Twitter, the social networking phenomena that is taking the country by storm, has already changed politics and the news business and now may be changing the way Hollywood operates too. A micro-blogging service that lets people talk about anything they want, as long as they do it in 140 characters or less per message, Twitter has its own vocabulary and social structure and now, according to some people, may become the new medium for building a buzz.
In what may be a Twitter first, Australian director Rob Luketic, who directed “Legally Blonde” and “21”, recently started “tweeting” (the word for posting messages to the forum) extensively from the set of his new feature film, “Five Killers,” currently in production in Nice, France.
Luketic regularly responds to followers and posts pictures or video of location scouting, what they eat, where they stay, yachts they rent, and even stunts gone wrong.
He does this, he told me by email, “because it gives me the freedom to connect with people interested in my work in manner that is immediate and uncensored. People seem to love my daily pictures and musings from the set; they feel part of the process as it happens. Rather than the usual cookie cutter studio leaks.”
The film’s star, the ubiquitous Ashton Kutcher, who is already an avid “tweeter” recently joined in the fun when he used Twitter to post: “Just accidentally knocked out a stuntman. Feel awful.”
I reached out to Luketic on Twitter for additional insights about the movie and the stuntman accident:
LS: Are you the first director to tweet production of a feature film?
RL: “Hi. I’m not sure if it’s the first? We could well be. But it will be the most fun. We are a candid, relaxed bunch of film freaks.”
LS: What role does Kutcher play?
RL: “AK, male LEAD ‘Spencer,’ a government assassin who leaves the game after he falls in love with a nice American girl Jen played by K. Heigl..”
LS: What happened to the stunt man?
RL: “Stuntman was knocked out during a fight scene with AK. He was fine and continued with the day a little bruised. AK felt bad as did I.”
For all its faults, and for all the criticisms that Twitter is a waste of time and bandwidth, that it is simply a new form of narcissistic exhibitionism for a new age, on Twitter networks become powerful and quickly. It allows for the creation of a self-selecting army of enthusiasts, drawing together in a community devoted to a single individual or issue. Think of it as the end all of micro-targeting, which is certainly the way the Obama campaign approached it not so long ago.
As AdWeek digital editor Brian Morrissey told me, “I think Obama was one of the great case studies where message and tools kind of matched up there. At this point everyone is trying to figure out how to use Twitter and social media. They know it’s a powerful tool. It can be used in so many different ways because there is no one-size-fits-all solution.”
Dana Brunetti, producer and co-founder of TriggerStreet.com, one of the first social media platforms geared to the entertainment and filmmaking industry, said to me, “Rob [Luketic], as many in this business, initially freaked out about the idea of Twitter and Facebook and see it as a bit of a loss of privacy.
“While one should be careful and cognizant of what they post,” Brunetti says, “there are real benefits for people in the entertainment business, and I see it as getting a bit more control on the image that is projected out there about you and your work. The people following are now on ‘the inside and in the know’ about items that aren’t on the radar of the mainstream—they become evangelists.”
So the question remains: Is it worth the time and investment?”
According to Morrissey, it depends: “The reason Ashton Kutcher, Shaq and Lance Armstrong are popular is because they are committed to it. They like it. You can’t fake it.”
Twitter offers a low-cost way to make people outside to feel like they are in the inside getting special information. Luketic’s experiment may create a box office smash spurred by the legions of new followers he engages. “Ultimately I feel Twitter can help create an awareness that will be a valuable facet of the overall campaign,” Luketic says by email. “My followers not only feel like they are getting an exclusive, they really are. It’s just me. My IPhone and a laptop. Unadulterated and spin free. The way I like it.”
Spoken like a true politician.