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The Story of Phillyfaces

It all began with an original idea that occurred to photographer Joe Chielli at the very dawn of the internet age. At the time Joe was shooting a lot of headshots for actors and portfolios for models. He realized that it would be synergistically valuable to the actors and models, both independents and those represented by agents, as well as to small businesses in the city, and to his own photography business, to have a website that would be a kind of talent database. He reasoned that it would serve as a talent forum making visible the individual actors and models, along with the agents and agencies that represented some of them, to the business community as a means to help businesses satisfy their booking needs. He realized that it would also be a valuable promotional link to his photography services.

Phillyfaces.com launched in the year 2001. By October 2005 it was discovered by the New York Times and appeared in the Sunday theater section as the unique site that featured “talking headshots”. Chielli had envisioned the use of on-line web site video for the casting of actors and models. As a consequence of Phillyfaces.com, Philadelphia actually had an online talent site with video before NYC. See the following link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/23/theater/newsandfeatures/hey-look-them-over-the-digital-head-shot-is-here.html?_r=0

Back in the early years of the 21st century, the site grew rapidly in popularity and visibility. It’s ranking dominated on line searches for talent in Philadelphia with multiple first-page natural listings. The talent Agencies in Philadelphia seeing how powerfully it dominated on line talent searches, unfortunately, began to fear Phillyfaces.com.

Chielli tried over and over to explain to the talent agents that he was not in the casting business and was totally dedicated to photography. He pointed out that by listing their models on Phillyfaces.com with their agency’s contact info, they would increase their visibility. Mary Ann Claro was the only agent that got it right and trusted Chielli. She encouraged her talent to list on Phillyfaces.com with the contact info of her agency and benefited for years from the added visibility and leads it brought to her agency.

What started as a small web site that was manageable by Chielli and his web designer, soon became overwhelming as an ongoing enterprise. Chielli insisted on remaining dedicated to photography, dropping into the background of Phillyfaces.com and initiating the dramatic parade of Phillyfaces.com directors who ran the site, some with beneficial results, some with detrimental results, but never without drama, passion, and innovation.

In 2008 the economic crash began the long grim recession. As the market for photography and talent bookings evaporated Phillyfaces.com languished and went into a kind of dormancy. The years after 9/11 were disorienting and difficult. With the talent industry everywhere struggling, mistrust of Phillyfaces.com continued to grow and not

without reason. At that point, Chielli had turned the reigns of Phillyfaces.com over to a series of directors who took aim at the booking business in Philadelphia and began to use Phillyfaces.com to launch their own casting businesses. One after the other, these

directors crashed and burned. None of them seemed to have just the right combination of skills to get the site to stabilize and fly right. Meanwhile, Chielli focused on rebuilding his photography business.

The new era of Phillyfaces.com and its latest offspring, BigAppleFaces.com, dawned with the arrival of Kristine Di Grigoli. Kristine began as an associate photographer of Church Street Studios as Joe Chielli continued to develop and expand his photography

business. Kristine took an interest in Phillyfaces.com and reached out to her long time friend from NYC James Foytlin, to assist her in reviving the site and launching a new version of Phillyfaces.com and BigAppleFaces.com with a unique business plan and a totally revised web site design.

Ms. DiGrigoli’s keen technical skills and design talent, combined with Mr. Foytlin’s mature business and marketing acumen, took advantage of Joe Chielli’s experience and vision as a catalyst to launch this newest version of the historic site.

Recently the founder Joe Chielli passed and Ms. DiGrigoli and Mr. Foytlin decided to move forward with an updated version of Joe Chielli’s vision.

Phillyfaces.com in Philadelphia, and BigAppleFaces.com in NYC, have now emerged as a state of the art, online talent community, presenting exciting new possibilities for actors and models to market themselves and take advantage of the growing need for new talent bookings as the still photography and video markets finally begin to awaken after over a decade of restless sleep. 

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