Let me share with you how a typical pre-production (casting) meeting happens in nollywood. And trust me, I’ve been involved in 5million naira budget films as well as 300million naira budget films. The approach is always the same. Usually there might be some early choices by producers on lead roles. Some will hold auditions and pick a few cast members but there’s always a common occurence while deciding on cast.
If you have more than one person capable of a particular character, how do you decide who to go with?. One of the first discussions would be “is he/she easy to work with, expensive etc” but the most important one in recent times is that we all bring out our phones and check their engagement on social media. I can tell you for free that if every other thing checks out, the actors with more social media engagement will get the role.
Before you start screaming, remember no one is making films for charity. Also you might have all noticed by now that more film producers are using instagram comedians in their films. Funny Instagram acts like Woli Arole and Frank Donga have even gotten lead roles. This is not ending any time soon. You must learn to evolve with the times.
I wanna use this post to address how actors can use social media to their advantage.
THINK OF YOURSELF AS A BRAND
This may sound cliché but there’s really no business like show business. I once travelled with Desmond Elliot to Sierra Leone for a film. He accidentally stepped out to shoot exterior scenes. We practically shut the whole town down and had all kids leave school to come see what was happening. It became a huge emergency, the police rounded us up only for us to discover they too wanted their own opportunity to take selfies with him lol.
You can start thinking about yourself and your career as a unique brand. Ask yourself, when people think about me, what should my name inspire. What do I represent to people. Take yourself seriously and help define how you want people to see you. A big mistake most actors make is in the statement ‘I just want to be myself”. Sorry but the day you decided to start playing other peoples lives, you loose all that “yourselfness”. While you can keep a version of yourself out of public eye, it is very important to deliberately create a version of yourself that you want people to connect with. Who people think you are outside a film is as important as how they rate your skill as an actor. Once people start thinking you are a terrible person, they’ll start see nothing but flaws in your work. creepy but thats how humans work
GET RID OF PHOTOS AND POSTS THAT DON’T SUPPORT YOUR BRAND
Don’t listen to old grumpy people still stuck in the past. Your looks are very, very important in getting roles in nollywood. From the work you do on your hair to your skin, producers look at all these while making casting decisions. I have seen countless times people loose roles because of bad skin. Bad skin looks ugly on the big screen. Take care of your skin and general body. More importantly, if you want people to accept you as an actor, you can’t be posting ugly photos of yourself online. People already believe actors look the same way in real life as they do on screen. They don’t see makeup while you are acting. They think that’s the real you.
Only post photos of yourself looking good, mostly the ones professionally taken. A lot of actors don’t even have professional studio photos. Sigh! If you are already big and established, it might not matter, but if you are starting out, please don’t look ridiculous on social media. I also notice people don’t take note of their environments when they take photos. If you are going to post any casual photo of yourself, Find sweet spots to take them. I once saw a brilliant actress loose a role because we searched and searched and couldn’t find a great photo of her to help producers decide whether she can nail the character’s look. See, people in nollywood don’t have all that time to invite you over and test you with make up and costume. Do half of the work yourself. Have you ever seen Genevieve post any photo of her that doesn’t make you just want to put her in a film. Think about it.
Also avoid controversies close to home. Nollywood Producers can be very petty (I can hardly blame them. The stress is too much) and most young actors don’t have agencies. Be very careful about posting controversial stuff that can hurt your brand directly. People might get scared to use you in future if they feel you are a loose cannon. Sometimes, I read an actor directly insulting the big establishments and producers and I laugh. In a highly competitive place like nollywood, it takes a while to build presence and influence. When you are not there yet, understand you are not there. Choose your battles wisely so you can grow through the ranks and finally find your voice. Remember, opinions are different from insults. Find the line
ENGAGEMENT IS DIFFERENT FROM FOLLOWERSHIP
Most times, when I talk to actors about engaging on social media, they immediately answer, I am not going to be an IG comedian. First we forget that followership is different from engagement. Even if you have a million followers on IG, if you don’t engage them well, you are not as useful as the dude with 100k followers with lots of engagement. There are some actors with huge following most producers won’t touch because they have no intentions of using those numbers to help promote the film. I am totally on the side of the producers. Even Marvel actors promote their films. Engagement is simply finding interesting ways to keep an audience. These can range from on set activities to offset activities. From doing fun polls to genuinely reaching out and sharing stuff to fans.
Music stars understand this perfectly and they have used this to their advantage. I remember it was Don Jazzy who made the idea of sharing recharge cards popular back in the days. Now it a thing. If you are an actor hoping to reach hundreds of thousands of people that would be paying (sometimes reluctantly) to see you on screen, why shouldn’t you be active on a platform where they feel they can access you directly and free of charge? The beautiful thing is, you don’t even have to be the master minder of your social media pages. You can have a smart person do that for you. Think about cool stuff you can use your social media accounts for. Its like your little playground to also test what the audience love and react to. But always remember to look good while doing it. If your fans don’t want to talk, look and dress like you, you are doing it wrong.
PROMOTE THE FILMS YOU STAR IN
I know some smart producers are now including this in their actor contracts even though it’s a hard thing to enforce. I understand that some actors are not entirely proud of the final result of the movies they starred in and won’t want to have anything to do with promoting it. It doesn’t work that way people. While you are thinking about your fans, don’t forget that the fans don’t hire you. People in the industry do. If you stop getting roles, your fans won’t hold a protest on your behalf. They will dump you and move on to the next thing. As a director, I see all my EPs like clients. Because at the end of the day, apart from what the audience think of my film, what investors and producers think about me will determine if I get the next job. You must never loose track of that as an actor. If you have committed to a work, show some love and support on social media for the filmmakers. Its funny because I see the young ones stubborn about this with their 5k followers o. Promoting the films you are in also gives the impression that you are actively working and that’s a good thing for your audience.
ENGAGE IN IMPORTANT ISSUES
Most people already assume actors are dumb people so you see that when an actor throws weight on an important societal issue, it trends easily because people go “oh wow so he/she is sharp like that lol” join discussions on industry issues, gender and equality issues. Political issues etc. people think actors are larger than life. Feed them with those thoughts. Be intelligent. Read about stuff and contribute. Join great causes and lend your voice on matters that count. People only enjoy a film for a moment and get back to their daily lives with all the madness that is Nigeria. That is when they need you to be more than the fine girl who falls in love in a film to the fine girl who can lend her voice to a great cause in the world.
Social media is a great tool. I built my brand entirely on it. You can too as an actor. Next week, I’ll be talking about how Producers and directors can use social media as well with special emphasis on films like The Wedding Party 2 amongst others. Keep reading the blog and subscribe so you get posts once they are out. Sorry I haven’t been consistent. Naija wants to kill me.