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: Blood Sisters,” based on a 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, 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 the book’s huge fan base into perspective, the Facebook page 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 fan page 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 without realizing what trouble would ensue from his simple tweet.
Another actor on Twitter and Facebook who badly wanted one of the lead roles would fan the flames of speculation and neither deny nor confirm that he was being offered the part. He even created a Facebook page 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 ----- commercial!” Same goes for television shows. The producers, networks, and studios see this sort of thing as a leak of information. This news should only come from the production. 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. "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 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 of wanting to share news within our communities of followers on Facebook and Twitter along with our websites. I suggest you share it after the project is completed and only when it’s about to air. Another thing to do to feel connected is to say something benign like “Auditions went great today! I was so prepared!” That way, nobody gets hurt.
Known for her work in film and television, Casting Director Marci Liroff has worked with some of the most successful directors in the world such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Mark Waters, Christopher Nolan, Brad Bird, and Herbert Ross. While working at Fenton-Feinberg Casting, she, along with Mike Fenton, cast such films as “A Christmas Story," “Poltergeist," “E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial," “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," and “Blade Runner." After establishing her own casting company in 1983, Liroff cast “Footloose," “St. Elmo's Fire," “Pretty in Pink," “The Iron Giant," “The Spitfire Grill," “Untamed Heart," “Freaky Friday," “Mean Girls," “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” and the upcoming “The Sublime and Beautiful,” which she produced as well.
Liroff is also an acting coach, and her three-night Audition Bootcamp has empowered actors to view the audition process in a new light. The class spawned a DVD, which features the highlights of the Audition Bootcamp classes.