I attended the LA Film Festival’s Power of the Tweet poolside chat with Eli Roth, Adam Shankman, Richard Kelly, and Jon Chu, moderated by Ari Karpel. While a lot of interesting ideas were batted around, there was a bit of a disconnect between the audience of nascent filmmakers and this panel of celebrities who have tens of thousands of followers each through no effort of their own.
Jon Chu’s case is probably closest to what any of us could hope to use as a blueprint. As I understand it, he’s built a following through his youtube channel and leveraged that into a directing career on Step Up 2 and this summer’s Step Up 3D. At the panel, he spoke about tweeting pictures from set and asking fans to make simple choices about production design and wardrobe. This kind of fan engagement seems really smart, and I’d imagine that it will reward him over time.
Adam Shankman, on the other hand, was a producer on Step Up 2 who originally played the part of old Hollywood, trying to lock down the set and put a lid on the tweets, but he eventually came around to the value of being able to reach fans in such a personal way. Apparently he got a little too personal with Miley Cyrus on the set of The Last Song and made a minor scandal out of nothing. You can’t buy publicity like this, so why try to keep it from your set?
Perhaps most relevant was the admission that all of the panelists will and have looked at materials sent to them as mentions on Twitter. I have a prior relationship with Eli Roth having worked with him on The Last Exorcism, but it was a tweet about Devo that got him to follow me. Adam Shankman apparently sent his agent a Youtube video that somebody had tweeted to him, and his agent is now representing the guy. To test the theory, I tweeted Richard Kelly that I didn’t get to ask him if Twitter would have helped the fate of Donnie Darko at the box office. When I got home, I found this in my mentions from @JRichardKelly:
@jaytrautman Maybe. It took 2-3 years for anyone to refer to the film as a “hit”. But then, people HATED the film at Sundance…