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The Green Room: How good are you at networking?

Photo: Shutterstock

Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…​​​​​​​

Rosemary Crackers is 50 and has worked extensively in TV, film and theatre for nearly 30 years

Vivian Lee is 38 and has played leading roles at the National, the RSC and the Royal Court, alongside regular TV appearances

Albert Parker is 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and TV

Peter Quince, 72, works in theatre and television

Adam Lovett is a 45-year-old actor who has been in Oscar-winning films, BAFTA-winning TV, and in theatre at the RSC and in the West End

John Pepper is 31 and for the past 10 years has worked as an actor in regional theatres, the National and in radio, television and film

 

Rosemary Rubbish. And I sleep with the wrong people as well.

Adam Oh God. Is anyone good at this? Does anyone like it? What does it even mean?

Albert I think it means sending lots of emails to people you don’t know beginning with the infuriating greeting, “Hi”.

John Networking is hard.

Adam An agent once said to me: “No one ever got a job by going to a party.” I’m not sure I agree 100%, but I like the sentiment.

Peter I’m friendly and gregarious, but I don’t do places like Soho House.

Rosemary I know people who are brilliant at it and deffo got jobs by going to parties. They just make it their business to know everyone, and to know who is casting what.

John Not tipping into brown-nosing can be tricky.

Adam Also, don’t people hate ‘that’ person? The one who looks for the most important person in the room and barrages them with false charm and excessive bonhomie?

John It can also be expensive – the right parties, opening nights, invites for coffee/drinks can mount up.

Peter At parties, I enjoy chatting to the interesting people rather than the useful ones.

Rosemary At parties, I enjoy going home.

JonI remember a mate texting me once from the National Theatre Summer Party: “You should come down, there are so many directors here.” I pointed out that I hadn’t been invited. I suppose there are people who would have gone anyway.

John I had literally that this morning, from two separate people, about an industry party tomorrow that I have not been invited to.

Albert I don’t think there is anything wrong with going to first nights and being seen out and about. I’ve had a few jobs from people whose memories have been jogged by seeing me at the theatre.

Rosemary I don’t go to my own premieres or cast and crew parties or anything.

Albert But, as I spend all my time at parties in the kitchen, not sure that would do me any good.

Rosemary I also try not to go to press nights… Or I get totally pissed.

Adam Often it doesn’t take much more than being seen. You don’t have to do some big schmooze thing. Ultimately we are freelances, so we are responsible for our own sales and marketing. How we choose to do that is up to us.

Rosemary I think it’s a young person thing.

JonYoung people and hungry people. It’s always pretty easy to predict which person on a job will say: “We should get a list of all the industry people who’ve been in.”

Albert I think it’s also about keeping up with what is going on. Not sending out lots of unsolicited emails saying: “Please bear me in mind.”

John But how many times have you looked at what’s happening and found it was cast weeks, often months, before the announcement?

Vivian I’m not really sure these official networking parties work. I don’t know of anyone who goes to them. But I do think that having dialogue with your peers in the industry is important.

JonIt’s one of my tubs to thump that we should be better at helping each other to get work.

Rosemary I’m constantly suggesting friends for jobs. I suggested one yesterday.

Peter I’ve got a friend who is similar. He has sometimes pointed me – successfully – towards work he can’t do.

John Yeah, if I know something is casting – first, I would love to be doing it with a pal, and second, I would like it if they got a job.

JonI got a text once from a mate who’d just been in for a casting at the NT. He said: “I don’t think I’m going to get this, but it’s the kind of thing you should be up for.” A couple of phone calls later and I had a casting, which led to a job.

Vivian Also, let’s take the slightly inferior cap-in-hand mentality out of it. We are professionals, artists even, and have something to offer.

Adam I think theatre and screen work are very different. It’s harder to find the equivalent of going to shows and press nights for film. The networking is a little trickier there.

Albert I think the same principle applies. I find the offers come in when I have been seen in something.

Vivian Networking at its best is seeing the people you would like to work with, like to work with you.

Albert Sometimes actors are the worst people for suggesting themselves for work and knowing what they are suitable for. I’ve had actors applying for roles to which they were very unsuited, yet still pitching in. Know your market and work that.

Adam I think a lot of it is because in our industry getting a job sometimes feels so arbitrary that we’re all looking for ways to increase our chances. And we’re never sure what works. So I can understand people wanting to put themselves out there and go to press nights and parties. But it’ll only work if that’s the kind of person you are. If you’re going to go and then feel miserable and inauthentic, it’s best to stay away.

Peter Just be friendly and interesting rather than unctuous.

John Yes – nice, open, friendly. You might not even know who you are talking to.

JonIt’s something very few people admit to liking or being good at, I’ve noticed.

Albert I think it has so many connotations these days. And as for social networking… don’t get me started.

Adam Avoid desperation, be curious about others, never let conversations go on for too long, don’t be clingy…

Rosemary … be nice to everyone…

Adam … and be nice to everyone. For God’s sake, don’t make a calculation about who’s ‘important’.

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