The Vacation Read: Do filmmakers and social media make a good mix?

Have you ever spoken to a filmmaker via Twitter?

When I was a kid, it was unthinkable to have unfettered access to someone who made a movie I loved.  If there had been a Twitter account for George Lucas, I shudder to think what kind of lunacy I’d have indulged.  These days, you see all sorts of filmmakers signing up for social media outlets that allow the public to speak directly to them in a way that is truly unprecedented.  There was one evening in particular recently where we all sort of simultaneously realized Billy Friedkin had signed up for Twitter, and it turned into a three or four hour free-for-all with people bombarding him with questions about everything from “Cruising” to “The Guardian” to “The Exorcist” to “Jade,” and he answered everything with grace and charm.  It was amazing.

It also may have been contractually obligated.

Until I interviewed Derick Martini recently about his film “Hick” as part of the Motion/Captured Podcast, I had no idea companies were now including a social media clause as part of the standard filmmaker’s contract.  When he told me, it blew my mind.  It seems counter-intuitive to me, since forcing someone to interact with the public rarely ends well.  Still, we are in a new age of how media works and how audiences interact with the media they consume, and so I guess things are going to evolve no matter what.

In the two or three weeks since that conversation, I’ve been asking around and I realize how much more widespread this is than I understood.  I think we’re heading towards a future where we see most mainstream filmmakers doing regular appearances on some social media platform, directly speaking to the audience.  I think we’re also heading towards a time where people will have whole careers built on “playing” someone for social media, serving as a filter between the actual person and the audience.  I would imagine that for a filmmaker who is creeped out by the idea of speaking directly to fans, it would be a blessing to be able to hire someone who can do that for them.

When someone does an appearance like, say, an AMA on Reddit, I can’t help but wonder if they really understand what “ask me anything” means in today’s media landscape.  Audiences feel possessive of personal details in a way that is downright unnerving, and there are very few lines that people won’t cross.  I go to at least one press day a month where I have to be given special instructions on what I can or can’t ask somebody, and it’s always about the personal stuff.  I don’t do those kinds of interviews, but if publicists are telling me not to do it, then it’s a safe bet someone else already has.

My question today for you is this:  do you enjoy having that sort of direct interaction with a filmmaker, and what difference does it make to you?  Are you more likely to go see something because you got to ask the director some questions, or does that matter at all?  And if you do talk to filmmakers over the Internet, do you think there’s a line that you personally wouldn’t cross, or do you think anything is fair game if someone opens themselves up to an audience?  Do you want that kind of access to the people who make the films and the TV shows you love, or would you rather we pay more attention to the work itself?

I look forward to reading your responses to this and all the other topics this week, and I’m thanking you in advance for participating, even if you don’t normally participate.  If you guys don’t respond, this is going to be a very slow week here on the blog.  I’m counting on you, and I hope that by the time I return next Monday, I’ll know a lot more about you, and that I can use your answers to help make Motion/Captured even better.