Would You Cast Actors Based On Twitter?

Yesterday I met with a pretty well known Indie producer. We were talking about audience engagement and how filmmakers are now responsible for sourcing an audience. I’m a sucker for useful, actionable tips. So I asked him how he engages his audience.

Actors Hired Based On Their Twitter Followers

To give you an idea of budget range, this guy produces movies around two-million dollars. And one way he builds buzz is by hiring a socially active team, especially when it comes to casting actors. Here is an overview of how he casts his movies:

  1. Hold an audition for the actors.
  2. For each role, narrow down to two equally talented actors.
  3. Choose the actor who has greater Twitter followers. (Facebook fans and email lists count too.)

He then sets it up so cast and crew continually promote the project from prep through post and into distribution. This ongoing engagement provides rabid fans with value – they get frequent, awesome updates. And from a producing perspective, this shared social engagement helps to inexpensively spread word of mouth. What do you think? Would you cast actors based on Twitter followers?


  1. abro716 says

    Yay Donatella and others who find this notion of marketing over talent ridiculous. No wonder British actors are getting all of the jobs; I’m sure they don’t teach Twitter 101 at RADA.. The creator of “Broadchurch” never mentions Twitter in interviews when he is asked about his hiring process. He hired actors based on their ability to tackle the role. It certainly shows; there isn’t one bad actor on that show.. David Tenant became a Twitter presence in response to Dr. Who’s fandom and popularity, but not before he got the job. He got the job because he is damn good. What a concept.

    The cult of celebrity has turned American actors into self-aware desperate automatons. Everything real and organic disappears under the stress of these meaningless considerations.

    If you are going for artistic integrity, go “old school” (as if it has to be called that): hire the best person for the job, not the most popular. Geez, you can buy Twitter followers these days.. As an actor, I hear plenty of casting directors say “the more followers you have, the more likely you are to get a job” and there are just as many others who say “talent and compatibility come before marketing ability”. Not surprisingly, it is the latter who cast the shows and kind of films most actors want to be on. For most artists, critical acclaim is preferable to viral buzz. In the end, talent trumps popularity where it matters.

  2. Lance Paul says

    I had the same conversation with my buisness partner and writer. I agree with this producer. Hiring an actor that has a built in fan base helps with backend DVD sales and front end crowd fundraising.

  3. says

    Not strictly. I would see it as a statistic, and try to see if that person had a greater number of followers because they had good “material”–i.e., they were interesting, engaging, etc. Some people have more ‘friends” because they friend everybody else. Nothing substantial. My decision would always weigh more on the gut feeling I got from their performance, what kind of person they seemed to be, etc. Everything after that is just side attributes.

  4. says

    If you’ve narrowed down your casting to say, two actors who are both perfect for the part, I guess going with the greater number of followers has a certain logic to it, but how do you know if those followers really follow that person, or if they’re just the result of Twitter’s “people like” emails? It smacks of caring more about the marketing than the film. I know that you should care about such things, but I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror knowing my choice wasn’t that the actor is exactly what I want, but is just really “popular”.

  5. anna frisch says

    Ok, I get it, however….. no, no no. That’s not how I would ever choose my actors. It’s not even on talent and ‘toolkit’ alone I make that choice. There is definitely gut instinct involved. Somebody you might be able to build a long term working relationship with, somebody who can read not just text but subtext…
    somebody that doesn’t just stick with you, but also with the audience, and you can’t ever quite put your finger on it why that is.

  6. guy@adhocactors.co.uk says

    I understand the idea: get rabid fans through virtual loyalty. Your film is ultimately sold and judged on why is up on screen and if the actor with the largest following gets the job and it looks dodgy come the edit then you could find yourself wondering, “what if…?”
    There are talented actors out there who do not have a good grasp of 21st C tech and blatant self publicists who have little skill and it can be too late to find out sometimes, (as many have experienced I expect). In the end it’s the toss of the coin that the filmmaker has to make, bearing in mind that virtual friendship can be very fickle!

  7. says

    As long as the primary reasons for casting are talent and being right for the role. In this social media world having a team who is active is helpful. Half of the director’s job is in the casting and that needs to be treated with the most attention. One badly cast role can make the film sink as the audience asks, “What were you thinking?”

    But even so, you have to be certain the talent actually follow through with messaging – same goes for crew. Building an audience starts before making the movie.


  8. Phil Maguire says

    This is old thorny problem of art vs commerce: if you feel that it is just a business by all means use whatever means prmotes more purchases; if you feel it’s an artform then you must be lead by your muse. Of course, it is a plausible argument that the person who has already built the bigger audience with social engagement must be the better person for the job because social engagement is the reason you are doing a film in the first place.

    I must admit it is not something I would have thought of but now you’ve raised the issue, it is intriguing to think how much extra excitement a film could generate if all of the cast and crew were communicating their excitement though social media

    Thanks you for the lively thought

  9. Yeukai says

    Personally, when I am casting I go for that special one who has that special something. And usually even with equally talented actors, there’s always that ONE, whom your gut just screams out for. So I guess I’ll go for that one and encourage them to be more active in the social media;) it goes without saying that publicity is essential, but I guess I just don’t want to be stuck with a lot of publicity and not the best performance.

  10. Donatella says

    Actors have always been involved in the promotion of their work, haven’t they? As an actor you want the work to be seen as much as everyone else on the project. Naturally social media these days is another promotion/marketing tool at the actor’s disposal. The big stars of the big-budget studio films have to go out and promote their projects just as much as the non-union or less famous artist, just with far fewer – if any – perks.

    But to BASE casting decisions on the size of an actor’s “Friends” and/or “Followers” is absolutely ridiculous to me. THE AUDITION is evidence of the actor’s credibility. The work ethic is evidence of their worthiness. Actors have to deal with enough just to keep going without adding this unnecessary and unfair (not to mention irrelevant) expectation. Something about this is unseemly.

  11. says

    If you mean two actors that are equally qualified for the role (which is a little different than “equally talented” IMO) then I think his rule of thumb makes a lot of sense, at least in the indie game where legs up like that can make all the difference. (Especially if crowdfunding comes into play.)

    I recommended the exact same strategy you outlined to an indie director recently: encourage every single person in the production to be part of creating ongoing social media ripples for your project, from the moment of inception through release and beyond. Feed the super-fans as much as you can (without actually slowing your project down too much).

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