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Burn, Baybee Burn...

I suspect this sort of thing happens in all kinds of creative industries. Writing, filmmaking, illustrating, theatre, videogames, there is a perception that these are all highly nepotistic situations, that you get hired because of who you know.

I suspect this sort of thing happens in all kinds of creative industries. Writing, filmmaking, illustrating, theatre, videogames, there is a perception that these are all highly nepotistic situations, that you get hired because of who you know rather than how good you are at your chosen skill set.

And yes, I’d be a liar if I didn’t acknowledge that it certainly is *easier* to get new gigs once you have a reputation, but the truth of the matter is, every if you know a guy who knows a guy, if your work is sub-par, you’re going to be burning a favor that you simply CANNOT GET BACK.

Knowing someone isn’t a substitute for being good at what you do, it simply allows you to jump to the top of the resume pile. It gets an agent who isn’t taking on new writers to at least glance over your unpublished manuscript, it gets a producer to take a look at your demo reel even though they *might* have chucked you in the bin otherwise.

So I want you all to think carefully before you go hitting up your friends and family who know someone. I’m not saying you have to be stellar A++ quality (though the process will be easier all around if you are), there are places in this industry for lots of different experience levels, lots of different specialties.

If you can’t model characters to save your life, but you can churn out 256 color textures at three times the rate of anyone else, there is probably a place for you. If you have “great” ideas, but can’t yet program “Hello World” in the programming language of your choice, then… Well then you might want to look into other alternatives. Or at least finish up that CS degree before you go pounding on the door of your cousins’ uncles neighbor who knew a guy who once was a game tester for Epic.

This process though, this networking, is a fractious, tricky b**ch. You can meet people at the conferences, start a conversation on twitter, you can shove a screenplay under the bathroom stall, you can get anyone to take a look if you’re charming and persistent. But if you don’t have the chops to back it, up, then you have a new problem. You’ve spent credit. They’ve looked and they did not like. If you are just pitching a great idea, with no design doc, with no game play demo, with no concept art, scribbled on the back of a cocktail napkin, they’re probably going to remember you. But they are probably not going to remember you *well*.

If, after all the stalker-esque emails and passing of business cards, you hand them something tight, a complete concept, well thought out and ready to pull the trigger? Even if they don’t have a place for it themselves, they might know a guy, they might know who in the industry is looking for something *just like that* or at the very least, they are going to remember you the next time you call, and remember you fondly, so they will be inclined to take a look at the next great concept you have.

So manage your contacts carefully, be sure you present a solid, polished, publishable piece when you have the opportunity. Don’t rush to hand over your notebook filled with lined 3-hole punched paper and sketches on airline note-pads. Take a deep breath, step back and take a good hard look at what you are planning. Then, once you have a coherent, professional looking concept to hand over, that’s your moment to strike, to take the risk and burn the credit.

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