Picture this. Someone posts on a film forum that they’re looking for a crew or cast member. They’re looking for x, and x is what you do. Your friend recommends you. It’s a professional gig — yay, you could get paid.
The first thing this potential client is going to do is check out your website. They’re going to google. They’re going to see if you have a twitter, a blog, a Vimeo or youtube channel, a facebook page. Basically they’ll check your online presence, to:
- see if you have one (an online presence that is);
- see examples of your work; and
- decide if they want to work with you.
(I suppose there is also 4: find your contact details.
Three of my friends have had this situation in the past two weeks. If you don’t have a website, then you could be missing out on work.
Filmmakers nowadays have to be their own brand. In every meeting, you could be meeting a potential collaborator or a potential client. You are effectively pitching and selling yourself as a commodity with every interaction. There is a lot of competition in this industry, and it is difficult to break through that noise.
Film is a relationship industry. When hiring cast or crew, producers make their decisions based on the following, in the following order:
- people they have worked with before (and like);
- people personally recommended to them (by collaborators they trust);
- people who look professional.
This latter point can be covered by people who have a good amount of credits, credits from reputable professional projects, and people who have a personal brand.
This could be through having a social media presence (twitter, instagram), by having a reputable blog, by having an up-to-date profile on industry pages (shooting people, filmandtvcrewpro), or, most importantly, having a professional looking website.
You need to develop a personal brand identity. I’m not going to go into that now. If you’re interested in finding out more about personal brands, check out this post from Raindance.
But what I am going to cover is the basics of setting up a website, and some of the pros and cons of different social media.
Disclaimer: I’m not a designer or web developer. My website isn’t the best example. Hell, check it out. It’s a bit of a mess and can definitely be improved. That said, I’m going to share what I know from having maintained websites since around 2007.
I use WordPress. It’s free, it’s easy.
Here are the steps you’ll need to follow:
- Source examples of your work;
- Plan your layout and information;
- Build the site;
- Make it Live;
- Promote the site;
- Update it
If you have a showreel, that’s good. If not, don’t fret. You’ll want to find examples of your work. Have you worked on shorts? Get links to any that are online. Are none of them online? Look for behind the scene stills. Don’t have any of those? Contact the Producer and ask for them.
You’ll need their links if they’re online. Or, if they’re not online, you could put them online. If they’re elsewhere (e.g. Vimeo, Youtube, Instagram, Facebook), you can embed them into your site, or you can upload them directly onto your site. The former option means you’re not using up your website’s allocated space; the latter option means if the content moves, you’ll have a broken link on your site.
Grab a bit of paper or a whiteboard. Write down which information you’d like on your site. For instance, one friend wanted the following:
- the landing page (first page) to have his showreel and contact info
- an About page
- an Examples of previous work page, with subheadings for types of work (e.g. Cinematography, Editing, Writing)
And that’s it. That’s all you need.
Actually, for the easiest, most basic page, all you need is a static page with your showreel and contact information. Done.
If you wanted, you could have other information like:
- a blog: where you can post your opinions, like this
- a “where else to find me” section, with links to your social media
- rolling feeds from social media: such as a twitter feed with your postings
- behind the scenes
- upcoming projects
- a filmography or resume
Draw how you would like it to work. Think about the layout. Would you want columns? Headings? What colour would you like? Have a look at which sites you like. You’ll find some more aesthetically pleasing than others.
Pick what you want to call your site. Have a few backup options in case your preferred name is gone. Best practice is to use your name. e.g. FirstnameLastname.wordpress.com OR FirstnameLastnameEditor.wordpress.com OR FirstnameLastnameFILM.wordpress.com
When you’re setting up your site on WordPress, your URL will be .wordpress.com. You should purchase your preferred domain name at this stage. I use GoDaddy.com. It’s an annual fee to buy the domain name licence. Even if you don’t use it, you don’t want anyone else to use it, so get it right away. You can build the WordPress site first and then map the site onto your domain later. But try to get the same handle (that word in the URL before wordpress.com).
Set up an account on WordPress.com. Set up a new site. You’ll have a Dashboard, which is your back-end. Go to Appearance > Themes. Browse the themes. Start with a free version for now. Filter your search: how many colours do you want? what colour? (for instance, I prefer 2 columns with a black background).
Then add your content. You’ll need that front landing page. The rest is up to you.
WordPress is a blogging platform, so most themes have a blog page. You don’t have to have a blog on your site though. You could just have pages.
Pages are static pages with content. Posts are rolling blog posts: as in, your latest post is the first one that appears on your blog.
Whenever you post, include categories and tags. Categories group similar posts together. Tags are searchable anywhere. They’re the same as hashtags. Use them often.
Spelling and grammar are important when posting. Remember this is a professional site, and needs to represent you. I use an extension called Grammarly to pick up spelling and grammatical errors.
If you have social media, you can connect them so that whenever you post, a blast goes out to your followers.
Remember that film is a visual medium, so images are key. WordPress is designed for ease of use, so each post and page has buttons to format text and insert images, links, and html. If you know html (and it’s a good thing to learn), you can write the code directly in.
If you’re doing the basic website, just start with one static landing page now. You can always change it later. The important thing is to get something online.
Make the page live!
I would recommend sending a link to a few trusted friends, and ask them for their feedback.
Once you’re happy with your page, promote it. Put the link on business cards. Tweet the link. Share it with your friends. Go old school and email a link to your professional contacts to let them know it’s live.
This part is optional, of course. You could just put it there in the webiverse and only share the link upon request. But … you should really promote your services.
This is the hard one. Keep logging in. If you have a blog, post content. I sometimes see links to websites where people haven’t posted since 2013. That’s not a good online presence. Keeping your website up-to-date is easier with a static page: just update it when there is a change. Whenever a film you worked on is finished, write a little post and share a link, or add it to your resume/filmography page.
You can schedule posts. That’s a good idea is you want to post regularly. You can write everything at once and then schedule it in advance.
(I don’t personally do this – yet – but I have a rolling twitter feed with my current postings)
And that’s it. You’ve built a website, in no time at all.
If you followed these steps, share your link to your website here in the comments. Let us know how long it took. And if you have a contact who doesn’t have a website, send them a link to this post. Get something online!