Using Social Media In Hollywood – An Interview with MADtv’s Chris Kula
September 22, 2008 5 Comments
A few months back I wrote How to Write a Farewell Email to Your Co-Workers. The post ranks pretty high in the search engines, and is a consistent traffic source. It includes a link to a parody farewell email blog post by Chris, and I’ve noticed each week that many people click on that link. I was curious about who Chris is, so I reached out to him. He’s social media savvy, and I wanted to find out what’s happening in Hollywood these days with regard to social media.
First, some background.
Chris Is a Funny Dude
On Chris’s site, you’ll find a number of creative videos he’s put together, hosted on Vimeo. Check them out when you get a chance, they’re very good and are terrific displays of his comedic talents. These videos are Chris’s work done on his own time, not because he was being paid. Here’s one of Chris’s creations,”This Is Budweiser”:
Chris started Flickr Punch on blogspot. Flickr Punch is a site where Chris applies punch lines to pictures he and others find on Flickr. He includes several of these “punchlined” Flickr pix on the home page of his personal site. Here’s one for Storm Trooper fans:
Finally, Chris has also written for the Onion News Network. Perhaps his best known creation for The Onion is Child Bankrupts Make-A-Wish Foundation With Wish For Unlimited Wishes. This spoof is so realistic, concerned citizens contacted the charity about the news. The Make-a-Wish Foundation issued a press release saying that the charity was indeed OK. Chris’s creation even earned its own Snopes page.
He’s Got Social Media Chops
Chris clearly knows his way around Web 2.0 and social media. Above I’ve noted his work with Vimeo, Flickr and Blogspot (Blogger). He finds humor in Wikipedia entries in a couple of his videos. He maintains a Tumblr blog about food he eats. He has his own blog, and includes links to his Facebook and MySpace profiles.
I was curious about the role of social media in the entertainment industry. Most coverage of entertainment focuses on industry efforts to clamp down on copying music, TV shows and movies. But what about people that work in the industry? How do they use social media in their personal and professional lives?
I’m particularly interested because Facebook has attracted a solid user base, and now faces the work of penetrating parts of the market that are less likely to try social media. Twitter hit a growth inflection point in March 2008, and continues to move forward into the consciousness of the mainstream. So how is social media playing outside the technology geek hot house?
I asked Chris eight questions, which he answers below. Obviously, these are just Chris’s experiences, but they do shine a light on what’s happening in Hollywood.
Eight Questions for Chris Kula
1. You’ve got some great stuff on social video site Vimeo, and your Flickr Punch site is great. What made you create those?
When I was working crappy day jobs in New York, I was really proactive about creating my own online content – be it videos or photo caption stuff (like FlickrPunch) or writing on my blog. At the same time I was doing improv and sketch at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, but that was more an ensemble type thing; making web videos and producing blog content was my way of establishing my individual voice as a writer. I got my first comedy writing job (at the now-defunct Time Inc. website Office Pirates.com) based largely on the content I’d been producing on my own.
2. Looks like you stopped updating on Vimeo and FlickrPunch a couple years ago. Did your social media stuff tail off after getting a job with Onion News Network and MADtv?
Yeah, I started producing less of my own stuff once I started getting paid to write. So now I don’t get as much chance to do my own thang as I used to, but on the other hand, I’m able to pay my rent and, you know, eat. It’s a fair trade. (But, given the very fickle nature of TV writing jobs, it’s really only a matter of time ’till I am once again updating my blog with sparkling new content just for the pro bono joy of it.)
3. A couple years ago, The New York Times ran a piece about United Talent Agency sourcing new talent via social media. Have you seen an increase in studios/talent agencies’ use of social media to source talent in Hollywood? Are the next generation of people trying to break into Hollywood using social media a lot more, with link to examples of their work instead of portfolios?
Absolutely. I think that’s the number one thing you can do as a writer/performer type today: have an online presence. The potential audience you can reach online is just so great, be it on YouTube or something more comedy-specific like Funny or Die. And yes, that audience includes the suits – I know a lot of sketch groups whose online body of work has earned them agents, managers, pilot deals, magic beans, etc. There are still the “conventional” routes to getting representation – writing a spec script, or putting up a live sketch show – but now you should absolutely be posting your own videos *in addition* to working on that stuff.
4. What’s your favorite social network these days? Why?
I really should make Facebook the Home page on my Firefox, as it’s basically always my first click. I like that I can keep up with what my friends “are doing right now” in an entirely passive fashion. Highly useful: event invitations for plugging shows, photo/video tagging. Highly ignorable: invitations to become werewolves, vampires, zombies and/or slayers of these creatures. (My second favorite social network is Tumblr, and these days I check my Myspace only about once a fortnight.)
5. You and your friends ever tweet?
Twitter has yet to infiltrate my friends. How I’ve managed to survive this long without knowledge of Julia Allison’s every waking activity, I do not know.
6. I checked out your Tumblr blog, Kula Foods. It’s cool. You really like food, don’t you?
My food blog is quite literally an exercise in self-indulgence. Delicious, savory self-indulgence. I post all the photos and text directly from my Blackberry Pearl. I’ll keep updating it as long as my metabolism allows.
7. What do you think of Ashton Kutcher’s Blah Girls?
re: Blah Girls – As a celeb-obsessed teen girl, I’m so loving it! Annnd… now I’m so over it. LOL
8. You’re a big Michigan fan. Are they going to make a bowl this year?
As a proud-bordering-on-elitist Michigan alum and fan, I used to complain about how other major conference teams can win, like, six games and still end up in a bowl game. Cut to: present day – Michigan football is the shakiest it’s been in, oh, three generations and I’m praying that FIVE wins might get us into the prestigious Carquest Motor City Bowl. Go Blue?
You can see Chris’s work on his blog, and on MADtv Saturday nights.