A few weeks ago, The Reel Challenge hosted a session at the BFI Future Film Festival entitled ‘From Concept to Reality in 10 Days’. We discussed the key lessons we have learned whilst organising Reel and the factors that we think contribute to filmmaking success. (You can catch the whole thing on our Facebook page).
One of those things, which we know is absolutely vital to the success of Reel, is ‘community’.
We believe 100% that one of the most positive things you can do if you want to be more successful in what you’re doing is to build more relationships with people who could help.
But how? Lots (and lots!) of people find it difficult. In fact, plenty of people find that the mere thought of ‘networking’ (a word that, for many, conjures up images of slimy blokes ‘working the room’) makes them die a little inside.
But fear not! We’re put together the best bits of advice we’ve ever received about building a community and we’ve packaged them up for your convenience below. And we won’t mention ‘networking’ once! (Ok – maybe once).
1. SEEK OUT OPPORTUNITIES TO MEET GREAT PEOPLE
So, obviously you should take part in The Reel Challenge, which this year will bring together 60+ awesome, ambitious filmmakers. But even if you don’t fancy taking part in the ultimate filmmaking adventure across Europe, you should definitely find other cool ways of meeting people. We’d recommend our partners’ events without hesitation, check out: the BFI Future Film’s Raw Shorts, Raindance’s regular meetups and 4Talent’s pop-up events) but there are heaps of others you can find with a quick google search.
2. JUST ASK QUESTIONS – IT’S THAT EASY
This first step of building a community is easy enough for ANYONE to do. Regardless of the situation (organised event, film set, house party, work experience, etc.) the following super-simple questions will see you through from ‘stranger’ to ‘new connection’ in no time. You are welcome!
(NOTE: this is particularly relevant for people who aren’t natural extroverts. You’re probably a very good listener – which is the best way to get to know a person anyway).
“Hi, I’m Rob. How are you?” (pro tip: use your actual name)
“So, what do you do?”
“Oh brilliant, are you working on anything in particular at the moment?”
“Ah fantastic, how is that going?”
“That’s really interesting. I’d love to know more about [X]?”
“I’ve really enjoyed meeting you. Would you mind if I took a card/phone number/email address?”
BONUS: “I know someone who [may be able to help you/would be interested in talking to you/could find you work] – would you mind if I put you in touch?”
And just like that… +1 interesting connection added to your own creative community. Easy, right?
3. BE AWARE OF WHAT YOU NEED AND WHAT YOU CAN OFFER
Further to point #2 – unless the person you’re talking to is entirely self-involved, they’ll probably ask YOU some questions too! How succinctly can you summarise what you do, why you do it, and what you’re hoping to achieve in the near(ish) future? How might people be able to help you?
You don’t need a well-rehearsed ‘elevator pitch’ (I think they always sound a bit forced and lame IMHO) but it is worth thinking about before you’re put on the spot. What are you all about? Why would want to work with you / stay in touch with you? (pro tip: there are probably heaps of reasons! Which are the top few?)
4. NEVER BE AFRAID TO ASK
This is something we have more experience in than most. While we were setting up Reel, we may as well have tattooed ‘please help us’ across our foreheads. You’ll probably feel a bit like that too as you start out: loads to gain, not much to offer (no offence!). But whatever you do, don’t be afraid to ask for help: literally everyone (that’s not a complete d***) remembers what it feels like to need support, and most will be more than willing to help if they can.
Ask, ask and ask again! More often than not your first request will be forgotten/ignored, so remember to follow up – it’s nothing personal, people are just busy! Always ask politely, understand that people are busy, always live up to ‘your side of the bargain’, be appreciative, and make it as easy as possible for people to help you, and you’ll go far!
5. BE EXCELLENT AT WHAT YOU DO
The most important point by far. You can be the best community builder in the world, but nothing is more effective than being good at what you do. Be the person that delivers excellent work and you’ll never struggle to stay connected with people you’ve worked with. All of us have people on speed-dial who can be relied upon to deliver great work: be one of those people.
(NOTE: this is another one that is hopefully particularly reassuring for people who struggle to build connections socially. If you can impress people with your work your half way there already!)
6. LEARN TO LOVE IT
The negative expectation that many people have of the ‘n word’ (networking!) is the first thing to tackle. Screw it up, throw it in the bin. It’s nonsense – especially in filmmaking. Reprogram your brain to see ‘community building’ for what it is: deliberately connecting a group of likeminded people who are passionate, engaging, talented, creative, resourceful, generous, honest (that list goes on and on!). Creative communities are AWESOME things, and you DEFINITELY want a great one.
So there you have it – our ‘pep talk’ on community building. At Reel we’re absolutely committed to building a thriving community of likeminded creatives. If you would like to know more about joining the Reel Community, don’t hesitate to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you have any extra tips or advice we’d love to hear them!
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!