am best known for scoring films such as TAXII, MEMENTO MORI, and THE BLUSTERY DAY. I began composing when I was 14 years old and have had the incredible opportunity to work with directors in the United States and abroad, as a result of Stage 32. My primary influences include composers such as Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, Howard Shore, and James Horner, and currently my favorite composer is Michael Giacchino.
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