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Secret Agent Man

Surfing the Web with a Casting Net

Surfing the Web with a Casting Net

I started working as an agent before Elle Fanning was born. Back then, every actor had three basic tools they could use to market themselves: pictures, résumés, and VHS demo reels. Isn't that quaint? Yes, the world has changed, and actors now have a fourth tool in their magic bag of tricks. It's called a website, and I'd like to help you build one that works.

Now, if you're looking for advice on how to write HTML code, you've got the wrong guy. I still think Dreamweaver is a song by Gary Wright. But I do know a thing or two about actor websites because at last count, I've seen 6 million of them.

So let's start with your home page. Most actors include way too much content. All you need is your name on top with an easy-to-read navigation bar beneath it. The links on the bar are usually Bio, Pictures, Résumé, Reel, and Contact. Under that, I like to see one perfect picture that gives me an immediate sense of the person in terms of age and type. Next to it, you should list recent news, such as bookings and signings. Some actors use a separate link for updates, but I like seeing them right on the home page.

On the design front, you should pick a color scheme that's easy on the eyes and frames the material in a flattering way. If you don't have an eye for this sort of thing, study other websites and see what works. Busy patterns and hard-to-read fonts are a negative. I would also avoid background music. The key is to keep it simple.

The bio page is your opportunity to give me a sense of your personality, so feel free to have fun, but keep it short. You can hire someone to ghostwrite your autobiography when you're famous.

Actors treat the pictures page as a dumping ground for every headshot they've ever taken. All those images are eye clutter, and I'm not about to click on every single one. So again, it makes more sense to just keep it simple. Go with your best and most recent shots. Feel free to use behind-the-scenes pictures too. And variety's important. I recently saw a site where the actor posted five headshots of himself wearing the exact same outfit, and the only variations were minor changes in his expression. This is me happy, this is me sad, this is me wasting your time ...

Another option is to not even use a pictures link. Instead, you can place different images on each page. That works well, too, and the pictures will balance your written content nicely.
The page with your résumé should be formatted just like your hard copy. It needs to have all the same information and it should be printer friendly as a PDF.

Moving on to the reels page, nothing should start playing automatically. I also hate having to wait for a video to buffer. And don't embed every single piece of material you have. Be selective. Your website is a selling tool, not a career retrospective.

The contact page should be simple and easy to read. Make sure you include clickable email addresses and resist the urge to link to your Facebook page. The privacy settings usually prevent me from seeing anything unless I friend you, and I've already got enough strangers in my life.

Congratulations! You now have an effective website that you should update on a regular basis. Don't forget to include the address on all your marketing tools. And next time you're out having a drink, lift your glass and make a toast to CERN physicist Tim Berners-Lee. He's the reason you need a website in the first place.

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