#Instafamous stars for the big screen: Can they make the cut?

‘Like’ your way to the big screen

Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson
25 May 2016

Emma Thompson

Actress Emma Thompson recently made headlines when she slammed movie studios for casting Insta-famous stars who can’t act in a bid to sell their movies. She called the practice “a disaster”... But is it really? Let's hear from our local movie directors and Instafamous stars.

Jack Neo, Director
Jack Neo, Director
25 May 2016

Jack Neo, Director

“I’m the first director here to hire newcomers with social media presence to act in movies. The market here is very small. If I want to cast Mediacorp artistes, it will be very difficult and troublesome as they have very busy schedules. When we look for newbies, we look for those with some sort of online following as it will help in the marketing of the movie as well. Through social media, I can also get an idea of how the person is like and how they present themselves. That said, it doesn’t mean that a famous social media star can necessarily sell a movie. It can only help to a certain extent. It also depends on whether they suit the role, if they can act well, and if the production is good.”

Michelle Chong, Actress/Director
Michelle Chong, Actress/Director
25 May 2016

Michelle Chong, Actress/Director

“Of course I’m going to cast actors with huge social media followings in my movies. What’s so bad about that? Everyone else is doing it now. I didn’t do it in the past and I regretted it. Jack Neo is so smart. He started this trend and Ah Boys To Men was so successful. As a director, box office is very important. Kids these days are more tuned into online stuff than [what goes on on] TV. That’s the demographic we want to capture. I’m not going to take the moral high ground for this issue. I’m an actress and I came from theatre, but at the end of the day, we need to break even and not lose so much money (laughs). For my upcoming film, Lulu The Movie, I have a few cameos from social media stars. I hope that when the movie comes out, they’ll show their support by publicising it on social media.”

Bong Qiuqiu, Blogger
Bong Qiuqiu, Blogger
25 May 2016

Bong Qiuqiu, Blogger

“I think when Emma Thompson says that this is not a good thing, she means that it’s not a fair playing field. However, when you make a movie, the movie needs to have a following for it to sell. Influencers with a huge following are not professional actresses so they probably can’t act as well, but what they can offer is great publicity online even before the movie opens. Those with huge followings may also have dreams of stardom, and their online presence is their way of getting noticed by directors. I don’t see what’s not good about it.”

- Blogger Ang Qiuting aka Bong Qiuqiu, who has over 294,000 Insta-followers, played Joshua Tan’s girlfriend in "Ah Boys To Men".
 

Han Yew Kwang, Director
Han Yew Kwang, Director
25 May 2016

Han Yew Kwang, Director

“For me, I cast actors who suit the role more. It’s only when I’m undecided between two actors, then I’ll consider factors such as their online presence. The priority for me is still the plot and suitability of the cast. If the actor is very suitable for the role but isn’t famous online, I’ll still take him. Sometimes, it’s also easier and better for us to work with a clean slate.”

- Director Han Yew Kwang, who cast thespians Alaric Tay, Yeo Yann Yann and Oon Shu An in his 2014 film "Rubbers".
 

Eden Ang, YouTube star-turned-Tanglin actor
Eden Ang, YouTube star-turned-Tanglin actor
25 May 2016

Eden Ang, YouTube star-turned-Tanglin actor

“I don’t think my social media presence is huge at all, but if that’s one of the reasons why I’m cast for shows, then great. I can assure you, however, that my social media platform is minuscule compared to the arsenal of substance I possess. As both a director and an actor who has had to produce his own material, I’ve sat on both sides of this argument. If I want my film to sell, I would definitely cast the one who can bring in eyeballs — wouldn’t you? Having said that, if the person’s social media account is superficial and backed by no substance, it’s just a matter of time before we see the downfall of his career.”
 

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