How to Utilise Social Media: A Guide for Actors and Creatives

The performing arts industry is changing. More and more casting directors, directors, agents and theatres use social media as a vehicle for their latest project, and I’m not just talking about student films and profit shares. Major castings are regularly opened up to the twittersphere; at the time of writing this, a quick search on Twitter found recent casting calls from Kahleen Crawford (‘I, Daniel Blake’, ‘The Miniaturist’), Jina Jay (‘Bird Box’, ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’) and Des Hamilton (‘This Is England’, ‘Bronson’). It’s never been more important for actors to have an online presence and if utilised correctly, social media can be an incredibly powerful tool. But where to start?

Which Social Media Platforms to Use

The three main platforms are:

Facebook
Facebook has way over 2 billion users and is generally the most popular social media platform out there. It far outweighs Twitter in terms of global active users, however, for members of the performing arts industry specifically, Twitter feels like it hosts the larger and more active community.

Aside from creating a Facebook profile, you can also:

  • Create a business page which allows you to run targeted adverts and monitor statistics on your posts. For example, audience reach
  • Connect with online communities (groups) of creatives
  • Host events and invite guests

Facebook is great at allowing people to have long discussions without comments getting lost in long Twitter threads.

Twitter
On Twitter you don’t have friends, you have followers, and it’s this detachment that separates it from Facebook. Following someone on Twitter doesn’t carry the same meaningful relationship that is associated with friending on Facebook. Twitter is a great place to stay up to date with the latest news, topics, projects and campaigns from industry professionals. There’s also a wonderful community of creatives that support each other by sharing CVs, showreels, advice and daily inspiration. Right now, Twitter feels like the place to be for creatives. If you only had time in your life for one social network, I’d argue that Twitter would be the most valuable.

Instagram
Instagram is a visual platform. People follow accounts that post images and videos that they’re interested in. Instagram is perfect for keeping your followers up to date with what you’re working on: a backstage photo of the cast or a behind the scenes snap on set for example. It’s also one more place to stay up to date with industry goings-on. Follow your favourite theatre festival, headshot photographer, actor, casting director…you get the idea!

Personal vs Professional

If you want to use social media in a professional capacity, you may want to keep your personal accounts separate. Creating a new account for you as an actor/creative will allow you to keep your content relevant and those embarrassing holiday photos private. Employers may vet their actors before employing them, and even if they don’t the public certainly will so be extremely careful about what you put out onto the internet. There have been countless examples of when an inappropriate tweet posted ten years ago has come back to haunt an actor and ultimately cost them their career. A private, personal account is a safer forum to express yourself but there is no guarantee something won’t get out. As a professional, the safest option is to never post anything unseemly in the first place. Think before you post.

How to Get More Followers

Getting more followers comes down to being active, relevant and posting high-quality content. Being an active social media user as a professional can feel like a full-time job, especially when working across multiple platforms, so it’s important that you retain a level of authenticity in your online persona.

Top tips:

  • Follow everyone you’re interested in.
  • Engage in their posts: like, comment, share.
  • Join a community. There are plenty of groups on Facebook to get involved with, like Actors UK or The British Actors Network. Also, search for your local acting community on Facebook as they’re bound to have a group. On Twitter, you can follow community-based Twitter accounts such as @SupportBritish or my own account, @TheActorsPlanet.
  • Get involved in community-oriented hashtag campaigns. New hashtags are always popping up, encouraging actors and creatives to connect, share and support each other. #ShowreelShareDay #OVConnect #HeadshotCVShare #LookingForRepresentation. These hashtags are current at the time of writing this article. Stay connected to keep up with the latest hashtag trends.
  • Be generous. Don’t just use your social media for constant promotion – who wants to see that in their news feed every day? Spend time engaging with and supporting others.
  • Link your social media profiles to your Spotlight CV.
  • Be yourself. Hopefully, your personality makes you stand out as an actor, so let it make you stand out on social media too.

What to Share and Where

Twitter has a 280 character limit, which isn’t a huge amount. It’s perfect for when you want to start or join a conversation about industry-related news by throwing in your short and concise two-pennies. It’s also great for posting external links to the latest articles or blog entries.

Facebook has no limit on post length and therefore is better suited to more in-depth posts. I’ve seen countless pitches for crowdfunding on Facebook that have drummed up huge support and made a film project possible that otherwise wouldn’t have been. It’s also an invaluable source of advice and support from other creatives. However, a word of warning: posting in some of the bigger acting groups on Facebook can open you up to a deluge of well-meant advice that isn’t always that useful. As with any forum on the internet, take everything with a pinch of salt.

Instagram is for all your photos and videos. Let people know what you’re up to. With both Instagram and Facebook, you can either post content to your profile or post to your story, the latter giving your followers a glimpse into your life that’s then available to view for 24 hours. Another word of warning: be careful what you post. Once it’s on Instagram, even if it’s only on there temporarily in your story, it’s pretty much immortalised and inappropriate content could come back later in your career to bite you.

When to Post

When you have something to say or share you want to maximise engagement and reach as big an audience as possible. To do this, you’ll want to get a general idea of when the individual social networks are at their busiest. A quick Google search will return a plethora of surveys and studies into the best times to post. Here’s an article by Sprout Social that tracks engagement over the course of a day for each day of the week.

If you’re working two jobs and running to auditions in between, you may find posting at specific times difficult. That’s where social media schedulers come in. There is a multitude of software available that allows you to compose posts and publish them automatically at set times across a wide range of social media platforms simultaneously. A scheduler can make your life easier if you don’t have a lot of time and/or want to post regularly. A scheduler isn’t going to make you an overnight social media success, but it might just help to manage your time.

Two of the most popular schedulers are Hootsuite and Buffer. Both have free and paid plans available.

Casting Calls

At the top of this article, I mentioned a few big casting directors who’ve recently put castings out on social media. Only this week I’ve seen several casting calls for Netflix films on Twitter. If you see something you like, research the casting director and follow their social media account. It’s perfectly possible to land yourself a big casting by responding to a post. Having said that, social media is also crammed full of not-so-good jobs and opportunities. Through my community-based Twitter account, @TheActorsPlanet, I recently started the hashtag campaign #PaidOrNot which strives for clarity and transparency in casting calls posted on Twitter. Equity also started the hashtag #ProfessionallyMadeProfessionallyPaid which is their campaign for decent pay. Make sure you find out the details for any opportunity you apply for and research the person who made the post to make sure they are a genuine, reputable employer. There are lots of dodgy casting calls out there that evade the moderation of Equity and Spotlight.

For more information on Equity’s #ProfessionallyMadeProfessionallyPaid campaign follow @EquityLPNP.

The Laid Back Approach

As useful as social media can be it can also be addictive and demoralising. The instant validation of twenty likes and six retweets is a great feeling! So when your next tweet that you’re passionate about gets no engagement at all, it can leave you feeling low, wondering what went wrong. You can spend hours trawling Google, reading articles like this, learning how to utilise social media and absorbing all the statistics and trends you like, but what you can never prepare for is the unknown variable. Sometimes a post gets missed. It ticks all the right boxes but for some reason, it simply falls through the cracks. My advice is not to invest too much in likes and shares. Post because you want to and don’t get too bogged down in what comes after.

Who to Follow

Facebook Groups

Actors UK
British Actors Network
Bossy (for women and non-binary people)
Look for your region-specific acting groups e.g. Midlands Actors and Extras

Twitter

@SupportBritish
@TheActorsPlanet

@BAMEBAMEBAMEE (in support of B.A.M.E. artists)
@SpotlightUK
@EquityUK
@ShowreelShare
Look up your regional theatre


@SpotlightUK
@EquityUK
@ShowreelShare
Look up your regional theatre

Lastly, you can follow me on Twitter here: @kieranvyas

Did I miss something? Share your advice in the comment section below.

Riad Richie on his season with the RSC

Riad Richie debuted at the RSC for their 2018-19 season, performing in Tamburlaine (Michael Boyd), Timon of Athens (Simon Godwin) and Tartuffe (Iqbal Khan). His previous credits include Macbeth, Mark and the Marked, Frankenstein, Romeo and Juliet (Box Clever Theatre) and The Scarlet Pimpernel (Tower of London). Riad has also been lead fencer and combat specialist for films including Cinderella, iBoy and Accident Man.

Say one thing for Richie, he knows how to make an entrance. From abseiling onto the stage in Timon of Athens to beatboxing against the backdrop of Iqbal Khan’s concert lighting in Tartuffe, he commands attention, and with a stage presence that fills the theatre, Richie is the kind of actor you just can’t take your eyes off. Throughout the RSC’s winter season, his performances have been captivating, effervescent and delivered with a touch of class. His portrayal of the fiercely loyal Usumcasane in Tamburlaine being particularly memorable for precisely those qualities.

As he now enters the final week of the season and looks ahead to the future, he is certainly an actor I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of. I sat down with him to reflect on his time with the RSC.

What’s it like working with the RSC?

Quite surreal. You really get a sense of community from day one. It’s like going back to uni. When you move to stratford, you are in this campus-like bubble where everyone is friendly and knows you and it’s a little bit magical.

As an actor, what challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

Being in three shows can really put a strain on your daily life. Understudy rehearsals pretty much take up your free time, so it’s all about managing your day so you don’t feel overloaded. You usually rehearse two shows at the same time, meaning you can be in one room for the first two hours then whisked into another room for the next. Getting into the right mindset for the needs of each room took some getting used to.

What did you enjoy most about working with the RSC?

The freedom to be bold. In all three shows, I’ve been so grateful that I was always able to make an offer in the rehearsal room, no matter how absurd, and the company gave you the vibe that you could do that and take leaps. So now I beatbox in one show, abseil in another and I’m an ultra-violent killing machine in the other.

Was there anything you didn’t expect?

The hospitality. The RSC don’t just support you on stage, they ensure you are well looked after physically and mentally, even if you just need to talk to someone. If you’re up in Stratford by yourself, things can get lonely at times. The RSC became like a surrogate family for those days. Something else I didn’t expect was the ‘Shakespeare Gym’: workshops for company members in which you get to explore and break down texts of the Bard.

What was it like working with Michael Boyd?

He was like Yoda of the theatre world. You could really feel the weight of his presence in the room and all you wanted to do was listen. He’s incredibly generous and receptive to everyone whilst steering the ship towards his vision. Working with Michael was my first experience at the RSC and it was an undeniable pleasure.

What’s next for you?

Being on stage for the past three and a half years means that my showreel has become stale. I think I’ll be getting that updated to cater for film/TV work. I’m also currently in talks with the team at Ragdoll but I can’t say too much about that right now. Who knows, maybe I’ll be back on the Swan stage sooner than I thought! ;)

Riad L Richie in rehearsal for Tamburlaine (RSC) – Photo by Ellie Kurttz

A Modern Guide to Auditioning for Drama School

When I auditioned for drama school I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Retrospectively, I can identify the choices I made that led to me being accepted, however, I can’t quite remember which of those choices were intentional, instinctual, or just good luck. Since then I’ve spent many years working as an actor, director and coach, and now have experience on both sides of the panel. What I’ve realised is that there are many variables when considering an applicant for drama school (some of them you can control and others you can’t), but there are far fewer reasons for rejection. Here are some of what I consider to be the most important aspects of an audition that the panel are looking for.

Differentiation

Most applicants are aware that it’s important to choose two contrasting pieces when selecting a classical and contemporary monologue for auditions, but what does that actually mean? Selecting two different genres – a tragic Shakespeare and comedic contemporary for example – doesn’t quite cut the mustard if you then play yourself in both roles. Your pieces need to demonstrate two very different characters, offering the panel two sides to you as an actor. Whether it’s a shift in power, status, temperament, energy, physicality or all of the above, the difference between your characters should go beyond the genres of the pieces and be clearly discernible. Often I see actors presenting two similar versions of themselves, regardless of what the roles demand. To quote Andrew Potter (Royal Birmingham Conservatoire acting tutor and director): ‘It’s your job to move you to the character. Don’t pull the character to you.’

Given Circumstances

In order to fully understand the context surrounding your pieces, you need to question everything. Why are you saying these words? Where have you come from? What’s just happened? Who’s in the room? What’s your relationship to the other person? Where are you? Every detail that there is to unpick, unpick it. Read the whole play and understand everything you can about what led your character to this moment, especially, the moments leading up to your monologue. A character doesn’t usually know what they’re going to say, they discover it in the moment, and every nuance is a response defined by a (fictional) lifetime of three-dimensional backstory.

Connection (Who are you speaking to?)

A monologue is still a dialogue. Acting isn’t often about you, it’s usually about the person opposite you, and that shouldn’t change just because that person happens to be imaginary. In some ways it gives you more freedom; being able to control their reactions within your imagination and respond as you will. Connecting with the other character in the scene is vital. Every line you deliver should affect them and prompt (imagined) responses, which you, in turn, must respond to. Not only does this give your performance life and purpose, but it also demonstrates the power of your imagination – one of the actor’s greatest and most necessary tools. Know who you’re speaking to and why. This doesn’t change if you’re addressing the audience, the same principle applies.

Stakes

The panel wants to be excited. I frequently work with actors who play it safe and undermine the true stakes of the piece. One of the most common excuses I hear is ‘I didn’t want to overact’. Most of the time, in my experience, an actor that is afraid of overacting is probably not acting at all, but simply reciting lines. Ask yourself, what has this character got to lose? The panel will commend you for throwing yourself into a performance, they want to see your passion. One caveat to this is to make sure you don’t wash out the detail from your speech. They want to see that your heart’s in it but playing anger from start to finish or crying through every line won’t get you very far. The specificity and variety in your performance are just as important – find it, consider the stakes and commit to your choices wholeheartedly.

Personality

Last but not least…How you come across in an audition does have an effect on the panel’s decision. They want to know if you’re suited to the programme, whether you’ll fit in with the other students and if you have a natural spark about you. The best advice I can give is to be yourself. Don’t try and show them what you think they’re looking for…you don’t know what they’re looking for. Despite nerves, take a deep breath and just be you.

By Kieran Vyas

 

Acting Notes from Curve’s Artistic Director Nikolai Foster

As well as being the artistic director of Leicester’s Curve, Nikolai Foster has directed countless acclaimed productions at leading theatres all over the UK. Born in Copenhagen and raised in North Yorkshire, he went on to train at Drama Centre, London and the Crucible in Sheffield. It was in 2015 that Nikolai took on his current position at Curve Theatre where he’s directed productions such as ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, ‘Legally Blonde’ and ‘Grease’.

With Leicester being my hometown, I was eager to chat with the man behind the curtain of so many powerhouse productions. I asked Nikolai whether he’d share a few notes from the rehearsal room and give me an insight into his work. He kindly agreed to answer my questions. Here’s what he said:

 

What is the most common note you give to actors?

Increasingly, the note that I am finding myself giving more and more to actors is about diction and volume. I think often people confuse being real, trying to achieve a contemporary feel or being cool with being inaudible. As a theatre which celebrates the English language and produces plays written in that language (whether it’s Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Oscar Wilde or Joe Orton) and even though sometimes these plays require actors to be intimate or to be very detailed and finite, we also need to hear everything that the actor is saying. This is regardless of whether they are performing in our 900 seat theatre, 300 seat studio or our rehearsal rooms. If you can’t hear every single word then the actor is not able to communicate action, emotion or what they’re objectively playing. Although you can still be detailed and real, it is important for the actors to be heard and to feel empowered through language.

 

What makes an actor good to work with?

The principal quality that makes an actor good to work with is an active imagination. I think that is always the thing I am interested in when an actor comes into an audition or comes to a meeting to discuss a play: having an imaginative response to the world of the play, the period in which it is written in, the character and how they exist in that world is vital. You may have all of the acting tricks and vocal acrobatics in the world but if you can’t imaginatively inhabit that world then it’s not going to be stimulating or engaging for the audience. Having imagination, being collaborative and hard-working in the space; and being somebody who has an open, can-do attitude is so important.  I think some actors’ default setting is to think the Director is trying to wrong-foot them or steer them in a way that is intuitively against where they want to go. Whenever I am working with people, I always want to get the best out of them so if I am suggesting something that is too complex for them or that they don’t feel is right, that’s fine, because collaboration is key.

 

Do you have any rehearsal room rules?

I think any Director or creative person (whether a Producer, Designer or Director) who says “these are my rules” is misunderstanding their role in the arts ecology. Our job is to break down boundaries and ensure that thought and imagination can flow. Of course we need a stable working environment where we feel secure and where we can play, take risks and be vulnerable but I don’t think rules or boundaries are very helpful. Of course there are the unspoken rules such as turn your phone off and don’t talk when someone else is speaking but these aren’t rules specific to theatre, these are rules specific to life, good grace and politeness.

 

What holds an actor back?

I think fear is often the thing that holds all of us back. There are a lot of things that actors do intuitively and with ease; sometimes when they’re asked by a Playwright or Director to push beyond what comes naturally and easily to them, it can be a scary point. When you push beyond that, you can often find great things which are really beautiful and electrifying; and that you never knew you could do. You have to push beyond that fear and put yourself in a very vulnerable place before you come out the other end and feel secure with something new that you had never realised you had the capacity to do.

 

Some of your previous shows such as ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ and ‘Grease’ have featured colour-blind casting. For me, this is refreshing and inspiring to see. What motivates you to transcend the traditional casting of productions such as these?

I wouldn’t want us to be known for colour-blind casting. Without being glib, I have always had the belief that theatre should reflect the world around us, the society or the communities we are making that theatre for and therefore it is just natural. It’s something we don’t really think about here, we just cast the best actors and ensure those coming into the audition room are reflective of the world we live in. Therefore, if you are having a casting process which has a broad range of actors from different cultural backgrounds then you are going to have actors in leading roles that are not considered the traditional casting and that is just what we do. It’s not really a choice; it’s just being alive and being in the contemporary world.