Social media has profoundly changed the way we interact overall, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to the relationship between Hollywood and its millions of fervent fans.
Whereas communication was primarily a one-way street in the past, it’s now a five-lane highway that often goes in the opposite direction. With fans now able to dominate the narrative about a film, it’s given them unprecedented power to collectively affect the movie-making process. It is a development that is welcomed by some and concerning to others.
Michael Luisi, a veteran film producer and executive, who has worked on films like Fighting with My Family, Oculus and The Call, says managing social media campaigns and staying on top of the online narrative is now nearly as important to achieve success as the actual film itself.
Studios are enamored with reaching out to fans on social media and generating positive buzz. The number of followers an actor or actress has is often now being taken into consideration when casting decisions are made, according to Luisi.
It’s hard to argue against such a strategy from the studios’ perspective. However, some in the industry have raised alarm bells about the need for actors to post incessant photos of their food and outfits in order to help land movie roles.
Boycotts and Pressure Becoming the New Norm for Studios Says Michael Luisi
Social media is benefiting studios in many ways. YouTube is a particularly important platform where millions of fans seek out new movie trailers, interviews and gossip, and provide studios with powerful and immediate feedback on a film’s prospects.
However, platforms can also turn against studios at the drop of a hat (or dislike) says Michael Luisi, exerting pressure to conform to the necessary standards. In particular, Hollywood studios are facing a major diversity reckoning on social media, routinely attacked for their perceived culturally insensitive production decisions.
Social media firestorms are pitting fans against the film’s own casts and crews, with studios caught in the middle. Take the case of Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, who was temporarily removed from his role by Disney in 2018 after an online mob unearthed some old, offensive tweets he posted years earlier. Series’ stars Dave Bautista and Zoe Saldana were among the many Hollywood stars who came to his defense and Disney eventually reinstated him.
It’s a far more challenging environment for Hollywood to operate in than the previous paradigm of simply pandering to a few Hollywood-loving journalists, but it’s a reality that the industry is tackling head-on.