‘Arrow,’ ‘Awkward’ Exec Producers, YouTubers Talk the Impact of Social Media

'Arrow,' 'Awkward' Exec Producers, YouTubers Talk

Social media has emerged as a crucial tool for fan feedback, though one that must be taken with a grain a salt, according to a panel of creators from television, film and digital media at Variety’s Entertainment and Technology Summit Monday.

With the preponderance of entertainment options on television and the web creating an ever-growing competition for consumers’ time, social media presents a way to break from the crowd to reach fans, says “Arrow” creator/EP Marc Guggenheim. While that engagement and feedback can provide a helpful voice for writers to listen to, it doesn’t mean fans are writing their own choose-your-own adventure stories via Twitter.

“I wouldn’t say we let it drive plot points,” Guggenheim said. “I sort of treat it as market research. This is playing, this character is resonating, this moment wasn’t so successful. … I call (fans) the extra writer in the writers room. Not always the writer we listen to, but certainly a voice.”

Guggenheim said he likes to treat social media like one massive, but not universal, focus group.

“You can’t think that you’re getting a subsection of the entire audience,” he said. “You have to recognize that these are a very specific subset who have very specific opinions that they want to go online and voice, but I think with moderation it’s very helpful.”

For “Awkward” EPs Chris Alberghini and Mike Chessler, social media can provide instant gratification that a casting or creative decision landed in the way that they wanted it to, even if the fan reaction does not have any real impact on the show.

“We were still in production of the second half of episodes that are airing right now when the first half were airing,” Alberghini said. “So we were watching the twitter feeds, on set watching, and it’s kind of thrilling. You’ve got this big moment you’ve been planning and mapping out, and … boom, you get all these comments instantly. It is thrilling to get that live feedback.”

A common theme of the panel was the danger of giving fans too much power in the creative process. But a high level of fan involvement via social media is an integral tool for Smosh creators and stars Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla though, as encouraging fan involvement and allowing fan input on projects can be beneficial to growing their brand.

“We will literally take feedback from the audience and make an entire video based on what that feedback is,” Padilla said. “For us it’s really important that really cater to the audience and make them feel like they’re involved. It makes them appreciate the things that they’re not even involved with at all even more.”

For all its positives, though, social media has its downside as well, with “Big Brother” EP Allison Grodner saying that she has to develop thick skin when she reads fan feedback. The panelists all agreed with her in that finding the balance between engaging fans and going down the rabbit hole of getting too involved, both creatively and personally, in what people say about a creator and his or her show on the internet is a difficult line to walk.

Charlie Corwin, co-chairman and co-CEO of Endemol America, pointed out that it’s important to remember an important principle about creating successful entertainment, even if it’s tempting to try and please fans as much as possible.

“You can’t reverse engineer a hit,” Corwin said.

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  1. TheAppleFour says:

    I think we can blame the drop in numbers due to the Olicity pandering and inconsistent writing for Season 2 on the decline in viewer numbers. Fans were saying they would give up watching if things progressed and would give it about 5 episodes before the season 3 started.

    Episode 3.01 The Calm was a complete fan pandering episode that seemed straight out of a tumblr fanfic gif post, and many male comic book fans were disappointed. While MarcG says they don’t listen I sometimes I believe him and then other times I don’t, otherwise how do we explain the overuse of Felicity Smoak against all other characters and the pimping of a the ship called Olicity. I am all for keeping the fans out of the writers room, so they keep their creative credibility. But once you’ve read something sometimes it’s can be hard for it not to influence creative decisions. It’s like the old saying once the genie is out of the bottle, its hard to get back in. I can only hope that ARROW TPTB continue to develop their original story line and ignore this social subset when making writing decisions. Otherwise it will be a continuing slippery downhill slide.

    • Lauren says:

      Can you please come up with a new phrase besides fan pandering? You are always all over every website shrieking about pandering. You should be happy; Sara died and your beloved Laurel will finally get to take her place. You cannot blame ratings one character or pairing. But, I want to point out that 3.01 had better ratings than 2.01 and 3.01 was promoted for months as an Olicity heavy episode. The ratings went down for 3.02 after Sara died and the brakes were put on Olicity. So, it could be said that fans either jumped ship after the premiere because Sara died, they think Olicity is over already, or because they really aren’t interested in seeing Laurel become BC. You are more obsessed with Olicity than people who actually like the pairing.

    • “I think we can blame the drop in numbers due to the Olicity pandering and inconsistent writing for Season 2 on the decline in viewer numbers.” I doupt this is what happened. Before season 3 premiered they promoted that the episode would be about the progression of Oliver and Felicity. Yet the premiere had more viewers than the second season premiere.
      You should understand that when you belong in the portion of viewers who dont enjoy certain things as other do, you either keep watching for the elements you enjoy or stop watching. Blaming the writers for fan pandering is not just wrong but also rude since you are missing a point here. Every tv show is created for fan pandering. Only the idea of creating a tv show is based on fan pandering. Everything on every tv show is fan pandering. Its all about the money after all and its ALL fan pandering. Just because the writers decide to explore a character more than before and actually give them more screen time it doesnt make it fan pandering, it just makes it natural.
      Also second season was considered by many far better than season 1!

  2. Bobbie says:

    I wonder if they will “listen” to the clear fan displeasure about killing Sara and making Laurel the Black Canary. There are clearly a huge number of people who dislike the Laurel character in the most extreme way. Their ratings went down by a 1million viewers the second episode of the season. That is pretty strong push back from the fans.

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