Putting a Face on Theatre
Few words can cause shudders of horror and disgust to run down my spine quite like that verb. The word invokes impressions of forced interactions where you can't shake the feeling that everyone is wanting something from you, or you're trying to get something from someone.
There's this thought that to make it in the acting business, you HAVE to "network." It's all about who you know, and what and where they can get you, right?
Recently, I read a blog about "speed networking." In it, the blogger wrote about "what you should do if an idol walks in the room." The blog claims "you need to know how to network. Quickly. I mean networking in 30 seconds to 1 minute," while waiting in line at the grocery store for example. The blog went on to talk about having business cards, headshots and resumes at hand, to always dress well ("suit up," in the words of Barney Stenson?). There are a few nuggets in there that I agree with somewhat, but the last point really threw me for a loop:
"It's not about making a good impression, necessarily. It's about making a strong and memorable impression. Look. You've only got 30 seconds. Find some way for James Cameron to remember you. Say something appalling. Do something strange. Make them remember you when they're taking a shower later that night!"
I could not disagree more. I mean, if I was grocery shopping and a random stranger came up to me trying to "network" (read: leverage my position/connections into doing things for them), and said something appalling or left a strange impression, I would actively NOT want to work with them ever.
To me, the Hollywood stereotype of "networking" is one of the things that contribute to the "hate" side of my love/hate relationship with LA.
When asked about networking, Dallas Travers, author of "The Tao of Show Business," said it best. "Instead of trying to network, work on making real human connections."
It's not about networking. It's about building authentic relationships with people.
It's not about harassing your heroes in the check out line, or talking to someone because you're hoping they could do something for you. It's about building friendships and just starting genuine conversations. It's not about pressing your headshots on strangers or weirding people out.
Don't "network" with your heroes; talk to them. It doesn't have to be scary, or selfish, or high pressure.
The difference is subtle, but substantial.