Louis E. Catron--A PRIMER FOR ACTORS--Information for Actors about R ésumés, Headshots, Websites, books, and audtions.  THE ACTOR'S WEBSITE.
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A
Primer
for
Actors
~ Your Own
Actor's Website ~

 


~ Your Own
     Actor's
   Website ~

        "A Primer for Actors" offers you information about helpful books,  constructing your résumé, getting appropriate headshots, making your own website, and preparing for auditions.  You'll also find tips that are designed to help you become more effective.  Throughout there are websites you'll want to visit for additional insights.  I hope you'll find at least some of this information useful. 

        Here we look at constructing your personal website.

Links to the parts of 
A Primer for Actors.

Books for Actors
Headshots
Your Resume
Creating Your Personal Actor's Website
Auditioning 


 

~YOUR OWN WEBSITE ~

        I'm an unabashed fan of the Internet.  Its capabilities awe me and I'm constantly impressed with how much information and material we can find.  (That's the reason I wrote a book--Theatre Sources Dot Com--about theatre and dance sites on the 'Net:  there is an amazing wealth of valuable material available for you.)  I am convinced that we in theatre should take advantage of the 'Net.   One significant way is to have a personal website. 

        Here we look at the advantages you receive from having your own actor's website, techniques to making a site, and examples of other actors' sites.

Reasons to create a personal website

        If you don’t have a website, what’s stopping you?  The ‘Net is a magnificent tool for all sorts of uses, and certainly you can benefit from having a ‘Net presence.  Why?  Consider these reasons.

        1. Your résumé and headshot are highly important tools, but they are dated, fixed in time.  You can’t retrieve them from casting directors and substitute newer information about major achievements.  Your website, however, can be updated in perhaps ten minutes.  That's why you put your website URL on your résumé--so a director can look you up to find what's new. 

        2. Another advantage of the website is that you can be more detailed, even include links to photos of you in costume, copies of media reviews of your performances, and the like.  Some singers include extracts from their records on their websites.  I've seen actors' websites that even include video.  That's far more riches than you can put on that one-page résumé. 

        3. Most casting directors are net savvy and can find you on the 'Net. 

        4. A website joins you with other actors in the theatre village on the 'Net. 

        5. You can arrange to make it easy, fast, and inexpensive for others to contact you:  simply be sure that your website has a link to your email addy. 

        6. Furthermore, it is mod to say, ever-so-casually, "And you can look on my website."  The 'Net is a tool of Today. 

Netscape Composer:  A do-it yourself project

        While it is true that professionally designed websites can have a gloss that surpasses the amateur’s, if you aren't ready to hire someone you can do a quite adequate job by yourself.  Netscape, for example, offers “Netscape composer”— free.  If your browser is an older version of Netscape, look in the bottom right corner of your task bar for a drawing of a sheet of paper and a pen.  In newer versions of Netscape, it is in the bottom left corner where the sheet of paper has a circle blob instead of a pencil.  Hover your cursor over it and the word “Composer” pops up.  Click it and you'll see a blank page.  That's your future website.  Go ahead and play on that page--you can't hurt anything!-- experimenting with font types, sizes, and colors, using the indents, and getting used to how it works.  You'll find that in many ways it works pretty much like Microsoft Word.  Do anything you want.  When you're finished, simply click the "X" at the top right to exit; it will ask you if you want to "save" and say "no." 

        You can learn Netscape quietly at home.  Although perhaps intimidating at first, it isn't difficult, and—good news!—it doesn't require knowledge of HTML (HyperText Markup Language, a complex code that uses tags such as <bold> </bold> to control webpages).  Netscape takes care of those pesky codes for you, bless its heart. 

        Various websites offer tutorials to help you learn Netscape Composer...free . To mention just three, there is “Netscape Composer:  An Introduction” (link ), Montana State University's “Six-Step Netscape Composer Tutorial” (link), and Netscape's free lessons (link).   Use your favorite search engine to find more under the category of “Netscape Composer Tutorial.”  College students can get help from their I.T. folks.  You may have a friend who already is familiar with Netscape:  bring your buddy over for pizza and beer and Netscaping because you can learn more easily with both of you sitting at the keyboard. 

        If you're familiar with MSWord, much of Netscape will be old hat.  You'll find many of the same basic controls on the tool bar at the top.  Access to different fonts and colors, for example, is just like Word.  It also makes tables visible and invisible—a very helpful design tool—but you can't adjust the width of cells.  (Tip:   On the tool bar at the top you'll see a button marked "save."  Click it frequently!  It is heart-breaking to have added all sorts of goodies and then have the computer crash before you saved the materials.)

        If you want different backgrounds or images, you can find them on the 'net.   Simply use a good search engine like Google (link) and look for "free background."  You'll find a large number of sites.  For example, Absolute Background Textures has literally thousands of backgrounds (4,315 when I last looked, with new ones added frequently) for you to consider (link).  The sites will give you instructions about how to copy their materials.  For illustration, the blue background you see to the left and right of this text came from one such site, which called it "blue paper," and I, um, borrowed the spotlights from another site. 

        Equally, you can find sites that offer a wide variety of fonts, supplementing those on Netscape, that you can download at no cost.  I've haven't found a favorite site, but you may discover one you like by having your search engine look for "free web font." 

        Netscape Composer is something of a blunt instrument and has quirks like that diva who drove everyone nuts in your last show.  It also doesn't offer all sorts of cute tricks like rollovers (you've seen them when you've positioned your cursor over an image and watched it change).  There is, sadly, no "undo" button like Word has, and you can't use the tab button to indent paragraphs.  But, hey, you can't beat the cost and it produces nice sites.  Once you’ve learned it, you may want to advance to a professional program such as Dreamweaver (expensive and more difficult to learn).  Until then, Netscape will serve you well and make a quite acceptable webpage.  Many websites you visit are Netscape-Composer-produced.  (I most certainly do not imply my website serves as an example of Quality, but for what it is worth to you, all of these pages are composed on Netscape.  I'm thinking of moving to Dreamweaver, if I can spare the time to learn the thing.) 

Internet Explorer:  Another do-it-yourself project 

        If your favorite browser is Internet Explorer (instead of Netscape), you'll be happy to know that it includes a very similar tool called Front Page Express.  Like Netscape Composer, it is downloaded and installed automatically when you install the browser.  As I've not used Front Page Express, however, I'm unable to comment on its details but the basic premise is the same as Netscape's Composer.  If you use IE and want to use its Front Page Express, you can find help on the 'Net.  For example, FrontPage Express Tutorial offers a cleanly organized set of instructions (link).  Bruce Lane's Creating a Web Page with Front Page Express also is nicely organized (link).

Organize!!

        As you create your website, you're going to accumulate a great deal of stuff.  It all goes on your hard drive.  Before you start, think carefully about organization.  You're going to accumulate a large number of pieces.  First, you'll want a folder that holds all of your website materials.  Call it, say, "My website."  Secondly, you're going to have a series of things that belong together (oh, say, "newspaper reviews" or "background colors" or the like).  Within your "My website" folder, make sub-folders for each of those pieces (one for "Reviews," another for "Audio clips," etc.).  If you don't, you're going to have a helluva mess and you'll not be able to find the file you are looking for.

        By the way, you can go to "My website" very easily.  You'll have on your desktop an icon for "My Computer."  Click it.  Very likely your hard drive is "C."  Click that.  Then, finally, click "My website."  You'll see all your folders and files. You can click them to see what they are and how they're named, highly important for you to know because you'll want those details when you transfer them from your hard drive to your 'Net site (which we discuss below); with a click of the left mouse button, you also can see a visual thumbnail of the contents.   (Tip.  This is a good place to remind you to back up your files often.  You'll hate losing all those goodies when you have a hard disk crash.) 

Use the 'Net to Find Valuable Aids

        You'll find a large number of sites ready to help you with your personal website.  One is Web Designer's Virtual Library (link).  The text in the center of the page deals with news; the right-hand menu is full of details such as design, graphics, and software. Webmaster T's World of Design (link) has various tutorials and, perhaps most valuable, "Search Engines Secrets" to get your site where others can find it.  More helpful information about calling your site to the attention of search engine is on Search Engine Tutorial for Beginners (link ).  Finally, for examples of how-not-to do a website (!), look at the horrible examples on Web Pages That Suck (link) and Building Really Annoying Websites (link)

The scanner

        Scanning your picture or newspaper reviews for your website requires—no surprise here—a scanner.  You can buy one for less than $40.00, although it will be relatively primitive without the bells and whistles that characterize the $300.00 models.  If you're in the market for a scanner, you might want to look at ZDNet for recommendations and vendors (link). 

        If you don't want to buy a scanner, there are alternatives:  you can use a buddy’s scanner, possibly find one at your local library, or check with a professional print shop like Kinko’s or a well-equipped photographic shop.  If you’re a college student, your I.T. department will scan for you at no cost.  The scanner also can copy print media reviews of your performances.

        Scanning is as easy as making a Xerox copy.  It gets tricky, however, when you need to adjust the size of the image or do photo editing.  Be prepared to spend a bit of time learning techniques.  This is one of those puter operations where you'll want a puter savvy buddy sitting next to you.

Keep your professional site professional

        You may be totally fascinated by your hobby of iris propagation, but keep your professional website professional.  If you want to chat about your travels in wondrous downtown Podunk, make cynical observations about the world, or become a second Dave Barry, use a different site.  Your professional site is not a blog!

        The main page should be short.  However, you can add additional pages--of course being certain that they are professional--and link them to your home page.  Those pages may link to reviews, photos of you in productions, even audio and video links.

        In my book, Theatre Sources Dot Com, I list a number of outstanding actor websites that can serve as examples.  Two of those that I especially liked then were Ken Stock, Actor (link), although he's added stuff since I wrote that book and made it slow to open.   Stock includes a number of links to valuable actor sites, making his site look like one belonging to a serious professional.  The second one I mentioned in my book belongs to Jill Schackner (link), the young performer who played Young Cosette and Young Eponine in Les Mis, appeared in Disney's Out of the Box, and accumulated an amazing amount of experience for a not-yet-a-teenage young girl.  Like Stock, she's added quite a bit since I wrote the book and the site may appear busy.   She includes sound and videos, appropriate for a singer.  (Her host server is Geocities and its pop-up ads are a bloody bore.  Thank the gods for PopUpKiller, which zaps those intrusive critters with a delightfully explosive bolt of lightning.)

        Avoid over-loading your site with doodads.  They tend to distract, can look "cute" but they can be the antithesis of professional, and they can make your site deadly slow to download. 

        (Tip.  Put your URL address on your website.  Why?  Yes, sure, viewers know the address—after all, they’re there!  But imagine a casting director prints out your website then wants to return to it to see if it has been updated.  Ah ha.  There's the URL addy, just waiting for the director's use.)

        (Second Tip:   You'll want to put your e-mail addy on your website so directors can contact you, but think about your security.  And sanity.  If you use your correct address, those damned devious spammers will pick it up through their automated search bots and you'll get a deluge of spam.  Consider, as an alternative, making the address a bit off.  For example, you might use myemailaddressATaddress, or put false letters before and after the address like XmyaddressATaddressZThat'll frustrate the spammers (who deserve all the frustration we can give them).  You can follow your address with a brief note explaining how to make the addy correct, e.g., "The letters X and Z are there to stop spammers.  Please delete them when addressing me.")  

Placing your website on the ‘Net

        When you first create your webpage, it sits on your puter's hard drive.  No one will see it there.  Therefore you need a host to put it on the 'Net.  You'll use a FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to make the transfer from your hard drive to the host server.  Most servers supply FTP.  It takes only a few minutes to learn how to click the right buttons, but like most puter activities it helps to have a knowledgeable buddy sit next to you and tell you what to do.

        Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) may provide you with website hosting services.  If you have questions, give 'em a call.  (Hey, they're "service," right?)   I'm a firm believer in doing business with hometown people, and my ISP is about a mile away.  That's been remarkably convenient.

        A number of show biz websites offer to host your site, even construct your home page.  You’ll find some theatre websites that will host your webpage...for a price.  One example is Network 99.com (link), which offers actors a nice variety of templates, email, and other services at a cost of $20.00 for the website and monthly hosting cost of $5.00.  Four other examples are Actors Worldlink (link), websites4actors (link), AuditionSearch (link), and Backstage.Com (link).  There are others you can find using your favorite search engine.  Before plunking down your cash, look at them very carefully.  (Tip. Not many people know that you can discover great information about sites such as traffic--how many visitors the site has--rankings, and reviews.  Therefore, before you select a host, look it up on Alexa.Com (link) to see how often it is visited, the host's address, how long it has been in existence, and what reviewers say about it.)

        You can place your site on a webring--a group of sites linked together because all are based on a single topic.  There are webrings for designers, writers....and, of course, actors.  For example, here is one acting webring you might want to consider (link).  It had 74 actors when I last looked.  Surf through the various entries and see if you'd like to join. 

        You also can find generic sites that will host you for free, usually getting their "payment" with banner ads.  You can start with directories of freebies, and some also offer reviews of the free hosts.  I’m partial to 100 Best Free Web Spaces (link).   Two other such directories are ClickHereFree.Com (link) and FreeWebSpace (link).  Some hosts, like Tripod (link) and Yahoo!-Geocities offer step-by-step guides that help newbies; some have templates that you simply fill in the blanks, but they won't work for a professional site.  If you're in college, quite likely you can place your site on your institution's server, but that lasts only as long as you're enrolled.  Even so, however, once you've made your site you can transfer it via FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to another host.

        Before committing to a host, check some sample sites and see if you like the feel.  For example, I’m one who quickly gets impatient with those damned multiple popup ads that plague hosts like Geocities (does anyone actually buy that stupid ubiquitous webcam thing?), but perhaps you can bear them. 

        If you don't want your website to carry ads, you can upgrade the freebies for a price. 

        You'd be wise to select a host you'll want to live with for a length of time and one that won't suddenly drop dead (stick with well-known names).  If you change hosts, those people who have your web addy will be frustrated when they try to find you and get only a "no such page" box.

        If the worst happens and the host disappears, you won't lose your information:  you still have all your material on your own hard drive.  (Tip:  be sure you backup your hard drive often!  You'd hate to lose all that when--not "if" but "when"--your hard drive crashes.)

Getting your website visible--Search Engine 101

        If search engines don't list your website, folks won't be able to find you.  You'll want search engines to list your site.  Possibly you've gotten on spam lists and are receiving Amazing Offers! Today Only! that you can purchase to make your site visible For Thousands of Visitors!  Those spam ads are (no surprise!) ripoffs.  You don't need to purchase their services because freebies are available and will suffice for most of us. 

        Search engine registration techniques are a bit complex and informational websites handle it far better than I can.  Therefore you might want to look at several guides.  Creating and Submitting Search Engine Friendly Websites (link) is a user-friendly approach to self-promotion.  Search Engine Submission Tips (link ), which is a subdivision of Search Engine Watch (link), is a more technical explanation.  Search Engine Registration, aka Site Add (link), promises "free and easy" steps to register your site with engines of your choice. 

Placing your website on search engines

        If you want to get traffic to your web site, you need to get it listed in search engines.  They may pick it up automatically through their own search process, but some people want to be sure and therefore they submit their sites to selected engines.

        There must be a zillion search engines, but you'll do fine with just a few of the large ones such as those listed below.  When you are certain your website is ready for public view--don't rush because once you've registered you may not be able to re-register--go to the following engines and tell them to list your site.  I've described the listing process below.  (Tip:  To make the process go a bit faster and easier, you might want to copy your site's URL and your email addy to a Word document and keep it open as you go to the various search engines.  Then as you fill out the forms you can copy that info to paste into the blanks.)

        Google.  (Link.) Type your main page's URL into the "URL" box and click "Add URL."

        Open Directory Project. (Link.Volunteers serve as category editors to check submissions, looking to be sure each fits within the proper category.  Find the category that your site seems to fit, click "add URL" at the top right corner of the page, fill out the form, and click "Submit." 

        Alta Vista.  (Link.First type the submission code into the box, then add your URL and e-mail addy, and finish by clicking "Submit." 

        Yahoo.  (Link.)  Scroll down to "Web Site Directory" section and click on the appropriate category for your site, then scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "Suggest a Site."  You can, if you wish, pay $299.00 to get your site listed right away (I wonder if anyone ever does that?) but unless you've won the lottery you'll do what the rest of us do and click "Standard Consideration," then "Continue."  When you've filled out the form, click "Submit." 

        Inktomi and MSN Web Pages.  (Link.)  By now, of course, you're an old vet and you know that you simply type your URL and e-mail addresses into those  boxes and click "Submit Site." 

        Hotbot.  (Link.) You give them your URL and....but you know the drill.

        Pay-per-click engines.  These require you to put cash in their "bank."  When someone clicks on your site, a certain amount of money is deducted from your account.  I've never tried that.  If you want to see the process, here are a couple to look at.  Overture.  (Link.) This is the biggest pay-per-clicker. FindWhat.  (Link.)  Costs less than Overture and apparently also does less.

Sample Actor Webpages

        Get ideas about your website by considering how other actors have designed their sites.  Visit these examples and see what ideas they generate.

        Mario Battista. Link.

        Nicole Leroux's site looks professionally designed, and she keeps the front page short by providing links to other important materials.  Link.

        Earlier I pointed out that your home page can have links to other pages.  To illustrate that idea, Eric Meyer includes URLs to his experience.  Link.

        Equally, Susan J. Rotkovitz combines her acting résumé with links to her directing/dramaturgy information.  Link

        Kristen Erdman uses the comedy and tragedy masks as a background and, interestingly, has a link to permit directors to download a printable version of her materials--thoughtfully, in both PC and Mac versions.  Cool.  Link.

        Ralph James Chelli's page is clean, direct, and to the point.  Link.

        Dave Lankford uses his headshot to make a striking first page.  Link

        Finally, for fun, here are websites of some actors who surely don't worry about anyone remembering their names or faces.  Bernadette Peters (link), Steve Martin (link), Sean Connery (link), Charliz Theron, with a professionally designed site that nicely uses Flash (link), and Michael Douglas (link)
 
 

        I hope the information here helps you decide to establish your own actor's site on the Internet.  I'm sure you'll find that the investment of a few hours will be quite worth it. 

        For further information about your personal website, I invite you to look at my book, Theatre Sources Dot Com:  A Complete Guide to Online Theatre and Dance Resources.  It has well over 750 sites, all annotated in depth, for theatre and dance folks--jobs, unions, organizations, training, actors, playwrights, designers, managers, choreographers, directors, and more.  Amazon Link.
 

 
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