Social media is a technological innovation that has changed the world; there’s just no arguing that. Heck, Nerdist’s own Chris Hardwick figured this out pretty quickly and built an entire Emmy-winning show around the concept! While social media can bring about revolutions, policy change, and education, it can also be used for terrible things too. Cyberbullying, trolling, and broadcasting horrible acts online to illicit fear are a very real part of the internet. Writer/director Jason Perlman’s latest film Live is about just that.
“I hang out almost exclusively at work with seventeen-year-olds,” Perlman says with a laugh (he’s the in-house director and producer at AwesomenessTV). “I see them share a lot of personal information, which I think is really, really beautiful that they can be that open with an audience and they can be accepted by that audience for being who they are. I think that’s what YouTube and the internet is all about on its best day. But on its worst day, the internet is a breeding ground for trolls and insecurity and people who aren’t happy with their own situation lashing out at people who are happy with theirs.”
And he’s not kidding — one of the scariest parts of the film was the comments that filled the live stream as Ladykiller, the masked bad guy in Alice’s house, chased her from room to room. “Break her arm!” “Fake!” “Kill her!” “This is sooooo creepy!” While they’re just words on the screen to the people watching, they lend encouragement for the killer to actually take the life of another human being with zero consequence to the thousands of people watching. Are you creeped out yet?
“I want him to be the Michael Myers of cyberbullying,” Perlman says. (He’s very keen to mention that he is not comparing himself to John Carpenter, though he’s clearly a fan; nods to Halloween are peppered throughout the film.) “I want him to be the physical manifestation of cyber-bullying and trolling.” The director continued, “Live is about influencers on a social media platform getting a little more than they bargained for from their fans and I feel as though I cast people who could very easily tap into that because that’s their life. When I asked Meghan about her biggest fear she said, ‘This. This script is my biggest fear,’ and her mom’s biggest fear for her.”
What’s really interesting about Live is that it’s self-aware without being too winky — it’s a fan of the horror genre and pre-internet voyeuristic classics without being bound to them. After all, media is changing so quickly, what was innovative and fresh just a few months ago seems outdated already with the advent of brand new technology like, say, Periscope.
These fears were not lost on leading actress and popular YouTube star Meghan Rienks who plays Alice. When I visited the set of the movie, we discussed the real life terror that a movie like Live is addressing that applies to everyone connected to social media, not just the influencers who make their living at it. “Everyone has their smartphone attached to their hip at all times, so it’s something that [people are] going to relate to and I think that will scare them even more because it’s not this fantastical thing. These are people, these are situations, they’re apps you understand, this is a world you understand and this is how it can turn against you so quickly.”
Rienks added, “I’ve been doing YouTube and Twitter and Instagram for [about] five years, so it’s like people have grown up with me, so people who I’ve never met before feel like they know me, which can be amazing and awesome! You meet young girls who you’ve helped shape their lives and they’ve been inspired by things you’ve said and it’s been amazing to have had that kind of friendship connection even though you’ve never met them in real life. But then there’s that other side of things where it’s like, not everybody who is watching it is this young girl who’s going through difficult times who could use somebody to listen or use somebody to make them smile.” As she describes it, Live is “every YouTubers worst fear realized!”
Ahead of Friday’s premiere, check out the exclusive teaser trailer for the film above! Live, starring Meghan Rienks, Christian Delgrosso, and Casimere Jolette, premieres on AwesomenessTV Friday, October 16 at 5PM PST.