When you are a filmmaker your world is shaped by a peculiar set of circumstances. The very nature of the job is one of instability, projects that come and go, a calendar that will burn you out within a few days of intense work, then leave you with nothing at all and a sense that you will never get a job again and you might as well give up on the dream.

What is the importance of a network?

If you are an aspiring filmmaker, the latter half of the previous statement is what constitutes your daily struggle. Finding your way into the industry can be tiresome and frustrating at times. But there is one constant, a truth that buzzes out of every seasoned professional, a simple act that will be the thing to propel your career to greatness: networking.

Yes, that’s what you read. Not talent or creativity, what will make you go far is who you know.

So much for the creative fulfilment and glamour!

Jokes aside, it is indeed a fact that knowing or being known by a lot of people will help with your career. After all, the industry is packed with talented people who are eager to jump onto projects, therefore, when producers are deciding who to and who not to hire, they will for sure consider talent, but also who do I know? Who can I trust? Are they professional on set?

That’s where networking comes into play. If the producer knows you personally or knows someone who worked with you before, they will scout around and get all the information they can about you and if you fit the bill, you might get your next gig on the calendar.

This all sounds good and simple. Learn your craft, go out to meet people, and get the job! It sure sounds uncomplicated on paper, a straight line you follow towards a successful career in the film industry.

Well, what happens if you are not good at meeting people? What unfolds when you can barely look someone in the eye in a first meeting?

Dear reader, I will tell you exactly what happens when you are an aspiring filmmaker and has no clue about how to network. It all starts with the 2022 Sundance London Film Festival.

It is Saturday, eleven of June. I browsed for a couple of hours on Sundance’s calendar page. A variety of events are listed at our disposal, and that’s enough to make me start to feel nervous.

Network - Sundance Film Festival London 2022

Do I go to the premier? Maybe a Q&A is better? What about a networking afternoon? No, definitely not that one… What about attending a film premier, then a Q&A? A quick check on my bank account swiftly wipes the idea away from my mind.

This shouldn’t be so complicated, I think. And with the same hesitation of someone choosing a film to watch on Netflix, I purchased a ticket to watch the live recording of the horror podcast Evolution of Horror (if you know me, you know I’m a gothic kid at heart).

As I get ready, I congratulate myself: that was a really good idea! I walk into the Circle Line thinking that I’ve chosen the perfect event: a podcast I’m familiar with and people who share the same niche interest as I do. It will be incredible, I’ll meet a lot of new, cool people.

As I step off the Piccadilly Line and make my way to Picturehouse Cinemas, I am very confident in my choice. That is until I step into the building.

As I pull the door open, the image of a large table with credentials, a moderately sized banner and a group of much more mature and professional-looking people, punches all the confidence out of me.

Suddenly, I feel out of place in my tights, yellow shorts and a Bates Motel t-shirt. But I do my best to keep it together. Maybe the people at the podcast recording will be more like me, you know, like an angsty teen looking.

With a deep breath, I make my way up, buy myself popcorn and awkwardly pace around, glancing at people and hoping that is enough for them to understand I’m networking right now. I do this for what feels like an eternity, but finally is an acceptable time to go to the Screen door for the live recording.

I made my way and decided to wait a little longer by the door since there are still 10 minutes before it begins. As I stand by the door, eating my popcorn, a man suddenly looks at me and asks: “Are you here for the podcast?”. As I choke on my popcorn, I confirm. He then asks me if the doors are already open, to which I respond with a meek post popcorn choking voice: “I think so, yeah”.

As if waiting for me, the man goes to the door and holds it open. With a mind of their own, my feet move through the door and the polite man comes behind me. He starts making his way to the middle row, the best spot in the house. I take a few steps toward him but then, I stop. Should I follow him, maybe sit in the same row? No that would be too strange, right? I should say thank you, for sure. All of those thoughts go through my head, with me just standing halfway through the stares and when I finally reach a conclusion, the man has set down and is minding his own business.


I can’t thank him now, can I? So, with hesitant steps, I walk to a row above the one the polite man set and just drown myself in the sit. Luckily, before any other stranger comes and talks to me, the lights deem and the event starts.

The guests come in and the talk is lovely. The presenter, Mike Muncer tells the audience he will ask some questions later, so I mentally start to prepare. One of the guests, Babak Anvari, made on the most interesting horror films of the last few years and I’d love to ask a few questions.

The talk goes on, with jokes, earnest answers and the occasional scary clip from great films. And then the moment comes, it is Q&A time. The presenter turns to us, frames the content of the questions we’re supposed to ask and then… silence. Well at least from me, some more brave people have their hands up. I feel my question floating around in my head and the words accumulating on my lips, and I want to get them out, come on, you can do it!

But the event is over. Mike Muncer is thanking his guests, the applause comes in and the light goes up. I sit in there for a little, taking in the second fiasco of the night. Only if it wasn’t such a public situation, I think to myself, I might have been able to do it. Yeah, maybe I should go hang out at the restaurant downstairs, that will be fine! So I get up and start to make my way down.

A group of people steps onto the escalator and I step behind them. I make nothing of it for a while, but as my ears and eyes actually look at the people in front of me, I realize I am standing behind Babak Anvari. You have got to be kidding me!

It was as if the universe heard my wishes and granted them to me: here it is a non-public speaking situation, go!

I started paying attention to what they are saying, trying to find a way into the conversation that wasn’t too disruptive. They talked about the event, films they enjoyed at the festivals and made some jokes. We keep walking down, going through other festival attendees and I had many chances, many pauses in their conversations that I could have intervened. But once again, we reach the restaurant and the words are still trapped in my throat.

As I stand there, in the middle of the room, I start to get the feeling I should leave. Maybe I don’t really belong here. I take one last look around and with nothing to say, I leave.

What was that? I know I’m introverted, but I couldn’t even speak! I send a voice message to my partner: “Why did this happen? Why couldn’t I speak?”. As the awkward king, he is himself, he assures me it was just shyness and that now I have to practise for next time. And in a way he is right, some people just need some more time to create a connection.

But that wasn’t the full picture. It wasn’t just shyness that got me. I wasn’t afraid of saying something silly, no, I was afraid to speak at all, I was afraid of… outing myself.

That was it. From the second I walked in with my yellow shorts and black lipstick, I felt out of place. I was scared of showing how inexperienced I am. After all, what do I have to offer to these well-accomplished people? I feel sorry for myself for a little bit, but my stubbornness kicks in and stops the self-pity dead on track.

What are you on about? Are you a little awkward? Yeah, sure. Maybe making small talk is not your forte? Sure, why not? But don’t confuse that with not having something worth to be said!

We all have our own little special ways of seeing the world, even if it’s just an observation about a film you like. You are the only one who can give that observation because there’s only one you and that makes everything more interesting!

Okay, I’m done with the cringe pep talk. The lesson is, to go networking and be awkward!