It’s in every actor’s best interest to take advantage of social media by positively contributing to their on-brand visibility on a daily basis. Having a refined digital presence is as important as a having a properly formatted résumé and a professional headshot. Did you know that by investing in your online image you may be taking one step closer to landing your dream role?
Alas, before we begin that journey, we first need every Canadian actor to gain control of how they appear online, and to stop making seemingly harmless decisions that put their careers in jeopardy. After all, every post you share is one screen-grab away from existing forever in a mildewy basement until the least opportune moment in your career.
There are two areas to focus on: before you get the gig, and after.
It may come as a shock but, in many instances, your digital presence directly impacts whether or not you book a job. Sarah Sheps of Mann Casting explains the two scenarios where an actor’s online image is, arguably, most scrutinized, as when casting for government-related commercial jobs and large-scale brand ambassadors. Evidently, it’s not uncommon for holds on actors to be released when research surfaces inappropriate images of them.
In this social media world, it’s unacceptable to ignore what the Google search for your name looks like. Here’s a test: research your own name in an Incognito Window (On Chrome – File > New Incognito Window > Google your name > Images). You may be surprised at what appears. Did you know Google Images pulls images from tweets associated with your name? You may even see screen-grabs from YouTube videos that you’re listed as being a part of. Some of these images you won’t have control over, but many you will. It’s in your complete control simply by putting more care into the actions you take online.
Images aren’t the only posts to be aware of; publicly posted personal opinions undergo the same amount of scrutiny. Cathy Knights, of Catalyst TCM, speaks of casting calls requesting actors’ Twitter handles before selecting those who will audition. How far back into your feed will the marketing sleuths go? Who knows. Maybe next weekend, you and a glass of wine consider scrolling back to what you were tweeting in 2008 just to make sure your opinions are still your own. Chances are, you shared hundreds of 140-character thoughts pre-#MeToo and at least a couple of rage tweets. Hopefully, none are regarding the brand that’s about to consider paying off your mortgage and putting your kids through college.
No one’s online record is spotless. Social media has taken over our lives and with every thought, moment and event being recorded and broadcast, mishaps are bound to happen. Here’s a pro tip that many people don’t consider: Images may appear in the future without context. (Just ask me about the time I posted a selfie in my bedroom dressed up like a scantily-clad referee. To say the least, the joke didn’t really ‘land’ when it appeared in my personal Google search three years later without context.) Every time you click ‘share,’ your content may potentially be seen by all future employers, friends, family, casting directors and agents and it might appear with zero context. (You too could be seen in a dusty mirror wearing knee-high socks and a black and white striped mini dress. My sexy-referee tweet is now deleted, but that doesn’t mean the image disappeared immediately. And that certainly doesn’t mean it’s gone. Nothing ever is.)
Canadians have been on Facebook since 2004 and we still need to learn how to stay out of trouble. If your page/tweet/post is public, people are looking at it, whether it’s to find an additional image of you after your agent has clocked out, or to deliberately assess your personality and behaviour.
“Facebook is an invaluable casting tool for me.” – Sarah Sheps, Mann Casting
OK, so you have the gig; congratulations! Now your job is to be very careful about everything you share about your day(s) at work.
Toronto’s Mann Casting estimates they receive at least one phone call per month demanding actors be contacted to remove images/comments/tweets posted online. What may seem harmless to Canadian actors is serious business to those they’re working for.
A weave being dyed in the hair and makeup trailer could give away a future character. A picture of a fellow actor you’re excited to work with might be a storyline spoiler. Movie magic may be exposed, which is especially troubling when it involves a product being marketed. Anything revealed on a commercial set can notify a brand’s competitors of their next advertising campaign.
Read your contract and know your production’s stance on social media. If you’re unsure or digital protocol isn’t listed, here are some more pro tips to help keep you out of trouble: Don’t post your costume, don’t post the set, don’t post brand names, names of other actors or creative team around you, spoilers or any negative reference to anything about the shoot day. Also, don’t tag anything with #Blessed. People hate that.
There is no exact way we should all be using the Internet. An actor’s individual social media and PR game plan needs to be based on their personal brand and career goals. The only piece of advice that applies to every actor out there is to audit your platforms and know how you are represented online. Remember: the one thing that’s more important than looking good on the Internet is not looking bad on the Internet.