David Shaw-Parker on the magic – and might – of social media

David Shaw-Parker is a prolific force in the industry. Recently announced as Father O’Hara in the upcoming UK Tour of Some Mother Do ‘Ave ‘Em, a typical year can include up to twenty or thirty voice jobs in addition to his other stage and screen projects. He’s also a prolific social media user, casting a footprint across numerous channels through which he always expresses an opinion about the industry and encourages others around him. We recently caught up with David to ask him about the changing nature of traditional media and networking, and some of the benefits that using social media can bring.

You seem to undertake a huge amount of different projects – from stage to screen to voiceovers and so on… could you please describe to us what a typical year looks like in your calendar?
“In truth, a creative year for me is made up of other people’s plans and rarely my own but over the years it’s comprised one or two plays, one or two audio books, between twenty or thirty voice jobs (computer games, narration, ADR dubbing, the odd trailer) and, thanks to my wonderful agent Niki, two or three TV or short film opportunities. Strangely, when things are quiet stage-wise, people in TV are keen to capitalise on your availability so there’s always a reason to be optimistic.”

We see you very busy on social media all the time… sharing ideas and conversing with people. Is this a conscious decision to help you network in your career, or does it just come naturally in the take-up of modern technology?
“I’m seriously committed to social media. Some of my contemporaries call it ‘shameless self-promotion’ but for me the two chief advantages are firstly, keeping in touch and secondly, letting people know what I’m doing. Most of my friends are also fellow creatives and one person’s project often means remunerated involvement for another.”

Which social media platforms do you like and why?
“I don’t publish a blog per se, but Twitter is my favourite platform because of its brevity. If you’ve got something to say and you think it might just click with other people, 140 characters is enough: those people have busy days, too. Twitter has also revolutionised customer care. A bad experience with a commercial business enterprise shared on Twitter elicits an almost instant corporate response. I learned recently of a young writer jotting ‘tasters’ on her Twitter account and successfully linking them to her media site for new writer promotion.”

“Haïku is a good creative format: epithets, koans, too and now that twitter has doubled its character limit, limericks and quatrains are possible. I call it Twitterature using, if you will, Twitterary forms. A ‘Twesis’.”

“Facebook is for fun, for entertaining people on their coffee break. I share things like imaginary play castings, brief dialogues from everyday situations, original showbiz anecdotes. I try not to be too serious on Facebook: people are less inhibited about their politics, religion and moral imperatives on Facebook than anywhere else. I make a point of wishing my Facebook friends a happy birthday. it’s quick and simple and it’s a gesture towards making other people happy.”

“LinkedIn is a bit like working the room: you don’t always feel like it but there are a great many people on LinkedIn that I find it useful to know. I’ve had work from it and also had experience of other actors ‘studying’ my connections. Whatever I put on Twitter, I tend to copy onto Instagram, but ‘up’ the presentation with a photo or illustration. This is really helpful if a CD has just been released or if a programme is about to air.”

“On a larger scale, I have a YouTube account for posting show-reels, voice-reels, and audiovisual examples of my work. I also have a website for wider examples of my activities and as a kind of one-stop shop.”

We think about social media sometimes as being a ‘Millennial’ thing, i.e. only the very youngest demographics partake. But as somebody who has experience in the industry do you agree that this is the case and indeed what advice might you give to young actors starting out in their careers in their use of social media, traditional media, and new platforms like YouTube and online cv websites in general?
“Yes, social media is a millennial thing but one of the reasons an agent I was with folded was because of its reluctance to embrace internet technology and social media. Niki, my new agent, has that side of things totally nailed and it’s one of the reasons why she and her team are such a success.”

“I’m 63 and some of my friends have intimated that I should leave social media to the younger folk. Absolutely not. A Guardian journalist recently observed that we should not be too ungrateful that Donald Trump uses Twitter: at the very least you know what he’s thinking on a daily basis and you’re hearing it directly from the horse’s mouth, as it were. Politicians’ careers can hang on a mis-timed Tweet.”

“One thing I’ve found is that more people read Facebook and Twitter than we know. It isn’t just the number of likes, replies and shares. I’d be the last person to have good advice for young actors on how to use social media – I’m in my sixties and trying my best to keep up with them! – but maybe the ‘étiquette’ thing still applies. Theatre and TV directors may be reluctant to connect personally but they’re easily reached if your details correspond to job requirement via agents, casting directors and production company channels. Then again, I’ve had jobs – voice jobs, particularly – by the simple click on a link via Twitter and Text Message but there’s a discretionary nuance between ‘at your fingertips’ and ‘in yer face’.”

“I began to realise how powerful social media is when a director asked me in earnest at an audition how many Twitter followers I had and, similarly, when I was warned, along with the rest of a cast, that there was an embargo on mentioning anything about our show on social media.”

Finally, what is next in the pipeline for you? What projects do you have coming up tail-end of this year and into 2018? And where would you like to take things next?
“Next year (2018) is half-filled already. Thanks to Winterson’s, in January I start rehearsing a stage version of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em with Joe Pasquale which tours the UK. I’m due to record Anthony Trollope’s Phineas Redux as an audio book before summer and the computer game characters I voice will appear in new editions of Warhammer End Times and Vermintide. A CD of my guitar music called Moonbathing will be due for release in Spring so there’ll be a lot to be tweeting about. Er, can I follow you?”

You can find out more about the upcoming Tour of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em in WhatsOnStage here.