The Lost Art Of The Professional Courtesy
In most film schools, well the better one's anyway, they devote time to career development by addressing the question, ‘How do I go about finding work and making a career for myself after graduation?' In MPI's case we have an entire class devoted to it.
At the University I attended they had no such class. My peers and I were left to fend for ourselves after receiving our diplomas. Tragically this is the case for thousands of four-year film school grads entering the field annually.
Beyond this tragic deficiency there lies an even more neglected topic. One that you won't find discussed at any film school around the world. I'm referring to ‘The lost art of the professional courtesy’, also known as ‘The art of borrowing industry contacts from peers.’
Odds are, if you're in the business and reading this you know exactly what I'm talking about. Odds are you're either guilty of doing this, or a victim of it being done to you.
The film business, like many businesses, is largely built on networking and connections. Assuming you are talented at what you do it is still crucial that you meet the right people in order to find work, make and sell it. Social media is both a blessing and a curse for this because it's an easy way to reach out and introduce yourself; sometimes with no real introduction. The worst part is that it's easy for peers and associates to "borrow" these industry contacts off your social media pages or from your set and use them for their own gain.
I've been in the education business for decades and in my time, I've introduced thousands of filmmakers and have helped build many career bridges. What is troubling is seeing industry contacts being borrowed without the borrower giving a PROFESSIONAL COURTESY to the source. I'm talking about the age old practice of writing your peer to ask for a formal introduction before hitting up their contacts.
Now I know what some of you are thinking, ‘Hey if you're on social media everyone is fair game. And if the end goal is to assist your fellow comrade, why should you care whether they are letting you know that they are attempting to reach out to your contacts?’
My answer is simply, PROFESSIONAL COURTESY. No one likes to hear secondhand from a professional associate that they were contacted by a stranger who used your name to make an inroad.
Do everyone a favor and let the person you're borrowing from know that you'd like to connect with their friend / business associate. You'd be surprised they might actually be able to make a better introduction than you ever could and it can go a long way in helping to build a harmonious atmosphere for all.
Written By: Douglas Schulze, Co-Founder of The Motion Picture Institute. He’s been in the business for 20 plus years and has been producing independent feature films just as long.