For every film I work on, there's usually a Twitter hashtag or account dedicated to the film (What if there's no hashtag or account? That's a red flag.) where people will post stuff that's going on. Some films it's just me posting and on some films (like FAVOR), the Twitter feed is pretty active. You'd think the Twitter activity on a film wouldn't have any correlation at all to the quality of the production, but it does. Maybe that's because you'd be a damned fool to be a filmmaker without a Twitter account, but there's something to it. FAT KID RULES THE WORLD is pretty active. There's @FatKidMovie, of course, and Matthew Lillard (@lillardmatthew), but also lead actor Jacob Wysocki (@JacobWysocki) and his movie dad Billy Campbell (@WOCampbell) have been tweeting regularly about the film.
And then there's @TheiPhotographr. For the longest time, I had no idea who @TheiPhotographr was. There's two people taking still photographs on set--myself and Gabe, one of the PAs. But I've seen Gabe's photos and the style doesn't match at all. It can't be him. For a while I thought maybe it was someone who was on set before I showed up, but then he/she kept posting photos from days I was there, like these:
Who doesn't love a good mystery?
Then I looked at the account a little closer and pieced it together. @TheiPhotographr was very likely Key Grip Patrick Barcroft. It made a lot of sense. They were the type of photos you could only get if you were right in the middle of the production, and a key grip would be that guy. Plus, they're really good photos.
But let's think about that for a minute. Here you've got a Key Grip (and, from what I can tell, a good one) who posts a production photo or two a day from your shoot. He's got followers (461, as I write this) who are going to get a very small, but very pretty window into your production. It's kind of like A Year Without Rent, without the risk of someone writing that your production is a clusterfuck. Basically, he's going to make you look good.
I think this is the future of production. Instead of being a rarity, people like Patrick are going to be the norm. You'll have a crew full of people sharing photos and thoughts from your production. They'll all bring their own built-in audiences along with them and it'll be the production's job to maximize that contribution. Some productions will clamp down and try to control it in the same way that corporations try and get their employees to toe a line, but the smart ones will give them free reign. Sure, they'll give parameters like "don't reveal the killer", but it won't be much more than that. And the productions will be better for it. They'll have an easier time of finding their audiences because the audience will come from the processes that get the film made in the first place.
Plus, they'll draw better crews.
There was a discussion on Twitter some time ago about whether or not directors let the social media following of actors influence casting decisions.
Of course it does.
It's more than that. Social media is going to influence your choice of a Key Grip and on down the line. Everything else being equal, would you rather have Patrick or someone with 10 followers on Twitter who hasn't posted in 6 months?
And it's not as simple as requiring people to post stuff on social media sites, like a lot of productions are doing now. That's a band-aid, and not a very good one. There's no really incentive to engage with people, which is the key benefit. The posts come off a perfunctory and they accomplish almost nothing other than looking desperate. You're better off having them do nothing.
Or, you hire someone like Patrick who already engages with an audience who likes and trusts him. Because someone like that won't just help you get your film made, but he'll help you get your film seen. And isn't that the point?
Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.