This post is based on material from producer Stu Pollard’s popular Film Independent seminars. Visit our new online education portal, lunacyu.com, for more comprehensive film production and financing resources!
We’ve talked before about the importance of establishing a dependable crew, cultivating relationships, and developing a network of industry contacts. Today, we’ll reveal a secret weapon as for all your social ambitions:
The “Thank You” note.
The “Thank You” note is a lost art. It’s rare enough to see a “Thank You” email, but a hand written card, delivered to a mailbox, is practically unheard of. But if someone has done you right — prompted you to think, encouraged you in your journey, offered insight on your problem — it’s both appropriate and impressive to formally thank them. Here’s why:
PUT IT IN WRITING
Every day of your life you are bombarded with information. What catches your attention? What do you habitually ignore? What fills you with dread? What makes you go, “Oo, what’s this?”
Guess what? The people you hope to connect with are no different. So take this set of feelings, and apply it to your potential industry contact (ie: lit manager, director, actor, casting agent, person-who-claims-to-know-Ben-Stiller). A thoughtful, personal “Thank You” will be an attention grabber and a pleasant surprise. You know what sort of reaction you want to spark. Go spark it!
LET’S GET PHYSICAL
Email addresses are more easily found than physical addresses. So emails are easier to send than “Thank You” notes. But really, are we in the business of doing things the easy way? Come on.
As long as you’re reaching out, you might as well create something tangible and memorable. Choose a tastefully colorful envelope that looks exciting among a stack of legal documents, bills, and sales fliers. Instead of the digital ephemera that can easily get buried in virtual space, you have now sent a tangible item that exists in someone’s actual space!
- Be specific. What did this person say or do that you found helpful? How has it made a difference? Did it brighten your day, remind you why you got into this business, make something ‘click’ for your story problem?
- Be brief. No need to hyperbolize or make it sound like this person changed your life (unless they really and truly did). A simple acknowledgment and gesture of genuine appreciation is all that’s required.
- Be useful. Offer something in return. Again, keep it real — consider your skill set and what you know of this person’s career. Do they need a website? A referral? A cool new playlist for their next gym workout? If you’re stumped, simply say, “If there is any way I can be of service, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
- Be contactable. Include your contact info (return address or email) with the note. That way if they want to take you up on your offer, it’s really easy to do.
OCCASIONS FOR THANKS
If you met someone at a festival and they gave you advice, they helped you. If you heard someone speak at a conference and were inspired, they helped you. If you had a general meeting with someone in your field and they took the time to share their insights with you, they helped you.
And any time someone helps you, it is worth your while to tell them so.
Productivity tip: make this a habit in your weekly rhythm. Schedule a regular time to consider your network and who you might thank. Keep “Thank You” cards on hand (fun postcards can work too). Have stamps.
SEND THE CARD
IMDb Pro and guild directories are perfect for looking up mailing addresses for industry pros and their representatives. If you can’t find direct contact for the person you want, their manager or agent is usually willing to forward mail to a client. Occasionally it also works to search: “[So-and-So] representation contact” for web pages that are public, but require deeper digging.
When it comes to making business connections, there’s a lot you have no control over. Saying thanks is a small but mighty action you can take to show — not merely tell — potential connections what you’re about. Take it from a familiar authority on the topic of entertainment industry networking:
“What I’m looking for is people I want to do business with.” —Stu Pollard
The two most important words in independent film are “Please,” and “Thank you.” We invite you to take both, shake them together, and sprinkle liberally in every interaction along your career path.
Want to really go for it? Try writing (and sending) one thank you note every week for 12 weeks. See if it makes any noticeable impact on your career.
And then, of course, you should comment below with your findings.