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.