Sunday, 5 February 2012


This week I attended a screening for a piece I filmed back last year. I could bleat on about the fact that, because we were running  late, I missed all the free champagne. I could complain that the room chosen was too small for the amount of people invited and because I was late and small, I was stuck at the back and only able to see about a quarter of the screen. I could harp on about how a room with pillars isn’t the ideal room for a screening. But these things aren’t necessary. What I really wanted to talk about was networking. That horrible, awful thing that we’re supposedly all meant to be masters of and something we’re constantly told we won’t get anywhere without.

I’m not a networker. The idea of it brings me out in a cold sweat and a panicky breathless state of terror. It’s just not something I can do naturally. I’ll happily chat away to anyone and that’s why I’ve spent countless train journeys learning random facts about people’s lives. But put me in a room full of supposedly important people and I clam up faster than, well, a clam. I hate the idea of starting up a conversation with someone just because you want something from them. Now, I know we’ve all chatted up people in bars and, of course, that’s because we ultimately want something from them, be it a drink or their hand in marriage. But in a networking situation it all feels very different. It’s very much ‘I have an inkling that you could further my career so I’m going to desperately try and make polite conversation in the hope that my inane mumblings will inspire you to cast me.’ And the problem is that most of the time, people at these things either aren’t that influential or could give two figs about your failing career. Usually they’re just there so they can collect their free glass of vinegary wine and limp ham sandwich. They’ve got about as much influence on your future as I do (absolutely none.)

I know some people who are wonderful at these things and I usually look upon them with envy as they charm the greying pants off them in the foyer after a show. Sadly I think I’ll always be too self-deprecating and conscious of how loathsome a task it is to ever get very far when it comes to sweet-talking the movers and the shakers in the world of acting. I’ve now learnt to admit defeat when it comes to these things and accept that while others are gaining valuable contacts, I’ll be sat in the corner having much more fun with the crew (no, not like that.)

The worst time has to have been after my drama school showcase. I’d been in a wonderful scene which The Stage had raved about and I’m in a casting bracket that should get agents excited. I don’t want to sound like I thought I was going to get snapped up straight away but I was fairly confident when I stepped out of our frighteningly over-packed dressing room which contained ten girls constantly spraying their hair and one girl allergic to hairspray.  Networking type drinks had been arranged in the foyer and so we all filed out dutifully like a parade of slaves. However, there was a major flaw in the fact that no one knew who anyone else was. Some people’s friends and parents had somehow slipped into the event so you no idea whether you were talking to a top agent or someone’s dad. This meant that you had to stand around looking aloof while desperately waiting for someone to come up and talk to you. About three people were approached while everyone else stood expectedly against the walls, drinking ourselves into a cheap wine stupor. I don’t think I need to tell you which group I was in. The only person who chatted to me was a friend’s mum who told me they liked the dress I’d been wearing on stage. Not quite the result I was looking for.

I’m not entirely sure what the solution is. I know there are some actors with more balls than a ball pit and will happily hand out their business card in any situation but I struggle handing round a bag of sweets (it’s highly likely I’ll drop them/poison everyone/be in a room full of diabetics) so I’ll never join that gang. And there are those that just instantly attract people and find that everyone comes to them but I have about as much magnetic charm as an aluminium tray so that group is closed to me too. Maybe I’ll just stand in the middle of the room with a massive banner saying ‘Actress For Sale’ and scare the buggers into hiring me…

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