It seems like all sorts of successful actors have an impressive network of connections of other actors and creative individuals that helped them rise to the level they’re at today. But how do you create meaningful connections with people in the industry when you feel like but one small fish in a great big ocean in the world of screen and stage? Here’s a list of DO’s and DON’T’s to help expand that network within the industry to help you create more and achieve greater success.
Be open to meeting new people. It might be stating the obvious, but to make new connections in the industry you have to actually be open to meeting new people. Sometimes it can feel scary to introduce yourself to a stranger, but often in environments like acting workshops or classes, many people are feeling the same way. It doesn’t hurt to make a new friend and taking that first step to introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you can make you both feel more comfortable, and you never know where that fledgling friendship could lead!
Only look to speak with people you think you can benefit from. While you may be looking to advance yourself in the industry, people can sense a phoney from a mile away and don’t tend to appreciate a purely transactional approach to relationships. Respect and authenticity with anyone you meet goes a long way and shows a lot about your character.
Take an approach of generosity and seek to lift each other up. Often the path to the most meaningful relationships in the industry is when you seek out to support one another and genuinely look out for each other’s best interests. Of course, you’d love someone to read for you when you’re self-taping, but the relationship isn’t going to thrive unless you’re willing to reciprocate that work for someone else as well. Actors can sometimes feel as if they’re in competition with everyone and so are hesitant to help someone else out. But there is space for heaps of people in this industry and helping someone up does not mean that you will miss out on an opportunity.
Get involved. The best way to make connections in the industry is to get involved in the industry. Take a new class, attend that workshop, audition for short films and indie and community theatre. Spending that time with other actors (and writers, directors, stage managers, producers and the countless other roles in the industry) is the best way to really get to know people and also show people who you are and what you can do. Meeting more creative people means that you can share different ideas that you have cooking and if they’re on the same page, you can pool your skills and create something awesome together! Auditioning for a full time acting school can be great for establishing deep relationships with actors and also graduates from other creative areas of the school, as well as expose you to different industry professionals who can become familiar with you and your work. Heading along to workshops with various directors is another way for industry professionals to see you in action – and if you manage to make an impression you may just make it into the casting room on their next project.
Expect industry professionals to give you exorbitant levels of time and energy. While approaching someone in a theatre foyer to express your appreciation for their work can be a lovely thing, don’t then expect them to read your 3-hour long play and meet up for weekly mentoring sessions. There are some incredibly kind and generous people in the arts who are very happy to meet young artists, however often their time is heavily contested. Remember they are not obligated to give you advice or watch your latest work – if someone you respect offers to help you out that’s great, but respect their time and energy before making big asks of someone you’ve just met.
Look out for networking events and mentoring programs. While successful industry professionals don’t have endless time to invest in young artists, many do invest a great deal of time and energy into structured networking and mentoring programs. The arts is a beautiful industry where people recognise the importance of investing in fresh faces and are willing to make that effort to support you. Especially in the wake of COVID-19, many companies have taken the time to sit down with new artists and work out what next steps can be taken together to create new and exciting work and develop future faces of the arts. Do your googles, follow local production companies on social media, and apply for these programs when the opportunities arise! Having a clear idea of what you want to contribute to the industry and what you can offer is really helpful in these instances.
Watch current and local work! Support those who are getting their work out to an audience and doing cool creative things locally. Local industry is the crucial foundation for more widespread work and it’s so important that artists come together to support each other. You never know who will be at that opening night or in that theatre foyer – and bringing a warm and supportive attitude and a generosity of spirit to these contexts can open up some great conversations. If this feels a little intimidating, go along with another creative friend so that you can be moral support for each other. At the end of the day, appreciate the fresh work being made on the stage and screen in your local industry knowing that this is the local industry that you want to be a part of.
While there’s no fast track to becoming best buds with the top dogs of Hollywood, by investing yourself in the local industry around you and showing up with the right attitude and approach, you can make some awesome relationships that can really elevate your work and position in the industry. Through supporting one another and embracing collaboration, we can make better and more exciting work and strengthen the network of creative people around us.