Game of Thrones has been a game-changer for everyone involved in the show, particularly those who have played leading roles in George R. R. Martin's magnum opus. Sophie Turner, who has played Sansa Stark for over 6 years, has garnered praise for her nuanced performance and has gained a massive online following since joining House Stark - including 5.4 million Instagram followers and 1.35 million fans on Twitter.
Rather than taking the benefits of a strong social media presence for granted, the admirably honest #GameofThrones star recently addressed an ugly truth when it comes to getting work in the film industry. In an interview with Porter magazine, Sophie Turner shared the story of how she landed a role thanks to her social media following,
"A lot of what I have achieved is about timing and luck, but it is also, and I hate to say it, about a big social-media following. I auditioned for a project and it was between me and another girl who is a far better actress than I am, far better, but I had the followers, so I got the job. It’s not right, but it is part of the movie industry now."
Although Turner refrained from revealing the name of the movie she had auditioned for, it's an ugly truth that social media is, for better or worse, having a huge impact on rising stars.
"A Disaster": The Power Of Social Media In The Film Industry
In addition to being a barometer for an actor's success, social media handles have also become a platform for maintaining a star's popularity. While sites like Twitter and Instagram supposedly connect stars to their fans, they can also be used as an instrument for maintaining the star's persona. With this, the celebrity's image can be hugely beneficial for marketing campaigns and generating interest in upcoming projects.
This was highlighted by The Girl With All The Gifts actress Gemma Arterton during an interview with The Observer, who shared a surprising story of audition demands.
I have a friend who’s been told she has to put up more ‘outfit of the days’ and regular pictures of her food because a lot of the casting for film happens on social media. The money people go: ‘Well, they’ve got 3m followers and that actor has only got 1,000, so…’
Although star power has always been a powerful tool in terms of getting work in the entertainment industry, the importance of social media to casting directors is worrying. Veteran stars who are accustomed to the traditional methods of film-making have also spoken out about this practice. While talking about the damaging effect this could have on the film industry, renowned actress Emma Thompson weighed in by stating,
We're casting actors who have big followings so the studios can use their followings to sell their movie. The actors are becoming attached in the sort of business way to their social media profiles, and I think that's a disaster.
Considering the vast reach of celebrity accounts on social media, we cannot entirely blame casting directors for choosing stars that will ultimately help their movie be seen. However, this will ultimately have a damning effect on potentially rising stars who want to deliver stand-out performances, but don't wish to partake in social media.
Why Is Social Media So Important?
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have connected stars to their fans, allowing them to connect in a way that was previously impossible. The platform also allows fans to let studios know exactly who they want in their lead roles. One of the most recent instances of this was when Twitter users helped Blake Cooper get an audition for The Maze Runner,
"It all started with my friend Olivia. She messaged me on Facebook that this movie was coming up which was based on her favorite book. She said I should check it out because she thought one of the roles, Chuck, would be perfect for me."
"I sent him [director Wes Ball] a tweet asking if I could audition and at first he didn’t notice but a lot of fans noticed and they started making fan fiction and it was really cool. Everyone was tweeting the director to let me audition and he noticed and decided to give me an audition."
As production houses look to ensure that they're producing a successful movie, this approach to fan service seemingly allows them to count their eggs before they hatch. From Instagram posts to Twitter GIFs, analysts are able to determine what fans want from each production, while on-set shenanigans also generates attention in a way movie posters and promo trailers never could.
Although the benefits are clear, it's great to see celebrities such as Sophie Turner, Gemma Arterton and Emma Thompson raising awareness of this issue. As most stories take years to reach the big-screen, fans will ultimately benefit from casting decisions based on who is most worthy of the role.
Sophie Turner can currently be seen in #HBO's Game of Thrones, Season 7.
Do you think this is an issue, or an understandable casting method? Let me know in the comments.