A recent Variety survey showed that, according to teenagers, 8 of the ten most popular celebrities climbed to fame on YouTube, up from the 5 spots YouTubers claimed last year. The jump represents a notable and rapid shift in the way new generations prefer to consume entertainment.
One glance at Variety’s list by older generations illuminates an entertainment gender gap – even Gen Y’ers would be hard-pressed to recognize the YouTubers who comprised 80% of the teen-generated list. The findings shed light on a change: Hollywood is no longer the only vehicle to stardom. Moreover, it’s at risk of becoming obsolete.
While it has long been known that a strong social media presence can give actors a casting edge, in light of the shift, a new casting company represents social media influencers, exclusively. The company, Casting Influence, touts its ability to leverage the ready-made targeted audiences cultivated by popular YouTubers, Instagrammers, and other social media influencers, in order to populate an instant audience for Hollywood projects, and perhaps reconcile the generation gap that Hollywood is vying to bridge.
“The pool of talent online is almost overwhelming,” says producer, Jenn Page of Passion Driven Productions. “These social media celebrities don’t need Hollywood for their big break, they make it themselves. Now we’re experiencing this cultural shift where Hollywood needs them to stay relevant.”
To help navigate the pool of online talent, Casting Influence, headed by Emmy-nominated producer and former Larry King Now talent booking agent Tanya Bershadsky, pairs projects with carefully selected social media influencers who have been screened to ensure the pairing is a fit with respect to talent, target demographics, and brand. Bershadsky, who has made a name for herself as an entertainment industry change-leader and who has coached a few of the Variety list’s YouTubers to celebrity status, uses her knowledge and network to do the job thoughtfully and efficiently.
“Talented social media influencers often just need some industry knowledge and guidance to turn their craft into their career,” says Bershadsky, “and I really enjoy being part of that evolution by bringing Hollywood casting into the 21st century.”
Tina Mulqueen is the President of Kindred PR and the Executive Director of Cause Influence, a non-profit dedicated to expanding the digital footprint of important social causes.