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Advice

Weaving Your Web(site)

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Thanks to the Internet, a headshot and résumé don't have to be an actor's sole calling card anymore. A website can help you raise your visibility and spotlight your talent. And just as a quality headshot and résumé can brand you an astute pro, so can a top-notch website. But the opposite is also true: A confusing or inferior site can frustrate casting directors. So consider the following advice from some Web-savvy sources.

Cost

Not only is there the cost of designing and building your website to consider; there's also the fee for registering the domain name (the www.yournamehere.com address) and another for hosting your site on a server, as well as the cost to update the site regularly—unless you're tech-savvy enough to do it yourself. Expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $1,000 or more, depending on the designer and how much content you have, and around $50 a year for hosting.

Another way to go—one that's less expensive, at least up front—is to design and host your website by using an online service, such as MyActingSite.com, that offers a variety of design templates from which to choose. (It's similar to setting up a blog through Blogger or TypePad.) At MyActingSite, the cost is $39.95 for setup and $19.95 per month thereafter.

Layout

It's hardly surprising that websites that are straightforward and easy to navigate yield the best results. The challenge is assembling such a site out of nothing. Although an experienced website designer can suggest ideas and steer you in the right direction, you should go into any consultation with a basic idea of what you want your site to look like.

"I'll tell any client to look at other people's websites and see what you do and don't like," says Mark Ledbetter, a website designer and actor, who currently understudies male lead Gavin Lee in "Mary Poppins" on Broadway. "As an actor, it's another way of putting yourself out there as a professional. Its style should demonstrate who you are as an individual and who you are as an actor. You want to have a nice mix of the two." That individuality can come in your color, design, font, and layout choices.

Every actor's website should have a few basic sections: bio/news, photos, résumé, clips/reel, and contact info. All should be clearly listed on the homepage. "You don't want to have to go more than three clicks to get to where you're going," says Ledbetter, who has designed sites for performers such as Barbara Cook and Matt Cavenaugh.

While it's fine to have a links section on your site, don't send a casting director to another site to find your pertinent information. "I like the ones that have all the info actually on the website," says West Coast casting director Marci Liroff. "Putting a link that takes you to another website for your videos, for example, takes you off of the actor's website, and that's not good. You want to have everything self-contained."

Contact Info

List an email address but also a phone number where you can be reached. "Get something that isn't your cell number, so you're not putting that on the Web for the world to call," advises actor Kimberly Dawn Neumann, whose Broadway credits include "A Chorus Line," "Annie Get Your Gun," and "Ragtime."

"I have a service number I've had for years," she continues, "and I keep it just so I have a number that no one can trace me at but that they can always reach me at day or night. I also have an email that is nondescript and goes through my website to my Palm Pixi. If someone contacts me through the site, I have instant notification. Sometimes time is of the essence."

Photos and Credits

You'll be doing yourself and your potential employers a huge favor by including a downloadable résumé and a high-resolution headshot. Once you've done that, you can list on your site any credits you don't have room for on your résumé. Your website can also contain several different photos, but be sure to select only those that show you at your best and that add to the overall picture of yourself that you want to create. "A casting director only maybe wants to see six different looks," says actor Eric Brownstone, who operates MyActingSite.com.

Reels and Clips

Don't expect to get cast in the Broadway company of "Wicked" based solely on the rendition of "Defying Gravity" that you posted on your website. But in certain instances, a good video or audio clip may get you an offer without having to attend an in-person audition.

When Brad Alexander and Adam Mathias were casting a workshop of their musical "See Rock City & Other Destinations" last June with director Jack Cummings III, they tried to find performers whose work they knew, because they didn't have a budget for auditions. One role proved problematic, until Cummings' wife, actor Barbara Walsh, recommended a performer named Josh Young, with whom she'd done a production of "A Little Night Music."

"The only way we were able to see him was by finding video of him online," says Mathias. Unfortunately, Young was unable to return for this summer's Off-Broadway production of "See Rock City" by the Transport Group, as he's playing Che in "Evita" at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

How Much Is Too Much?

One of the most appealing aspects of the Web is the huge galaxy of space it offers to tell the industry everything you can possibly tell about yourself. But that doesn't mean you have to include every little detail. "We have some actors that put up a full feature that they've been in," Brownstone says. "A casting director will tell you three minutes is enough."

"The biggest don'ts are putting up things that have nothing to do with your work as an actor, and clients who want to put up everything—every photo from every show," says Ledbetter. "You want to be careful and make sure it's something that you feel good about and represents who you are."   

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