The minute you decide to make a web series that’s public and discoverable online, you have decided to become, to some degree, a public figure. This goes double for actors, but writer/creators, particularly in web series, aren’t exactly hidden from view. It’s never too early to think about the way your public presence will and must change as a result, so let’s talk.
Decide how public you want your identity to be
When I first started making content for the internet, it was 2006 and I was thirteen years old. A combination of parental scare tactics and my vague understanding of the internet led me to the decision to never identify my last name, my state, or any other identifying details, even on my very personal and very public blog. There’s a reason all of my online usernames are BrisOwnWorld instead of BriCastellini.
Over the years, I relaxed these rules, especially as I started to seek broader audiences and decided having my actual name associated with my online “brand” was useful as I sought fame for my writing and filmmaking, but family members still get concerned with the number of strangers who have access to my full name and general location (Brooklyn, NY). Everyone has different boundaries, and it’s worth exploring yours before going too far on your online filmmaking journey.
- Do I want to use my full name?
- Do I want to use a name at all, or just a production company?
- How will I list my credits in episodes and on IMDb?
- Do I want to be personally accessible to potential fans/haters?
Decide what profiles are public and private facing
Once you’ve decided what identity you’re comfortable being forward-facing, you also have to check your social media privacy settings. All of them, not just the ones you regularly update. It’s the internet- finding people is the easy part. Decide if you want these various accounts to be public-facing (that is, part of your public figure persona and searchable for fans/haters) or private-facing (only accessible/used for your actual personal network of friends and family).
In general, I consider all my social media public-facing except for Facebook, but because Facebook has become the social media of choice for new networking connections, I’ve had to relax that rule a bit to stay in the game. I still won’t accept just anyone, even if we talk regularly on various Stareable properties like the community forum, because Facebook is where I share posts and content intended for a more personal audience and not everyone has a right to that information. My Facebook will not show up in Google search results for my name, and only the base information available on other social media accounts is public on my profile before I’ve added you as a friend.
But my Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr accounts, as well as my decade-old blog, are public and part of my publically consumed identity, for fans, friends, family, and f-enemies alike. This changes the types of things I post- less personal relationship updates and more funny “on brand” thoughts on filmmaking and culture. Less legitimate trauma announcements and more carefully curated explorations of my own mental health journey designed to raise awareness and be transparent without giving out the keys to my soul.
Tip- you can change privacy settings any time, but it’s better to make these decisions early on.
Determine the comfort level of your loved ones
Part of determining which profiles are private and public is determining what parts of your private life are fair game for public consumption. Some friends don’t mind being used in Instagram posts, especially if they’re artists and content creators themselves, but may have preferences for the way in which they’re portrayed. Actor friends, for example, generally ask for photo approval before posting because their image is part of their job and an unflattering photo could be the difference in getting hired.
As another example, my partner is uncomfortable both with photos of himself as well as any personal stories being shared publicly, even on a site like Facebook that’s generally only for our family, friends, and coworkers. Many people don’t realize I have a partner, let alone a partner I’ve been with for five and a half years, and I am very careful about what I do and do not divulge that could reflect back on him and expose parts of his life he hasn’t consented to making public, even if they’re shared parts of my life.
Reply to everyone who engages positively, within reason
You should try and respond to every YouTube comment/kind tweet you receive, because the ratio of people viewing versus commenting on your content is incredibly low and you want to positively reinforce the behavior. It’ll make the fan feel more connected to the content and make other fans more likely to engage themselves. Even a simple “thank you!” will suffice.
Past that, though, you are not obligated to respond to every random person who has an opinion about your work or reaches out, especially not when the random person if being rude, hateful, or pushy. You do not owe them anything, not even that “thank you,” so don’t let a rando who feels entitled to your attention make you feel bad for setting boundaries.
Boundaries can include only responding to certain types of comments/messages to reinforce good behavior, only responding to certain questions and gently declining to answer others, straight up ignoring questions you aren’t comfortable with, and more. Boundaries also don’t have to be set right away, though of course it’s better if you’ve done some thinking before there’s a problem. However, you are not in the wrong if you have to set a retroactive boundary, or your boundaries change. Again- you owe people nothing. You don’t even owe them your work- making art and sharing it with the world is a gift, not a right, and access to you, the creator, is a bonus gift on top of that.
This article ended up being a lot longer than I set out to write, so check back next Monday for part 2! In it we’ll cover the subtle art of muting, carelessness, and how to apologize like a pro.
(this article was inspired by @ghettonerdgirl)