The biggest bone I have to pick with going to film school is having to treat every single opportunity like a networking event. Just recently, I was in earshot of a person who said they’d attend the writer’s strike just so they could get some informationals out of the way. Luckily, my teacher overheard the conversation and urged this person to stay at home. As much as I love going to film school and possibly being a part of future entertainment, I hate having to play “social” games. That said, let me tell you about some of my biggest gripes with networking at film school.
The most annoying thing about networking is having to be cordial with everyone. No matter how horrible a person may be, you have to act like you like them. After all, they could be the next Wes Anderson. This practice has saved many students from burning very lucrative bridges, but at what cost? Personally, I’d rather make movies with the people I like and go from there. Still, I know just like anyone else that a connection is a connection, and one of those may lead to a job.
The other thing I hate about networking is the inherently competitive nature of most conversations. I’ve gone to parties where people literally count how many projects they’re working on at any given time just so they can seem more interesting. News flash, we saw that last project and it looked rushed. Quality should come before quantity. It doesn’t matter that you’re currently producing three theses and writing a musical; if they suck, they suck. Maybe if you weren’t so busy bragging about how much busier you are, your projects would be a little better. I get it though, everyone has imposter syndrome, so you have to prove who you are. The longer your resume is, the less likely people are going to ask you what friend got you past the doorbell.
The last gripe I have with networking is having to be ready for every single type of question. For example, if someone asks you “What made you want to be a showrunner?” you have to have an interesting short story that explains your own character struggle. What makes that even harder is that you have to know what genre your story is. Is your story a comedy, a horror, or a tragedy? If it’s a mix of the first and third one, I suggest pitching your life as a dark comedy. It’s a lot more profound than saying that you just want to write about “life’s struggles.” Still, it sucks that people are only interested in you if your story is producible.
That’s really all the time I have to rant about how much I hate networking, but I want it to be known that networking is still worth it. If you want a job someday–in the entertainment industry or not–you have to do it. Still, I don’t think it has to be as hard as it is.