Some of the online lecture material for my course involved watching a documentary about six degrees of separation, and the wider impact of network theory. The idea behind six degrees of separation came about partly because of a game in which you would attempt to link a Hollywood actor to Kevin Bacon through other actors. The documentary showed that six degrees of separation is not an urban myth, asking several people from around the world to deliver a parcel to the same man they didn’t know using their connections, and three of the parcels arrived successfully. Knowing this makes networking seem slightly less daunting, but reminds us of the importance of having a large network as well.
The one point that I hear consistently from media lecturers, and people in film and TV, is that it is all about networking. Video projects are virtually always collaborative, although there are plenty of wonderful examples of video work by individuals, especially in fields such as time-lapse photography. Exceptions aside, if you want to produce a great video, chances are you will need several people to take care of the technical details, write, or direct. Furthermore, you will probably find you require actors, and consequently a make-up artist. The larger the project, the longer and more complex the list. How do you find all these people, at least to fill the most critical roles? The answer is, of course, networking. If you know someone who can record sound, who knows someone who has a lighting kit, who knows someone who can operate a camera, you suddenly have a production team. Most networks are of course more complex than this, but what the six degrees of separation makes clear, is that knowing more people (not necessarily in your field or locale) will greatly increase your chances of producing better work, and possibly lead to opportunities you never thought possible.
Not only does this apply to everyone in any field, but you might find opportunities from networks will actually lead you into different fields as well. I’m not suggesting a painter will suddenly become a particle physicist, or vice versa. People often find success in areas they did not think of, or know about before. While it’s easy to say these things, the reality is you do have to put the effort in to meet new people in different fields and contexts, even geographically speaking. This isn’t just to further your own goals, but to help the others in your network too. I was recently lucky enough to record an interview with someone for a university assignment which would have been almost impossible to do without having a mutual connection with someone else. Just a single link such as this can mean the difference between achieving something or not.