The Art of the Schmooze
By Elyse Sara
In the entertainment industry, it’s a cliché, but worth repeating, to say that success is more about who you know than what you know… or better put, your chances of selling a show, landing a job or brokering a film deal are highly increased the larger your network is. Networking events in the television and film industry are numerous, and attending these events can become a job in itself, from selecting which events to attend, scheduling meetings (for the workshop & conference variety) and attending the event itself – presenting yourself as a careful mix of success, charisma and confidence.
BRE is unique in the production company world, in that it encourages networking amongst all the other essential tasks of the business. In fact, since our opening this past October, BRE employees have attended a wide range of events, including opportunities to meet post production talent, repped by Octopus Talent Management, listen to indie bands producing tracks for music libraries such as Music Dealers and Extreme Music, pitch show concepts at The Real Screen Summit and even speak at the Digital Hollywood Media Summit. It has been at these events that I realized the importance of staying current with trends, technology and most of all personal connections with development execs, distributors and other producers.
In fact, the biggest event for producer networking – put on by the Producers Guild of America (PGA), the Produced By Conference (PBC) – just took place last month in Los Angeles. This year’s event featured a number of top talent, including Brian Grazer, Mark Cuban and Nina Jacobson. While producers are constantly collaborating with many others in the business, they rarely have the opportunity to check-in with each other for advice or just to share their experiences. As such, PBC was formed to offer producers this rare chance to network with one another.
Chris Green, Communications Supervisor for the PGA, notes that “producers who attend the PBC are seeking all kinds of things. Some are looking to meet a colleague or a mentor to help them discover the next direction in which to take their careers. Some are looking for practical, hands-on knowledge for their current projects – Does it make more sense for me to shoot in Eastern Europe or in Asia, or can I keep the production closer to home? Some are just looking for the inspiration that comes with hearing the best in the business talk about how they meet their own professional challenges.”
Rebecca Graham Forde, a repeat attendee at the PBC and nonfiction television producer, had a particularly rewarding experience this year. She notes that ”Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas were refreshingly honest about how hard their journey has been through the business. I thought the Hulu presentation with their new online series was the most interesting seminar I attended, but also was greatly entertained by the show runners panel who talked about managing their multiple shows. I thought that was a great panel as well as they crossed over so many different genres.”
One of the unique features of the PBC is their Mentoring Roundtables, which are small group sessions, providing producers with the opportunity to meet with some of the most influential producers in the industry. Unlike the typical speed pitching sessions at other events, these roundtables prohibit pitching, keeping the vibe more relaxed. Forde attended the round table with Mark Johnson this year and commented that “the intimate setting with ten other people was terrific. Mark was frank and open about his thoughts on how we could move our projects forward. I came away extremely impressed by him.”
Green notes that some of the other highlights of this year’s event were “listening to Brian Grazer and Peter Berg speak so candidly about how hard it is – even for them – to get a passion project off the ground. And listening to future-oriented execs like Michael Burns of Lionsgate, Robert Kyncl of YouTube/Google and Mark Cuban of AXS TV was incredibly exciting and inspirational.”
There is no doubt that PBC is a valuable experience, encouraging dialogue and promising connections. It is important, however, to head into all networking events without specific expectations. Often people attend these events with a concrete mission (i.e. to make a sale, get funding, etc.). While those goals are possible, it is best to keep an open mind to what may transpire, as the information that you gain and people that you meet could lead to much greater rewards down the line.