Film festivals are great environments for making powerful connections that will shape your career and ultimately change your life. But how to make those connections depends on you. Creative partnerships can form in all kinds of ways, as diverse as the people forming them. But here is some basic guidance for what we call festival networking (the grown-up version of making friends).
1. Be nice
It only helps your cause to show courtesy to those around you. Hold the door. Hold the elevator. Pick up a tab now and then! That’s the stuff that impresses people and creates opportunities for conversations. That lead to meetings, and sometimes to life-changing partnerships.
Be nice to festival volunteers too. They’re there for the love of film, trying to make the experience great for everyone. And you never know, one of them might be head of programming one day. Plus they can help you get in the back door at parties! Be nice in the post-screening Q&A. Don’t be that guy who points out the plot holes or asks about the budget (it puts the filmmaker in an awkward position, as that is never public information).
Be nice whenever you can. It’s the first step to being known and being trusted.
2. Be normal
Definitely talk to the people you want to meet at a festival. Definitely be prepared with your own story for the moments you find yourself in conversation with potential collaborators.
But definitely DO NOT hand anyone your script!
Don’t do it.
There is a time and a place to share your script with someone who can help get it made, but a first meeting at a festival is not it. Confronting a stranger with your project is overly aggressive, a major turnoff, a recipe for failure. Have we made our point?
The festival can be a hectic time for everyone involved. The networking alone can be exhausting. So be normal (or at least be yourself!) and let relationships form naturally. If you get along with someone there will be plenty of time to talk shop later.
3. Know your limits
Festivals are hectic, with screenings and panels and parties and meetings every hour of every day. Take care of yourself so you don’t burn out or lose your mojo when you have an opportunity to boldly make one of those life-changing connections.
The usual considerations apply: Control your alcohol consumption. Stay hydrated. Get plenty of rest. Open bars, crowded schedules, and late nights will make that challenging, but If you’re exhausted or drunk (or both), it’s a lot harder to connect.
Remember, this is fun work but it is work.
4. Follow up
Everyone needs a bit of space to adjust to normal business schedules and recover from festival life (see above). Wait a few days after a festival ends before following up on new connections.
But do follow up. A simple reminder of where you met and what you might have talked about will jog their memory. Offer thanks for the conversation and propose a next step (pro tip: the next step is probably something simple, like a meeting or a referral; the next step is not asking for a funding commitment or bombarding them with writing samples).
5. Keep reading the blog and check out LunacyU!
Do you have other questions about surviving and thriving on the festival circuit? Ask away in the comments below. The Lunacy Productions Blog is full of helpful advice on the logistics and practicality of making friends in the film business. Friends who will work with you, create with you — and who could ultimately change your life!
And for more information on networking, industry relations, independent production, and indie film financing, check out Stu Pollard’s classes at LunacyU.com!