The tools you need… without looking like a tool
Before I get onto discussing how to use social networking tools for professional advancement, I need to wade through the quagmire that is ‘self-promotion’.
When I say ‘self-promotion’, I’m talking about websites, Facebook pages, business cards, mass mail-outs of headshots, or any sort of advertising that is produced by you solely for the purpose of promoting you as an actor.
Suffice it to say: I’m not a fan. I don’t think it’s appropriate or necessary when you first start your career – and I’m not the only one.
Little excerpt from Acting is a Job by Jason Pugatch:
“Kat was once devoted to relentless self-promotion, but upon signing with a personal management firm, things changed.
‘I walked in and I showed them my little postcards and business cards and my little website and they’re like, “Get rid of the website, no more postcards, never go to any audition with a headshot and resume, it looks unprofessional.”’
The reason is this: the industry wants to cast someone who is confident and has experience – someone they can trust. Your website says none of that about you. Your website says, “I am not getting enough work and I’m aggressively trying to get your attention”.
Or it might say, “I don’t understand how the industry works, so I naively believe that a producer will see my website and immediately cast me”.
Or worse, it might say, “I think I’m such an amazing actor that EVERYONE wants to know about the work I’m doing”.
The situation Jason is writing about – which is from an interview with an actor working in New York – may differ a little from what you have experienced (for example, you may have been asked to bring a headshot and resume to an audition), and of course there are exceptions to every rule, and not every city has the same policies when it comes to audition etiquette. But in regards to self-promotion, it’s certainly worth considering the argument.
If you really are experienced, in demand, and worth working with, you will have an agent who will promote you in the appropriate way, through the appropriate channels. – so you won’t need to do it yourself. If you actually reach the level of success where people truly want to know all about what you’re doing, you’ll have someone on your staff who will create a website for you – so you won’t need to do it yourself. If you understand how the industry works, you’ll know that the chances of a producer or director spending time trawling through a freelance actor’s website are incredibly, incredibly slim – so you’ll put your time and money into classes, developing a good relationship with your agent, and doing actual acting work. That’s what it comes down to: where is your time and money best spent? What sends a good message about you; a good body of work and established relationships with industry professionals, or an online shrine to yourself?
There are a few exceptions to the rule. If you find that you need an online presence of some sort for grant applications, freelance auditions, etc – that’s fine. Or you may want to blog about your experiences or creative endeavours – great, demonstrating that you can be analytical about what you do is a good thing. If you’re part of a group or company that needs somewhere to display their work, or you have an alternate ego that has a virtual life – go for it. Generally the best guideline is to consider what it says about you. Does it say, “I work all the time and am constantly dedicating myself to artistic endeavours?” Great. If it says, “I’ve done a few things and I like to put up pictures of myself” – not so great. Be an artist rather than a product.
If you’ve discovered a need to have an online space where you can collate information about yourself, make sure it’s a reputable, appropriate space. LinkedIn is a fairly typical example of reputable and appropriate, Tumblr, Insta, Snapchat and WordPress (or any basic blog site) will also work depending on what sort of material you want to display, or you could try The Loop – an online portfolio space for professional artists (it’s free, hurray!). YouTube and Vimeo are acceptable and popular for visual material.
There’s a lot you can do without spamming the crap out of your friends and family. Head onto my next post to find out about the basic tools you need as an actor (the ones that are actually worth spending time and money on)!