Build Friendships, Not Networks

Overcoming the anxiety of networking

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FLOWSTATE Films Co-founders Leola Calzolai-Stewart and Kiley Kraskouskas in Harlem conducting research for their film BLACK DIPLOMACY. 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to “network” and why it gives so many of us anxiety. When I look back on the years I’ve worked in film, I now see that the most valuable opportunities and rewarding experiences have come from true friendships and not people in my so-called network.

A few years ago, I joined the board of an arts non-profit. Many of the fellow board members were in the same business as me, essentially “competitors”. However, given our similar interests many friendships developed from that experience. And I mean really true friendship, where I can be myself and not just the professionalized version of myself. These are the people I now turn to for advice, to whom I can admit mistakes and failures; and, with whom I share freely from my own experiences. Creatively, we share each others draft work– warts and all– and celebrate each other’s successes both professionally and personally.

Working in film and video production is a team sport. As a producer you need editors, directors, clients, and assistants to all be on the same page in the face of creative differences and varying skill sets. I learned that developing true rapport and building trust with your collaborators makes the stress of deadline-intensive work a little bit easier. I’m proud of the fact that many of the people I started my career with are still my friends today. Not to mention that my two business partners here at FLOWSTATE are two of my closest friends. We met on the job over ten years ago.

Making friends must be genuine. You don’t connect with everyone. When I was younger, I felt the need to have everyone “like” me. Sometimes this meant spending large chunks of time with people who were energy-takers rather than energy-givers or playing up parts of my personality that didn’t feel authentic just to make another person feel more comfortable. As I’ve gotten older and my spare time more limited, I’ve decided to lean in to those friendships that feel mutual, that give me inspiration and guidance rather than drag me down or have an undercurrent of jealousy or competition. Likewise, I find myself joyfully supporting their career and life successes back.

Rachell Shapiro and Kiley Kraskouskas right after the birth of Rachell’s daughter. 

From making my first film and starting my company, to client referrals and securing investors and funders in my work, all of these opportunities have come from true friendships. So for those of you who hate the word networking as much as I do, commit to making a few new friends and you will reap the benefits.

Originally published at

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