Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Top Ten Twitter Tips!

                    Some things you just can't make up...

Those who have been dropping in here for a while might remember this one, which discussed a then-new network policy forbidding any mention of the show we were working on -- plot points, set photos, gossip, whatever -- in the social mediasphere.  Being fear-driven enterprises at heart, networks tend to be deathly afraid of anything new, and like so many ossified dinosaurs, there’s much about this brave new digital world they don't understand... so they reacted in the time-tested (if ultimately doomed) manner of all paranoid dictatorships: by issuing a blanket edict forbidding any unauthorized social media exposure.   

The result is that prior to starting any job these days, we all must sign inclusive and rather draconian non-disclosure agreements.  Unofficial websites, blogs, Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook are not to be used as platforms to disseminate inside information on movies and television shows while in production.  Back in the days before such agreements were standard, one of the top-gun line producers of “Will and Grace” called the entire crew in, sat us down, then read us the riot act because some unknown person on the crew had the effrontery to take, then post on the internet a cell phone photo of one of the show’s stars. 

The horror...

With his grimmer-than-grim attitude, he made it crystal clear that this-could-not-happen-again.

That’s one reason I’m careful about naming names or shows in this space.  And sure enough, when we started my new show (actually, resuming an old one) a few weeks ago, there were those old familiar “No BRATS” posters all over the sound stage.  

Some things never change, I guess -- until they do, which is why I was surprised to walk on stage last week and find all of those Just Don't Do It fliers gone, replaced with slick multi-color posters listing the Network’s official “Top Ten Twitter Tips”

Seriously.  And here they are:

NETWORK NAME HERE Top Ten Twitter Tips
  1.   Use the official hashtag in all tweets
  2.   Follow the show page, the talent, your influential friends, colleagues, etc.
  3.   Tweet safe “insider” info during production
  4.   Tweet storyline teases on days when new episodes air
  5.   Tweet tune-in reminders right before episode begins
  6.   Live tweet during new episodes when possible
  7.   Answer select fan questions using the @ technique
  8.   Show fans your appreciation frequently
  9.   Tweet in between seasons to sustain interest
  10.   Encourage the cast and crew to participate too!
Any questions?  Contact your NETWORK NAME HERE publicist!

Given that I too am something of a calcified fossil, much of that list does not compute -- and the rest of it might charitably be described as insulting.  First off, although many people I hold in high regard are huge fans of Twitter, I think it’s silly.  No doubt I’m missing something here.  Yes, I understand how Twitter helped fuel the fires of the Arab Spring and thus keep those revolutions on full boil, but I don’t see much revolutionary activity happening in this country, and certainly not in Hollywood.  What I do see are people tweeting/facebooking what they’re having for lunch and dinner, photos of their pets, reports on their current health status, what they’re watching on television, and just about every other aspect of their private lives.

There's nothing wrong with any of this, but I'm not sure why anyone beyond their most intimate circle of close friends and family would be interested in such things -- and more to the point, why so many people feel compelled to “share”?  But then there are many things about modern life I don't understand, starting with all this blather about about "hashtags” and “the @ technique.”  WTF? 

But that's just me, with one foot in modern times and the other firmly planted in a hob-nailed Luddite boot.
In a way, I have to admire this turnabout on the part of The Network, clumsy though it is.  Finally turning to face the sun of a brand new century, they're desperately trying to ride out the digital tsunami that continues to scour clean their once-familiar (and lucrative) business landscape.  But this grudging acceptance of modern reality is highly conditional, of course, and tightly controlled, thus missing the whole point of social media.  

No surprise there. I saw a similar thing happen back in the late 60's and early 70’s, when Madison Avenue did its level best to co-opt and commodify the generational counter-culture that had emerged with such raw, explosive force -- but the advertising industry is better at this sort of thing than the networks.  Even so, the Mad Men ad-boys didn't do such a great job either.  Volkswagen ran a clever, minimalist campaign that managed to penetrate the consumer consciousness with a quasi-counter cultural appeal, but that was the rare exception.   And although this current ham-fisted response on the part of NETWORK NAME HERE is better than their old harrumphing "just say no" stance, the real purpose of their turnabout is to harness and channel the energy of social media into cross-platform promotion of the show.  

So it’s not enough for us to do the heavy lifting of actually making the show anymore -- now we’re supposed to tap-dance on the Twitter keyboard like trained monkeys wearing our network colors.

I understand why it might be in my interest to do the monkey-dance.  The better the show does, the greater the chances it will come back for another season... but I'm a juicer, not a huckster. Sales just isn't in my blood. If it was, I'd probably have two houses, a sailboat, and a couple of ex-wives by now.  

That and a serious drinking problem.

So thanks, NETWORK NAME HERE, but no thanks.  I'll just keep doing my thing here in the shadows behind those hot, bright lights, and leave the shucking-and-jiving to the pros.

*  Anyone interested in where this odd social phenomenon might be heading should go to the library (remember those?) or find and read a used copy of Super Sad True Love Story, a lively novel by Gary Shteyngart, published in 2010.  Set in the near future, SSTLS describes a world of hollowed-out culture in which everyone is on-line and sharing 24/7 as the economy teeters at the lip of the abyss.  The old ways are gone with the digital wind, with the ubiquitous new technology infiltrating every aspect of life to promote ignorance, confusion, and uber-consumerism on the part of the people.  I read this book when it came out two or three years ago, and in the short time since, have marveled as our reality moves ever closer to the fictional world created by Shteyngart.


Ed (sloweddi) said...

It's not that Twitter is silly or stupid. It's because you have to work harder at a real job and do not have the time for the crap.

I am as guilty as most twitter users since I retired for the second time. But I try never to post every bit of minutia.

But on the subject of some companies coming around to social media, I came across a 3 yr old BBC production called the Virtual Revolution (4 parts and very good) that speaks in part about business co-opting the Web. I see reminders all over my social media about how I need to get to the tv right now because my "new favorite show" is about to start. And remember to tweet use with your comments on what a great show it was!!
This is why I download everything and my TV has not been turned on in 2 yrs

Nathan said...

Last year I was on a show and one of the stars (well known), Tweeted, "We're filming at a fancy ******* and I hacked into the computers so I could play Honey Badger".

This was retweeted more than 1500 times and "favorited" more than 2000 times. Needless to say, my location contact for that day was PISSED.

Michael Taylor said...

Ed --

Like I said, I'm still a bit unclear on the concept of Twitter -- it just feels a bit like a digital hula-hoop to me, that's all. But we all walk our own paths, and whatever works for you is fine with me.

Sounds like a good show -- I just might check that one out. Thanks...

Nathan --

Yikes. I suppose you should be grateful he didn't organize a massive flash mob to inundate the location...

Nathan said...

Yikes. I suppose you should be grateful he didn't organize a massive flash mob to inundate the location...

Actually, I wouldn't have given a rat's ass if he'd done that. It was made clear to the producers (in advance) that tweets like that violate the City's permit rule against "publicizing a shoot as an event". Our permit would have been yanked and I could have gone home. :)