A lot of Hollywood professionals find themselves building a personal website as one of their career branding tools. But do you need one? When are websites most helpful? Is there ever a time when a personal website would harm you?
Generally speaking, personal websites tend to make the most sense for artists -- those who work in areas of the industry where a portfolio is really important. Directors, editors, DPs, set decorators, costumers, hair and makeup artists – these are all roles where your work product is more important than words on a resume, and people will want to see if your aesthetic matches theirs. You don’t have to have a complicated website – in fact, simpler can be better, so it’s easier to update. Think about having a bio, a link to your resume or credits (but be careful about including too much personal information on this publicly available document!), and a reel, clips, or portfolio. Make sure to update your website every few months, or whenever you complete an important, brag-worthy project.
Some writers may choose to have a website, too, but this is a little trickier. A website where you list the scripts you’ve written that have never been sold or produced will make you seem like an amateur. If there’s nothing to add to your website that someone couldn’t find on IMDB, that’s another cue to skip it. But if you write in a variety of mediums, you may want a website where you can link to any articles or books you’ve published. If you offer script reading, script doctoring, or other consulting services, you can put these offerings on your personal website as well.
However, if you are on the executive track, we don't recommend a personal website. It could confuse a recruiter who may think you are trying to start your own business or find work as a freelance consultant. And if you work for a big corporation, their PR team probably wouldn't like you publicly representing the company in your own words. In these cases, LinkedIn is better for communicating your personal brand to the world.
One important thing to keep in mind when creating a personal website is to brand yourself in a way that aligns with the jobs you’re looking for. We often see recent MFA grads who host their work on a website where they brand themselves as a director/producer, but they’re applying for assistant roles at a talent agency. Employers will google you, and they will match your resume and interview answers with the content they see online, so tread carefully. If you tell the recruiter at CAA that you’re super excited about the agent trainee program because your dream is be a talent agent, but she sees that you have a website dedicated to the short film you’ve directed, she’ll be less inclined to hire you. This isn’t only true for entry-level candidates, either – any time you’re pursuing multiple career paths, looking for a day job, or making a career transition, you should re-evaluate how well your website matches your application story.
If you do decide to have a website, in addition to updating it regularly, make sure it’s a reflection of your best work. That low-budget commercial you directed with mediocre sound isn’t going to wow potential clients, even if the brand was impressive. Early projects from your career might not reflect your current aesthetic, or they may age you. When in doubt, avoid putting it all out there for the world to see – you can always send clips or work samples privately that you can tailor to the employer or client who requests it.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan