.There’s a malicious trend of false popularity trumping talent killing the art of acting. And actors desperate for auditions, work and attention are complicit in becoming social media whores at the whims of their pimps: casting directors, directors, and producers. Want an audition? Casting now requires on a growing number of projects that an actor, not a celeb, but a journeyman actor have a large social media following. At a prominent New England regional theater the casting of a dance track during call-backs had two viable candidates. The producers went with the female dancer who had the larger social media following.
For the Millennial actor this whoring social media followers to get an audition or to be cast in a project may seem routine. Let’s turn the clock back 20 years…
Before present day social media, and ‘followers’, and ‘friends’ you’ve never met but to whom you reveal the most intimate aspects of your private life publicly; before the narcissistic swamps which are not receding any time soon, the casting of journeyman actors was based on talent. Not an actor’s Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook following. Celebs? Sure, there was always a ‘box-office’ or ‘Q’ consideration. But now in the age of “look-at-me” diarrhea indulgence producers, directors, and writers are asking of no-name journeyman actors to have a set minimum of social media followers before the actor submit themselves for an audition. Have a paltry 50 to 200 social media followers the response is, “Don’t bother submitting. You’re not worthy.” Have over 100K, 500K or more followers then, “Yes! Let’s see that actor! Never mind the talent. If we hire 10 actors with each of them having a social media following of 200K per actor, that’s 2 million eyes on our project!”
A major flaw with that sweat-shop thinking. Followers does not equal commerce. If it did then my 60K followers across various platforms should have all bought my acting book, letting me enjoy the luxury of not having to constantly plug the pulp puppy. The percentage of sales for my acting book—hailed by industry, actors, and universities as a must-read—compared to my following is not equal.
Actors are encouraged to “buy” followers. Problem: all followers are not necessarily what is sought as a demographic. Through no choice of mine I have followers I never sought or want: hardware stores, plumbing companies, convenience stores, and many other non-arts related followers.
And while the employers of talent believe hiring actors with large followings will get the project more eye-time online that will only occur if their actors pay the social media platforms to bring eyes on the actor’s Tweets and updates.
This trend of followers over talent isn’t artful. We’re compromising the integrity of creating by buying into the false reality of reality entertainment. I dread the day I see on an actor’s resume placed in the Special Skills section, or worse as a credit, the number of social network followers the actor has.
Sir Laurence Olivier had talent: not a Twitter following.
Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned over thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Elon and Wright State University. He is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information visit www.PaulRussell.net.