In 2013, historian Tino Balio published “Hollywood in the New Millennium,” one of the first business books about the film industry to showcase the impact of social media on everything from creative ideas to film distribution and from ancillary markets to deal making. That book and its various case studies of blockbuster productions such as “Avatar,” “The Lord of the Rings,” and “Spider Man” became a must-read not only for film students but also for those who work on the business side of the industry.
As comprehensive as Balio’s work was at the time the British Film Institute published his aforementioned book, the topic of social networks and the impact on the industry was mostly focused on audiences, and it only took up a few pages of the book, which is not surprising since Facebook was merely nine years old at the time. Fast forward to the end of the second decade of the New Millennium: We are now seeing the true power of social media and how it can make or break film productions on many levels.
“The Irishman,” an epic gangster film directed by Martin Scorsese, made its debut on the Netflix video streaming platform in 2019. It could easily be said that more people drawn to “The Irishman” by what they read on social media channels than by what the film’s marketing team was able to accomplish. A new Mafia movie directed by Scorsese should have been enough to draw audiences with a simple trailer, but the director’s comments about the direction that the industry is taking with regard to streaming platforms did more to spark attention; not to mention the digital wizardry used in lieu of heavy make-up to make actors such as Robert DeNiro appear younger.
The future of Hollywood has been here for a few years; it is called the internet, and it is bound to become even more multidimensional than it already is. Producers who have been shy about augmenting their online presence could be falling behind; only industry giants such as Quentin Tarantino, who famously refuses to use Netflix or even email, can get away with staying offline. Something that is not going away on the production side is the ability to make connections; Hollywood will always be about who you know, but you have to be able to show this online.
Name-dropping is still acceptable, but it has to be done in the right platform with adequate framing. Good examples, such as this profile, utilize a short narrative to mention involvement in productions featuring the likes of DeNiro and Keanu Reeves; moreover, the example casually adds an Oscar nomination before providing details about business connections that are not necessarily linked to the film industry, but that could certainly prove useful when looking for funding and investments.
Younger producers and filmmakers have no qualms about being extremely active on social media; they may even be accused of oversharing, but this is the world that they were born into. Industry veterans should learn from professionals such as Ava DuVernay and Edgar Wright, who are definitely not shy about sharing the same online spaces as their audiences.