It's Who You Know: Why Networking Is Not Optional In This Business


In 1951, author J.D. Salinger published his novel "The Catcher In The Rye." It was an immediate commercial success and then as it received critical acclaim it became an even bigger commercial success. 

But Salinger soon grew weary of fame. 

Faced with increasing public attention, he retreated to Cornish, NH where he remained in virtual seclusion for the rest of his life. 

People like to point out that over the last six decades "Catcher" has continued to sell hundreds of thousands of copies per year. But what's almost never mentioned is Salinger's total failure in the film and video industry. 

He died tragically in 2010 with NO production credits to his name. Why? 

He refused to network. (Some have said it was because he never wanted a career in production.) 

The point is, if you want to establish yourself in the Portland production community and grow your business, you need to be in touch with other people who are doing the same thing. 

These are people you can help. They can help you. And you can share your connections. Everybody knows somebody you should know as well. 

Besides, when we all stick together, everybody does better. A rising tide lifts all boats. Except for the boats on old trailers parked in people's side yards. 

You have to be "in the water" to get the benefit. 


"People," sings Ms. Streisand. "People who need people are the luckiest people in the wooooorld." She makes a very good point. 

Even if you're a polymath genius who likes to write, direct, light, act in, edit, score, and do hair, makeup and bookkeeping for your productions--there soon comes a point when you must hand off duties to other competent professionals. 

Not only does it free you up to more of what you're good at (bookkeeping, really?), but when you bring in other professionals who specialize in one particular area, your work is going to get better. 

Even if you're just networking with them and bouncing ideas off them. 

Here's a scenario we've seen more than a few times. An independent producer schedules our studio for an ambitious shoot. It's a major step up for him or her in terms of client, budget, and project scope. And given those high stakes, it's important that they hit it out of the park. 

But there's often an experience gap. 

The producer has actually never pulled off the kind of production he's being paid to produce. 

He hopes he can. He's pretty sure he can. But as with the Redbull Flugtag contraptions, odds are it's not going to fly.


We are certainly happy to refer the experienced grips, gaffers, and set designers who've successfully worked on similar productions. But picking the brains of experienced crew is something that should be happening far earlier in the production process. 

As soon as you decide to work in this industry, you should be actively networking. 

Here's where to start. 


If you have room in your life for only one networking effort, make it the OMPA

We're not just saying this because Executive Director Janice Shokrian has promised us a Snickers Bar for each new member we sign up. 

It's because this is the advice everybody gives us when we ask them to name one thing members of the production community can be doing to advance their careers. And by "everybody" we mean producers, directors, veteran crew, set designers, equipment experts, and the Hacky Sack guy we keep seeing in our parking lot. 

Of course, you should be active in the OMPA because it's doing a great job of promoting our industry here in town, and even more importantly, in Salem and to outside clients. But as we've seen over the years, it's in YOUR best interest to be a member and take advantage of their directory listings and events. 


Facebook (some of us love to hate it) is a good way to connect informally, find out about upcoming projects, and help get justice for Harambe. Check out Portland Film & Video Networking and Film & Media Community of Oregon.

You can connect on a smaller scale with industry groups who are doing outside experimental projects. A local project we've been involved with is called Sh*t F*lms. We get together once a week to write, cast, plan, shoot and edit a short film (fully completed in about five weeks), which we then post online no matter how bad it is.

It's a great chance to try out some crazy techniques with a professional crew, trying stuff that you would not want to experiment with while working for a paying client. 


For effective networking, you don't have to join every online group and show up at every event. But you do have to be intentional about it. 

If you're doing enough to make yourself uncomfortable, that's probably good. 

Near the end of "The Catcher In The Rye" protagonist Holden Caulfield makes the decision that he will head out West and pretend to live as a deaf-mute. 

He reasons that, "If anybody wanted to tell me something, they'd have to write it on a piece of paper and shove it over to me. They'd get bored as hell doing that after a while, and then I'd be through with having conversations for the rest of my life." 

We can all agree that's a stupid idea. But if you're not regularly interacting with other professionals, are you really doing any better? 

Get out there and use your ears and your mouth to make connections. 

(BTW, Salinger died of natural causes at age 91. His literary representative told The New York Times that "his health had been excellent until a rather sudden decline after the New Year.")