“You simply can’t ask a social media influencer about a following they’re not as strong in,” says the fictitious Dr. Miriam Spacelli, a supposed specialist on social media anxiety disorder. “If a person has two million Snapchat followers, but a million on Instagram, well that isn’t going to be something they’re going to want to discuss, or even share for that matter.”
Spacelli, as portrayed by Dallas-born actress Stephanie March in the new mockumentary The Social Ones, has a difficult job: explaining the eccentric behavior of the very odd individuals who have careers as social media influencers.
These influencers are a wacky bunch; everyone from the Snapchat dude bro Dan Summers (Colton Ryan) to the anger-prone celebrity chef Dixie Bell (Deso Domo) to the philosophically tortured “meme curator” Kap Phat Jawacki (Setareki Wainiqolo) explain their professions in detail, and describe the thought (or lack thereof) that is put into each of their posts.
While Spacelli spouts as many silly truisms as the rest of the characters, she holds a position of authority as she helps the influencers work out their personal and professional issues. This authority extends to March, who in addition to co-starring in the film, also served as the executive producer.
March had met The Social Ones’ writer/director Laura Kosann and her sister Danielle a few years prior and was approached by the two about getting involved with the project. Although she was nervous about giving constructive criticism to close friends, March says she was blown away by the first draft of the script.
“I think it is a very digestible, very affectionate look at social media right now, and Lord knows we could all use a laugh,” she says of the film, which is now available on Amazon Prime Video, Vudu and others. “I looked at them, and I said ‘I want to be your co-executive producer, and I want the opportunity to work on a movie from this side of it, and I’d also like to be in it.’”
March is a veteran actress who is best known for her longtime role as Alexandra Cabot on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, but taking on the responsibility of being an executive producer added challenges she hadn’t previously experienced.
“I wanted to see what the experience would be like as a person who has more control over the product, and you’re more vulnerable because it’s your baby in a way that it’s not often when you’re an actor,” she says. “I hate watching myself on camera, but when it comes to editing a movie as one of the EPs, you don’t have the luxury of not being able to watch yourself. It was excruciating, but I got through it.”
March says that her open line of communication with Kosann helped her nail some of the trickier scenes, including many of the moments in which her character is isolated.
“It’s hard to do a scene by yourself,” she says. “You’re in a void. We would start each scene with Laura asking me a question so I could talk to her as a person behind the camera, and hopefully that would translate to an audience member as me, the character, talking to you in the audience.”
While many of the characters in the film are inspired by real social media influencers, March faced a different position because her character, a practicing doctor, is supposed to look underqualified for comedic effect. March says it was interesting to go back and forth between being an executive producer well versed in the film’s story to playing a character who couldn’t be more clueless.
“When I was thinking about it from an acting perspective, it’s probably better if my character Doctor Spacelli doesn’t really know what she’s talking about because she’s such a bad therapist, so I had to toggle back and forth between those two mindsets,” she says. “The most important thing I’ve discovered is to just be taking yourself completely seriously and be utterly convinced that the information you have is 100 percent accurate, medical nonsense or not.”
March describes herself as a “huge fan” of mockumentary comedies such as The Office or the films of Christopher Guest, and she was eager to research the world of social media influencers when getting involved in the project. She says she learned a lot about internet culture based on the Instagram deep dives she went on to prepare for filming.
“What is amazing to me is our ability to open up on social media in a way that could be perceived as ridiculous or possibly even unhelpful or hurtful, but other people's response to it is really enthusiastic,” March says. “I think it has laid bare a duality in our society. We love influencers, and we love to hate them.”
The Social Ones had a positive reception throughout its festival run last year, winning the Audience Award for Best Comedy Feature at Cinequest. March says that the warm response has made her excited about the possibility of returning to the material for a follow up with the same creative crew.
“I think it would be a really fun television series,” she says. “There’s a lot of zaniness and a lot of ways to explore how media is changing our lives, and how we are using our media, and it would be fun to take it to the next step. I enjoy this project so much.”
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March notes that while the creators tried to be as up to date as possible when including current platforms and trends, there were some new developments in the world of social media that occurred after the film wrapped production — notably, TikTok is absent from the film. March believes that continuing the story in a television series could allow the creative team to include new elements, specifically current events.
“Politics would be a particularly fun part of social media to dive into, particularly now in an election year with the political divide in our country,” she says. “I think we could have a really good time making fun of that and making it a little bit more palatable to people.”
As the entertainment industry deals with the fallout of COVID-19, March says she hopes that The Social Ones will provide some much needed laughs in a time where people are dealing with more serious issues. She says the film’s message about online identities is a positive one to share.
“I really hope that people can watch it and enjoy it, and take away two things,” she says. “First, it’s OK and fun to express yourself and talk about yourself online, and second of all, not everyone has to like it in order for it to be likable to you, and that’s OK, too. You aren’t the number of likes you have.”