The Importance of Networking at Film Festivals

Recently, at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), there was filmmaking excitement in the air as famous actors, producers, directors and writers visited from around the world.

For those who are new to the film world and students of filmmaking, it is important to realize that in order to become part of the film business, you are required to network at film festivals. Obviously in today’s world this goes for any business, however, in the film industry, the importance of networking is particularly high, so read on for some tips for filmmakers.

Some students tend to question the reasoning behind the aspect of networking and believe that they can, ‘go it alone’ without the need for film school, socializing at events or promoting themselves at TIFF festival, Cannes Film Festival, film markets and other related film festivals in Canada such as Ontario Film Festival.

I know this industry as I worked hard to become both a Film Director/Producer and Professor of Film at Trebas Institute. I honestly believe that those students are making it more difficult on themselves to find work and succeed, as you must meet people and make contacts in the industry. Keep in mind that it’s easy to forget that film school is not the goal - the goal is a lasting career in the making, producing, directing, writing, editing or distribution of films or entering the industry in some capacity.

Attending film school gives you the knowledge to function on the set or in the editing room, but should also help create a solid network of colleagues and like-minded professionals. That is why it’s important to attend a film school where the instructors not only just study films, but continue to make films themselves so they can say ‘I teach what I do’.

When you graduate, these same instructors can then connect you to their contacts, especially at networking events. To be frank, the competition for jobs in the film and television industry is tough because those that do find work are all ‘doing what they love’ - they are filmmaking in whatever capacity and getting paid for it. It’s because of this competition, that students must take a proactive approach to networking and meeting people in the industry which may help them with finding either an internship or job.

Remember that the importance of networking continues even after you have a job as it is a great way to promote yourself as a filmmaker that works in the industry in whatever capacity.

Some networking tips at film festivals include striking up a conversation about your new film or script and making sure that you have something new happening in your film career that you can promote if you are ever interviewed on television.

As a Film Director myself, I have been interviewed at TIFF, briefly talking about my feature horror film and I discussed the importance of going to a film school, such as Trebas, where instructors that actually work in film, help you connect with the film industry. So, to all those young filmmakers, get out there and start practicing how to network at events!

A photo of myself (on the right) at a networking event during TIFF:

By Kalman Szegvary, MFA
Head of Film / Television Production and Post-Production
Department: Entertainment Management
Trebas Institute - Toronto

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