Some creators are paid, some are not; some have millions of followers, others have smaller but highly engaged audiences in a demographic that the studio or event is seeking. All this is making for a complicated, competitive business that goes beyond posting a photo.
One of the latest media sectors where the creator economy is booming are film and TV red carpets which have transformed into two-hour-plus events, with portions devoted to influencers and their content, taking selfies, going live on social or filming dance videos and elaborate TikTok trends against the step and repeat for the first hour, followed by the project’s stars making their way down press lines for the second.
There are two types of red carpet invites: those where an influencer is invited to attend without any requirement to post content (those are usually unpaid), and official partnerships where a creator will post sponsored content from an event. Take, Amanda Castrillo is a creator focused on film and TV who has more than 300,000 followers on TikTok. She has been invited to Netflix, Disney, HBO, Amazon, NBC and Sony premieres, and says her studio deals have ranged from $3,000 to $10,000 per partnership.
Castrillo started posting on TikTok after she was furloughed from her retail job during the pandemic; she quickly hit 100,000 followers and quit retail, and is now working at Paramount as a social producer with an influencer career on the side. “I went from literally working part-time for like $15 an hour to actually being able to pay my bills and pay rent — it can be life-changing,” she says of becoming a creator.
Unlike creators with followers in the millions, Castrillo put together a media kit and website and started pitching herself to media companies directly. Castrillo adds that brand exclusivity also is common. “If, for example, you have a promotion going on for HBO Max, you can’t advertise for a competitor within two weeks.” Now she goes to two or three red carpets a month. And when those clauses do exist, that’s worked into the payment: “Say, because you took one thing and then you had to turn down something else that would have made you money, you also have to negotiate pricing for that within their budget.”
Authenticity also plays a huge role as studios are now tending to invite creators whose content or demographics are more specifically tailored to the audience they’re trying to reach. Caprice Cole, a creator with 33,000 Instagram followers who specializes in “Blerd” (i.e. Black nerd) content, has attended events for Netflix’s Wednesday and Disney+’s Willow, both of which she says match her brand. “Somebody’s paying attention and inviting the people who have [audiences in] those kinds of areas,” she says.
Cole is quick to note, though, that white male creators are far more likely to get the paid partnerships, and she is often one of the few Black women to receive an invite. “I always ask them, ‘If you invited me, here are a few more people I feel like you should consider and invite,’ ” she says of expanding influencer diversity.
On the topic of creator diversity, in 2021, Disney launched its Creator Lab, a program to identify, develop and amplify 20 smaller content creators from diverse communities. Now in its second year, it runs from fall to spring and features workshops from the likes of Disney Imagineers, Marvel exec Wendy Jacobson and talent manager Barbara Jones.
“We’re providing them with these opportunities to learn, to grow, to be inspired, and we hope that the program would have a meaningful impact in the lives of these emerging creators,” Michael Ramirez, director of PR and influencer communications at Disney Parks, Experiences and Products told the Hollywood Reporter. “From our perspective, it’s giving us new, diverse creators to engage with. What we’re essentially doing is cultivating the next generation of creators; it’s really hard to break into the space so we just want to do our part, use our size for good and just help develop.”
Once creators enter our ‘ecosystem,’ I think they can be leveraged for multiple cross-enterprise opportunities,” continues Ramirez. “There are creators that were part of the first cohort that we’ve seen attend studios events, which is awesome. We want them to be part of our Disney families in multiple ways.”
Disney also reports substantial growth from the Creator Lab; creator Logan Allison said he joined the program with 40,000 TikTok followers and ended with 100,000 (and a partnership with Netflix as well as one with Disney), while influencer couple Cullen and Alyssa Griffin started with 10,000 TikTok followers and also finished with more than 100,000. “As a micro influencer who is growing, I think we have a bit more of a sense of trust with our following because a lot of our followers have been with us from day one,” Allison says of what they can offer a company like Disney.