Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Actor Social Networking & Having An Online Presence

Is the internet going to get you discovered? Probably not. Will it help increase your odds of being seen? Yes it will, and looking ahead, it is the future. You don’t need to be a visionary to see that. I noticed the online casting and actor directory sites started appearing around 1998. There are a couple that were there at the beginning where an actor could create a free profile, add headshots, credits, etc. And happily, some of them still do offer that service which is pretty cool since most of us are broke. They are in business to make money, so they offer different upgrades, or levels, tiers of service. Things like adding your demo reels, getting agent, and casting director labels, more photos, casting notices, these types of things. As of now, June 2010, I think it will still be awhile longer before they can really make a difference in your career. But the search engines are making this more of a viable thing. As an actor, you need to figure out how to increase your odds of getting found, and market yourself as much as you can. That’s the intent of my blog post here.

Think about it for a minute. You’re a casting director who has 4 days to cast 5 roles for a feature film, or a commercial. Agents submit photos, they call in actors they like for the roles and have them audition. I don’t think anything will ever replace you having to audition. An online demo reel may get you in the door, or help you to land a good agent, but don’t expect it to get you a gig. I mean seriously, do you think many casting directors hire people after seeing their reels, or go looking for them? Most of them just don’t have the time to go searching through endless casting and actor websites. Out of 1000’s of auditions in Hollywood, I had two directors ask to see it before they would audition me. For me, the demo reel was necessary to get a good agent with.

The odds that a few agents or castings directors are right now searching places like YouTube, MySpace, FaceBook, MeetUp, Yahoo Groups and Tweeting to find that new face, or fill a role is possible, but the reality is that it’s very slim. It takes 5 minutes just to find and see the first 10 seconds of a given actor’s reel. It could take hours just to see 25 actor profiles. They really don’t have the time for that, unless they happen to be looking, and stumble upon you and are intrigued by something. That part is up to you. Make yourself as marketable as possible within a few seconds. As an actor, you are offering a product…you. Your agent gets 10%, so you need to do 90% of the work. Marketing yourself online certainly can’t hurt.

Now we live in a world of instant gratification in videos and social networking. Casting has always been that way. Most people who see a profile, or click on a video move on in seconds if they aren’t grabbed instantly by it. So that’s your goal. Increase the odds that somebody will find you in a search, and watch your demo. So here’s a few tips to get found by searches, agents, and casting director’s. Maybe they will consider you, and watch some of your demo reel.

I’m seeing more and more actors, comedians, and performers creating online profiles, and also getting on the bigger social networking sites because they can see that it’s the future. (or at least we hope it will be.) If you’re not a “name” actor, there’s a couple little rules of thumb you can do to increase the odds that people will find you. Some of you may know most of this that follows, but please bear with me for those who may not.

Keywords. It’s obvious, but it’s a key element. If you have a MySpace profile, (I think MySpace will make a comeback.), or a FaceBook, etc. Rather than just putting your name down only, add the word “Actor” after it. So if your name is Mildred Flapsaddle, make it Milderd Flapsaddle – Actor. If somebody is looking for an actor, you will likely turn up earlier in a search that way.

The same thing with your video demo, it’s even more important to include the word “Actor” or "Acting" in the video title. Adding the words “Demo Reel” is a good idea also, because that’s really what you want people to find…samples of your work. Some directors and casting directors might go to YouTube or MySpace type sites to look for actor reels. Those are keywords they might search for to narrow things down a little. You can add “tags” to your videos also, be sure to do that. Some examples of good keywords are: actor, acting, film, TV, commercial, comedian, improvisation, movie, demo, reel, your city, and etc. This will make it easier to find you ahead of many others. If you don’t have a reel of your work, try and create one for yourself. Do a scene, monologue, clip from a play, a comedy sketch, or something. Just try and make it as good as possible. You don’t want to look like an amateur out there. Replace it when you get some “reel” credits.

I think YouTube, and MySpace are great for actors, and performers, because you can put your demo reel up there free on both sites. You can pimp your profile out a little, add headshots, job photos, even add a blog with job stories. Be creative, you are an artist after all, and it shows some personality. There is a lot of other video sites you can upload your demo reel to, do a search for them. Keep an eye out for video or social sites that might have the potential to be growing in popularity. Once you have the video up, you can link and share them on other sites like FB, Twitter, etc. Many of the actor websites charge you to have your demo on there, so this is an economical way to do it. I guess if you have the money to pay for that, it might help with some of the more prominent actor websites. Prices vary a lot. I think under 10 bucks a month sounds reasonable if they offer you a decent looking functional actor profile.

This following is just my opinion. I like 2 actor websites that have been there pretty much from the beginning of the online actor websites. and As of today, (June 2010) they both still offer a free actor profile, if you register with them. It is a bottom level tier, but it is free. You can add a couple of headshots, some credits, partial resume, and contact info. These are some ways to have at least a basic actor’s website. I know there is a number of other sites out there like those, but these are 2 that I know of, and they have been around for 10+ years. Keep in mind, that they offer upgrades for a nominal fee. They are, after all, a business, and in business to make money.

If you are a SAG member, there is also the Academy Players Directory, and the Internet Movie Data Base. (You can set up a webpage for yourself if you have some credits listed on IMDb.) These do charge a fee, but it pays to advertise if you can afford it, and it can’t hurt to be in their searchable databases. I think many industry people use these much more than they did in the 1990’s.

You just need to be careful what actor sites you choose, because there are a lot of scammers out there looking to take advantage of actors trying to break into the business. Be sure to research anyone you are spending hard earned money on. It’s easy to get other actor’s opinions now, do a search, or ask questions on the actor newsgroups in your area.

Don’t forget about the more prominent photo sharing sites like Picassa, and Flickr. You can put your headshots out there. Yet another way to be found. Again, add a short blurb to each photo, as well as relevant keywords in the titles, and of course add the tags. I think as a general rule of thumb, that with these sites, the social networking and so forth, is that once you post something on the web, consider that everyone will be able to see it. Even though you might have the privacy settings the way you want them, I think it’s best to assume that anyone will be able to see anything that you post anywhere, anytime. We do want to get discovered, but it’s something to keep in mind.

You might want the general search engines to find you as well. On the ones like Google, you can set up a personal profile. I wouldn’t put too much personal information out there, or on any of the social networking sites. But you can make it an actor profile. You can add a Picassa photo gallery, a bio, a Blogspot blog, a YouTube video, even a link to your personal actor website. (Which I hope that you have. There’s no excuse not to have something basic out now.) This increases the odds that you might be found in a search. Just remember to add that word, “Actor”, or Singer, Dancer, Comedian, etc. if it applies.

So back to the social networking sites for a moment. You have to do exactly that, network, and add contacts. With sites like FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumbler, and the growing numbers of other ones out there, it’s important to build up your friends, contacts, and industry related friends as quickly as possible. The more you add, the more effective it will be. As an experiment, try putting the word actor, or casting in the social site’s search box and see who pops up. That’s where you want to be, in the first 100 results. So add friends, join the acting groups, and the actor – acting related pages. On your status profile try to put useful, interesting, or helpful material out there if you can.

If you post uninteresting stuff just to look busy it turns some people off. And it’s even worse if you post too often. I think a once a week posting is plenty, unless something exciting is going on. If you start posting crap out there 3 times a day, you might start losing friends. Most people don’t care if you took the family to “zombie world, and have a new pimple on your butt”. Be serious about it. Talk about an audition experience or something, a new job photo, a casting you heard about that you aren’t right for, but someone else might be right for. Post whatever you can think of that is helpful, or interesting. Think about why you would like to look at someone else’s page. This will keep people wanting to come back an visit your site. If you offer something worthwhile, that’s the key to getting traffic to your profile, your page, and getting them to come back. Maybe it will even lead to a job, or a good opportunity. I hope it does. Best of luck!

Copyright © Shannon Ratigan All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

How 2 Make Green said...

I totally agree with actor social networking online being the future. Found one new site that has potential to be huge in the film industry