Tuesday, February 3, 2015

HOLAwave: On Being An Artist in the Digital Age (or, The #Art of #Artistry)

[HOLAwave represents a series of guest blogs by industry insiders giving informative and educational tidbits for the Latino performer. They can range from acting and auditioning advice, tech tips, legal advice, marketing, producing tips, and so on. Get caught up in the wave– the HOLAwave.]

Social media is king in the entertainment world. We’ve all seen the reports about the importance of followers, retweets, re-grams, liking, sharing, etc. But there is more to social media than just the numbers. Yes, everyone has content they want to share, things we want others to see and know. But there is something beyond just sharing, as with most things in life, it’s how you do it that matters most. 

We’re at a point where who you are online matters more than who you are in real life. At least, the perception of who you are. Everyone paints a picture of their life on all the social outlets. Whether it’s accurate or not doesn’t matter, what matters is creating that connection with others. I never really thought about it until recently. When most of your friends are in the arts your newsfeeds tend to be a constant stream of promos, show dates and photoshoots that sometimes can be overwhelming. It’s hard knowing how to jump on the social media train and find a way to push your own things.

Each network has its own language, trends and nuances. There is a science between optimizing each medium for your goals. I’m horrible with mine, I can’t for the life of me find the right way to hashtag (#) myself into the world. In part it’s because I don’t find my life to be all that exciting enough to share, mostly because I just don’t put the time and energy into maintaining an online presence. It’s almost like a part-time job; you need to be disciplined and consistent to really make an impact. Therein lies the issue, as artists we are in a constant state of working two jobs, the marketing of your art via all the mediums available, and crafting and working on the art itself. How much time is spent pushing your art, and how much time is actually spent creating and cultivating it? With the rise of “Insta-stars", and "Twee-celebs”, the term “internet celebrity” has really changed the perception of artists. 

The concept that how many followers you have is a determining factor for your value as an artist seems strange to me. There is this underlying notion that the higher your numbers are, the better an “artist” you must be. I use the word “artist” loosely because nowadays, anyone with a camera and a well-staged post with the right number of likes is deemed an artist. At times it bothers me, on some level I truly think the creative process has changed because of the explosion of social media. I was surprised when I was asked for my social media profiles when prepping my travels for a regional theater job. It was the first time that I was asked for my Twitter and Instagram to be included in a program. 

This mindset of being “in” with the crowd has injected something into the artist's psyche that at times blurs the line between art and “trending”. The worse part is this isn't new, this mass-herding of “what’s relevant” is what studios have been doing for decades. That’s what’s led us to a summer of prequel/sequels/rebooting franchises full of "#celebrities" that skim on surface storytelling. We as artists tend to get caught up in following the studio system that even though we have the boundless access of the digital age, we resort to follow the very same system we fight to break into. Where does that lead us? 

I’m reminded of the old idiom, “If you’re making art, but no one is tweeting about it, did it actually happen?” Who knows? 

I love seeing what artists create, I love all the crazy worlds and concepts collaboration brings about. The digital age has bridged the gap between the content guardians and creators; let us truly focus on creating a new frontier of entertainment, and not following the very same machine that’s kept us away for so long regardless if it’s "#trending" or not.

Hernando Caicedo moved to the United States from Colombia with his family and settled in Florida. There he attended the University of South Florida (USF) majoring in Mass Communications and Theater. He later moved to New York where he studied film and television at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. Upon graduating he had the opportunity to work on several stage productions including Prophet of Borough Park, A Steady Rain, and Transubstantiation (directed by André Glant-Linden). He most recently starred as Romeo in the independent film Romeo and Juliet in Harlem (directed by Aleta Chappelle), soon to hit the film festival circuit. 

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