March 30th, 2009
04:17 PM ET

Twitter takes Hollywood

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/26/art.twitter.jpg]

Leslie Sanchez | BIO
CNN Contributor

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.


To follow the filming of “Five Killers,” check out Rob Luketic’s Twitter posts here or his picture feed here.

According to MediaCaffine there are 14 types of Twitter Personalities. Which one are you?

soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Angela

    Twitter certainly shows a deeper side of people and the updates from people we will probably never meet provides an inside view of a Celebrity that's actually a lot like us. Will Smith was a great advocate for positive messages, and was so involved it was refreshing. Definitely what I expected from the fresh prince. Its great to see updates from Smokey Robinson, Russell Simmons and other Legends. Anderson, you keep it real as well.

    March 31, 2009 at 1:15 am |
  2. evaperon

    It is hard to believe that celebrities really want people that close to them, with an inside scoop. Narcissistic exhibitionism feels accurate but maybe it is just cutting their publicist out of the loop? Are the publicity departments of these types encouraging this type of behavior? I guess on the one hand it helps build buzz for a film, TV show, race, sporting event, etc. But then again, isn't that their job? Maybe this is just one avenue they are also supportive of. But then again, doesn't that make their "exclusive" behind the scenes photos, bloopers, stories, etc less exciting when they release them? I guess it is still a wait-and-see kind of technology with regard to giving regular Joe Schmoe's (or is that, Joe Six Packs?) inside access to movie sets and things like that. Some celeb will get drunk and make inappropriate twitters and give us our first storyline of how it "goes too far" – for the moment it is still just fun.
    I'm trying to think of someone who I would really want to follow and I can't think of anyone, other than Princess Diana. Imagine if she tweeted when she was alive. And was as open as some of the celebrities today? There wouldn't be any of those scandalous tell-all books because she would have revealed everything.

    March 30, 2009 at 10:49 pm |
  3. Lawrence

    Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Karaoke, Idol, etc. all equal a society of boring people with overzealous self esteem issues. Hey ya'll look at me!

    March 30, 2009 at 10:25 pm |
  4. Paul

    You maybe onto something. I tweet with a few producers, one of them from Europe. Twitter and other social media make the world a smaller place. Tweet me @pdelponte

    March 30, 2009 at 9:51 pm |
  5. Trica KL

    This is sheer marketing genius in today's world. If you build it they will come.

    March 30, 2009 at 9:17 pm |
  6. phyllis

    More stupid crap to pay for!

    March 30, 2009 at 8:34 pm |
  7. Leslie Merrow

    I think Twitter has a place. Where Facebook is promoting your personal "brand," Twitter is great for promoting “communication” either on micro or macro "mass" platform. People choose to be included in the dialogue, so it is welcome to hear about "what are you doing,” not a narcissistic “push” of unwanted information. With applications made for the iPhone or BlackBerry, it is easy to update your “status” on Facebook as the same time. With these aps, is easy to communicate your comings and goings throughout the day to inform, educate or entertain the curious. I feel closer to people when I am busy by just sharing snippets of our day. When I want to know about a “happening” or person of note, I can become a “follower” and stay in touch with a timeline of current events that interests and impacts me. I am a fan of Facebook and Twitter!

    March 30, 2009 at 8:16 pm |
  8. Rani_Leto

    I use twitter to connect with friends, but I also (though I have really no idea why) find it interesting to follow a few celebs. Prior to reading this I already followed Rob Luketic (which I read this article because he twitted it), Ashton Kutcher, Mrs. Kutcher, and Lance Armstrong among a couple others. Not only does does it show you how insightful they can be it is interesting to see what they do in their lives. I am not a big celeb follower or a reader of celeb gossip news, but through twitter I do follow what they allow us to know. I think it's better that way. In a way it's real news even though it's not even news. It's just what they do in their real lives. It's so much better than how people pick up a magazine and read about some nonsense that is not even true. What better way to hear something about someone that straight from them?

    March 30, 2009 at 8:07 pm |
  9. John

    We don't need to know more about shallow celebrities who have nothing to say. The director sounds like a tool.

    March 30, 2009 at 7:36 pm |
  10. Neo

    It's great for PR. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for twitter. So I think it stays. Aside from music I think it's kicking Myspaces and Facebooks butt too .... Youtube gets us close, and now twitter gets us closer. Closer to what I don't know....

    March 30, 2009 at 7:26 pm |
  11. ben c

    that really is @KevinSpacey... I've heard of some stars using ghost writers (b spears) but that's not the case here (with any of these people mentioned in the article) good for them! it's always cool to see the real person behind the mask

    March 30, 2009 at 7:12 pm |
  12. michelle g

    Twitter expands us to a side of these A list celebs that we wouldn't otherwise know! Fantastic and smart for them to promote causes and upcoming projects. I enjoy the daily tweets and pics.good for them! I wish them great success with it!

    March 30, 2009 at 6:42 pm |
  13. Ia Orana Brady

    I love following the daily happenings of this film. I feel like I am there in France!

    March 30, 2009 at 6:39 pm |
  14. jlargan

    I think it's a great way to get people to feel like they have inside access to the movie process and if they can't visit a film set, well this is the next best thing. Getting people vested early on also gets them to want to see the end result, since it takes about a year for a movie to get released when the filming and editing part is done.

    March 30, 2009 at 6:20 pm |
  15. Jeff A.

    I love Twitter and just realized that @DanaBrunetti mentioned above is @KevinSpacey's producer (who just joined yesterday) and also produced @RobLuketic's 21... Coincidence? I think not. Awesome that you can actually "contact" these guys.

    March 30, 2009 at 6:18 pm |
  16. Debbi

    I too twitter and I definitely enjoy Rob's tweets..and pics. However it is not that much trouble to check each day as I have it on my "twitterberry" and FB as well...I don't even check y personal email that much... Great way to interact with enterainment industry and get the inside info. I have worked in technology since 80's and this is by far one of the best tools to come along except for Sling Box (one of Mark Cuban's fav's too). either embrace technology or be behind in the world of today.

    March 30, 2009 at 5:55 pm |
  17. Alyzabeth

    I think it's a great and easy way to reach your fans. It's free and you don't have tobe a genius to come up with 140 characters to type. It's like text messaging all your fans on a grand scale and getting immediate feedback from them.

    March 30, 2009 at 5:45 pm |
  18. Carol B.

    Okay, most people love these techno-fads, however, can we ALL draw the line at TMI?

    March 30, 2009 at 5:44 pm |
  19. The Truth

    Why, just why? Twitter is for the narcisisstic that have short attention spans.

    March 30, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  20. Katin

    I found Rob's Twitter just yesterday, and already I'm using his feed for ideas that I can use in my own business (I'm a photographer). What he and Kutcher are doing is fantastic for creative professionals like myself.

    March 30, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  21. Not Interested

    Seems like humans have gotten extremely needy. Not quite sure where this incessant need to constantly be interacting with SOMEONE, anyone, comes from.. It is also weird that people would think that what it is they are doing at every moment is of any interest to the masses.

    Just one more distraction from living.

    March 30, 2009 at 5:12 pm |
  22. Deborah

    I like Twitter.
    I am building a small business.
    I tried facebook.
    Twitter is a bit more grown up.
    I hope it does stay "unadulterated and spin free" so these guys are comfortable "sharing" with us tweeters!

    March 30, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  23. Wally

    Twitter is definitely taking over the blogging sites, why listen or read a third party tell you about your favorite celeb when you can hear it from the celebs themselves, its absolutely twitteriffic or should i say twitteridiculous.

    March 30, 2009 at 5:08 pm |
  24. Lori

    I really like twitter. It makes celebreties seem more like me. I really enjoy the positive messages that Pdiddy sends out! Ashton makes me laugh and smile. I have even met people from other countries that are just like me and have formed friendships. All in all its harmless entertainment.

    March 30, 2009 at 5:07 pm |
  25. Veida

    OMG, enough already. I love how this director thinks people care that much and he can 'connect' with people. People are addicted to this sort of thing, and Blackberries, and they are worse than ever at actually communicating! They are so wrapped up in a virtual world, that they are out of touch with the real one! I am actually very technologically savvy, but no way to Facebook, and no way to Twitter. People really need to get a real life and really need to THINK about what they are doing. No one thinks anymore – this is apparent everywhere.

    March 30, 2009 at 5:05 pm |
  26. Sam M.

    I wish someone would just merge myspace, facebook, and twitter. Its exhausting when every year there is a new social network. Once a super socialcast is made then that would be the ultimate social network. Of course then a new grad from an ivy league will come out with something even more sophisticated. It is amazing how much money people get for these platforms.

    March 30, 2009 at 5:04 pm |
  27. vthokie10

    Maybe another addiction for the masses–but its an amazing tool for the media. I'm working in broadcasting and if we are out on a story, I can do a twitter update much faster then getting video back, editing, and sitting around until the six o'clock news.

    March 30, 2009 at 4:54 pm |
  28. Joanne Pacicca, Solvay, NY

    Sure, get right to the point. No barrage of long, boring email. Sounds like a plan!

    March 30, 2009 at 4:45 pm |
  29. john

    A useless piece of garbage.

    March 30, 2009 at 4:45 pm |
  30. Samantha

    I have a Twitter account and it is a lot of fun, however it's now another social medium I find myself having to check when I get on the computer. First my e-mail account, then Facebook, my other e-mail account, and then Twitter. Phew. Very taxing.

    March 30, 2009 at 4:32 pm |
  31. Annie Kate

    Twitter is a good tool I suppose if you like that sort of thing but just how many places do we need to check for communication? Email, blogs, twitter, IM, websites, etc. It all takes time and time is at a premium with a lot of folks – especially since most companies don't want their employees tweeting while at work.....On the internet you can get into information overload very quickly and you can get hooked easily also to where surfing these sites is all you do – another addiction for the masses.

    March 30, 2009 at 4:11 pm |
  32. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Twitter Dee--Twitter Dumb---what ever floats your boat.

    March 30, 2009 at 3:58 pm |