Uploaded in 15-second videos to the cast’s Instagram feeds, #Headshot is an intriguing and inventive storytelling experiment told in real-time. The fictional tale of a group of Instagram models who set out to get revenge on a sleazy photographer who tried to take advantage of them, Director Al Benoit and Studio We Are Famous push social media to its limits in what feels like a blend of reality television meets modern thriller. Eager to find out how they went about planning and shooting such an elaborate approach to telling their narrative, we spoke to Executive Producer Joshua Greenberg about this ambitious project:
How did the idea to tell a story in real-time over Instagram originate?
I always felt like Social Media represented a really interesting opportunity for storytellers. More and more people are allocating a percentage of their waking hours on various social media platforms. The majority of the content is fleeting and doesn’t engage the audience. We’ve been watching the subculture community of Instagram models and Instagram photographers for a number of years and thought it would be a good place to test out the concept of a social story. We’re currently working on stories that employ Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram simultaneously that are based around other subculture communities. At We Are Famous, we generally feel there’s a huge opportunity to utilize social media to create truly interactive stories. By delivering stories in real time, it allows the audience to engage in the film as well as watch and share the final product after its live release. This also provides an opportunity for influencers to entertain their audiences in a more substantive medium, as well as collaborate and grow with other talent. We also feel this method of storytelling creates opportunities for filmmakers to develop and produce short films, maybe even monetize them in the future if the subject matter is brand friendly or valuable enough to the audience that they’d purchase the films iVOD.
“Various people in the subculture community started tagging him and sending him threats. I guess we did a good job”
Can you explain a little more about how this real-time storytelling actually played out? Was it all filmed on the night, did you pre-record sections before?
The project was designed to be released in one evening, however we prerecorded all content in one shoot day. There was traditional pre-production required, casting, location scouting, storyboards and technical scouts for the small team working on the project. We took over the Instagram accounts of the talent for the evening of the release and engaged with their audiences throughout the film. We had a line of communication with all talent throughout the evening. It was very exciting and fun. For the photographer, Johnny Cinematic, it was very scary. He was concerned from the beginning that a percentage of the audience might think it was real and attack him online He was correct. Various people in the subculture community started tagging him and sending him threats. I guess we did a good job.
I’m assuming a lot of your time on this project was spent in pre-production working out the logistics of making sure the story would fit together and play out as expected. How did you go about prepping to ensure everything went smoothly?
We tested both camera and messaging extensively. It began with the script and required a lot of collaboration with the talent on set. We wanted the videos to reflect the tone and voice of their current postings, yet provide enough entertainment value that people wanted to keep watching. We learned a lot in the process.
The success of #Headshot must have relied a lot on finding Instagram models/personalities with an established base of followers to take part in the story, how did you go about casting for this project?
Yes. because it’s a new format and there’s no previous project to demonstrate the concept, it required a lot of conversations with potential talent. Ultimately, we needed to find talent that could also perform. In our opinion, the most important result was to have a great short film. We relied on a lot of relationships that We Are Famous has developed over the last few years in working in digital entertainment and put together a lot of materials to help explain the project. The cast is all really happy with the results and excited to see the next project we produce.
Speaking of which, what are you working on next?
We have three more social stories we’re producing. the next one in the pipeline is also written and will be directed by Al Benoit. Mr. Benoit is a very talented filmmaker and is working exclusively with We Are Famous on scripted projects. Otherwise, we’re producing several non scripted series, developing short form, episodic and feature length projects with various talent in subculture communities. The company also has a 360 video service and we’re creating original content as well as work for hire content.