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Award Winning Producer Jennifer Champagne on networking in the Film Industry

Note from the Founder & Chief Editor Vinil Ramdev

I caught up with award winning producer and director Jennifer Champagne and quizzed her about networking in the film industry. Jennifer had some very interesting points to make about networking in the film industry. Networking seems to be more important in the film industry than anywhere else. Please read the interview below and feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below.

Cheers,
Vinil

How important is networking in the film industry?

I believe that networking in any field is incredibly important – even more so within the film industry.  A large portion of the work that I have been awarded has been based on word of mouth, who I know and the amazing individuals within my network.

In return, I tend to hire within my core network and will rely on the people that I trust to refer other people when needed.  It’s keeping that gold standard in referrals – as their performance is a reflection on me.

Can you tell us one personal success story on networking?

My philosophy is that if I do not have an answer – I know someone who does.  This applies to anything that I do.

On a film that I was producing years ago, the night before our first day of filming my steadi-cam operator was delayed in customs.  That night based on my network of camera operators I was able to find someone to stand in for the next morning.

Each day, I would find myself on the phone connecting someone to stand in for the next day and each day that our original hire was in transit.

It was a busy time and I was incredibly fortunate that we were able to cover until our guy made it home.  This would never have been achieved if it weren’t for networking.  On my side as well as the camera crews side.

I have heard of actors and models landing a big acting gig without any auditions, is that true?

It depends on what you are referring to?  A seasoned actor?  Absolutely, I have a handful of actors that I love working with.  They are not required to audition because we have a relationship and I know that they can deliver.  Someone who has no acting experience?  I certainly would not be willing to take a chance and hire without an audition.

Why are some of the best acting and modeling jobs never advertised?

It depends on what level the roles are.  At a certain level Casting Directors are key in the casting process.  They have relationships with agencies and will utilize those agencies to bring their talent in for auditions.  They are also heavily involved in finding the right actor to fit the character needs of the Director.  This is a smart way of working – though not everyone does.

With who, where, and when should you network?

There are many levels of networking.

Socially – going out to events, parties, workshops – taking opportunities to meet people.  Taking classes and connecting with your peer group is also powerfully impacting.

Professionally – connecting with your business relationships and keeping yourself on their radar.  Whether that is by the above suggestions, going to professional networking opportunities or simply by connecting over dinner/lunch once a month.

Social Media – FaceBook and Twitter are the two I use most.  I have more interactivity within my peer group (Directors, Producers, Writers, Talent, etc.) via FaceBook than regular email.

Two great resources for Social Media:

7 Scientific Ways to Promote Sharing on Facebook

http://www.briansolis.com/2010/05/facebook-sharing-driven-by-simplicity/

Socialnomics

http://www.facebook.com/l/d6416sTgm7MiOST2UrLuMCC3yAQ;www.Socialnomics.com

Erik Qualman has some very interesting finds on social media. His book, “Socialnomics” hit amazon’s #1 best seller only 3 weeks after publishing.

Who are the best kinds of network contacts?

Connectors.  Read ‘The Tipping Point’ by Malcolm Gladwell for more on this and for help in defining your unique social skill set.

It’s generally someone who naturally connects people.  Nothing delights me more than being able to connect people together and see magic happen – on any level.

Whether it is a talented friend wanting to write for a TV Series, an Actor who wants to connect to a Director, a Director who wants to meet a Writer – I love it.

Granted there is a certain level of affection for the people that I connect.  Someone whom I do not have a relationship with or have a chemistry (intellectual, creative) would need to build that first before I engaged.

How about networking on the internet? Do you have any tips on those?

FaceBook:  Make a decision on what your purpose is.  Is this a personal profile that you want to push or professional?

I keep mine professional.  My wall is clean, I focus on shout outs to my friends and give them the opportunity to expose their awesomeness to my network. I do not expose my personal life beyond basic chit chat. I am not interested in pushing my political position on to people nor am I willing to be incessantly exposed to someone else’s.  So decide what your big picture goal is and then act accordingly.

If this is for personal purposes – I would advise not connecting professionals to your page.  I am not really interested in  hearing about how many times the lawn got mowed this week, or how your Farmville is progressing or …

If you are serious – then upload your rolodex.  Make it a point to connect with your business network, mix your social network in as well and find your own style of networking.  Whether it is “sharing” newsfeeds, shout out’s to friends who are inspiring with their own successes.

What’s the biggest mistake new actors and models make while networking?

Pushing their work straight away.  Being too aggressive.  Or assuming that just because you have met someone that you are now the best of friends and that person is going to get you work.

That would be a turn off for anyone.

One of my closest friends is a well  known Casting Director, a true rock star in her own right – she does a good deal of the top films out there.  She is also an advocate for dog rescue.  So many people will volunteer to help with her weekly rescues and then assume as a result of being a part of THAT circle – they are automatically in the queue for anything he/she casts.  Seriously?

That doesn’t mean that you cannot forge a friendship through this medium and allow for things to naturally take their own course.  Just be true – don’t focus on alternate agendas.  Be yourself and let things progress.  It’s about keeping on the radar.  Showing your ability to be consistent.

In being authentic.  Ask to connect via Facebook or Twitter and keep on their radar by making them aware of what you have been up to.  If you are connecting to a Casting Director – get their email address.  Then once every two or three weeks send them an update on what you have been up to.  Be creative about it.  For my friend – the creative pictures, post cards, emails, blurbs are what stands out the most.  Remember they are getting hundreds of submissions on any given show daily.  Find your way of standing out without being intrusive.

Her favorite was an actor’s letter of endorsement written in crayon from a child’s perspective incorporated within a child-like drawing on kids drawing paper.  She has it framed in her office.  I love that picture.  What I love the most about this story is that my friend thought that it was an original – until years later another casting colleague happened to be by the office and noticed the framed picture on the wall and said, “Oh you have one too?  I love that!”  Or something to that effect.  This was a unique submission that hadn’t been done before – she still has it on her wall.

Sometimes, you hear a story in a magazine or newspaper where a famous director is looking for a particular character in an actor and you are perfect for that job, but you have no idea where or how to approach? What would you suggest in this situation?

It’s about relationships.  Your agent – do they have a connect to this project or someone within the project?  Who is Casting the show – can you get to them and submit yourself?  Using your network to get you in front of the right person is one thing – your ability to deliver the goods is what it is going to boil down to.  And most importantly – if a Casting Director has posted an actual description of that Character – then show up in Character.  Do your work and dress the part, walk the part, talk the part – it’s not their job to “imagine” what you will look or be in that role.  Be the role.

What’s the one thing an aspiring actor can do right away to get work in the film industry?

Create a website.  Create a FB and Twitter account.  Start networking.  Join a class at a reputable acting studio – Sanford Meisner Center, Groundlings, The Actors Studio, Howard Fine, Margie Haber, Lesly Kahn to name a few.  Network on every level. Remember some of the best actors worked for a good decade before they had their break.  There is no real “fast track” to get to the top – so you might as well have fun with it and enjoy yourself. It’s that energy that is contagious and will spread from there.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Be real.  Social networking through online venues is just an extension of yourself “in person social networking”.  You are who you are – let that shine through and don’t project something that isn’t you.  People are drawn to other authentic people.  That’s what is so beautiful about surrounding yourself with like-minded people.  Together your abilities are magnified.  Keep it real and the possibilities are endless.

Jennifer Champagne is an award-winning producer and director.  She can be followed via Twitter @ThatJJChampagne


Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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