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Friday, March 4, 2011

The Friday Five, March 4, 2011

The Importance of Being Online
Whether you’re a theatre artist or practitioner, whoring yourself online is just as important as, ahem, whoring yourself in person.
David King

Almost two decades ago, I embarked upon a three-year program in Theatre Performance at Concordia University. Knowing full well I would never be able to pay back $30,000.00 in student loans after graduation, I did the program over four years while begging, borrowing, pleading, researching and even ironing one of my professor’s clothes to make ends meet. In the end, I came away with not one but two families of fellow performance peers, and only $10,000.00 to torture me for the rest of my career.

Long before online social networking became a daily activity, not one course at Concordia in the mid 1990s was aimed towards students’ post-grad careers as self-employed artists. While the kids at National Theatre School had their resumes mailed across the country before graduation year after year, we second-class Concordians begged our own department to help us do the same as we jumped into our final productions. you choose to sell yourself is all about what online tools will best work with you...

Although we weren’t successful back then at getting a full course in the business of an artist (and believe me, it’s a full course!), our theatre department was always lucky enough to have our professors’ wisdom on hand. One of our third year professors, Joel Miller, heeded the call so much he decided to audition us all over again prior to graduation to see just how ready we were for what Concordia calls “the Real World”. Setting aside some class time for the auditions, they became one of the most valuable classes I took at Concordia, and I still refer to my notes from it every so often. Perhaps most memorable, Miller’s sage tough love included some words of wisdom to all graduating students with student loans: forget about your career for a year or two, go out and pay off your student loans, and then jump back into the business. How many of us learned that lesson, I’ll never know.

Today, as we prep for next season, crunch numbers for our taxes and finish off the grants we don’t really have time to write, our self-marketing needs are both offline and online. Whether you’re a theatre artist or practitioner, whoring yourself online is just as important as, ahem, whoring yourself in person. With that said, where does one even begin these days? Between websites, vids, blogs and status updates, how you choose to sell yourself is all about what online tools will best work with you and FOR YOU. While I can’t deal with your reality (I can barely deal with my own!), here are five tips for vavoom-ing your virtual voluptuousness!

Pump your junk on Monster and Workopolis while you’re at it, because truly, it doesn’t hurt...
1. Play with yourself. Yep, you heard that right. If you’re not savvy with the web, get savvy. If you hate Facebook and Twitter, stop and ask yourself why, and show us all how you intend to put it to good use. Writing a new play? Tweet us! Performing in an upcoming production? Invite us! Designing a new maquette? Show us! You’d be surprised how many of us with A.D.D. will actually have a (quick) look. It took me years of resisting, but I’m happily connected to artists and productions on Facebook these days, and as email disintegrates in favour of social networking bytes, now’s the time to doodle and fidget and experiment with anything you’re not using that everyone else IS. Plus, who doesn’t want to play with themselves?

2. Socialize. I’ve always hated openings, and I’ve always hated schmoozing in cafes and pubs. While I may have missed those biz-op boats, online socializing comes a little easier to me as a writer, and it’s just as important in finding out what opportunities out there await. Apart from Facebook and Twitter, you’ll find all kinds of website-specific locations are worthy of your traffic. Are you using Facebook for your events, and Twitter for updates? Try throwing your resume onto the more career-focused LinkedIn, too, and hook up with people you know and don’t know to spread the word about your work. Pump your junk on Monster and Workopolis while you’re at it, because truly, it doesn’t hurt (having recruited for employment agencies in the past, you’d be surprised how many of them are regularly online looking for “creative” professionals or temporary gigs for artists, since artists are often more educated, as well). 

However you contact producers, keep it short, sweet and to the point.

3. Create a webpage, blog or website. Although designers are already posting images on sites like Flickr and playwrights are offering up text in the blogosphere, a general website can be completely overwhelming to artists like actors or directors. Start simple: If you can’t create a web site for yourself or know and afford someone who can, create a simple webpage that will act as your online business card, so to speak. While sites like WordPress make it easy to build your own site, a simple blog page like the ones at Blogspot can be up and running in no time, and if you’ve already got Twitter and Facebook accounts, you can centralize your missives so they upload to all three places at once.  

4. Find a talent bank. There’s an endless array of talent banks online, and if you have an agent, you’re probably already covered that way. Ask around (hey, that’s a posting right there on Twitter!) and find out what other talent banks are available to you online. It’s always amazing to hear people’s personal faves on this. Keep the junk in your trunk well maintained (I’m talking photo and resume data) and make sure you can find a way to easily manage and update the talent banks you’ve chosen all in one shot.  

5. Build your private list or group. Gone are the days when we printed out 100 photos and resumes and then bulk-mailed them to producers. Technology is way more advanced than a producer can be in regards to staying on top of their talent pool, so find your own online ways to contact them by building a private list of all the companies that you want to work for in the future. PACT’s Canadian Theatre Listing and the Conseil québécois du théâtre’s listings are two incredible places to start. However you contact producers, keep it short, sweet and to the point. If they’re near you, invite them to your next production to see your work. If they’re not, introduce yourself and then connect them to your online business card: your webpage. Wanna send a script? Forget it. Even companies that accepted unsolicited scripts don’t want to destroy trees anymore. Instead, send the producers you want to work with a small byte that will turn them on, with a link to your webpage or better yet, an update about when a production of your work will next take place. Have a DVD to send out? Take it apart and get the best stuff on your webpage or website, and get people to have a look at it there. Like to keep your design portfolio private? Start an ftp site or a password-protected area for your imagery and change the code every so often as you invite your selected guests to stop by and check out your work.

Online marketing doesn’t end there, but by doodling with it and making the best use of it that you can for your own needs, you’ll save a lot more time trying to figure it all out. Sure, you’ll end up being half-robot like the rest of us one day, but there’s nothing more exciting than being able to sell yourself in your own way before heading out into that “Real World” to do what you do best.

Got some online tips of your own? Don’t hold back now!

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