Demo reels and portfolios are still a good way to promote your career, but a Website is becoming even more crucial. Zahra Dowlatabadi explains why Websites are so important and how you can get started on yours today!
I just spent $500 updating my demo reel, my friend Adam said on the phone. His voice was mixed with pain and optimism. This new reel will do the trick, it will help me get a job soon, it has to. Meanwhile, on the other end of the phone, I picture the recruiters office. There are a few shelves with mountains of portfolios, drawers full of resumes, and a whole corner of the room solely devoted to little black VHS boxes. Some are very dusty; some are less so. However, among these boxes, there is one VHS tape, Adams, which is, believe it or not, the little VHS tape that could. During the afternoon, it manages to slide its way all the way from the corner of the room, and hop unnoticed on top of a series of conveniently placed stacks of books all the way to the recruiters desk. Okay, it thinks, mission accomplished, I thought I could and I did. I am where I ought to be in order to get noticed. Hours later, while listening to a myriad of conversations, the tape realizes that the recruiter does not make any final decisions the producer and the director do, but their offices are on another floor. Momentarily dismayed, the tape starts mulling over a few strategies, I can cartwheel my way down the hall, but how do I get to the fifth floor? What if I get noticed in the hallway? Will I be sent back to the corner? I think I can, I think I can. And off it goes looking for the real limelight.
I cant promise this is what really happens, but just about everyone has lost a portfolio at some point in their career, and I wonder, could it be that their portfolios took it upon themselves to get their creator a job? And then some how mysteriously turned down the wrong hallway into the insurance agencys office or landed on the wrong floor! Where are they now all these brave souls that thought they could? Is there a portfolio heaven somewhere?
Get A Website!
Did I share this vision with Adam? No, I didnt. I simply said, Next time you have some money to spend promoting your career, consider creating your own Website. If possible, use your name as the name of your site, and let any one around the world who has access to the Internet see what you have to offer. Still pictures, cant replace animation, Adam responded. I agreed whole-heartedly, however, I reminded him that it was always possible to convert a few animated scenes to MPEG files or digital videos and add them to the site. Am I saying that its time to burn your portfolio? No. All I am suggesting is to let your Website open the initial door for you, and then your portfolio can fulfill its mission. Together Adam and I brainstormed about who is looking for artists, and he said he might consider moving to another state to look for work. All of a sudden when he talked about considering Texas, I said, Adam, I know of a CG feature looking for board artists for a couple of months in China it is the brain child of one of the worlds most highly regarded sci-fi artists. Adam was excited. Now, if you had your Website, you could just forward the URL via their email address, and they could look at your work instantly. You wouldnt be scrambling to put a demo tape/portfolio together to ship to China. Instead of wasting valuable time and money getting your artwork together, agonizing over how to address the envelope, and having it get stuck in customs, your work would already be there.
We all know that the industry is suffering, and too many of us are out of work however this is the ideal time to work on creating your site. If you are an artist, you can show your commercial work and perhaps your fine art as well. You can even let your personal cyber gallery sell your work for you. Another friend called me earlier this year asking me for advice on local galleries. I asked her, what about www.lizholzman.com? Now, Liz happens to be an artist who does animation, ceramics, painting and jewelry you cant really appreciate Lizs talent until you get to spend some time with her. She took my advice and had her site designed for her, and I think she is finally in a gallery that does her work justice. And for once she has a choice on when the exhibition will end, if at all!
Start SlowBut Start
For many, the thought of creating a Website is overwhelming. So many artists have told me, "My friend has offered to make one for me when he or she gets a chance." I ask the same question a few months later, I get the same answer. I can tell you one thing, if I got a dollar for every time I heard, My friend is going to do my Website for me, I would have enough money to fund your site right now.
I think its important to start simple, and then develop your site based on your needs and budget. A single page that shows samples of your best work, your credits and or bio, along with how you can be reached via email and telephone/fax is perfectly sufficient. When you are choosing artwork for your site, select art pieces that best illustrate your talent, versatility and range. If its too difficult to pick your best work, ask a few friends whose opinion you respect. Its not an easy task, but it is critical.
Create your Website on paper. Where should the artwork appear versus the text? Think of all the features you have seen on other sites that you felt were effective choice of color and font, composition, pop ups, bouncing balls, graphics, etc. Once you have the blue print for your site on paper, you are ready to get your material (i.e., text and images digitized) so that it is Internet ready. You can take care of this step either at Kinkos or wherever you have access to a high quality scanner.
Ways To Get It Done
How do you find a good Web designer? I have recommendations, however, I would highly recommend visiting other sites (which are similar in terms of their complexity), finding the name of their designer, and contacting the designer to learn about their services and fees. You can start a generic search at Google and Yahoo. Google Directory of Web Designers is at: directory.google.com/Top/Computers/Internet/Web_Design_and_Development/Designers/ and Yahoo Directory of Web Designers is: dir.yahoo.com/Business_and_Economy/Business_to_Business/ Communications_and_Networking/Internet_and_World_Wide_Web/Web_Site_Designers/
You might decide to create your own site. This is exactly what Mike Vosburg did. You can see his work at www.vozart.com. Mike attended a one-week workshop, and purchased Adobe PhotoShop and Adobe Go Live software. This route involved close to an $1,800 investment, and took Mike a couple of months to get familiarized with the programs and launch his first site. He does however now have a whole new set of skills. Yet another option is to try Image Squirrel. This is a site that allows you to upload your own images to an already built product, and was created specifically for artists. It requires some technical savvy, and the interface is not highly flexible, but it may be just the right tool for you. You can find Image Squirrel at: www.imagesquirrel.com
Or you may wish to hire a designer. To create a one-page Website (with all materials already digitized, requiring no PhotoShop fixes), Lea Milic charges $100. She will help you find free hosting or she will direct you to sites where you can register your domain name. Lea will also assist you in up loading the page so that your site is officially launched on the Internet. To see samples of sites that Lea has designed, you can visit the following URLs: www.geocities.com/artgoranmicic and www.kathybrunette.0catch.com. Lea can be reached at: home.pacbell.net/milicd/
I also recommend Derin Basden. I dont know his specific rates, but I do know they are reasonable. Here are a few examples of his design work: www.deborahreber.com, www.lizholzman.com and www.versura.com (Derin worked with two other people on the design for the entire site). In order to contact Derin, go to www.spazden.com.
There are also online services that will create a Web presence for you by hosting your reel or portfolio and making your work available to a community of industry researchers and buyers. The best among these services, PlanetPoint.com, provides an excellent service at very affordable rates. PlanetPoint members enjoy exposure (via an easily searchable member directory and a monthly newsletter) to a user base of over 45,000 industry professionals. Other similar services in the space include eCreativeSearch.com, Portfolios.com and WatchReels.com.
This is the perfect time to flex your artistic muscles we are too often just a cog in the larger machine. Well no longer, when it comes to your site. By creating your own spot light on the Internet, you enable the whole world to view what you are capable of, and essentially you have representation 24/7. As far as self-promotion goes, I dont think it can get any better than that.
Zahra Dowlatabadi is directing a documentary for PTV, Los Angeles (www.ptvla.org.). She is also developing a proposal for a Website focused on Global Voting. Concurrently, she is indulging her love for children by writing a Persian and English book for pre-schoolers. For more information on Zahra, visit www.producinganimation.com.