Between Facebook, Snapchat, and the rest, we’re an increasingly self-obsessed—and selfie-obsessed society. Filmmaker Alex J. Mann has been carving himself a niche in this corner of our culture, and his latest short, an Instagram-inspired horror short called ME2, makes the dangers of losing yourself to social media all too real.
Starring Julia Kelly, ME2 sees the relationship between a beautiful girl and her “perfect” beach selfie taking an unexpected turn. Check out the film below.
Prior to ME2, Mann and his co-writer/producer K. Adam Bloom have been slowly making their way across the social media landscape with a series of shorts inspired by Snapchat, Gchat, Photoshop, even the fitness-tracking bracelet Fitbit. (The Daily Dot previously covered Mann’s Snapchat horror short 3 Seconds.) Mann says the series was inspired by his own fascination and fears about the ways technology has become inextricably entwined with our daily lives. “We're becoming more and more ingrained with our devices and apps,” Mann tells the Daily Dot. “We get sad when batteries die, happy when people like and comment our posts, and so on. It felt like a primal area to tap into.”
For ME2, the original concept came from a specific image: The very Ring-like moment where the unnamed Instagram girl’s selfie-self pushes her hand through the phone screen and begins choking her twin. From that initial inspiration, Mann and Bloom began developing the story, working from an outline to a script. Surprisingly for a short with no dialogue, Mann says he doesn’t storyboard, instead using stills from existing films to suggest the sort of look and feel he’s going for.
“We went heavy David Fincher with this one,” Mann says.
One of the challenges—and potential benefits—of making shorts inspired by social media is finding a way to use or at least reference the unique qualities of the thing you’re skewering. Mann’s Gchat short Green Dot unfolds entirely on a computer screen, following a conversation between a girl and her recently dead boyfriend, and uses that familiar “___ is typing…” interface to build suspense. For ME2, Mann actually backed away from a couple of the Instagram elements they initially wanted to use. “We experimented with overlaying filters on-screen when the character is at the mirror, to convey how people are now thinking of themselves as Instagram photos first, and people second. Cool idea, but it didn't work.”
Mann says most of the first draft of the script made it to the final cut, but the ending, in particular, underwent some changes. The initial idea was still to end on the phone, with a new selfie of the dead girl popping up in her Instagram feed. However, Mann and Bloom decided it was more effective to stay with the dead girl on the beach, showing how she and her doppelganger have completely swapped worlds.
When asked about his future plans, Mann suggests an emoji horror film may be on the docket. That might sound like a joke until you consider that Sony actually has an animated emoji movie slated for 2017. Beyond that, Mann’s dream is to continue his fascination with cautionary tech tales onto the small screen—well, the slightly larger screen. He’s currently pitching an anthology TV show based on his social media shorts. He describes it as a modern-day Twilight Zone, although his description is also reminiscent of the cult hit British anthology series Black Mirror.
You can see the rest of Mann’s short films on Space Oddity Films’ YouTube page.