Why Twitter Scares the Hell Out of Hollywood

While most of the world is latching onto Twitter as a lifeline to break through the media clutter in desperate times, an increasing number in Hollywood are seeing it as something else entirely; a threat to everything they hold precious.

There are a far-sighted handful of people in Hollywood who see the marketing potential of the micro-blogging tool, but the Hollywood Reporter writes today that the backlash has begun in earnest, with Twitter-controlling contracts being inserted into contracts across the ranks of showbiz.

They write:

A recent talent contract from Disney includes a new clause forbidding confidentiality breaches via "interactive media such as Facebook, Twitter, or any other interactive social network or personal blog."

Over at DreamWorks, a writer's deal cautions not to jump the gun on studio press releases via "a social networking site, blog or other Internet-type site." An agent spotted a talent deal with a stricture that forbids bashing any element of a production with social media.

The only question we have is why didn't this crackdown come sooner? Since DW Griffith first stepped off the train, Hollywood has devoted itself to one cherished goal that it has always kept close to its heart: making sure actors never, ever speak directly to the public. Since the first days of entertainment, no "talent" has ever opened their mouth without a phalanx of handlers on hand to craft their every word and prepared to lower the muzzle at the first sign of truth telling.

In recent times few celebrity interviews are conducted without a volume of "conditions" and "parameters" laid down in advance and a publicist in the room or on the phone line prepared to step in should a conversation show any signs of actual life.

With its Stalinesque vise over the media, stars and executives in Hollywood communicate in Orwellian newspeak, reciting a handful of approved phrases. "He was such an inspiration to work with," "It's a thrill to play a different kind of character" and "I've never been on a set where everybody had so much fun" marking the parameters of acceptable speech.

The industry, being staffed exclusively by teenage girls, loves rumors and gossip more than anyone, but nowhere in media is the ratio of what reporters know but can't report to what they can more out of whack. Any hints of conflict, malfeasance or turmoil are strictly buried in the official press, left for bloggers like Nikki Finke to guess at through the glass darkly from the placed tidbits of her official sources.

And then comes Twitter, and suddenly the entire structure of communication goes out the window. Stars having obscenity laced cat-fights with each other, revealing their contract negotiations to the whole world, directors joking about work stoppages on the set...

But on the brighter side, this is the one area where the old media news industry has led the way, having long since issued stern warnings to their employees that their Twitter lives are subject to the same absolute censorship and editor-controlled domination — aka "Zone of Trust" as all their other forms of speech.