1. Talk to strangers
I likened moving to London to taking a language crash course. There is so much to learn. Talking to random strangers was a way I could quickly find out about the hidden nooks and crannies of London. I always found total strangers approachable and ready to share their home town’s secrets. I struck up conversations with taxi drivers, fellow commuters and total strangers on the street. Filmmaking is collaborative business after all, and what better way to hone your collaboration skills than on a total stranger.
Another trick I used was to call up filmmakers and screenwriters doing something similar to me. I’d dig up their details from a festival catalogue, or from the internet and call them up and ask to have a coffee. It was how I quickly got introduced to many of the filmmakers, old and new in London at the time. I am still in touch with most of them many years later.
I have a true-like example of how this works in practise. About 15 years after I started Raindance, the office doorbell rang and in bounced a young man from Brussels. He had just moved to London and wanted to work at a film festival. And he ended up working at Raindance for seven years! His secret was simple: He had bought a copy of my Lo-To-No Budget filmmaking book and he asked me to sign it. His name is Julien Chapelle, now back in Brussels and running his own design studio,
2. Embrace social media
Social media didn’t exist when I moved to London. But it sure does now! Every day, sitting at the helm of Planet Raindance I get Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin and Twitter messages from newbies arriving in London and seeking to put down roots.
There are simply too many messages for me to respond to personally, but here’s a hint about what the ones I do respond to contain:
Firstly, it really helps that they have researched who I am and what I do. This is a great lesson for anyone. Secondly, I will notice that they are active on my social media – commenting on and sharing my messages. And thirdly, they have something to offer in return. it doesn’t need to be much, but something as simple as sending out a message about a screening or talk to their network will grab my attention and I am sure these tips will work for filmmakers moving to a new city too.
3. Get the paperwork right
There’s nothing worse than getting established in a new place and then finding out you haven’t got the correct work permit. Or find out you have flouted local tax and employment laws out of ignorance. Each nation has it’s own commercial trading formats. It’s a wise decision to invest a bit of time and money and hook up with a lawyer and accountant in order to make sure you are compliant.
If it’s a UK /EU / USA work permit you need, make sure you check out Lorraine D’Alessio’s excellent online work permit tutorial. She’s one of North America’s top immigration consultants, and has a 98% success rate at representing creatives moving abroad.
4. Use your database
The film industry is a people industry. it’s not what you know but whom
– age old adage
A creative’s priority is always to expand their circle of influence. The more people you know, the more potential people there are to help you in your career. But what about asking the people you know who they know? The advantage of a personal recommendation is obvious. As a stranger in a strange city you will have someone known to a mutual friend to expect your call.
5. When in Rome, do as the Romans do
I made the decision to leave my home town for London after reading countless British style and culture magazines. I would often buy month old issues of Time Out simply to try and get the vibe of the city I dreamt of moving to. Today I suppose I would subscribe to newsletters from local filmmaking groups.
I arrived in London a total naive tourist. I got settled temporarily. And then I started wandering around. It was amazing how many tips and tricks about the creative industry in London I found by walking past noticeboards in coffee shops, and by turning up to random networking socials like today’s Boozin’ N’ Schmoozin‘. It was at these random events that I learned far more about the inner workings of the film industry, and made many more creative collaborations than if I had just stuck to my research.
At the end of the day, the golden rule for filmmakers moving to a new city is collaboration. You want people to contact you for your help and advice. And you offer yours in return. Attracting collaborators is actually a lot simpler than you think. Why not go on your Instagram and offer to host a talk or networking drinks at your local pub? Or agree to offer feedback on a script – for free? The more creative you can get the more responses you will get. And remember, when someone sees something cool, they won’t know it’s being organised by a stranger in town.
Happy moving. And let’s make movies!