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The Green Room: Has a social media presence become too important in the arts?

Tweet nothings: but is your social media presence you or a character you’re portraying? Photo: Shutterstock Tweet nothings: but is your social media presence you or a character you’re portraying? Photo: Shutterstock

Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…​​​​​​​​​​

Gary Abblett is a 38-year-old jobbing actor with experience at the National, RSC, in the West End and on the road

Adam Lovett is a 45-year-old actor who has appeared in film, BAFTA-winning TV, at the RSC, National and West End

Albert_Parker

Albert Parker is 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA award winning sitcoms, theatre and TV

Peter Quince is a 72-year-old actor working in theatre and television

Annie Walker is 25. Since graduating from drama school, she has worked in regional theatres and is a writer and street performer

 

Gary If it has, I’ve remained hopelessly oblivious.

Annie I’m not sure if everyone takes it into account, but I do have a producer friend who once told me the number of Twitter followers helped them pick between two people for a job.

Peter The idea of people being cast by number of Twitter followers is terrible, but I don’t think it happens at my end of the market – both age-wise and job-wise.

JonI find that so odd. Is it really so important? Can anyone be bothered to watch, say, an ad, Google the actor, and then think: “Ooh, I must check his Insta.”?

Gary I guess it’s just an extension of ‘having a profile’. I agree with you, Jon – it amazes me that anyone can be bothered.

Annie I know others find it hard to be constantly updated with rehearsal shots when they’ve been unemployed for a while.

Adam The industry always changes, and if you’re used to the old way, it feels unfamiliar and scary. But the old days are gone. I miss the anonymity of the pre-social media age.

Albert I like it. Good for gossip and for expressing opinions. But it’s how it’s used that causes the problem. Things you have said can come back to haunt you. Those opinions stay there forever, as in the case of the actor in The Color Purple, Seyi Omooba.

Actors’ social media use in spotlight following Seyi Omooba case

Adam I slightly feel for young people who have made stupid comments on social media when they were 17, and having that thrown back at them. But I should be clear: stupid youthful comments are one thing, out-and-out repugnant homophobic views are another.

JonI strongly suspect that Seyi Omooba would have been given an option to withdraw her comments before being sanctioned, so I’m not sure that ‘old opinions’ are necessarily something to worry about – there’s usually a chance to revisit them in the present before any action is taken.

Annie I personally rarely use my Instagram now for posts about acting. I prefer to use it for positive messages and silly images, which I have been warned about by a male writer: “You are so attractive, and yet you always put these silly faces up.” That bugged me a little bit.

JonThat is shocking and, I hope, says more about the writer than anything else.

Albert When young actors did a small part in something, they used to just be able to brag to their friends and the bank managers. Now, some publicise it as though they’ve just played Hamlet at the National. It’s important to keep a sense of perspective.

Adam I also wonder about its effectiveness. The evidence would be someone who made a career out of a social media following, and while there’s always the odd job ad that asks for it, I don’t think it’s standard in the industry yet.

JonWell, we’ve had YouTubers cast in things in the last year or so, although without notable success.

Adam Is that not the same as having a reality TV star in a musical?

Annie I don’t think it should count as equivalent to drama-school training or Spotlight credits.

Adam There’s always the odd bit of casting that comes from fame rather than talent, and that’s been going on a long time.

Annie But speaking into your camera about make-up or the best way to shave your face doesn’t necessarily make for a good actor.

Adam I do love the various campaigns for change. Last year, the campaign to get a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ after a casting swept through Twitter and a lot of casting directors signed up to it.

JonAnd Spotlight adding an option for monthly payments was almost entirely down to a 24-hour Twitterstorm. We’re yet to see the result of the Yes or No campaign filter into actual professional behaviour to any great extent.

Adam It’s nice not to have to go through media gatekeepers to get publicity for your cause.

JonGatekeeper is a good word. It’s also good to have the right to reply to stuff. I was badly misquoted in a newspaper a while back and it was such a relief to be able to go to Twitter and say “nope, never said that” rather than have to rely on the paper printing a retraction.

Adam I wonder, would a young actor suffer if they decided not to be on social media? Plenty of actors my age aren’t, but that could be generational.

Annie I think it helps you feel like you’re playing a part. That you’re doing something and can have a voice out there that anyone can hear – your best mate or a casting director.

Is your Twitter presence ‘you’ or the character of you?

JonThat’s interesting. Does anyone treat their social media as ‘curated’ – as a performance? Is your Twitter presence you or the character of you?

Adam That gets us into a very deep conversation about whether we are truly us, or presented versions of us – in all areas of our life.

Albert I think a lot of people present a ‘front stage’ performance on social media – ‘hashtag actor’s life’ and all that crap – when in reality, all they’ve done is gone down to Lidl to go through the bargain bin.

Annie I have friends who call it ‘a wedding day album’ – you’re always trying to show the best time you’re having. There’s a real technique behind it all. It’s a highlight reel of your career and also a showcase for your talent.

Peter I’d never say something on social media I wasn’t ready for the whole world to see.

Albert They say if you’re not prepared to stand on your doorstep and shout it, don’t tweet it.

Jon Dryden Taylor is an actor, writer and editor of The Green Room. If you work in theatre and would like to join in the conversation, email greenroom@thestage.co.uk

Having a huge social media following won’t necessarily sell seats (your views, February 21)

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