You are an incredibly talented individual, with years of experience and hundreds of pages of dialogue memorized and forgotten over the course of your illustrious acting career. Me too! However, I've come to learn (from experience as well as from reading scores of advice articles from others in the film industry) that it's not always what you know that gets you places; it's who you know.
But you knew this already. Duh Casey, everyone knows networking is the name of the game no matter where you work. Be it the performing arts, business or law, the more people you know, the more likely you are to find work, be recommended by for gigs and pop up in third-party conversations.
This has the potential to come across in a negative light, promoting nepotism and underplaying merit-based job offers or career success. While I'll admit that this aspect of the business can be abused (and often is), it is not inherently a negative thing. I was speaking with my friend Natalie recently about this very idea. She received a role in the YouTube web series "Black Enough" and confided that she wasn't sure if she was cast because she already knew the director, or because she was more talented than all of the other women who auditioned for the same role.
We concluded that at the end of the day it can be a combination of the two. The benefit of relationships is they provide a basis on which people build trust in the professional and artistic capabilities of others. Natalie is an incredibly talented actress, and definitely received the role based on her strength and abilities as a performer to embody her character and give her life. She also was a smart pick for the director, who knew Natalie could be trusted from previous projects to be responsible, hard-working and committed to achieving a common goal.
I've experienced a little bit of this myself in recent weeks. I volunteered as an arts administration intern at Live Arts, a local non-profit community theater in Charlottesville, VA. I learned a lot about how small community theaters run, and also built friendships with the full- and part-time employees that work there. My internship coordinator gave my contact info to a local student who needed actors to audition for her NYU thesis film project (I'm sending in my audition tape tonight!), and the former marketing director offered me an internship working on logistics and technical theater with WorldStrides for their trip to Festival Fringe in Edinburgh, Scotland this summer. Both of these people worked with me for four months and can attest to my abilities as an actor ... and also as a program folder, script copier, poster designer, study guide writer and Excel budget tracker.
Though I'll be making schedules and running a light board in Scotland (instead of acting), and though I might not get cast in the thesis film project, it is the people I know and respect, and who I've invested time and energy in that will help me grow. It is these relationships that will help me find new opportunities to expand my knowledge of the arts, travel the world and meet new people who might need a small, spunky brunette somewhere down the road for their own stage play or film project.