How to network effectively as an actor, in order to gain a good reputation
The age-old saying in this business is that it’s who you know, rather than what you know. It doesn't matter how talented you are, if you don’t have any contacts in the industry, you will pretty much go to waste.
So how do you go about networking, and networking properly? They key things to remember is that everyone is your friend, and they are all humans.
Everyone is your friend. It’s obvious that the Casting Director can get you a job, so you shoot for them first. But what about the ushers at the theatre? Do you consider that they are often budding industry workers who work in theatres part-time to help fund their own artistic ventures? Chat them up any time you’re at a show, see what they do in their own time, and you never know who you might discover. They may be producing a short film next week, and desperately looking for a lead actor and you could just fit the bill! Or they may even know who is casting the upcoming season, meaning you can write to them ahead of time and see if you can squeeze into an audition if you’re lucky.
We are all humans. So talk to people like they are a human, not a profession. If you’re at an after-party or in the bar post-show, don’t go running up to your favourite director/casting director/agent and just spout on for 10 minutes about how your dream is to be a big Hollywood star. Instead, ask them about themselves - start a conversation, and be genuine about it. When it comes to your turn, you can mention in passing that you’re an actor, but don’t make a big deal out of it. who knows - you could even become more than just acquaintances, and that will stand you in good stead next time they’re on the lookout for acting talent. Who would you rather work with - an annoying actor, or a friend that you get on with pretty well? Exactly, so hold a conversation like they are real people.
Following networking events, follow up your meeting with a quick text or email, if they gave you contact details. Just a brief ‘Nice to meet you last night. See you around.’ and perhaps reference a topic of conversation that was memorable, make a light joke even. Unless they keep correspondence going or you really hit it off, don’t carry on texting/emailing every week. Wait until you have a show on, and invite them to come and see you, or say ‘It’d be great to see you there’. This way, you’re using the contact to your advantage, without hounding them, and they may be flattered you thought of them after all this time. Or maybe not, and they’ll miss the show. It’s important to remain realistic about people you network with. They are busy people, and while they will likely remember every face they see, someone else may have importance over you.
Actors are your friends, but you shouldn't prioritise them. After all, they are trying to get a job just like you. I'm not dissuading you from making actor friends, of course. It’s essential to have friends in the same sector as you, but you need to be aware of who can and can’t help your career before you invest too much time and money in maintaining a relationship with someone just in the hopes of a job. Leave actor friends for your spare time, keeping a genuine and non-competitive air to the friendship. So try and break away from the actors at parties, and focus on those who have more influence on your rent-bill that is due next week.
So, keep it genuine. Don’t rule out anyone just because they don’t have a flashy title. And most of all, just be nice and interesting.