Jonathan Swift once wrote: “Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.” Sounds like sour grapes from somebody who died without a single Instagram follower, amirite?
The buzz is building for the Feb. 5 premiere of INFLUENCER, a short comedic satire featuring Revelstoke comedian Katie Burrell and a cast of locals in front of and behind the lens.
We did a Q&A interview with Burrell. I asked Katie about the project’s take on narcissism, the basic human need for love, affection and understanding, and about trying to fill that yawning chasm of loneliness by substituting a real life for a fake one online.
We also touched on the most important philosophical question of our time: if a ski tour happens in our mountain forests, but nobody posts it to Instagram, did it happen at all?
Due to a little miscommunication, it went from a Q&A to more of just an ‘&A’ thing, but it works anyway.
Without further adieu, here’s what Burrell had to say about INFLUENCER:
The INFLUENCER project is a runaway joke. It started as a satirical moment on Instagram — I was exploring social media as a platform for my comedic expression and started playing a spoof of myself, an aspiring social media influencer in my own right. The character has since then taken on her own life. I’m much more annoying than she is.
The show is about a girl (Subject A) who wants to project a perfect life on social media to distract herself from her insignificant reality, and a psychologist (Dr. Elizabeth Burr) who, after a nasty divorce, moves back to the mountain town that her parents live in to rebuild herself and try to get ahead in her career (she has a famous psychologist ex-husband, who left her for his research assistant.) Each episode explores Dr. Burr trying to further her working theory “Digital Narcissism Syndrome” and Katie “Subject A” demonstrating severe symptoms of it. The two of them have an interesting relationship; is one more narcissistic than the other? Is there a style of self-projection that is “worse” than another? Can you write a book about being obsessed with yourself without being a little obsessed with yourself? Is it really that bad to think you’re kind of amazing? Overall, it’s a behind-the-scenes look at what is actually happening in real life (#irl) compared to the glossy images that we have all been accustomed to seeing and subconsciously feeling terrible about.
The pilot episode airs on February 5 on TELUS Optik TV, Storyhive and YouTube. Voting runs from Feb 5–9. There are 14 other pilots that we’re up against, narrowed down from the 250-plus original submissions. We’ve had incredible support from the community on the project from locations to production assistants to extras, as well as invaluable guidance from experienced filmmakers like Anthony Bonello and Momme Halbe. The core production team is myself, Colleen Gentemann, Zoya Lynch, Momme Halbe, Anne Cayer-Huard, Kate Belton, Jess Broadfoot, Blair Richmond and Mike Southworth. The pilot episode features comedians Aaron Read, James Kennedy and Shane McLean. Zoya plays a spoof of herself. I play Katie and Dr. Burr. I could either say that’s a statement thing, or I could say it’s a budget thing. All of the characters in the show are satirical stereotypes; yes, it’s close to the bone. Take it personally. Get worked up. Troll me.
I didn’t mean to make a cultural commentary piece that deeply resounded with people. I saw a funny and just went with it. It feels to me like the audience is all having different experiences of it, before it even really exists. It also seems to me that people just like to watch me fall over. I used the word influencer and people got the joke and blew it up to be their own. I feel like that is a lot of what “the arts” is — it’s being the vessel for something that already exists, just the body for a thing to come through. It’s presenting something that just needs to seen in a new light, and all of a sudden it’s comedy. It’s powerful stuff. You can take back what has taken from you if you can turn it into humour.
The project will continue to be what feels right. It’s malleable at this stage. If we win the funding from Storyhive to produce the rest of the series, we’ll do our damned best to make something that makes people laugh and keeps things fresh. If we don’t, we’ll take a look at it and either call it a learning experience and move on to the next project. Or we’ll say, these characters are too current and this concept is too timely to let it die now. Maybe we’ll shop it around. Maybe we’ll independently produce it. Maybe I’ll ask my parents if they want to fund it. They don’t need to be going on two six-week holidays every year. That’s a bit excessive.
Realistically, I just want to explore life and the human experience through the art/comedy projects that find me. To me, that currently looks like learning, failing, trying again, laughing, crying in my bed, trying out new mediums and platforms, drinking too much, texting my mom, extreme highs and tragic lows, creating, not sleeping, overdoing it with Melatonin, putting myself out there over and over again, seeing what lands and what doesn’t, understanding what it means to depersonalize, and never giving up.
Some of history’s sexiest Greek gods were raging narcissists. I’m not totally convinced that it’s a bad thing to be feelin’ yourself. As long as every once in a while you bring the focus back to being “whole.” Whatever that means.
This thing would not exist without Colleen Gentemann. I am significantly more aware of my tortured creativeness now. She executes on half-cracked visions. There were tons of moments where she didn’t know how to, but she would figure it out to the absolute edge of her ability. She was nice to me even when she should have thrown me out of a window. We’ve both learned so much. Everyone needs a Colleen, in my opinion.
Namaste. The light within me honours the light within you. Be the content you want to see in the world.
This story first appeared in the February 2018 print issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.