Welp, this will be the last round of critiques for 2012, y’all. HUGE thanks to all who hopped on the opportunity and even HUGER thanks for letting your goodies out there as teaching moments for future readers. If you’ve missed anything, be sure to check out the past two weeks‘ critiques columns and all the ones from years before.
For those of you I didn’t feature, I’m thinking about rolling out a critique column every month or so, as we charge into 2013. It’s such a popular feature — even though it’s WAY more time consuming than writing a regular column each week — and there’s so much good stuff still in my inbox, I may try to budget time for a critique column now and then throughout the year. 🙂 Stay tuned!
Oh, and before we hop into the critiques for this week, next week’s column will be a follow-up on the “assignment” I gave y’all in this column. If any of you fine folks would like to share your homework with us, fire off an email this week so we can celebrate one another in next week’s column! Yay!
Okay, let’s start these critiques with the lovely Kathleen O’Neil.
First off, congratulations on your new SMFA Store! It’s so wonderful to see you continue to have success, since you and Keith are such wonderful people. And I know that firsthand since — if you remember me from earlier this year — you helped me get those last few (fantastic) videos from YourActorMBA when the site closed. You continue to be for me a great example of how one can be nice AND succeed in this industry.
Thanks to the knowledge you’ve shared in your book and weekly columns, both of which I consult frequently, I had the courage to finally create my website this summer. Now I know I’m late to yet another party (the good news is it’s at least partially due to work opportunities), but if you find something you can use as a teaching tool on my website, I’m happy to contribute to the learning process.
I tried to take every tip you’ve shared into consideration when creating the site, so I think I’ve gotten most of the basics down. I’m specifically interested in what you may suggest for the text I’ve written on my welcome page (what I call my casting cheat sheet) and my “about me” page, since that’s not as simple to get right as something like including a PDF version of one’s resumé for downloading.
All the best to you and Keith in the rest of 2012 (now that the world hasn’t ended) and in the fast-approaching New Year!! 🙂
Kathleen, thank you. You’re such a delight and I’m so grateful for your feedback on the SMFA Store! 🙂 We spent the ten days before the launch working 20 hour per day on it, but man, is it worth it. Just to have a place to point people when they ask a question I’ve answered a bajillion times via email (y’know, when they want a deeper answer than an email can provide) is going to be a huge time-saver in my world. 🙂
I’m so glad you’ve been working a lot and that you’re now offering up your website for us to check out. Let’s get to it!
Your welcome page works for me. I’d avoid *calling* it a casting cheat sheet in the text itself, as that’s one of those things (like most brand-management elements) that is better to show you’ve mastered by sharing the news of you, rather than pointing to the fact that you know that’s what you’re doing. Oh, also, I’d cut waaaaay down on the number of actors you use, as comparisons to what you offer. I like to say, include one actor to whom you look similar, another whose acting style is like yours, and then maybe add a “dash” of someone whose energy is aligned with yours. Let others say, “Y’know, you have a Helen Hunt energy, from when she was on Mad About You,” to which you can reply, “Y’know? I’ve heard that!” Ninja move!
Your about me page is good, and while I love your nod to having gone through a tough time — and pretty much everyone in this business has done time on the couch — I worry that it might be a bit of an overshare, if someone is trying to assess risk in bringing you on set. I’d focus on the training, the work (minimize the extra work, unless you’re hoping to continue doing that), and that your break taught you a lot about who you are, and that confidence is what sets you apart. Think like a buyer. They’re really not interested in childhood ambition or having chosen too many “real” jobs as much as they want to feel: “I’m going to be thrilled with having chosen this actor.” Let your WHY motivate you, but don’t think that makes for a good selling point (I’ve had to learn this myself).
Next up — and this is freaky — is John Austin Wiggins. Now, y’all could probably imagine that I have a fairly sophisticated labeling and filing system for the hundreds of emails I get regarding my column each week. Well, John was one of the first to reach out about getting critiqued. I replied to him and promptly labeled his email as “used in a column” and filed it away. Ack! I totally never used it, and I so meant to, that very first week! Damn old age! 😉
Well, John wrote again just to say thanks for the advice that he was able to use, even when I was sharing it about others’ materials. I’ve included both emails, below.
First of all, thank you for all you do! Your columns are a constant source of inspiration and information, always delivered in the most positive way possible! I tend to read them in chunks, two or three at a time. And maybe it’s a little freaky (cue the Twilight Zone music), but when I do, they almost always seem to address a specific question or roadbump that I’m pondering at the time!
I use a do-it-yourself service (MyActingSite.com), which allows me to update as frequently as I wish. In the past, I have posted A LOT on the site, but I’m attempting to make it more streamlined (a quick and easy visit) while still presenting an interesting and accurate portrait of me and my brand. Any advice or direction you can give would be so appreciated.
Thank you again so much for this! You are a true champion to all of us navigating this thrilling and crazy business!
Wow!!! Your year-end critiques have been amazing so far! I had submitted my website to you for a critique, but have been getting sooooooooo much out of the comments you have given others that I’ve already made several changes since originally contacting you, including a bio edit, a reel edit (a work-in-progress, as I’m still getting new footage), and an edit of the current projects on the home page.
There’s still a LOT of stuff in the current projects, and I’m working on condensing all the 2012 stuff to make room for the new year. Also working on condensing the resumé a bit, and getting those buttons to download the PDF. Also contact info on every page.
So if you plan to include a critique of my site, please take another look if you are able.
Otherwise, know that your messages are coming through loud and clear, and I am soooo grateful to you for all you do!!!
Happiest of holidays to you and yours!!!
John Austin Wiggins
Well, I just love all of this. I sometimes wonder whether critique series such as this are good teaching moments, as some folks really just need THEIR goodies assessed and don’t connect how the notes I give to one actor apply to them. Luckily, actors these days are just dang smarter, overall. I love that!
Love the tweaks you’ve made and I know you still have a to-do list for the next round of updates. I’m gonna say I’d minimize the various looks in your gallery of thumbnail images, as some of ’em talk me out of what your bullseye might be. I love that you’ve featured your reel right on the main page and that you’ve worked out a balance of personality items and risk-assessment angles in your bullet-point list.
Overall, really good stuff, and I agree with your plan for getting your website more streamlined in 2013. Think like a buyer. You don’t need to share everything, just enough to make ’em know they can’t live without you!
We’re now turning our attention to Lenka Šilhánová.
I’ve first started my blog and overall my social media presence a few years ago when I started living abroad, learning English, and getting professional acting training. Your book, Self-Management for Actors, played a significant role in giving me the guts to start my blog and social media presence, thank you!
My blog’s purpose, at first, was to share my journey and to connect with actors like myself. As more people discovered my blog and started writing me emails with questions and asking for advice, I started targeting my blog posts for international actors and covering the topics of our interest.
However, later on my blog’s purpose also became a way to get myself out there and because at that time I didn’t feel ready to have my own website just yet, having a blog felt right and made me Googleable enough.
During this year I added my bio, headshots, and resumé on the blog as well, as I now have some training, credits (both in Czech and English), and am in process of getting a website and a showreel done before I move to Vancouver, BC, where I’d like to base myself.
I’d like to keep my blog going even after I get my website up, but I’m not sure if I should keep them separate or have a website with my blog integrated in it.
Also, I sometimes wonder, how much ought to be shared on a blog about yourself as an actor so it won’t hurt your career? My dilemma is that I’d like to share my experience moving to Canada from the Czech Republic, the immigration issues (getting a working visa, getting an agent/manager, and all), because I believe it could be very helpful to actors wanting to move to Canada to pursue acting, knowing what challenges they might face and what the visa process looks like. Yet at the same time I’d like to avoid making any mistakes, as I’m not familiar with the customs regarding sharing such information. Of course I’ll research that prior posting anything, but I’d like to know your opinion on this, because I value your opinions and experience in show business.
My aim is to improve my blog every year, that’s why I’d very much appreciate any advice that could help me with that, please. 🙂
Happy holidays and all the best in the New Year!
Lenka, I’m so proud of you and all you’ve done with your blog over the years. I know you were featured in Huffington Post earlier this year (thank you for the shout-out) for your blogging and I think it’s a wonderful pursuit. Sharing your journey with other actors is something for which you will always be rewarded. You’ll receive comments and fan mail from people you’ll never meet whose paths you’ve influenced, just by having posted about the challenges and successes you’ve had along the way.
Certainly, some people choose to blog anonymously, to avoid the backlash of anyone out there who may take issue with a post they’ve made. I’m not a fan of that, because it gets us into a world where unidentified whackadoos are being lauded as “experts” and their agenda, their credibility, their accountability is nonexistent. What I recommend instead is a disclaimer on the site. Look at the one I used in Self-Management for Actors as a starting point. It states that the mention of a company or person or a service is just a mention, not an endorsement. Look also at my column “Incorporate” and how I’m very careful to state I’m just sharing my experience, and I’m not a lawyer, nor an accountant.
As long as you are sharing YOUR experiences and not prescribing advice for others on how to get a visa or make an international move, you should be fine. Add some fine print to your site and just always post in the first person.
Now, I have a few tweaks I’d like to suggest for your blog, as you integrate it into an actor info site. (Oh, and I *definitely* think you want to make it an all-in-one space kind of thing. It’s all about brand management and building a fan base out of a population that may not have come to you for that purpose, initially. This works in both directions, BTW.) Right now, this site looks way too bloggy and not nearly enough actory. I know that blogging is your forte, but I’d like to see a headshot in the sidebar (much more valuable use of brand real estate than that DONATE button, which I’d lose altogether unless it’s just a huge money-maker for you) and I’d suggest you start using photos of yourself in your blog posts. Y’know, instead of a stack of books from stock photography, a stack of YOUR books, and with you holding up a favorite. (SMFA maybe? Hee!)
Here comes some goodness from Brittany Joyner.
Really appreciated your column today. It helped me put a few things in perspective and got some wheels turning in my head. I love the format of getting your column in my inbox weekly, then a link to an old column. I sheepishly admit to infrequently going ALL THE WAY to the Showfax page to seek out your column each week before, so this is a perfect setup for me. 😉
Oi. Where do we start? My agents like my headshots and think they’re good, but somehow I’m just not getting in the door. So, I’m looking at shooting again, hopefully more on-brand than the last time (though I felt like I had all that stuff in my head during the last shoot, but I digress). That being said, demo reel, fun bio, blah blah blah is all on my website, so if you’re in need of something specific to cover for the critique, you are welcome to choose from that.
I know I’m late getting this in, so absolutely no worries if there’s no space. Thanks for all you do! Looking forward to seeing you again soon!
Cool, girl. I have to say, starting the weekly BonBlast and featuring archived columns was one of those things that just made sense — but was something I never had the time to do, in my mind — because I so regularly got emails from people begging for email notification of the columns going live. That, plus emails from readers asking questions that were totally covered just a few weeks before, showed me email notification was a great idea, as was opening up comments on archived posts. So many of them are evergreen! I knew the BonBlasts were working when I started hearing, “I loved today’s column” on Tuesdays. Of course, they go live on Mondays, but some folks — like you, obviously — like a nudge to go check the goods out. Yay!
Let’s start with your resumé. Looks to me like you may be listing your on-camera credits in chronological order, which I don’t advise. Listing them in the order of badassery is my recommendation, because then you focus our attention to where you’ve been rockin’ it out, and you can always cut old credits from the bottom when you update credits. Next, now that you’re in LA, I’d lose “Industrial” as a heading (even shared with “Commercial”) unless you’re hoping to book more industrial work, here. I love all the personality items, here, and I really feel like I GET you, which is great. You have a few font consistency issues (size, mostly) that I’d love to see you tweak, but that’s a minor thing.
I actually like your headshots quite a bit, so I agree that you probably DID have a lot of the branding conversation going on during the shoot. I’d bet your biggest obstacle comes from being a part of the most oversaturated category of actors in Los Angeles: Caucasian, female, knocking on 30. This is why I love how much self-producing you’re doing. Build your own heat. Get your work in front of the buyers. Bide your time. It’ll come. 😉
Finally, I want your website to FEEL a little more like you. Right now, it’s a little template-y and all the sass in your resumé isn’t “reading” at the site. A few tweaks to your template could make a big difference in that. Remember, the goal of an actor website is not only to feature all the updates, latest reel, contact info, headshots, and photos, but also to get visitors warmed up to what it feels like to have you in for an audition or a meeting. Font, colors, layout… these things all contribute to that.
Let’s see what Elizabeth Guterbock has going on!
Hi there Bonnie:
Down to business:
I recently sent an email to an agent and finally received a positive reply. We’re meeting on Monday to discuss potentially working together! Yay! However, before I jump on the agent train (I’ve never had one before and this is the only one who has replied back to me) I want to take my marketing materials to the next level so I can continue to improve my brand, especially if I end up having an agent attached.
I know the agent will be helping me with some of that branding, but I thought it might be good to ask you for feedback on my agent cover letter, but especially on my CV and other marketing materials like headshots so I go to the agent meeting full of knowledge about what I’m selling.
Below is the email I sent to the agent, as well as links to my UK CV (I’m an American living in London). If you would be so kind as to take a look, and perhaps comment on anything that is weak on my CV, I’d be very grateful. Also, if there are things I could use from the letter to send to casting professionals, say the word, though obviously I’d tailor it to each case! I know better than to send the same letter out to everyone because of your advice. 😉
Thanks again for your time, and here’s the letter and links:
Louise Gubbay Associates Ltd.
Dear Ms. Gubbay:
I hope this email finds you well. Your client and my friend Sam Child recommended I get in touch. I had the pleasure of working with Sam at The White Bear Theatre in Kennington this past year. I am a London based American actress with dual US/UK citizenship currently seeking representation.
In the year following my training at Central School of Speech and Drama, I’ve continued to build credits in a range of settings, including commercials and festival-shown short films, as well as a mobile-phone based soap opera. In addition to my on-camera experiences, I’ve had the privilege of continuous stage work this year. Appearing with Sam at The White Bear in Jason Sherman’s It’s All True was a particular highlight. I am also proud to report that Savio(u)r Theatre Company received a transfer offer from The King’s Head Theatre in Islington for our production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. The show will open in 2013, and I have been asked to reprise my role as Mrs. Webb.
After speaking with Sam, I was struck by your fresh approach to finding opportunities for your clients, as well as the agency’s international expertise. As an international actress, your passionate industry knowledge and forward thinking would provide my career with an extra push in the right direction.
I’ve included a link to my Spotlight page where you can find my CV, showreel, and headshots. I’ve also included a link to the four star Time Out review of It’s All True. I’d welcome the opportunity to meet you for a coffee and a chat, and thanks in advance for your time.
All the best,
Okay, great start with this letter, Elizabeth, and obviously it did the job of getting you into the room (hope the meeting was GREAT; can’t wait to hear). I’d cut it in half before sending a version out to casting directors, just because it’s really long for a cover letter. Even if this goes out to another round of agents, I’d shorten it up a bit. Things like the fact that you’re seeking representation (paragraph one) or that you believe the agency could improve your career (paragraph three) are obvious and don’t need stating. The WHY behind your email is already clear. More valuable is the next step: HOW you’ll earn them commission money, HOW you are castable, HOW you help solve problems.
As with everything, if you run it through the filter of THEIR perspective, you’re going to have a tighter letter. Right now, you’re writing from YOUR perspective. Totally fine, but just know that every actor who comes across their desk — with or without a referral — is doing that. You make your goodies stand out by changing up your approach.
Your Spotlight profile looks great. I know you don’t have a ton of control over layout so I love that you’ve made sure to place your awesome review right there under your photo. And, just so non-UK-based folks know, the listing of years in which credits were earned is standard where you are, but a total no-no, here. 🙂 I like what you’ve got, Elizabeth! Keep rockin’ those meetings! (Note: I just realized your representation contact is, in fact, the company to which you sent the above cover letter. GO, ELIZABETH! I guess it went very well, after all! Yay!)
Blair Leatherwood sent over his website for review.
I’ve been reading your columns on Facebook for some time, and I’ve been subscribed to your Twitter feed as well. So I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t taken advantage of your BonBlast until now; color me incomplete (until now).
If it’s not too late, I would love for you to take a look at my materials and provide any feedback.
My website is www.blairleatherwood.com, and everything should be there.
Thanks for all your insight, and have a great holiday season!
Thanks for hopping on the mailing list, Blair! Hope you’re enjoying the BonBlasts and, of course, a perk of membership: Getting critiqued! 🙂 Yay!
I like your site! I’d change all references to SAG to SAG-AFTRA, in our post-merger world. Also, unless age range is a *must* in your market, I’d lose that too, because it’s totally discernable from your photos and reel. Finally, on your reviews area, I’d really streamline ’em so you’re focusing our attention on how badass some of these blurbs are. To include everything great is to diminish the power of some of those really great statements.
I’ve written before about how LA Weekly reviewed a play I was in (back in 2000, before I left acting behind) and hated the play but loved me. “Bonnie Gillespie is excellent” was printed right there in that review. I could’ve included the rest of the paragraph about WHY I was excellent, in the reviewer’s eyes (it had something to do with my comedic timing and great rack), but what did that matter, when compared with those four amazing words? Since you link to the full review anyway, just go with the big-ticket phrases about your awesome work.
Ninja Amber Plaster has a reel for us to check out.
You know I have to bite at this!
I’m pretty happy with my reel, I’ve gotten good feedback on it, but sometimes it’s hard for me to see my own work (acting and editing wise).
So if you have room, I’d love for your feedback on my reel, especially since you know my brand. If not, it’s totally cool. I’m already pretty happy with it (for now… dun dun DUN)!
My reel is here.
Amber Rose Plaster
Yay! This is coming together nicely, Amber. Thank you. A few tweaks. Really small and super easy to do, because, yes, as you’ve said, you absolutely know your brand. No doubt. This serves it up hot and sassy.
In the first scene, my really nitpicky note is to tighten up some of the gaps between lines, so the pace feels more upbeat. The second clip from the ABC Family scene is one to lose. Even though I know you’re trying to show you did more than just have ONE line, all it shows is that you had one line and then provided extra work in another scene on the same show. Doesn’t help you, unless you want to use it as a part of the badass montage at the end of the reel, where you have other non-speaking offerings. Speaking of that montage, I like it, but the decision to go from the (um, hello, HAWT) legs in legwarmers to a clip of you clearly giving someone the once-over makes me doubt that those gams are yours. So, switch the order around (even though I get what you were going for), so there’s no doubt that’s all you.
Overall, really great. Get it under two minutes with these tweaks and you’re set ’til the next goodies come around!
Longtime reader Sherry Locher is joining the party.
How in the world did I NOT jump into an immediate email to you asking to be part of the critiquing pool? Well, if there’s a chance to jump in still, please see the attached!
I’m a longtime reader and huge fan and you’ve been kind enough to include me in a few columns past. Seriously, Bonnie, I’ve learned so much and have been able to side step more *____* from reading your columns than I could ever possibly put into a thank you, but thank you!
Of course we haven’t met in person (yet!) but if you could take a look at my website, headshot, and resumé and give me your thoughts, I’d be so grateful.
Question: What’s the best way to include a phone number on my website or on the resumé downloadable from my website?
Wishing you and yours a safe and happy holiday season!
🙂 Sherry Locher
Your website looks good and I like how clean it is. Each page is a little different, which works, and the only thing I was craving was a web-based version of your resumé. As far as I could tell, my only option was downloading a PDF, and some folks will just want to see the goods on the site. So either create a version like that or make the link to your Actors Access profile a focus.
As for including your phone number, you may want to try a Google Voice number. They’re free and they’re untraceable to your location. You just set it up and it goes to your email inbox, and you can READ the voicemail that is left by the person, and delete (or forward to the authorities) anything creepy. It won’t be your outgoing number, so that’ll never show up on a caller ID. It’s JUST an incoming number, and you can have it forwarded to your real phone, if you’d like. I know lots of actors who do this. Safe and free! 🙂 Yay!
Finally, just gotta say, can’t wait to hear your whistle. Hee! What a fun fact!
And, now, we’ll round out our series with Leah Falls.
This week’s BonBlast really spoke to me. I realized how often I drop the ball or don’t do something out of fear of failure (or success).
So I thought I’d start looking my fears in the face by submitting my headshots and resumé for the critiques series. I realize it may be too late to submit, but I also know that I won’t know for sure unless I try.
Thanks for all you do! Happy Holidays!
Okay, lovely Leah. 🙂 Here’s my issue with your headshots, since I know you: There’s a weird sense of tension in your mouth (especially on these two) that doesn’t exist in your “real life.” The sexy shot comes closest to capturing YOU (in the mouth and eyes) but it is pushing you into a much more glamorous category than the one that you probably bullseye, generally. I’m wondering if you have shots that were taken right around these that have a little more relaxed feel, in your face. It’s a tiny thing, but it’s a thing, so I’m bringing it up.
As for your resumé, my only notes are to include “ongoing” or “currently” at any of the places you currently train, and beef up your special skills section to include SOMETHING personality-driven. As I mentioned to Brittany, above, you’re in a very saturated category, so making sure there’s a “hook” that helps us remember you is only going to help.
All right, folks! What a great series! Thank you for being a part of it — even if I didn’t include your examples this time out. I am so grateful to you all for being a part of my every week, in this business. 🙂 Your emails and tweets are phenomenal and I’m so grateful to be a part of your journey to the next tier!
Remember, review that homework assignment and get me your goodies for next week’s column, so we can celebrate one another as we close out 2012. Woo hoo!
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001602.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.