Underdeveloped and Overexposed

The past couple of days, I was at the eye of a name-calling storm on Twitter, that stemmed from a real-life event. It went so far and got so ugly, that I wanted to write up a post warning others of my experience. Then, I was struck by an odd actor-brain thought.

If you cultivate a strong personality online, does that make you less of an option for casting?

See, I’m no one famous. If Zooey Deschanel writes up a blog post or uploads a video, I along with the rest of her fan-base will swoon, gleefully repost, and probably go get my bangs cut again. We love it because we have a sense of her personality, without over-saturation. The little “peeks” are what make us believe we might actually be real-life BFF’s in an alternate universe or if we just happened to get our nails done at the same salon. They add to the overall mystique and delight. Here’s another example: Twitter feeds of famous comedians, versus Twitter feeds of famous actors.

More often than not, actors post two kinds of tweets/updates: self-promotion or very safe and general musings. Many famous actors (I checked on George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston and several others) aren’t even on Twitter. Other celeb accounts, like Tom Cruise, are run by his PR firm: more promotion and safe generalities. Actors may have an image or even be typecast, but part of protecting their privacy is protecting their mystique. Could overexposure make us less marketable?

Imagine for a moment that Snookie was secretly the world’s greatest actor and she’s been pulling a Joaquin Phoenix on us. Too much? Okay picture…a reality star of your choice. Even if they were talented, and could manage to convince a barricade of horrified producers and directors that they were right for the part, I’m betting you wouldn’t go see the movie. Why? Because you made judgments about them. Because you feel like you know them. The fact is, you know too much. Their ‘fame’ is based on their personality and their not-so-interesting life. Overexposure prevents the audience from suspending their disbelief.

Common wisdom is that social media is the networking of the future, and I see that action unfold, positively and negatively, in my own career. But in the back of my head, I always assumed that if I “made” it, I would turn most of these sites over to my manager. I do have a strong personality, but fiery blog posts or sassy tweets are not necessarily what I want to be known for – I want to be known for my work. Ah-ha I hear your argument already – “But you have to put yourself out there…” and it’s true. Which brings me to this catch-22.

Is propagation of your personality the way to get noticed? Is it possible to build a cult of personality before “making it” or is that just media-controlled perception? Will audiences slowly change and accept actors in roles who may have been discovered via social media? Could our social media hustle be setting us up for failure? Should we shut up, keep auditioning, and leave blog posts to the weather?



Posted on March 21, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Interesting post! As a producer I think ultimately it’s how good you are, or how reconizable your name is to audiences. It might not be appropriate marketing wise to cast Snooki in the next season of Downton Abbey – but you’d have to watch. Regardless of her reprehensible behavior and attitude, she still has people clamoring to see what she gets up to. Same for actors. Robert Downey, Jr. nearly destroyed his career through drugs and conduct, but a quick visit to rehab and a new outlook on life and he’s back on top. He’s also a really good actor. He’s also cray-cray. But just because he’s crazy doesn’t mean producers will stop casting him.

    I say be who you are on Twitter. Or Facebook. Or wherever your social media life takes you. But make sure you’re marketable. If you have a sizable fan base on Twitter it couldn’t hurt a producer to at least check out your reel and see if you can handle a part. If you could bring that audience with you it means a lot (this is Hollywood politics type stuff, but it’s true).

    • Good point that audience awareness is audience awareness is audience awareness. Strange to think of just how much marketing drives art!

      My “the other hand” comment would be, if you have a large-ish fan base online and you get cast…do those people (real world experiences welcome here) go on to engage a HUGE fan base, or is that all they ever get? (as opposed to actors whose fan base comes primarily from the work they do/being seen in movies/tv shows)

      • Lookit Felicia Day. Directly after Buffy she still had an almost non-existant fan-base. She launched the Guild and slowly developed some dedicated fans. Then Whedonverse sent a link to the show to THEIR fanbase and suddenly it was a thing. Day was legit, though, and never took her audience for granted and gave them what they wanted. So she developed these fans and now any project she’s attached to (online, anyway) gets millions of views. Her TV attraction still has a ways to go, I think.

  2. I dunno, I think we sometimes confuse “putting ourselves out there” with content, content, content on a personal level more than a professional one. I personally feel weird talking/promoting myself, I really have nothing to say about anything that would be relevant to a fan base (because I no have),I believe my family and friends will get tired of my inane posting before they get a chance to become fans of my work.

    I would rather “pimp” the work or build content for people that hire actors instead of posting my bulls!@$. but that is just me and my own neurosis trying to choke me out…

    I admit I am new to all this acting “business side”, so I am clearly typing out the side of my a$$ because I have no clue what I’m talking about anymore but I do have a feeling about it. =)

    Cruz Jr.

    • I wonder about this too. I would love to be able to provide more content that is professional in nature; I think the personal aspect comes in because it’s more affordable/faster and we are all hyperaware of “that one girl who got a million hits on youtube….”

  3. In this day and age though one can literally make themselves and build a following online that rivals anything a studio from the 20th Century could try and manage. I think you’re doing just that, Wonder. You’re not only involved in acting but also the production aspects. That makes you a double threat.

    In other words, keep doing what you’re doing. It’s been proven you don’t need to go through “The Establishment” anymore to make films or be recognized as a good actor. Yes, it means more work on your end, but I think it is worth taking control of your career and destiny.

  4. #greatquestion

    Like an actor, the experience of social media improves the more you ‘go for it’, whatever that means to you – the royal you.

    My take, times have changed and it is nearly impossible for the world to not know anything about a public face. The brilliant thing is that we get to control what they see thanks to SM. If you want to be perceived as the life of the party online, ala Snookie, it’s easier than ever to create that personality.

    Who knows what the truth is?

    Alice Cooper, Lady Gaga, Kesha are three examples of people capitalizing on an identity that is and isn’t their own.

    People cannot get enough of their stage personalities and yet that personality is what we come to think of as them. It’s all a facade regardless of how genuine or not our exposure is online because there is no absolute way to 100% you in SM.

    Twitter… Who speaks in hashtag on a regular basis IRL?
    Facebook… Bella, you and I have a Profile and Page, as other talent/businesses do. We’re two personalities. A psychologist might say, before the Intertubes, that we have a long road to recovery ahead of us.
    YouTube… Posted a video lately? Do you really talk to people who don’t exist inside a camera in the same way you have conversations with people in a room? That psychologist is going to be rolling in the dough soon enough, right? =)

    Being aware of this trouble (aka opportunity) separates you from the pack. Most people take on an online personality (Anonymous or close to home) and that’s what they do. As creative types who are aware of the social interaction conundrum we can do what we’re always told to do… Leave them wanting more.

    In summary, keep doing what you’re doing. #hi5 #yougotthis

  5. That’s a very thought-provoking post. I think the questions you pose above lead to deeper things.

    “If you cultivate a strong personality online, does that make you less of an option for casting?”

    Which leads to the question: do you care? And I mean that sincerely. While absolutely understanding that acting is a business, and we do what we must to eat, there is still a matter of whom you want to work for (even in this economy). Do you WANT to work for someone who would be offended by looking up your Twitter account and finding that you take pictures, talk about things that you like that have nothing to do with your acting career, and dare to use profanity, however rarely? Can you as an artist, an actress, and a human being respect such a person, whom, by taking offense and making choices about your ability to work based upon that offense, is saying that the quality of your work doesn’t matter?

    “Could overexposure make us less marketable?”

    There are two points there. To start, what is “over” exposure? Who defines that? Again, can you as an artist, an actress, and a human being respect someone who says that talking about anything other than mundane generalities or premieres in public is “TMI”? Or, do you as an artist, an actress, and a human being feel more respect and affinity for someone who’s relieved to find out that you’re a fellow carbon based life form instead of some automaton with perfect teeth, and who likes to look at the pictures you take?

    Further: marketable to whom? How are you defining your market? Are you defining it the same way that the bean counters making quarter billion dollar Hollywood hypefests would define it, or do you define it some other way? Indeed, are you not defining your own market by putting yourself out there in the ways that you’re putting yourself out there? Are you not grabbing an audience that the slickest agent in the world is going to miss? And by going about it in a way that reflects your personality, are you not grabbing the audience most likely to enjoy the types of projects to which you are drawn?

    Which in turn, leads to this:
    “Is it possible to build a cult of personality before “making it” or is that just media-controlled perception?”

    Here, I am only looking at two words: “making it.” What does “making it” mean to you? I am certain that top billing in one of those quarter billion dollar features noted before wouldn’t be something you’d turn down, of course, but do you NEED that to feel like you’ve “made it”? Does the line require big Hollywood roles churned out at a minimum rate of one to two fifty-mil-plus pictures a year, with the upper floor residences in New York and LA? To borrow from a previous respondent and run with the thought, has Felicia Day “made it”? I’m not seeing her name at the multiplex, but everyone sure seems to know it, and millions enjoy her work. I can think of a lot of people who’d call that “making it.” What about you? Or does she – and do you – need that “major network” or “big studio” deal before “making it”?

    Only you can answer these questions as they relate to yourself. However, I can tell you this much, as it is my experience.

    Yours is one of many Twitter accounts I follow, including those of actors who have by anyone’s definition “made it” and whose accounts are undoubtedly whitewashed by agents and PR people. I am far more likely to take notice when you or someone like you talks about a project you’re working on or expresses an interest in someone else’s project, because through your other tweets, you’ve already established that you’re a real person and not a PR robot.

    Think of it as the difference between getting an ACD system (Voicemail Hell) on a phone call and getting to talk to a real person. Make sense?

    Because of that, as a fan (“the market”), I have taken notice of short films and webseries – some with you in them, some not – that I would not necessarily have ever noticed otherwise. And so, you and your colleagues have gotten at least one more viewer because you, Wonder Russell, have chosen to present yourself as a real person in social media.

    And also because of that, as a critic (“more traditional publicity,” “there’s no such thing as a bad review because they’re all advertising one way or another,” “really I’m not the Devil”), I have in turn been able to take what I have seen and present it to yet another audience (“expanded the market”). As so, you and your colleagues have even more exposure… again, because of that so-suggested “overexposure” you have on social media through how you have chosen to present yourself.

    So, for what it’s worth, I think you’re doing it right, and hope you keep doing what you’ve been doing. And whenever you do decide that you’ve “made it,” I hope you never hand things over to a PR robot. The world has enough of those already, and they’re not very interesting.

    “This above all: to thine own self be true.” – William Shakespeare (via Polonius), ‘Hamlet’

    “Be yourself. The world worships the original.” – Ingrid Bergman

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