A Quinn Shephard, the director of “The false influencer”, finds it surprising how dramatic videos of people who face the consequences of a war on a daily basis can coexist in the ‘feed’ of her Instagram account along with the disguises of adolescents who have failed in their attempts to make a ‘trend’. In the exercise of ‘scroll’ on the phone, the border that separates the important from the insubstantial becomes blurred and the pressure to achieve validation in this digital world ends up making the trivial more attractive.
When she began to write the script for “The false influencer”, Shephard, a 27-year-old filmmaker who has grown up in times of social networks and understands their codes, considered criticizing this phenomenon through one of the most acidic resources that has an author: satire. This is how Danni Sanders was born, the central character of this film and who embodies the former Disney girl Zoey Deutch.
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Danni Sanders is a young New Yorker who is obsessed with becoming an ‘influencer’, but the 52 followers on her account make her mission seem impossible. When a guy (Dylan O’Brien) catches her eye, she uses her Photoshop skills to edit some pictures and make the world (and especially this guy) believe that she’s been invited to a party. trip to Paris. Everything gets complicated when the most touristic points of the French capital are the target of a terrorist attack and she decides to continue with her lie and pretend that she was part of the attacks, gaining a number of fans that she never imagined.
“Danni is pure privilege, someone who believes that the idea of trauma can be glamorous and she makes the decision to continue down this path (of lies)”, explains Shephard in conversation with Skip Intro of “El Comercio” about the character that in the story he will have a blow of reality when he meets Rowan (Mia Isaac), a teenager who was the victim of a gun attack at her school and who uses her social networks to seek change.
This was what the filmmaker told us about the process of making “The False Influencer” a reality:
– You made your directorial debut five years ago with “Blame”. “The false influencer” is your second film, how different was this experience?
They were very different, but at the same time similar. I had never made a studio film, I had never had such a big budget. “Blame” was a really low budget production. But, at the same time, being on set, working with the actors on a day-to-day basis, it was the same. I thought I was going to feel unsure of what to do on set. He told me: ‘I’m shooting a movie in New York, doing blue screen sequences (for chroma key), with a big budget… how am I going to learn all this!’ But in the end there are your instincts. So even though it had been a long time (since I directed my first film), it was wonderful to be back on set.
– As in “Blame”, this movie has two female characters as protagonists. How are Rowan and Danni born?
I have come to realize that as a writer I usually have two women at the center of the story and that these women represent two polar opposites of myself. But they are also characters that seem very different from each other at the beginning and that in the end they have things that make them similar. I think that in “Blame” you felt more of that thread that connected the characters, because in “The False Influencer” Rowan (Mia Isaac) and Danni (Zoey Deutch) are two totally different people and it must feel as if they exist in two worlds Total opposites in the movie. Rowan is someone very real, someone who has experienced what Danni is romanticizing, she is an authentic person who is using the internet for something positive, while Danni uses the internet for bad. Through them I wanted to show two sides of our society and two sides of the internet and see what they learn from each other.
-How was the process to choose the actresses?
I was very lucky. Zoey was on my mind since I wrote the first draft. The movie was built around him and I was very lucky that we got him to be there. With the character of Rowan we didn’t know who we were going to have in the role. We did a lot of open auditions, a lot of calls, we looked at schools… we really didn’t know where we would find the actress, until Mia sent her audition through her agency. As soon as I saw her, I knew it was her. I cried when I saw her audition. I felt that fire, passion, depth, pain and authenticity that she brought to her character. Honestly, she was everything she wanted for the role, she was exactly how I imagined Rowan. I instantly knew it was her and since then it has been a real joy to work with both of them.
– Movie endings have become predictable, but this is not the case with “The False Influencer”. Did you always know what ending you wanted for the film and for a character like Danni Sanders?
I always knew I didn’t want a clean ending with a redemption arc for the character, but for a long time we didn’t really know how we would end the movie. We shot two alternate endings, neither of which was used. The place where we would end up was always in the script, because we wanted that kind of learning point climate in the film, but we didn’t know how it would end. What would be a satisfying ending for a character like Danni was up for debate. Some wanted to give her a happy ending, may she have redemption. Others wanted to see her suffer, they believed that the happy ending was to see her fall. We did not achieve a balance that felt good until we realized that the closure had to be that moment in which Danni takes a first step towards learning and that learning she begins by learning to listen and stop feeling like the center of everything. . Once we saw it, it finally felt good. But it was a challenge to get to that point.
– You have a cameo in the film, how was that idea born?
At first I had planned to appear only as an extra in the scene. We wanted to show a therapy group for canceled people, people who have been shamed online. Zoey and I loved the idea of filling it with cameos. We tried to contact a lot of people who had been canceled in real life, we did a lot of FaceTime calls, we wanted something that felt super ‘meta’, but in the process we discovered that there aren’t a lot of people who have been canceled who want to laugh. of what happened and that, in addition, they have agents and representatives who are willing for them to laugh at themselves, so the joke of me being in the background being canceled for having wanted to make this film with a leading lady like Danni became be me as the antagonist, saying lines that were made for other ‘cameos’. I thought it was fun to have someone openly call Danni out. So in the scene she has this monologue of self-reflection that’s interrupted by, ‘Yeah, so?’ That’s the point of the movie, to say: stop feeling sorry for yourself, you’re not the main character anymore, Danni.
– In the end, the public will ask a question: Who is really the protagonist: Danni or Rowan?
I think that should be left to the public’s perception. Danni is in every scene in the movie, but Rowan is the heroine. If you see it like this, the intention is to give it a twist. Rowan is the heart and center of the story, but we also follow a lot of Danni’s path, so it’s definitely like a game for two.
– I really like how you use music to tell your stories. Closing with the song “Statement” I thought it was great. How important is music in your films?
Music is very important to me. With the composer of this film I worked on “Blame”, so I knew I wanted to work the score with him. Also, he is French Canadian and we have a lot of Francophone music in the film. But yes, personally I am very involved in music. I like to be present in almost the entire scoring process. I like to be collaborative and come up with ideas. I love the process of creating music. For this movie, I loved the idea of using an absurdly dramatic traditional chorus sound as if they were those little voices from the internet, but building up as the tension Danni feels increases. That’s why at the end there is a giant choir around him. For the choice of songs, many were already in the script and we got them for the film. So we already had the songs before we started filming and I was listening to them in my head while we were filming. It was definitely all intentional and I’m obsessed with music.
– Finally, I laughed a lot at Avril Lavigne’s joke until I realized that “Complicated” was released 20 years ago, it’s really an old song, isn’t it?
Don’t tell me that, oh, God! For me it was a joke that “Complicated” was an old song, but now that you tell me that it’s been 20 years since it came out… I’m going to have an existential crisis!
Where to see
“The False Influencer” is available only by streaming on Disney’s Star platform. The film includes ‘cameos’ from well-known American ‘influencers’ such as Caroline Calloway and ‘bestdressed’ Ashley.
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