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Doesn’t the very word send shivers down your spine? Are you breaking out in a sweat at the thought of networking for your acting career? So, let’s bust some myths and make this whole process a lot easier and a lot less intimidating. Because your acting career depends on it.

First, don’t call it “schmoozing.” This is what some people call networking when they want to demonize it and make it seem like you can thrive in Hollywood without doing it. These people are wrong. Nobody does this alone. Whether you network in a room of 300 people or at an intimate dinner party of six, you are performing the task of networking.

Now that we have our terminology, let’s get to the heart of the matter. Most actors hate networking. It feels fake. But that’s most likely because they’re approaching it wrong. Look at networking as meeting the people you want to work with in the future. It’s a way to have unofficial job interviews without the stress of the audition.

Do your best to remove the idea that any one industry member has all the power over you. They do not. Let’s just talk casting directors. There are approximately 500 working casting directors, associates and assistants in L.A. right now. If 10% of them are fans of yours, you have 50 people bringing you in! That’s amazing. You only need to meet 10% of the town’s casting personnel and still have an amazing career. That should take some of the pressure off.

You still need to meet 50 of the 500. You actually need to meet more because the first 50 you meet may not all be fans. I know that is hard to believe, so take a moment and get over it. Okay? Okay. Moving on. You have lots of free or inexpensive ways to introduce your work to people like me.

Let’s talk about some of those inexpensive ways to network. There’s SAG-AFTRA for casting director classes and workshops. You could join Film Independent and Women in Film for amazing opportunities to meet some of the biggest names in the business at social events and screenings. Many classes in Los Angeles also have industry nights. These networking opportunities are all well-known. Here are some ideas that might not be.

How about dinner parties? Sure, you need to develop some relationships first but once you do, build on them. If you know a working actor, a dinner party might be the perfect way to meet the industry members that they know. Or perhaps a cast and crew screening of a friend’s film will give you the opportunity to meet all the crew from that film.

I have a friend who makes hilarious, short videos on her phone that look amazing. She is so good at this that she has been hired by an internet company to make them so they can stream them on their website! She doesn’t have to wait tables. She doesn’t have to drive for Uber. And it is all a very clever form of networking because she is getting her work in front of casting and industry and she’s getting paid for it.

Social media is free, and it’s basically designed for networking so if you left Facebook, get back there! You don’t have to maintain a personal page, but you do need social media to promote an acting career. Too many of your fellow actors are doing it every day. Try not to be that one curmudgeon who fights the current for no good reason.

Bear in mind that no two casting directors or producers are identical and so you will meet us via different ways. You may meet some at SAG-AFTRA. You may meet some through your representation and still others through your actor friends. (Yes, you really do need actor friends so be nice to as many as you can.)

However you choose to network, please don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can get by without it. Find what works best for you, try to get better and better at it and you will see results eventually if the work is good and you make good impressions. But those are subjects for future blogs.

Mark Sikes began his casting career in 1992 for Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Corman. In the past 25 years, he has cast over 100 films as well as television series, commercials and web series. He has cast projects for Tobe Hooper and Luke Greenfield and many others. In the past few years Mark has also produced four feature films.

Based in Los Angeles, Mark has cast films for many markets including the United Kingdom, Peru, the Philippines and Russia. Domestically, he has cast films that shot all over the country in Texas, Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia and multiple projects in Colorado.

He currently teaches three weekly on-camera, audition technique classes in West Los Angeles.  Follow Mark on Twitter @castnguy.