Thursday, June 6, 2013

WHY ACTORS NEED TO UNDERSTAND SOCIAL MEDIA





I’ve been encouraging actors to get involved in social media for the last several years. Seems that they’ve been heeding my call! I’ve noticed droves of actors taking to Twitter lately. Some do it well, some—not so much.


While working on the feature film “Vampire Academy: BloodSisters,” based on the best-selling series of six young-adult paranormal romance novels, I noticed some really bad behavior by a few actors; they were tweeting about coming in for auditions, and how they did on said audition. One actor simply tweeted, “Christian Ozera” (the name of one of the very exciting male characters in the book series) and the Internet went wild with rumor mongering.


To put things into perspective, this book series has a HUGE fanbase. The Facebook fanpage for the movie—which hasn’t even been made yet!—has more than 250,000 fans.


I got an email from one of my producers who asked that all casting news come from the production and that what goes on behind the scenes (i.e. who’s auditioning) should be controlled by us. The producer added that any further “leaks” would compromise an actor’s potential for being hired.


The Facebook fanpage and Twitter blew up with speculation and thousands of fans were hysterically talking about whether the actor who tweeted about auditioning for Christian was going to get the part. I had to call his representatives and suggest that this was perhaps not the most professional approach to getting the role. I knew in my heart that he had tweeted this in an innocent way, not realizing what trouble would ensue from his simple tweet.


Another actor on Twitter and Facebook who wanted one of the lead roles so badly would fan the flames of speculation and neither deny or confirm that he was being offered the part. He even created a Facebook Fanpage for his mission.


Because IMDb is actually a fan site much like Wikipedia, anyone can enter information. We hope and depend that the site actually vets the information, but an actor who was “rumored” to be in the mix, who actually wasn’t, was listed as “rumored” to be playing the role. This added to even more confusion.


I’ve seen actors fired from commercials for tweeting things like, “Hey, I just booked a (fill-in-the-blank) commercial!” Same goes for television shows. The producers, networks, studios see this sort of thing as a leak of information.  This news should ONLY come from the production if and when they see fit and in the venue that they want it to come from. If after reading this you still feel compelled to share this kind of information, you should clear it with the producers first.

Kevin Brockman, Executive Vice President, Global Communications, Disney/ABC Television Group spoke to me about this topic. He said, "We are very actively involved in guiding our actors and productions in the social media space.  At ABC and ABC Family, after series are green-lit and before production begins, our social media and PR teams walk the actors and producers through a social media 101 that points out the potential positives and negatives in these arenas. Series spoilers are a large part of the discussion and our rule of thumb is, ask your executive producer or Publicity team before posting anything that may be a problem. Our actors, especially on our shows with mystery elements, like 'Scandal', 'Pretty Little Liars' and 'Twisted,' are very cognizant of this, as they don't want to hurt the viewing experience for their fans." 

Brockman added, "At Disney Channels Worldwide, we host Talent Orientation programs that provide new actors information on what to expect from their colleagues on the Production team and from their colleagues at Disney Channel, and what's expected of them.  During the Orientation, we cover the subject of social media and reiterate to our actors and their parents that what they say and do on social media, or when communicating directly to their fans, should done with care.  We remind them to "think before they tweet or post" anything, and ask them to appreciate that millions of young fans may look up to them."

I also spoke to Dan Berendsen, writer/producer/creator of ABC Family's hit tv show "Baby Daddy". He said, "All five of my cast members have a significant internet presence (twitter, instagram) and are an integral part of the show's marketing. They are the source of the show's real social media. We acknowledge that and promote it - they are partners in the successful marketing of the show. Consequently, we talk about what information is best for them to give out and what's not. To make it work, the actors have to be completely onboard with what you're trying to accomplish.

Historically, "leaks" and "spoilers" are more likely to come from the studio audience and the extras. There is almost no way to shut that down on a show that's filmed in front of a live audience - other than to ask people not to ruin the surprise for everyone else."


  
Of course, I understand the feeling we all have these days to share news within our community of followers on Facebook and Twitter along with your website. I suggest you share it after the project is completed and only when it’s about to air. Another thing to do so that you feel connected is to say something benign like “Auditions went GREAT today! I was so prepared!” That way, nobody gets hurt! 

I'd love to hear your stories about your experiences with Social Media and your interactions. It's always good to share with the community.
Glad you're here!
 
Marci




41 comments:

  1. I am university student and in our 3rd year we have to do an internship in a company to be able to gain skills. This internships are arranged by the university but ourselves can come up with internships of our own. A girl from my area of studies managed to arrange an intership in a big magazine. She was so happy she couldn't wait to tell the news to everybody so she posted in her facebook with a direct mention to the magazine facebook. The magazine saw the post and she lost her internship. More and more social networks are used to analize if someone is good or bad for a job.

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    1. Yikes Claudia! I think with all the New Media we've got to learn the "new rules"! I'm also hoping that the companies have training meetings that discuss these issues for new and existing employees.

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    2. Thanks Marci and Danielle for this. We need to have the union help spread the word on this. I worked on a film with young stars, i asked the studio if it was okay to tweet about it since we were shooting. One person told me no, they did not want any tweets about it until it was about to come out. So i quickly tried to inform the young cast. But we really were given no direction on it. I read for a cable show that had a huge sign in the waiting room not to tweet about the audition or if you get the role without permission. I think each project is different as some existing shows like you to tweet about it and promote the show. So we need to teach actors to ask before they do it and if they are not sure, then they should hold off.

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    3. I think it's a developing platform, Social Media. I suggest you talk to your producers for guidance. They are becoming more and more savvy with Social Media and what they want from you, the actor.

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  2. These two wisdom nuggets from the incomparable Marci Liroff hit the nail right, smack, dab on the head: 1: "I suggest you share it after the project is completed and only when it’s about to air." 2: "Another thing to do so that you feel connected is to say something benign like 'Auditions went GREAT today! I was so prepared!' That way, nobody gets hurt!" - Wisdom from Marci Liroff. I know it is hard to be patient when we have good news (or potential good news) to share, but following the two pieces of advice above is the right thing to do for everyone involved. Thanks Ms. Liroff for another practical, applicable reality check!

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  3. Twitter? What's that? ;)

    Great read Marci!

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  4. Nice article Marci. I'm amazed how many actors post specific info on social media before or after booking a role. Not only can you get fired, (or much worse) it's also bad luck.

    Even before social media, in the 80's I would get all hyped & excited when I'd book a guest spot or a commercial. I'd tell all my friends about it. When I did that it would either have a short run, get edited out, or not even air at all! So I became superstitious about even mentioning a role until I saw it air a few times. Mums the word until I get a few residual checks. Doesn't mean you can't have a little fun with it though.

    "Just booked a ▆▆▆▆▆▆'s commercial for the ad agency ▆▆▆▆▆▆▆▆▆ & ▆▆▆▆▆▆▆▆▆. And the first air date is ▆▆▆▆▆▆ ▆▆▆th."

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    1. Superstitious or not, it's just good business at this point in the game.

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  5. I think that social media can be a wonderful thing & a terrible thing at the same time. It can really help your career or ruin it. Great post!

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    1. Thanks Sorsha! So true. You've got to understand it to harness the power of it!

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  6. This is SUCH an important topic. I'm excited to see what you all have to say! The internet is changing how the modern world of acting works and it's still a bit of a learning process for everybody.

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    1. So true. Several companies, especially commercials have you sign an NDA at the point of auditioning.

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  7. Maybe it's because I'm older, but I've always had the idea that discretion is always key. When I saw an actor friend tweeting pics from a set, I was horrified. And it didn't surprise me to hear that he was fired the next day. I would think just to use common sense - don't say anything until it airs.

    Then again, there are those actors who like to announce what they are doing ad nauseum - esp when waiting to be seen at an audition. You all know what I'm talking about ;) I prefer to be quiet. And if and when the time comes, then I will jump for joy! (STILL waiting for a few projects to air!!)

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    1. Yes, our society is now SO wide open and people over-share. The whole notion of "discretion" has been lost.

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  8. I'm a commercial casting director, I see over and over again on Social Media actors making the same mistake..which is announcing and naming the commercial they just booked for everyone to see, including the add agencies and production companies who hired them. You have just signed your death sentence. They will pull you as quick as you booked it. an NDA is a very serious contract you are signing ..under any circumstance I will not talk to anyone about what I auditioned for or just booked or I can get sued. Actors this is what you just signed. be Proud of what you booked but please never name the product.
    I also tell actors EVEN if you don't sign the NDA still hold back from talking about from social Media it's just a smart thing to do.
    I know they employ people representing the add agency to peruse the internet. so Be smart and keep it to yourself.I personally had to call Agents and Pull their actors from a national Network they just booked because they were over zealous about what they just booked.. We all want to hear about your accomplishments but for now shhhhhh! :)

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    1. Do you have actors sign an NDA at the point of the audition or just after they've booked the job? Perhaps it'd be a good thing to literally put a sign up near the sign-in desk about this?

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  9. People tend to overshare EVERYthing on the internet, from their work life to their personal issues. I think it says a lot about a person who can't use some common sense and use some self restraint. Yes, we all have bad days and really good ones, but oversharing on social media gives complete strangers and potential employers only a tiny glimpse of you. And that tiny glimpse may be precisely the time you exercised bad judgment and not an indicator of who you really are. We've all been there.;) It seems kind of redundant to have to reiterate a NDA but maybe something as simple as what Marci said - putting up a sign, can drive the point home. :)

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  10. I've been working on being more careful about what I tweet/blog/post on FB. I only describe the audition or booking as being something for tv, film, commercial, or music video. Sometimes, I just keep audition info to myself. Even though everyone is open with everything they do over social media, sometimes it's nice to keep things to yourself too.

    Also, in response to Danielle's comment, I've had to sign NDAs at the time of the audition in the past. It's only been for commercials, but I think it's going to start being the norm for other types of projects too.

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  11. Excellent blog! Social media is powerful, and being that it is not of my generation, it's taken me time to learn the rules, but I am learning. If I do book a job, I don't mention the name of the project or anything specific, and only post the title if the project is completed and announced in other media.

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    1. Nice to see you in the cyberlands, Jeff... Howie

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  12. Great post Marci! And you're right that actors and even those behind the camera need to know WHAT and HOW to post. You can't control people but studios can do a better job THEMSELVES of leveraging actors profiles in every phase of the production.

    Both studios, casting, actors, etc. need to be taught what's cool and what's not AHEAD of time. Don't wait until the tweet start to complain about them. If the casting director and studios had been forward thinking, they could've informed ppl IN ADVANCE not to tweet or post stuff to FB.

    When I covered the SAG Awards and Oscars this year, we were told IN ADVANCE what to post and not. And when I picked up my credential, AGAIN we were all told visually and in print what NOT to do social media wise.

    As a social media strategist and consultant, I created this ebook for showbiz up-and-comers. But now having read your blog I know exactly how to update it. Thanks!

    Here's the ebook if you'd like to use or share it.

    http://sheersocial.com/2011/08/08/the-showbiz-up-and-comers-social-media-guide/#.UbIfuOuoUv4

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  13. What I find most frustrating is the lack of understanding from the ownership/distribution/production side...
    (this pertains to theatrical, commercial seems to be a slightly different monster)
    I was on a WB 3 camera show last season and (of course) we all had to sign some strict social NDA/ use forms. WB doesn't even let the audience keep their phones with them in the studio.
    After being in touch with both WB and CBS pr/ social contacts, NO ONE got back with me to confirm or go over any specific use issues.
    So be careful. Don't announce 'special guest' cast members until the network does...
    But there is a huge difference in the way that a co-star and recurring cast member or writer will utilize social.
    The up and comers want to promote their gig and themselves. The network wants to promote the show. The regular cast is attempting to retain awareness in the public square and use their platform to promote other causes and activities.
    I think it is smart and forward thinking to create tw lists with cast/ crew to make it easier for everyone to cross promote, but without direction from the stakeholders, it is difficult to sense when you are doing something positive, or overreaching.
    While I completely agree with Shannon about never counting on making the cut before you see a final edit, I believe it is well within reason to be satisfied with clearing the gauntlet of casting and production, regardless of how everything shakes out in post. I never count on anything beyond my contract for days worked, but know better than to believe my work and performance is the arbiter of inclusion in the final product.

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    1. Hopefully that's changing in terms of getting guidance from the production. Thanks so much for your insight. As I said, I never believe anything until it's finally released!

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  14. Thanks so much for this. I was recommended your article by a facebook friend. There are so many impulses that go into that premature share-the wish to associate with a brand, the desire to deliver good news for a change, the need to show that they're still in the game-that actors forget to be cool.

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  15. It pained me a little to see this post pop up as, admittedly, I was one of the unintentional Twitter offenders (and as misery loves company I was surprised to learn that I wasn't alone).

    I may not be the 'Facebook Fan page' guy or the 'Christian Ozera' guy, but I am guilty of being a Twit. While I was embarrassed to make such an error I am truly appreciative of Marci for sharing this information so that we can hopefully prevent other actors from making similar mistakes.

    A few months ago I had hesitantly made the choice to become more active with social media and quickly found Marci to be an informative and active tweeter concerning acting, auditioning and the entertainment business. When my audition for VA came up I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to introduce myself before reading for her. My mistake was made in mentioning the role and the project in my intro to Marci.

    Twitter and the world of social media is still like the wild west: it is a world of unknowns and problems that didn't exist even 5 years ago; with it we are experiencing the creation and defense of communities, the discoveries of ways in which we use the platforms, the development of new ways of interaction, and the formation of rules and norms. At the time I had no idea that I was lacking discretion with my post nor how damaging certain information released on this platform could be.

    Further, I was disillusioned by the fact that my foray into the social media world may have harmed a relationship that I was developing with a casting director I had just met and who's work I respected. It certainly was a hard lesson to learn but I'm happy that it has started a dialogue that will not only have actors think twice before tweeting but also that will hopefully encourage the studios to paint a very clear, industry wide picture as to what is ok and what is not ok to share on social media.

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    1. NO worries. You didn't harm our relationship in any way. I knew it came from a place of not knowing any better. All good! Thanks SO much for your wonderful comments. Very smart!

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  16. Wow! I guess I will use very vague and non-nondescript type of riddle posts so no one will know what I'm talking about exactly. So confusing!

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  17. Great Blog. I've tried to explain this to folks who work BG. We never had this problem in the 7o's when I got started. May I share this with my East Coast pool of SAG-AFTRA friends?

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  18. The responsibility that comes along with being able to put information into the public domain has to be very carefully controlled and thought about. This isn't just about an actor talking about an audition; it's also about how the actor is presenting themselves across social media. It's true that 'you are what you tweet'. An actor should look at the body of their social media posts to make sure that they are presenting themselves in the best possible way. Just last week a major auto manufacturer ditched someone for a commercial because they saw some questionable content on the persons Twitter account - and the content in question wasn't even about the car! They simply could not risk being linked to that individual.

    My company, Fanology Social, represents a large number of very well known actors in the social space. The Networks encourage our clients to post to social media as much as possible from set - they used to have a ban on Tweeting but it was lifted when the marketing and PR departments evaluated the risk to reward benefits. Many of these actors are speaking to hundreds-of-thousands of people and their social media promotion, in some cases, is able to show a direct correlation with spikes in ratings. When you think it can cost $75,000 for a Network to take out an advert in Entertainment Weekly with a 1.8 million circulation, and yet when Shay Mitchell activates her digital footprint with a Twitter party during a one hour broadcast she can produce over 92 million Twitter impressions!

    I encourage all actors to really take advantage of social media in a responsible way - it can set you apart from the competition and make you more valuable to producers and distributors. During the next few years, we are going to see the emphasis shift from studios and networks relying on big name actors to 'attract' an audience (via a large marketing spend to generate awareness) to an expectation of an actor being able to 'bring' the audience to the project through their own social media channels.

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  19. Hey Marci, love your blog. I was wondering if you could do a post about headshots?

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    1. Thanks Anonymous. I've done a lot of talking about headshots. Here's a video. Perhaps it's time to do another blog!
      http://www.backstage.com/advice-for-actors/professional-tips/video-casting-director-marci-liroff-on-headshots/

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  20. Completely agree. The reason there are so many hoaxes and rumours and complete untruths on the internet is because of the number of people who don't think or check before posting.

    I'm still waiting impatiently for Sarah Michelle Gellar to get on any form of Social Media... she's one of the few who lays low.

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  21. Love your blog Marci! I definitely agree with everything said here. The way social media travels, things get spread fast and then out of control.

    I remember when an extra on "Glee" tweeted about the series finale and who won prom queen...ruined it for so many people and the studio was NOT happy! I think I heard they got blacklisted.

    Anyways, thanks for your wonderful blog! I look forward to future posts :)

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