The Business of Show Biz: Facebook Etiquette
Sunday, November 30, 2014
By Velina Brown
| Velina Brown.|
Q: Recently I was cast in something that was a big deal for me and I immediately posted about it on Facebook. Most people said congratulations, but one person said that it wasn't appropriate for me to announce my new project that way. Is there something I'm missing here, or was that just sour grapes?
A: Are you thinking it may be sour grapes because that person was also up for the role you announced you won on Facebook? Maybe. However, there is some etiquette worth considering. Like most things regarding newer (post-20th century) technology, it takes time for the manners, ethics and etiquette to catch up.
For previous generations, when actors would get exciting news about a booking, they would just run into the next room and tell a family member or close friend. Or they'd pick up the phone and call someone to share their good news. A relatively small number of people would know about it. Now, sometimes, the first thing people do when they receive wonderful news is post it on Facebook or tweet about it. This matters because when you run into the next room or pick up the phone and call a friend, that friend is the only person with whom you are communicating. When you post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr—any of the social media outlets—even with tight privacy settings, you're making an announcement to the public at large. It's possible that a person reading your post may have been up for the role you got or a different role in the project, and your posting could influence decisions they make that could impact the production. This is why producers often do not want information released piecemeal about their project, because it could adversely affect the rest of the producer's casting process.
"Social Media" by Flickr user Sean MacEntee. Used under Creative Commons license.
Therefore, to be safe, upon receiving the news you've been cast, ask if it's all right for you to post the news. The producer will either say, "Sure! Tell everyone about the project," because they feel it would be to the advantage of the production for you to do so, or they'll say, "Please wait until we've completed our hiring process. Once we've made a public announcement about the project, you are free to do so as well."
A casting director to whom I recently spoke about this issue said that actors have lost jobs because they posted details about a job before the producers were ready for them to do so. Because something that they'd wanted to keep secret was released prematurely by the actor, the producers changed what they were going to do, and that change excluded the actor from the project.
And it's not just about casting. There are many aspects of a project that a producer may want to protect until it is completed and released. In fact, some projects are so top secret that they require a nondisclosure agreement. This NDA, also known as a confidentiality agreement, typically secures confidential information regarding a film or television show. It is a legal contract between you and the makers of a project that gives you information relevant to you about the project while restricting you from revealing any information to a third party. It protects everyone involved. Sometimes you are required to sign an NDA before you are even allowed to audition or receive the lines you are asked to prepare for the audition. This precaution is taken because people have had their stories, ideas, characters, special effects, et cetera stolen and rushed to release first. If production secrets are revealed and the leak can be traced back to you, the production company can sue you for far more than you have in your piggy bank. So take those NDAs seriously.
In your case, however, it sounds like there wasn't any kind of formal agreement with the producers of your project to refrain from disclosing information until a specific time. And you didn't mention any other backlash except for the one Facebook friend who admonished you. So from a legal standpoint, there doesn't appear to be anything wrong with your announcement. However, from an etiquette standpoint, Facebook Friend has helped alert you that it is wise to take a moment and consider whether the timing is right for your announcement. A good rule of thumb is to wait until you've signed a contract. Once contracts are signed and the producers have released their announcement about the project and who is involved, then you can feel certain you aren't putting your own job or the successful completion of the hiring process at risk. If, at that point, someone complains rather than congratulates you on your good news, it's probably sour grapes.
Velina Brown is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.