The acting hype is real. Believe everything you read about it. It’s wonderful. Walking the red carpet, applause at a premiere, learning a new character, trying to nail that moment when the characters fall in love, meeting the big stars, waiting to be called on set. The only bit that’s not real is that silly voice in your head that tells you to be terrified. Don’t be. What’s the worst that can happen? You don’t star in a movie with Brad Pitt? So what. Trillions of other people never will either.
To take the most beautiful lines from my favourite Aussie musician Pete Murray “Don’t be scared of what you can not see, your only fear is possibility.”
B.a.b.e is about you creating your future.
Friday, 10 May 2013
Showreels For The Twenty-first Century – Part Two (Making the Cut)
By Paul Barry
1) start with your absolute strongest piece of acting (ignore production value and subject matter altogether), with yours as the first face to appear on screen
2) move quickly to the second strongest piece, with the whole reel concluding in less than three minutes, but preferably, two and a half
3) the opening scene should begin with you, and end with you. Ideally your face. The following scene should adhere to the same rule and so on, until the final scene’s conclusion is an image of you. Ideally your face
4) cut it together with no more than 30 seconds for each piece. Sometimes 10 seconds is fine, but anything less is not worth putting on the reel
5) do not create a montage. Although the odd casting director (CD) may say they ‘don’t mind them’, no CD I’ve ever spoken to about reels has ever lamented the lack of one. I have heard too many agents and casting directors joke about them to advise any of our clients have them
6) your voice should be heard within the first few seconds of the reel and not only should your voice be clear, it must also sound like you will sound when you walk into the casting director’s office or studio and say hello (in the first and last scenes at least)
7) do not include footage from a stage show or your singing or dancing, unless they have been shot and mastered specifically for screen
8) do not put your name and headshot at the head of the reel. This creates the most incredible debate amongst actors, but it is an outmoded and redundant tradition. You’d do well to avoid it. If your reel is online, where are you hosting it? Youtube, Vimeo, online casting sites? Don’t these places all have your name plastered at the top of your profile and under the embedded video, with all your (and your agent’s) details? If not, they should be.
9) do not put your agent and their contact details at the end. This is another outmoded tradition. When was the last time you paused a video online to take down a name and number? Probably around the 4th of Never. When there is no direct link to take us to the agency website or contact details, the 21st Century uses its two best tools: copy and paste.
And finally, it is important for you to understand that:
10) you are not always the best judge of your strongest piece of work, and I’m sorry, but neither are your friends. Choose one harsh critic with good standing in the film and/or TV industry (no, not a stage director or teacher) and have them tell you which order to put your work in. Then, stop asking for feedback and start sending it out
I could write several blogs on exactly why I offer you these ten pieces of advice, but it would take a lot longer than this. Feel free to contact me and book a session to discuss it on Skype, at ‘acting4camera’. Otherwise, leave a comment requesting more information and perhaps Angela will invite me back! ☺
Part One. In case you missed it:
Showreels For the 21st Century – Part One (Making the Choice)
Tuesday, 7 May 2013
Showreels For The Twenty-first Century – Part One (Making the Choice)
- By Paul Barry
This is one of many incredibly telling insights that we have gathered during the years that my business partner, Tristan Kenyon, and I have directed and created showcases for actors at Showreels Australia. Another telling statement, from a different CD was: ‘I just want to see what you look like and hear how you sound, then I move onto the next reel’.
On a regular basis over the years, clients have approached us to shoot scenes for them from Angels in America, Closer, Million Dollar Baby, The Departed, Fight Club, The Hours, Six Feet Under, The West Wing, the list goes on. Casting directors have pleaded with us to avoid such scenes. They are overdone and when done, usually done poorly. And yet, every single drama school showcase in the world will have a scene from Good Will Hunting, at least every two years.
Even if these known scenes were done well, to invite comparisons between you and celebrities is to place yourself squarely behind the eight ball before you even begin your career. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule…
I remember clearly, watching Sam Worthington perform one of the most overdone scenes from Good Will Hunting, between Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, at his NIDA graduation. It certainly didn’t hurt his career. I know for a fact though, that the interest in Sam was such, that had he performed the character of Sneezy, from Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, he would have still become a star. The scene did not bring about his success, but rather the archetype he chose illuminated qualities in him, which allowed the industry to cast him as they saw fit. In his case: the dark, brooding, enigmatic leading man. But despite our desire to follow in his footsteps, that just ain’t everyone…
As actors, we desire to show the viewer everything we can do. Like it or lump it, this is not the purpose of a showreel. As Australian casting director, Greg Apps, wrote recently, ‘No, we don't choose on ability. We assess your suitability.’
So what is the purpose of a showreel…? Well, based on my regular grilling of casting directors in Australia and America over the years:
- What do you look like?
- What do you sound like?
- Do you listen well?
- Are your thought processes clear?
- Do you make interesting choices?
- Are you sharing something of yourself in your work?
And for many CDs, the first three points are more than enough to call you in for a role.
Although these nuggets can sometimes be seen in a highly dramatic genre piece, where you grease back your hair, speak in a Brooklyn accent, walk with a limp and hold you gun sideways, they rarely do. They shine through best in clearly directed, well-lit, unknown scenes, where the most interesting things are not the dialogue or even the premise, but you and your choices. Despite regular advice to avoid inviting comparisons between them and Matt Damon, Hilary Swank, or Leo DiCaprio, actors, like flies to the honeypot, are inexorably drawn to them. It is as though they emit a secret ‘success’ pheromone, which actors hope will rub off on them.
Lee Strasberg said: ‘the talent is in the choices’. You are not Robert De Niro. You are not Meryl Streep. You are not Matt Damon or Mark Wahlberg or Anne Hathaway or Jennifer Lawrence or Leo or Cate. You are you. So what is that? Put that on screen.
Help me out though: how can actors be convinced to avoid these scenes and seek out new and unique pieces, which offer them exactly the same qualities they wish to show, without falling into the trap of seeking to prove talent-by-association?
I’d love to hear your thoughts…
Showreels For The Twenty-first Century – Part Two (Making the Cut)
Paul Barry is an actor, director, writer, teacher and blogger. He co-owns Acting 4 Camera and Showreels Australia. Paul lives in LA, but regularly teaches via Skype, all around the world.
Thursday, 18 April 2013
And last week a famous blogger (I mean this guy is BIG!) blogged about branding in the same vein as what I've been sharing these last two weeks... I nearly jumped off the tube to get above ground and shout "See! Told you!". Here is what Seth Godin said that got me so excited (read the whole post here):
"Great marketers don't make stuff. They make meaning."
Yeah I know, it's not like you didn't already know that. But really, did you? You aren't selling anything as an actor, right? Wrong!
You are absolutely selling you! You are selling the meaning of you. You need to create meaning in your acting proposition. What does it mean to hire you for the job? Every day you step out of the house you are selling yourself and you need to be selling something that matters.
I recall my old acting teacher in Australia saying to us in class one day that once we graduated, every day we stepped out of our house we needed to remember we would be in the public eye. That really stuck with me. Not in a posh-spice-watch-me-leave-the-house kind of way, but in a realistic, choose-how-you-want-to-be-perceived kind of way. How you present yourself in your everyday environment is a direct reflection on you, the professional actor. I hear about it all the time. I talk to agents and Casting Directors, Producers and Directors, and I ask questions. I enquire. I am intrigued. Why him, why her, why this, why that. I want to know what makes them tick.
And when you attend a casting director workshop they give out very significant key clues as to what they want to see and hear from you. And when they say these things remember that this applies specifically to that Casting Director only. They are not speaking for the other 40+ who are running around town doing castings. No. They are only talking about what THEY like to see. So if you think it's important to remember this information (I certainly do) then get in the habit of keeping it somewhere. It will be particularly handy when it's time to send an email to them...Yes I do always get back to the topic :)
So today, lets talk about emails. This is an interesting one because just like the age old debate of colour vs black and white headshots or montage vs no montage on a showreel, you never truly know what a Casting Director wants to read on an email from you. But interestingly, there are still things you can do wrong very easily.
Dan Hubbard guest spoke a few months back at the UK Actors Tweetup and I remember him sharing a funny story about an actor who emailed him every week. EVERY WEEK. Wow. Does that wreak of desperation - certainly. Is he going to hire you because he hears from you EVERY week? Certainly not. He went on to explain that he would prefer to know when you have done something significant, or have something significant coming up. This is a similar story to so many other Casting Directors I've heard speaking. They don't need to chat to you every week. Not that much changes in a week...unless you'll be on the Bond set next week as one of the leads. Ever had a guy talk about a stalker girlfriend? Same applies with actors bugging Casting Directors too often. They don't need you to check in weekly. Or even monthly for that matter.
So here are a few points on those precious emails you are sending and how they relate to your brand:
- Send an email when you have something to say - need I say more! Okay perhaps I should elaborate as we are all learning:
- If you want to suggest yourself for a casting make sure you fit the description perfectly. Remember they can receive in excess of 500 submissions from actors and agents for any given casting. Don’t be the one they stop opening emails from because you put yourself forward for the model-esque blonde when you are 5.1 and brunette (yes people do this!).
- If you don’t have anything on right now then is there a way you can talk about something coming up that is significant enough that they’d want to hear about it? This does not include a non paid short film that you are writing, filming, co-producing – unless it has made it to the Oscar short list or the Cannes official selection (not Short Film Corner).
- If you are emailing about a show you are in, offer them free tickets to that show on a night that suits their busy calendar – and, do this even if you don’t get comp tickets and have to pay it out of your own pocket. If they are willing to come and see you it will have been worth the money spent.
- Know your audience: Research and find out what they are doing and be sure you are getting in touch about something that is relevant right now. I attended a recent Casting Director's (CD) talk and heard him say that an actor had been in touch about the next series of a show he was working on. Only issue - his company wasn't going to be working on it. The next series was being done with a totally different Casting Director's company. Way to get yourself on the Do Not Bring In For A Casting List!
- Don't be over friendly: Unless the CD is actually your friend, (and most Casting Directors aren't your buddy, they just work with you) keep the tone professional. Just because you did a rocking job in that last casting, doesn't mean they are wanting to know your personal life, or have you chat to them like you are giving them a virtual high five.
- Keep it short and punchy: Less is more, especially if you've gone through a few re-writes and have taken out all the extra word fluff that you first included.
- Don't blind cc or bcc: If you want to send one generic email to lots of CD's rather than writing a tailored specific email to suit them, why should they take the time to bother looking at your showreel, photos and links.
- Add a single headshot that is only a small file: Don't send the CD any big files. Anything under 400kb is fine but they do not need the 3MB version of your file. Sending a big file not only wastes their time, you are helping them to crash their already very busy and full inboxes. And make sure it's the picture that best sells you. This is a branding exercise remember! Show a picture that matches how you want to be cast. Being pretty won't always be right for a role. In fact I have a friend who books a lot of work because she is an incredible character actor who has a great profile of quirky looks. She knows her casting range.
- Use your full acting name: There's little point sending them something if they don't know your actual industry name so they can look you up. I'm hardly going to write to a CD or director and call myself 'Ang'. Also, while you are at it with names, as I said in part 1 of this series, check your email isn't something silly that they'll not remember or be able to search for in their inbox. If possible just use your stage name. Follow the marketing principle called 'KISS' - Keep it simple stupid.
- Don't back out: If you've taken the time to write them an email then don't turn around and back out with negative phrases that detract from you and what you are about. You are SELLING and MARKETING you the brand. If you write things like "if", "maybe", then you are surely saying you aren't entirely confident you are good enough either.
- Be crystal clear about your message: Are you emailing them to let them know about a show you are in; to show them your new headshots; to announce your new amazing agent; to ask about a specific project they're casting for that you are PERFECT for (read that: make sure you absolutely suit the role); just generally following up from a workshop or casting where they said it was fine to email them? Be clear about your content and intention.
- Don't lie: Please don't make stuff up. When you tell lies you go against every actor out there who is trying desperately to make it because you make us all look stupid. Also 99% of the time you will be found out. IMDB Pro is an amazing tool for showing what people have done or have coming up in development. And CD's can ring and ask people about you. Trust me, if they need to they will...and they will if they think you're lying. Be totally honest (with a little sprinkling of how extra awesome you are)! Here's why:
- If you are fresh out of school that is totally okay. Everyone starts as a beginner, even Picasso.
- If you recently returned to acting after having a baby that is great...think of the life experience you have now!
- If you are just starting out and you're in your 50's, that is awesome. There's less actors in that bracket.
- If you've just landed an episode on a great television show, awesome!
- If your agent is ridiculously ridiculously good-looking...I mean hardworking....fantastic.
Love this guy: Seth Godin
Photo credit: Stewf / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
Tuesday, 16 April 2013
The Benefits of Being an Actor That Writes
- By Jody Medland
Why write when you are an actor?
Well... the reasons for this are rather limitless, really, but they each stem from the simple fact that writing is creation in its purest form.
By creating interesting blogs you will, knowingly or unknowingly, create the makings of a fan base. If you write consistently, then your fan base will only ever grow. This is important because, sadly, without a fan base, no creative can hold a sustainable career.
By creating good content on your web site, etc, you will be able to inform your fan base of who you are and what you’re about, feeding people’s desire for knowledge as they follow your career. Selecting what you should reveal about yourself is one of the most fun parts of self-promotion because there are endless ways to be portrayed and create hype.
By creating your own books, novels and/or screenplays you are actually putting yourself in a rather masterful position in the long run. The reasons for this are straight forward. If you happen to write a book that is deemed successful then adapting it into a screenplay is a rather natural progression. Even if you are not willing or able to write the screenplay yourself, only you have the power to select your project’s destiny, meaning a couple of well placed savvy contract clauses could see you starring in your own work, which worked out okay for Affleck, Damon and Stallone.
This is, however, the point at which I would like to rewind a little.
What has always struck me, and continues to stand out about actors, is that they are in such a rush to get to where they want to be. This is definitely one of the greatest differences I have observed between actors and writers, as writers are often better equipped with long-term plans.
I guess this makes sense in that writing is, in itself, a rather methodical process and so our brains are probably geared more towards this style of thinking. We then develop and nurture that mindset as we realise we may have to write 10-20 books and/or screenplays in order to get where we want, but we do it with the faith that after our first big success, our back catalogue of work will finally become useful.
With an actor, it is different. You have your playing age and style, which is constantly evolving, and you have readings for productions that are happening now. If you don’t get the part, it is immediately in the past, and so I guess in a way there is more pressure for actors on a day-to-day basis.
Please do not take this as a criticism, by the way. We are entwined in an unforgiving industry where we suffer great rejection every day, with often no support except for the belief we have in ourselves. To live through this takes a very special type of person and so we are each to be admired for our tenacity, if nothing else.
What I honestly believe, though, is that we have entered a new era, and that those who do not acknowledge this will be sadly left behind.
No longer can a writer live in a cave and churn out great pieces of work, relying on their agent to sell it for them. Instead, like it or not, we must confront the world. What we in fact need to become are writer/producers, because without learning how to promote and sell our own work, it will be drowned out by the masses of literature being generated and infiltrated via new technology.
Today, we each have direct access to a worldwide audience through the internet, so if we can master the art of marketing, the modern writer/producer is truly unstoppable.
With actors, the same is also true.
A person who is solely an actor, no matter how good, will struggle to stand out among the crowd unless they add an extra string to their bow, and this is why the rise of the actor/writer is completely inevitable.
I am a writer who has a very clear 1, 2, 5 and 10 year plan. If I told you every detail that I have envisaged for myself, you would very likely be surprised by how intricate this plan is – yet I only ever focus on the next three months of my life. This way, I ensure that all of my energy goes into the right areas at the relevant moments so the bigger plan will work.
This is not as daunting as it might first sound. All I recommend is that you do the following:-
- Look at yourself and where you really are.
- Look at where you want to be.
- Instead of fantasising about it happening overnight by landing that breakthrough role (the Robert Pattison’s of the world are an absolute minority), write down the most realistic way for it to happen.
- Highlight any areas of the process that you are unsure of and research them.
Suddenly, and rather magically, a blueprint for success will appear right before your eyes.
You will see that, as an actor, there will be certain stepping stones that will be extremely tough to leap. However, as an actor that writes, the journey will be so much clearer. I categorically assure you of that.
Just think, what is the one thing that will always be needed in our industry? Scripts. Good writing is the most sought after thing. Everybody wants it and as an actor, you should have an incredibly strong grasp of characterisation and story, so the question I would like to pose is this: Why not write?
By writing your own material you are creating new networking and employment opportunities for yourself, and in an industry such as ours, that can only be a good thing.
Jody Medland is an award winning writer who has collaborated with numerous well established names and brands.
He has not only created commercials for clients such as The Times, Kellogs, Viacom, Trident, Nickelodeon, MTV, T-mobile and SKY, and written several short films that were shown, to much acclaim, at BAFTA, but he also wrote his first debut feature film, The Adored, in 2011. Recently The Adored was signed for a worldwide distribution deal for its pending release in 2013. It has won Best Film at the Durban Film Festival in South Africa as well as earned four official selections in Wales, Poland, Germany and the USA.
His passion for education has seen him tutor and lecture at schools throughout the UK, where he has been highly praised for his contribution.
Last year Jody turned his attention to works of literature, setting up online publishing company Pen Works Media, which produced The Emerging Light Series – a project that actively encouraged new writers to submit short stories. The success of the series has led to a principle deal with publishers Dynasty Press for his first full novel.
Jody Medland is a full member of The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and is currently developing a string of interactive learning resources through his new company, LRN-UK LTD.
Tuesday, 2 April 2013
Last week I covered the very important topic of how your branding can be integrated into the business card you design, in Part 1 of my USP's rather than Uncompromising Silly Positions series. Today I want to delve into websites.
As an actor I am constantly looking at other actor’s websites. I love clicking on their links to see what they write, how they talk about themselves (third or first person), which photos they use, what their showreel looks like, how they present themselves. I do this partly because I’m interested, partly because they might be someone vying for the same roles as me, and partly because I can learn a lot about an actor by what they put on their site.
Your website sits on that huge wide web and once it’s out there, anyone who types your name in will be able to see it.…remember, we don’t need to send our CVs or 6x8's out for much longer. (And Spotlight books…why are they even still in print?). With the billions of people out there who have access to your information (okay maybe not all looking at yours at once but they could be one day), you want to be sure that their first experience is exceptional so they’ll visit again. Remember you don’t have a lifetime to make a first impression. You’ve made it the second they click on that home page. So lets break down some of the components of an actor’s website so you can consider these in relation to building your brand. As I said last week:
"Your branding represents how you are perceived and your USP represents how you are remembered."
And please know that these are not hard and fast rules. They’re merely suggestions to help you build something memorable, uncluttered and specific to your personal acting tone.
1) Images: Now this is one of an actors’ big parts of branding. Actually I would argue it is the most important part, since you will be offered an audition initially from your headshot, prior to your reputation getting you in the door. If you know how to put your best foot forward looks wise, then you're already on the starting line. Don't know how you're perceived? Ask someone...but please, not your mum! They'll always say you're hotter than any of the other girls on TV. No, go and ask an industry professional, be it a Casting Director, your agent or someone who doesn't directly compete with what you do. This may surprise you but even the headshot photographer who takes your shots will usually have a great idea about your casting type. The good ones photograph 100's and 1000’s of people and they pick out very particular details in your best selection of photos that make a big difference. For example I had shots done with Rafael Bastos (well I've actually booked with Rafael on multiple occasions because I love his work) and on this particular occasion, as we were looking through the images, I picked one I loved but he shows me how my neck was strained and it made me look awkward. He was absolutely right. And two photos further along I must have relaxed and the same "look" was much better. But images are much more than that. The beautiful Sarine Sofair's website is a perfect example of an actor who clearly knows how she wants to be cast. She is stunning, yes, but she more than that. Sarine knows her brand and has a lot of images that capitalise on her "English Rose" look and her fiery red hair. And this gets her cast. Know your type! And splash it out through your website photos in a way that helps the reader know how to cast you.
But don't show off. And be very clear about the kind of castings you want to secure. The Struggling Actor sums it up beautifully here.
2) Your professional acting name: Whatever your name is on Spotlight, Equity, IMDB and other casting sites, is what you should have on your personal acting website. And more importantly, you should also consider trying to purchase that domain name as well, i.e. www.JaneDoe.com
And don't be clever with your domain name. Keep it as simple as possible. Save the clever bits for what you write on your site.
3) Your professional blurb: This is what you want people to know about you if they only bother to look at your front page. Imagine you're pitching your best mate for a hot date with a friend of yours. You have thirty seconds to say the best bits. Ditto here. This would look similar to a mini blurb on IMDB.
The other option is to just have your profession there instead, be it ‘actor’, ‘actress’, ‘amazing clown’. It's your tagline baby, not your CV. Liken it to a Mars Bar advert. “A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play”. What’s your tagline? Keep it simple, keep it sexy and keep it short. They can get all the detail they need further on if they decide to stay longer.
4) Your profession: This comes back to what I covered in business cards in Part 1. You can't be all things to all people. Years ago I did a stint as a television presenter in Australia for a well-known TV station. So I figured that I should have actor/presenter on my website when I moved to London. Wrong! As a very clued up and honest television friend of mine explained, people either hire a presenter, or they hire an actor. Rarely can people do both (this has since been confirmed to me by asking a few agents and a manager). Yes yes I know there are exceptions but I'm not here to point them out. If you're starting out, it's about being consistent with your branding and making it as easy as possible for someone to cast you. Don't be clever. And again, don't be an actor/producer/director/dreamer/singer/musician/animal liturgical dancer. You can't demonstrate them all on your site. You will be much more effective branding yourself as just the animal liturgical dancer than you will ten other things.
5) How many tabs?: Now this is a fascinating one. Many moons ago I learned a clever piece of advice from some marketing gurus - Consumers only want to be a maximum of four clicks away from what they're looking for before they'll get bored, frustrated, or click away. Bearing that in mind I suggest you think very carefully about whether you need ten tabs each with a different category. Surely you can keep it concise and still get a clear message across to your audience about your experience, showreel, links, press and contact details? If you were an established actor with a lot to tell, I would hazard a guess that it actually might be useful to have more links and more pages. But if you are starting out, why not keep your site brief and intriguing.
Lets break it down with some alternatives:
- Page 1 might include: Home page/About Page/Me page
- Page 2 might include: Work/Credits/Experience/Journey/News
- Page 3 might include: Press/PR/Reviews/Photos
- Page 4 might include: Showreel/CV/Links/Upcoming shows/Photos/News
- Page 5 might include: Contact details/Agent/Links
6) Statistics, damn lies and statistics: Another little story first: a few years ago I set up a Graffiti website because I happen to have a passion for all things street art (and because I love showing off my street photos etcetera) and I decided to whack my new site at the bottom of my auto-signature so every time an email went out everyone would see the link to my new site and it would get the hits up. What happened? Next time I logged onto my google analytics I was mortified to find that people were spending about three minutes longer on that site than on my acting website. See, here's the thing - as much as we think people all around the world are sitting there reading our site and mulling over every word we write down, the reality is they're not. And even if they are, it's highly likely it's just other actors who are. Casting Directors aren't perusing hundreds of acting sites checking out your latest works. Maybe directors will. I guess you'll only know if they tell you "oh hey I was checking out your photos on your site the other day. Love the one with your hair up".
It's important to get to know your statistics even if you weren't a maths major at school. GoogleAnalytics is very easy to set up and use, as well as being free, but many other sites will also have built-in statistical tools; For example Wordpress do a great job, and I've heard Weebly offer these tools as well. Statistics help you can see where in the world you are being viewed from as well as lots of other useful information. Because the level of detail that is available with these analytical tools is extensive, and we could go on all day about reviewing your statistics, I’ll leave this for another rainy day. Suffice to say, make sure that you have something installed to track your views. If, for example, you do decide to use the very popular wix.com to build your website, they will allow you to add your unique tracking ID (generated by google analytics) into the SEO component of the pages and then every time you log into your google analytics account, hey presto, you’ll see your clicks, common words used to find you, how long people view your site for, new viewers vs returning viewers and a host more.
And finally on this topic, I asked one of the leading Casting Director companies this week about looking at actors websites and this is what they said: “I mainly look at Spotlight pages and if intrigued then might look at actor's website but that is rare for timing purposes. Spotlight is the place to have the pic and I would also argue about the importance of the picture posted. I see a lot of dodgy pics that don't sell the actor at all.” So there you have it ladies and gents. Straight from the people who cast you in film and television. Now this is only one Casting Director's opinion, and for each one you talk to they’ll have their own way of doing things, but time is one thing that is always of the essence in their offices. They probably aren’t the key people looking at your site. So find out who is.
Quite simply, know your audience!
7) Showreel: Now this one is a biggie, and in regards to branding, it is so big in fact it can definitely be saved for a blog on its own. For now the important take out is to make sure your showreel is on your website if you have one. Whatever is on Casting Networks or Spotlight will be perfect for your website. A showreel is your acting calling card.
I remember an acting mate asking one of my pals one day why they didn't have their showreel on the front of their website. As I listened I thought, wow why hadn't I thought of that too. It's a strong move you can make on your acting website really isn't it? If you like your showreel and think it sells you, why not make it prominent. Why not make it the easiest thing to find along with your amazing headshots and links. Such common sense really isn't it.
8) Links and contacts details: Like your business card, the links displayed on your site give your audience other reputable places to find out more about you. You definitely want to have your Spotlight link and your IMDB link on your website (if you have them). Optional extras include the other host of website CV's you have available, social media links and even your personal blog - if you think it is relevant.
With regards to what contact information you have available, only you can decide. If you only want your agent to be contacted then have their email and phone number on your contact page. If you prefer to be the point of contact, display your email or create a 'contact sheet' that allows someone to fill in their information and get in touch with you directly. If you choose the latter, you don't even need to display your email address as most sites allow you to build the contact sheet with your email address hidden. If in doubt, just ask.
9) Press / PR / Reviews: I love seeing actors celebrate their wins on their website. If done well it tells your audience that you are going great guns. You can share incredible reviews, or you can display an exceptionally positive comment made by a director who worked on set with you. Don't be afraid to share your news in a positive, not-arrogant-silly-pants way. And if you have had interviews, articles or press releases written about you, then definitely add links to those in too. There is nothing wrong with sharing and celebrating your success stories. The only other person typically doing this on a daily basis is your mum (right?).
10) Be safe: There are many other things I could talk about, and while this is not directly about branding, I'd like to finish with one final point on safety. And this is BIG. You are an aspiring, or already established actor, and that means people will, or already do, know who you are. Your life becomes public the moment you decide you want to pursue this profession. But one thing that doesn't have to be public is your address or personal information. Be sure to check that whois.com doesn't show where you live, what your email address is or your phone number. You want to avoid having friendly stalkers or fan mail being addressed to your house. And to do that it's best to pay that tiny little annual fee to have your website details hidden. Trust me, I've had mates sent Christmas cards directly to their house before from strangers. That is not cool!
I hope this branding exercise for websites has proved useful. If nothing more, perhaps you know a little teeny bit more about why you already did the great job with the things you put up on your website.
If you want to see some other lovely websites with some excellent examples of some of the branding points I've mentioned here today.... check out Natalie Ames, Sarine Sofair, Clayton Moss and Nadine Nicole. Next up B.A.B.E.s we will cover your emails.
Tuesday, 19 March 2013
They tell a Casting Director, Agent, Manager, Producer or Director two very specific things:
- How people can relate to you/sell you/cast you (depending on their profession), and
- How you are different and unique from the herds of other actors also on their way to the finishing line....getting cast.
I decided what better a way to explain this than to consider some of the key tools you are using for the branding of your acting business. And if you haven't yet, then perhaps these next few blog posts will help you on this journey.
The next few posts on B.A.B.E. will cover in more detail some of the key components to consider with your Branding and what your USP's are, starting with the first one today which is Business Cards.
1. Business cards:
Business cards allow you to give out relevant information for someone you meet at an event, casting (not for the casting director at the casting please!!), screening, party, acting class, networking night and even on set. Make that little tiny 84mm x 55mm count.
First there was Vista Print. Everyone used them. But the business cards, while cheap, were flakey and shaped with different dimensions to every other business card on the galaxy (true story!). Then moo.com
The thing I love about moo.com cards is that I can put multiple photos on the back each with different looks. Depending on who I meet I can pick out the card that best suits the person I'm talking with. I use moo.com. And no I don't earn commission by plugging the moo.com but I should ask as I tell actors about them all the time. They really are that good. You are however welcome to use a referral link from my account to get yourself 10% off any purchase you want to make by using: http://www.moo.com/
I know one actor who very sensibly uses only one single headshot on the back of hers. For her branding she has decided she wants that one look to be what she is recognised by. I love that. See, she clearly knows what she is working towards and her business cards are geared to that. For other actors who also do modelling, they have a mixture. If they talk with someone about their modelling, they simply pull out a business card with a model picture on the back. But when they want to be taken seriously by another industry person for an acting job, they also have cards with their headshots handy.
What should be included on your business card?
|A sample piece from my card|
- Name (the same as your Spotlight and IMDB page)
- Email contact details - make a call whether you only want your agents details on there or if you are happy to be contacted directly. What if your agent doesn't like being spammed with random "hello we met at a party" emails? Check with them. They aren't your PR company so chances are you might want to include your personal email to make it easier for people to contact you. And make sure that you don't have email@example.com as your email. This screams unprofessional. If you need to, get a new free email account that simply has your full name just to make sure you don't look like you are still using one you set in grade 11.
- Phone contact - in this day and age we still want to be able to chat. Make sure your mobile or landline is there. Not everyone is internet savvy and not everyone wants to be bugging you via email or FB.
- Social media - this is an interesting one as there are two schools of philosophy - those who don't mix business with pleasure and those who do. If your social media accounts are strictly for weekend pictures of you having a pint (or ten) with your pals, then DO NOT put your Facebook page on your business card. If you use twitter as a semi professional business tool, then perhaps include your handle, for example @angiepang. For more information on twitter, you can see my double blog post (part 1 and part 2) I wrote a few years back with 5 London and LA actors on how they best utilise twitter. The choice is personal but if in doubt, keep your business card professional. There are other ways to be playful.
- Website links - again, there are many options here for what you might want to include - your personal website, your Spotlight profile, your IMDB links (for example my website is what I use), your Casting Networks profile etc. The most important thing is that you sell yourself in the best possible light. One credit on IMDB doesn't warrant a place on your business card, yet. The time will come. For now focus on the place that a person who is interested in your acting chops, can see the most about you. And just pick one. There is no need to confuse them with multiple options. Also, if you choose to use Spotlight, don't assume the person reading your card knows the prefix to your Spotlight pin. Put the whole URL down just in case.
- What you do / your occupation - I have written on my card that I am an actor. But that does seem rather obvious to me as I also have a photo of myself on the front and a bigger photo on the back. Maybe I'll take this off sometime, but for now, in case I am one of a number of cards they receive in an evening, I've covered all bases. Who knows, maybe directors will start putting their pics on their business cards soon too...that would be confusing. But this is definitely not something that will make or break your branding. Unless of course you do multiple things, for example Actor/Writer or Producer/Director or Actor/Producer. Be very clear about how you will be perceived if you add all your job roles. I once saw a business card that said John Doe, Actor / Director / Producer / DOP / Writer. I would not hire that person for any of those things. To me that screams jack of all trades, master of none. Be very clear how you want people to see you. If your writing is first and foremost, perhaps that is all you should have on there. Only you can make this call - but it does affect YOUR BRAND.
- A NOTE about privacy: Finally, if you are concerned about the legitimacy of the person you are dealing with, be sure to order cards that also don't have your email or phone number. I would hazard a guess though, that most who are reading this are probably at a stage where they still do give out business cards because people don't automatically know who they are, or where to find them. The other option is that you can have an acting work email that is strictly for all things acting, and keep your existing email for personal use. Just make sure you have your smart phone or computer set up to be able to access both accounts on a daily basis. Castings wait for no woman after all.
"Your branding represents how you are perceived and your USP represents how you are remembered."
As an actor you never want to put yourself in an uncompromising silly position (my alternative USP ending)....you know, where someone doesn't know what the hell you do, what to cast you as, or how to find out more about you. So take a look at your existing business cards if you have some before you order more and work out, what does my card say about me. It is all part of the way the world is going to conspire towards you booking more work.