Networking Q & A With Miami Web Fest Founder Bryan Thompson
You have trained or worked hard to develop your craft as a producer, performer, directer, etc... But now you are invited to a film festival or a networking event. What do you do? Networking can be intimidating and scary. Luckily, I asked award-winning filmmaker and Miami Web Fest founder, Bryan Thompson, to answer some questions on networking.
Fun fact: Miami Web Fest was my first red carpet and film festival experience!
1) How important is networking and what opportunities can arise from it? Are there any great networking success stories that have happened at the Miami Web Fest?
Networking is a critical skill and habit of anyone in business, especially filmmakers. Filmmakers must understand that they are in business for themselves, so their ability to effectively and concisely communicate their vision/project to a complete stranger is one of the keys to success. Miami Web Fest intentionally “stacks the deck” in favor of creators, by selecting judges from major networks and distribution companies. But, in an environment where there are dozens of filmmakers pulling network executives aside to talk, having a good “elevator pitch” is key. Whether during the festival or after making initial contact, lots of creators have experienced commercial success beyond the festival as a result of their networking, including deals with Netflix, Maverick Entertainment, and more.
2) Whenever you attend a big networking event like a film festival, what are some things you do before the festival to prepare for it?
Research, Rehearse, and Relax. Research: Make a point of knowing who is in the room and identify how they could potentially be of assistance to you. Rehearse: Create and refine your elevator pitch and practice, practice, practice. Make sure it is catered to the “audience”. Relax: Executives are just people. Share a drink and be yourself. You will connect with those you need to. Networking should be fun!
3) If you are a person who gets nervous easily, what are some simple and easy ways you can network?
Before you start networking, do something unrelated that you enjoy. (I like watching or listening to comedy). Loosen up. If you prefer to network online, you can do this, but give people content to associate you with. Send them a link. Then, try to set up a phone call or meeting. The closer you can get to an in-person interaction, the easier it will be to find synergy. 4) How important is it to dress professional, especially at larger red carpet events?
Red carpet events are all about image. Generally, it reflects better on your brand to be well-dressed, especially if you want to be remembered. People who go out of their way to be “cool and under dressed” tend to blend into the crowd unless they are already very well known. Dare to make an impression, because you never know how many people will see those photos. Many times, a festival or event will reuse photos and video of those who are the best dressed, so images or footage containing you could live on for years in the organization’s publicity.
5) Do you think it is necessary to bring marketing materials to an event?
As a festival director, it amazes me how many filmmakers fail to take advantage of the opportunity to promote their content by advertising in the festival where there are exhibiting. Numerically, if there are 100 projects in a festival (for example) and the lobby has only 10 posters advertising projects, those 10 projects are overwhelmingly more likely to be noticed by executives and distributors. Fliers are nice, but bold advertising gets bold results. In any case, the answer is a resounding “yes”. Always bring marketing materials. 6) I didn't realize that attending events/ film festivals can be a lot of money (tickets, food, alcohol, clothes, ubers, marketing materials,etc). If you are on a budget but want to attend these events, what are some tips and tricks that you would recommend?
It is critical that creators view themselves not only as “artists” but also as “entrepreneurs”, with the project as their “business” and “product”. Film festivals, then, are the “cost of doing business”. When people run marathons, they pursue sponsors. The same can be true of festivals. Try asking local businesses to support you with small donations. In exchange, wear a promotional item on the red carpet, talk about them on video, and mention them on stage at the gala if you win an award. This is just one idea, but the bottom line is you have to think like an entrepreneur and think outside the box.
7) You are going to a big networking event for the first time. What is the number one piece of advice you would tell that person?
People do business with people they like. So, the number one piece of advice is to make friends, not contacts. The most effective way to build a network is to share genuine enjoyable experiences with people with whom you also have business synergy. To get to this point you will need to “Research, Rehearse, and Relax” (yes, I just quoted myself haha).
Thank you, Bryan! To learn more about Bryan and the Miami Web Fest, click HERE.