Viva Pictures Wants To Turn Influencers Into Hollywood Stars
TikTok stars are already dominating our phones, but it may only be a matter of time until they’re dominating our TVs and movie theaters, too. Addison Rae, who has over 60 million followers on TikTok, was just announced as the lead in the upcoming She’s All That remake, He’s All That, and Charli D’Amelio and her family confirmed that they’re getting their own reality show. Social media stardom is proving to be a fast track to Hollywood for up-and-coming creators, and Viva Pictures is hoping to be the one to open those doors.
The LA-based distribution house specializes in animated content for children, and their recent titles have featured TikTok stars like D’Amelio, Rae, Mackenzie Ziegler, and, soon, Loren Gray, who will star in 100% Wolves, which will be available On Demand and digitally December 1.
“We're always looking to find interesting people who can voice animated characters,” producer Mayank Jhalani, who played a role in casting these influencers, says in a phone call.
The goal, according to Viva owner Victor Elizalde, is to be the company that helps these creators get their start by slowly introducing them to movie magic, walking them not just through production with the help of an acting coach, but also their first press junkets before they one day go on to do it on an even bigger scale.
Viva is just getting started, too, as far as influencers are concerned. While Ziegler, D’Amelio, Rae, and Gray all have followers in the multiple millions, Elizalde says they’ve started to look at smaller creators who they think will be the next big thing, in hopes of becoming the ultimate incubator for influencer-turned-Hollywood talent.
What’s compelling about working with influencers?
Jhalani: The Charlis and the Addisons and the Lorens of the world, the sheer reach they have—subscribers, fans, followers, the level of engagement they generate—is obviously a great asset. When you're looking to cast someone, you always want some sense of personality when standing in the recording booth, because the pitch of an animated movie is slightly higher than a normal live action movie. All of these young stars, they definitely don't lack personality.
When we bring them in for the recording, we also do some behind the scenes stuff. We get b-roll with them. We do a behind the scenes interview. And then whenever the movie is close to release, we use those to promote the movie. The amount of views it gets, the amount of people that know about our movie, obviously has increased.
How did you start working with Addison Rae in Spy Cat?
Elizalde: We had just finished up on Charli. We did the big announcement of StarDog and TurboCat and the publicity was rolling. And then we got a message from Addison herself. [She] just sent in an email and said, “Hey, I'd love to do something like this.” And that's how we got Addison. I tell that story because a lot of folks think, “I need a manager, I need an agent.” In today's day and age, just reach out and get what you want, like Addison did.
How do you decide which influencers you want to work with?
Elizalde: What we look for is, are they genuine? Are they nice? Are they a real influencer for the right reason? Then typically what we'll do is we'll meet with them and their families, because most of them are younger, to make certain that our goals align. One example is Addison live-streaming a [Spy Cat] event on her YouTube to help her grow YouTube. All of our deals are structured where everyone has to get something out of this and it can't just be money. We want to help them expand their careers.
While these influencers have a background in social media stardom they’re not necessarily actors. Do you give them any training?
Elizalde: We work with Gary Spatz at The Playground, who is probably one of the greatest child actor coaches in the world. He's done stuff for J.J. Abrams and for Adam Sandler and almost all the Disney films. We'll bring him and his team in. So that's where we'll look at someone, like, “You don't have any acting experience? Don't worry.”
It's a balance. There's 100% Wolves, where we have Loren Gray with Jai Courtney and just a slew of other big name talent. And Charli D'Amelio in StarDog and TurboCat. And I think they like that because it's a new area for them. For Charli, she isn't dragging the picture along. She's part of a cast, and they get to see everyone else's performance and how they fit in and grow into those roles. Addison was a little different. We wanted to take a chance and give her the lead and see how that works, and it worked out fantastic.
People like Addison and Charli have gone from these films onto big Hollywood vehicles, like She’s All That and the D’Amelio reality show. Do you see your films as a gateway into that world for influencers?
Jhalani: It's awesome and it's not a surprise. Meeting them, working with them, I feel like it was only going to be a matter of time.