“This is a story about the future”: Social Media vs. The Film Industry, Part 3.

Click here to read part one and part two of this blog series!

Image: Buffer

A Cultural Shift

The landscape of social media was very different in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s. Comic led films like Superbad (2007) and Step-brothers (2008) were at the height of their popularity. The cyberculture that formed as a result of this thrived off edgy humour, as this style of humour bled into the zeitgeist of youth culture. Social media was so new that the social rules in our real lives didn’t apply in the same way; you could be as mean and controversial as you wanted because it “wasn’t real”, it was cyberspace. This is a stark contrast to the social media culture that has manifested today, as we’ve seen many people in the entertainment industry, particularly comedians, come under fire for jokes they made in the past. 

New rules have formed in our cyberculture that have impacted the way we perceive the world. We, as a society, have slowly become more “tolerant” and “accepting”, which means being more aware of things that could be considered offensive. Even films like Pitch Perfect, which was released in 2012, featured some pretty tasteless humour that on rewatch made me think, “There is no way you could say that now.” With every new film or television release, people are able to immediately voice their opinions and concerns on social media.

Image: Into

Woke Culture’ – the Good and the Bad

As a result, some people have voiced their concerns about the rise of “cancel culture” on social media having repercussions on the film and TV industry. Comedian and actor, Chris Rock has stated in an interview that ‘cancel culture’ has created comedians that are “unfunny”. Actor and musician Donald Glover posted [now deleted tweets] on Twitter, “We’re getting boring stuff and not even experimental mistakes(?) because people are afraid of getting cancelled.” While many were quick to disagree with this take, it raises important questions about whether “cancel culture” will continue and what kind of impact it could have on the film industry.

The rise of “woke culture” has also produced many benefits for the film industry. There has been a steady increase in diversity on screen, we are seeing more stories with minorities and people of colour at the forefront. This has also manifested in old films being reimagined with more diverse characters, i.e. Ghostbusters (2016), Oceans 8 (2018), and the new Cheaper By The Dozen film currently in production. I see this only improving as time goes on, we will see more stories that are written from the perspectives of minorities, rather than just reimagined film remakes, diversifying the kinds of stories we see on screen, and bringing further representation to Hollywood. 

Image: Giphy

Reboots and Franchises Galore

The internet also gives us access to film, TV and music from any decade, allowing people to return to entertainment that they loved in their childhood, while introducing a whole new audience to content that would have just been lost. Film and TV studios have tapped into this nostalgia, giving us countless remakes of old beloved classics, as well as television spin offs that reunite audiences with the characters they grew to love.

Additionally, franchise films have dominated the film and TV industry for over a decade now. Batman is now being remade for a 6th time, we have seen 3 iterations of Spiderman films since the year 2000, and we have a film or tv show for almost every Marvel and DC character under the sun. The call for more diversity is Hollywood has also impacted these comic book films. Films like Black Panther (2017) and Wonder Woman (2017) are held in high regard. We are also finally receiving a solo Black Widow (2021) film after a decade of demand. Franchises like Marvel and Star Wars have strong fan bases that have been built over decades and are guaranteed to have an audience for new releases, ensuring their popularity for decades to come. Reboots, remakes, and large film franchises are the films that gain the most word-of-mouth on social media, which directly correlates with the financial success that a film receives (Eagan 2017), incentivising filmmakers to keep producing films of this nature.

The Future of Storytelling

There are several different ways that we could see the impact of social media on storytelling progressing in the future. In the short term future, we are guaranteed to get a few more remakes of beloved films with diverse casts, as well as reboots with casts that are still being requested. Marvel Studios move to a television medium, as well as the continuation of several film sequels, has produced a timeline for the next 3 years of Marvel releases.

However, while these are the films that gain the most revenue, there is a growing sense that audiences are growing tired of seeing the same characters and the same stories being retold in a hundred different ways. There will be an audience craving more originality in storytelling, but as we speculated earlier, it’s possible that film creators will be too cautious to experiment with new stories. As a result, the predicted state of the film industry in 2030 relies on several different determinants. If the support for film remakes and franchises are strong enough, they will continue to have a dominant hold on the film industry. If there is enough push back on social media, we will see a return to original storytelling becoming more prevalent and producing new films that have the potential to become beloved classics. 

The kinds of films we will see in 2030 specifically depend on the landscape of culture in that time. Will “cancel culture” continue to rise and limit our storytelling? Will we cycle back to a culture of rebellion and edgy humour? Will we see an entirely new form of culture that we haven’t experienced before? It’s hard to speculate where culture will be in 10 years and how it will manifest on social media. I think that no matter what, we will see more diverse casts and stories, as we continue to demand more equality on screen.

Image: Christina Animashaun/Vox

Additionally, it’s entirely possible that we will see change occur from the inside. Actors and producers who have grown tired of the current state of film and TV, such as Donald Glover, will take matters into their own hands by taking more risks and producing the content that they want to see.

The future of storytelling in the film industry rests on the reception that these films receive on social media. As we’ve seen with the shift in culture on social media and its impact on how we make and receive films today, social media users have the power to determine the kind of films they want to see being made. We can create the future we want to see, and now is the time to start building it.

References:

Hakim, L & Quroatun ‘Uyun, Z 2020 “CYBERCULTURE ON SOCIAL MEDIA: IDENTITY AS TRASH OF INFORMATION” Orasi: Jurnal Dakwah dan Komunikasi Vol. 11, No. 1, pg. 136-143 <https://www.academia.edu/44908201/CYBERCULTURE_ON_SOCIAL_MEDIA_IDENTITY_AS_TRASH_OF_INFORMATION

Sparks, H 2021 “Donald Glover: Fear of ‘getting cancelled’ makes entertainment ‘boring’” New York Post, weblog post, 11 May, viewed 21 May 2021 <https://nypost.com/2021/05/11/donald-glover-cancel-culture-makes-boring-tv-and-movies/

Eagan, O 2017 “Twitter Shows Influence of Buzz on Movies” International Journal of Interdisciplinary Research <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/330015918_Twitter_Shows_Influence_of_Buzz_on_Movies

Animashaun, C 2021, Cancel Culture, image, Vox, viewed 23 May 2021 <https://www.vox.com/22384308/cancel-culture-free-speech-accountability-debate

Robinson, M 2018, Group of Marvel Cosplayers at Comic-Con, image, Business Insider, viewed 23 May 2021 <https://www.businessinsider.com/best-avengers-cosplay-at-sdcc-2016-7?r=AU&IR=T

‘We’ll Do It Live!’: Live Tweeting Critical Summary, Vol. 2

The first blog I posted on my live tweeting experience was detailing the screenings from weeks one to five. This time, I’m going to be reflecting on the screenings from weeks six to eleven, which will bring my live tweeting to a close. Based on the feedback from my last blog post, my aim was to integrate more lecture content in my tweets. The quality of my tweets has drastically improved and that has reflected well in the increase in engagement. I will show you a few examples in this blog.

Image: Imgur

Week Six: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

The week six screening was Blade Runner 2049. The topic of this week’s lecture was futurists, which is what guided my research prior to the screening. I managed to draft several tweets that related to the lecture topics, including these tweets about the representation of robotics in the film. I also aimed to research the topic of transhumanism, which was a big portion of this week’s lecture. I found a few articles that discussed this topic in relation to the film, as well as one that focuses on biotechnology. This tweet links an article discussing how films like Blade Runner 2049 could demonstrate the ethical repercussions of biotechnology in our society.

My engagement this week was quite low. My original tweets that featured no links and were directly responding to moments in the film, such as this tweet on the left, received slightly more engagement than others.

Having drafted several tweets beforehand, and the film also being almost 3 hours long, I aimed to engage more with my peers through quote tweeting. I felt that through responding to my peers’ tweets, I was able to gain further insight into the film and think more critically about the themes that were presented.

Image: Cover Abyss

Week Seven: The Matrix (1999)

This week’s screening was The Matrix (again, another incredibly famous movie that I hadn’t seen). The lecture for this week was the first installment of a cyberculture series, focusing mainly on cybernetics. I employed a new tactic this week, which was to keep the lecture notes open as a frame of reference for both further research and connecting plot points to the lecture material. As a result, I had several successful tweets that received a fair amount of engagement. One of these tweets was a direct connection to the lecture content through a quote from the film. The other was an observation I made using my knowledge of the feedback loops in cybernetics.

The tweets I made in reference to the lecture content received the most engagement this week, none of which included links to further research. The highlight of this week is this tweet that directly referenced the cybernetic goal system, which was my attempt to understand the matrix through this perspective. This was the most likes I had received on a tweet so far.

The only downfall of this week? I didn’t interact with my peers through replies and quote tweeting, but I managed to retweet many insightful observations made by my peers.

Image: Wallpaper Pimper

Week Nine: Alita: Battle Angel (2019) (no screening in week eight)

This week was a strange one. The BCM325 cohort managed to grab the attention of Alita fans, which resulted in my tweets gaining a large amount of engagement from both classmates and the general public, and continuing to receive engagement for about a week after the screening. The tweets that received the most amount of engagement were observations about the film and discussions of the visual effects. While the tweets I posted in connection to the lecture content didn’t gain as much traction as the aforementioned tweets, they still received more engagement than my tweets from previous weeks.

However, the highlight of this week was this tweet I posted about the disruption of binary systems mentioned in the lecture. It was even retweeted in the weekly UOW Digital Media Society showcase. I believe this tweet is the most representative of my improvement in live tweeting, as it addresses both the lecture content and is a live reaction to a plot point in the film. I think including a still from the film also served its likeability well.

Image: Pinterest

Week Ten: Ready Player One (2018)

This week’s screening of Ready Player One was a bit more difficult than other weeks, even though I had made significant strides in the practise of live tweeting. Unfortunately, the lecture notes weren’t posted on moodle, so I couldn’t easily refer back to the lecture when crafting tweets during the screening. I had drafted a majority of the minimum 10 tweets prior to the screening, most of them containing links to further research about the exploration of cyberspace in the film, but I also included some tweets about the nature of nostalgia. These tweets received some engagement, but significantly less than the recent previous weeks.

However, this allowed me to spend more time interacting with my peers, and retweeting the insights that they were posting. I wish I had spent more time attempting to create conversations and reflect on the lecture content in these replies. My most prominent tweet for this week was a quote tweet that demonstrated a recurring thought I had throughout this film.

Image: That Shelf

Week Eleven: Robot & Frank (2012)

This brings us to the final week of live tweeting. This week, while I drafted several original tweets that related to the lecture topic of AI, my main focus was to improve in an area that had been lacking in previous weeks; interactions. I spent more time quote tweeting and replying to my peers’ tweets with meaningful insights. My personal favourites were the tweets that incorporated my knowledge of the lecture content and the knowledge I’ve gained through watching previous films, as we see with this tweet on the right.

I also tried to incorporate more pictures in an attempt to gain more engagement, which was an observation I made in the recent previous weeks. This worked to a certain extent, but I wish I had tested this theory sooner. The tweet below includes a still/quote from the film that directly correlated with the lecture content, making it my highlight for this week.

As the semester comes to a close, I felt that focusing on creating conversations and meaningful interactions was a great way to round out the improvements I’ve made in all areas of my live tweeting.

Reflection

While there are still areas that need more work (the frequency and quality of my replies), and things I discovered later in the semester that I wish I could have incorporated more (such as including pictures), I’m really proud of the improvements I’ve achieved over the course of live tweeting. My increased efforts to reflect on the lecture material, both through further background research and reacting to specific plot points in the films, paid off in increased engagement and acknowledgement from my peers. I feel satisfied with the overall quality of my tweets and I believe I achieved what I set out to in my previous live tweeting blog post.

The Production Conundrum: Social Media vs. The Film Industry Part 2.

Click here to read part one of this blog series!

Social Media – An Abundant Toolbox for Simplicity and Toxicity

In my last blog post, I gave a brief overview of the fast paced nature of social media and how it’s shaped the way we consume and react to content. Continuing on from this conversation, I want to now take a look at how social media is directly impacting the film industry, specifically film production.

There are several ways that social media has become a tool for film studios and their respective actors. One way that social media has changed production is that actors can now be found online, rather that through the traditional audition channels. For example, Blake Cooper was cast as Chuck in The Maze Runner (2014) through twitter after fans campaigned to get him an audition by making fan art and contacting the director, Wes Ball. We have also seen the reverse of this, when the widespread backlash that actors have received due to their characters in films.

Franchise films with large fanbases have had a long history of toxic behaviour. Newer installments of beloved film series’ have introduced new characters to their world, and because hollywood is increasingly becoming more diverse, these characters are often people of colour. While it goes without saying that not all members of any given ‘fandom’ participate in these toxic behaviours, actors often fall victim to hateful, racist abuse from disappointed fans. Actresses Kelly Marie Tran and Leslie Jones have spoken out against the online abuse they received after portraying their respective characters in the Star Wars Franchise and Ghostbusters (2016).

The Benefits of Backlash

In my last post, I gave a shallow explanation of social media being a marketing tool for the film industry. But what happens when a film is promoted on social media, and audiences don’t like what they see? The biggest example of this is when Paramount Pictures released the first trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog in 2019. Understandably, there was widespread backlash following this release regarding the design of Sonic, which resulted in the studio pushing the release date of the film in order to redesign the character.

Image: Vulture

This redesign was undoubtedly a good thing. The Sonic in the latest film release looks far more akin to the video game design of the character (which raises questions as to why they couldn’t just design him like that in the first place but what’s done is done). On a smaller scale, there was a similar reaction to the initial character design of Alita in Alita: Battle Angel (2019). The character’s eyes were slightly adjusted and her skin was given a softer, more realistic texture.

Image: Insider

Both of these experiences provide film studios with valuable feedback on the nature of social media and the importance of gaining approval from audiences. As a result, I believe film studios will continue to lean into this consumer input to gain positive word-of-mouth and ensure the film’s success, rather than risk facing the consequences of consumer backlash. We will see more films that pertain to the consumers needs and wants. The steady evolution of CGI technology and it’s integration in films allows for film studios to completely restructure and redesign films based on consumer input. As a result, it is fair to say that films will integrate more CG technology to emulate realistic environments rather than just fantastical scenarios, as we saw with The Lion King (2019).

Image: Screen Rant

The Digital Revolution

We have already seen the use of CGI actors to fill the role of actors who have passed away. This technology has been used in several Star Wars films to recreate past characters and ensure that the chronology of the Star Wars universe remains intact, and it was also used to bring a close to Paul Walker’s character in The Fast and The Furious franchise after his untimely death. While those actors were computer generated to reprise roles they had previously played, this technology has evolved to a CG James Dean now being cast in a brand new role in Finding Jack which is currently in production.

Image: Slash Film

While there a will always be an audience that craves more practical and authentic experience (as theatre has never gone out of fashion), we have seen a steady integration of CGI technology in films over the past few decades. Whether consumers want it or not, they have inadvertently created a world where it seems easier and safer for film makers to lean on CGI technologies to allow for adjustments to be made, ensuring they keep audiences happy and their pockets full. These films take time, and we may not see the complete rise of these kinds of films in the short term future, perhaps we can envision a future where entire CGI films normalised by 2050. A world where actors will now be computer generated and historical figures can essentially play themselves in biopics; where actors will no longer have to face consumer backlash, and where franchises can keep being produced for as long as the story calls for, rather than halted due to an actor’s demise.

For my final thoughts on the future of social media’s impact on the film industry, click here to read the third installment of this blog series.

References:

Jacobs, J S 2014, “Born To Maze Run” Pop Entertainment Archives, weblog post, 4 October, updated 24 April 2020, viewed 13 May 2021 <https://www.popentertainmentarchives.com/post/blake-cooper-born-to-maze-run

Christie, V 2018 “Kelly Marie Tran Breaks Her Silence on the Online Harassment That Led Her to Quit Social Media” Flare, weblog post, 22 August, viewed 15 May 2021<https://www.flare.com/news/star-wars-kelly-marie-tran-social-media/

Lee, C 2020 “Beyond the Creepy Teeth: How Sonic the Hedgehog Saved Itself” Vulture, weblog post, 14 February, viewed 16 May 2021 <https://www.vulture.com/2020/02/the-sonic-the-hedgehog-controversy-and-redesign-explained.html

Fowler, J 2019, “Thank you for the support.” Twitter, viewed 15 May 2021 <https://twitter.com/fowltown/status/1124056098925944832

Acuna, K 2020 “How the first trailer for ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ caused the design of the main character’s eye to change after criticism” Insider, 13 January, viewed 13 May 2021 <https://www.insider.com/alita-battle-angel-how-eye-design-changed-after-first-trailer

Eagan, O 2017 “Twitter Shows Influence of Buzz on Movies” International Journal of Interdisciplinary Research <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/330015918_Twitter_Shows_Influence_of_Buzz_on_Movies

Guerrasio, J 2017 “The actor behind the CGI Tarkin in ‘Rogue One’ tells us how he created the character” Business Insider, 10 January, viewed 16 May 2021 <https://www.businessinsider.com.au/cgi-moff-tarkin-rogue-one-guy-henry-2017-1?r=US&IR=T

Deruvo, J 2020 “Furious 7: Which Brian O’Conner Scenes Weren’t Paul Walker” Screen Rant, weblog post, 8 April, viewed 16 May 2021 <https://screenrant.com/furious-7-brian-scenes-not-paul-walker-brothers/

Alexander, J 2019 “James Dean, who died in 1955, just landed a new movie role, thanks to CGI” The Verge, weblog post, 6 November, viewed 16 May 2021 <https://www.theverge.com/2019/11/6/20951485/james-dean-new-movie-cgi-recreation-finding-jack

‘We’ll Do It Live!’: Live Tweeting Critical Summary, Vol 1.

For the subject BCM325, we have been asked to participate in weekly screenings of films that pertain to the subject material. We engage with these films through live tweeting, posting both our own original tweets and interacting with other classmates tweets. In this blog post, I will be recounting and critically evaluating my experience with live tweeting thus far this semester.

Image: deSingel

Week One: Metropolis (1927)

The first week of live tweeting proved to be challenging. The tweets that I posted felt as though they were surface level observations; mostly pointing out aspects of the film and its context that I found interesting.

Given that Metropolis is a silent film, it was difficult to focus on the story while also engaging with the tweets posted by my classmates. I found that I would often miss key themes and story elements by reading the tweets on my timeline. Conversely, I would pick up on plot points that I missed through reading those tweets. These tweets provided more of an analysis of these plot points, which allowed me to further understand the themes of the film.

Additionally, I found it difficult to conduct research about the film during the screening, as I couldn’t simultaneously focus on reading articles and watching the film. As a result, I felt that my tweets this week weren’t as structured and insightful as they could have been.

Although my tweets didn’t feel as in-depth as the tweets of my peers, I received replies that further elaborated on my ideas. This allowed me to engage with the film and my peers in a more meaningful way.

Image: Tablet Magazine

Week Two: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

This week, I made sure to conduct research about the film prior to the screening. I drafted several tweets focusing on important elements of the film that I was able to gain further insight on through reading articles. For example, this tweet highlighting one of the defining features of the film; the score.

By doing this I was able to pay more attention to the film and interact more with my peers, as I wasn’t trying to look up articles during the screening. I was also able to spend more time researching and reading through articles that I thought were relevant to the live tweeting experience, which meant that I didn’t feel pressured to find content to tweet within the time frame of the film. Fortunately, I had already seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, so I had a general idea of themes I could research and plot points I could discuss; making draft tweeting far easier this week.

As a result, I was able to focus on the film itself and generate tweets that were directly responding to moments in the film. This tweet, for example, was in relation to the scene where Hal sings ‘Daisy Bell’.

Image: Fiction Machine

Week Three: Westworld (1973)

Unlike the past two screenings, I had not seen Westworld (1973), nor the television remake. Hence, drafting tweets prior to the screening was difficult as I had no knowledge of the film’s plot or themes. The background research I conducted mostly included interesting facts about the film so as to avoid any major spoilers. 

The knowledge that I gained through prior research allowed me to respond to others with facts that elaborate on their tweets.

As this was the third screening, I had begun to see similarities between not only key plot points, but perhaps the context in which the film was created. Although potentially incorrect, I attempted to examine how filmmakers at the time were projecting their view of the future. Seeing as this was the first screening that was not a film I had already watched, I felt more comfortable connecting to the subject material by relating it to a film I was familiar with; that being 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Image: Story Grid

Week Four: Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner was a similar live tweeting experience to Westworld, as I had also not seen this film. While I knew of it’s cultural significance, I had no idea what the film was actually about or how it related to the subject content. This resulted in a similar debacle where I didn’t want the film spoiled entirely, but still wanted to conduct background research.

While I had several drafted tweets and made some observations about the film, most of my engagement this week was through retweeting.

My tweets this week could have been stronger. Although I was able to extend my thoughts through my responses, I felt as though my peers gave far more in-depth insights into the film. 

This is definitely an aspect of live tweeting I hope to improve over the next few screening sessions as the connection between the films and the BCM325 subject material becomes clearer. 

Image: NewStatesman

Week Five: Ghost in the Shell (1995)

This week I aimed to improve my inclusion of the lecture content. As I had completed a majority of this blog post by the screening this week, I attempted to use my self-reflection towards improving my live tweeting. I conducted prior background research that focused on topics that were discussed in the week five lecture. 

While I achieved this to a certain extent, the inclusion of lecture content in my live tweeting continues to be my main area for improvement, as evident by the lack of lecture discussion in weeks 1-4. I also attempted to focus more of my tweets on analysing the themes of the film, which included deep insights about the philosophy of what it means to be human.

By steering my background research towards the topics discussed in the lectures, and how these topics relate to the film, I should improve my tweets immensely. I also aim to practice connecting key plot points and themes to the lecture content during the screening. As we progress through the semester, I will continue to focus my live-tweeting practices on improving in these areas, which will hopefully lead to higher quality tweets in my next self-reflection post.