Actor Websites Part 1: The Philosophy

Oct 12, 2011 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Marketing, Resources, The business

 

Ahhh, the world wide web. Seems like just yesterday I was listening to that lovely dial-up sound while hacking into NORAD. Oh, how the times have changed.

I started building websites in high school, continued throughout college, then did some professional web design upon graduation. Why do I admit to being such a nerd? Because I’m about to proffer advice on websites and I want to add some semblance of credibility to my suggestions. If you want to see some of my work you can check out this site, this site, or this site. Still not enough? You can look at this site or this one, but please don’t look at this one. If you want actor sites you can visit my personal website, or this one that I made for Justin Baker.

Why You Need a Website

Will not having a website sabotage your entire career? Probably not. But there are many reasons why I think it’s imperative for every actor to have their own personal website. As I see it, there are two primary things any actor must do: 1) Show the ‘buyers’ your essence; and 2) Demonstrate that you are a consummate professional. Your website can do both of these things.

If nothing else, your website serves as a virtual headshot and resume (and demo reel!). It is increasingly important to have somewhere online where people can easily view your demo reel, check out your headshots, et cetera, et cetera. While IMDb, your Actor’s Access profile, and other sources can serve this function as well, you have far less control over those sites and cannot add additional content. More importantly, a personal website is the one place online where you get to control how you present yourself to the rest of the world…you have total control over the content. You get to present what it is that you want to promote. Don’t get yourself into a santorum situation.

Beyond that, I would say that one of the most valuable things actors will get out of their website is referrals from their friends. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the following situation:

Ben’s Director Friend mentions to Ben that she’s filming a stellar short in two days, but still needs a certain type of actor. Ben happens to know certain type of actor and wants to refer them to Director Friend. Director Friend is excited at the prospect, but wants to see a few headshots and a demo reel before reaching out. Ben dials up his modem to search the world wide web for said actor’s website. Said actor doesn’t have website. Ben can’t refer them. Ben curls up in a corner and cries himself to sleep.* 

Seriously. I’ve run into this dozens of times. I want to refer my friends to people who would hire them as actors, but no one accepts a totally blind referral and if I don’t have a site to forward on I can’t help you. Worse than missing out on an acting opportunity you might not have had to even audition for, is missing an opportunity you didn’t even know you had.

Your Audience

Part of the trap in building a website is thinking that you’re going to get thousands of hits, and that everyone from major studio execs to your neighbor’s computer-savvy golden retriever will view your site. Now, while it is true that you especially shouldn’t count on people at more top levels of the industry (TV shows, studio films, etc.) coming to your site every day (they’ll probably just go to IMDb), I will say that I am with my current manager because he visited my website, thought it was funny, and reached out to me as a result.

All this to say that one of the most important things you can ask yourself in building a site is who is your audience?! My guess is you might have a couple target audiences:

Fans

In order to get paid the big bucks (or even the little bucks) you need to command an audience. The bigger the audience, the higher your value as an actor (at least from a producer’s perspective). As such, you should be in the business of accumulating–and more importantly, interacting with–a fan base. Your website can be a great place to do this.

Industry Professionals

Of course, the hope is that agents, managers, casting directors, producers, and the like flock to your page like hipsters to a skinny-jeans convention. With that in mind you need to make sure your website is ready for an industry professional to get the information they need in very short order.

Peers

Similar to fans, your website might also be geared towards your peers. Most importantly, you might want to ensure your website is referral-ready (see above). =D

Your Ex

Nothing makes an ex-lover more jealous than a perfectly-designed website. Ok, that’s probably not true, but again you should be thinking both about who you want to view your website, and who will be viewing your website. Keep both of these audiences in mind as you design your website.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned above, actors are (read: should be) constantly working to demonstrate their professionalism and share their essence. For someone to cast you, they want to know exactly who they’re casting, and that it will be a pleasurable experience to work with you. Having a website that truly presents your personality accomplishes part of that, and having a clean, professionally designed website goes the rest of the way.

So how DO you add personality to a website? Answers to that question, resources on building your own website, and much more coming up in Part II of this series.

*Ben can neither confirm nor deny that crying himself to sleep was actually a result of him watching the rerun of Oprah’s final episode for the 18th time, not because of the failed referral


Ben Whitehair is the Los Angeles contingent of this blog. Find out more information and view his materials on his website, or read the rest of his blog posts.