Mike Heslin Satirizes Pursuit of Social Media Stardom in New Mockumentary, “The Influencers”

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Many of us dream of becoming an influencer. But how far would we go to achieve fame? What happens when we lose control of our manicured Instagram persona? Creator Mike Heslin affectionately parodies this scramble to the top in his new series, The Influencers, which follows a group of thirsty social media starlets as they battle it out for a brand deal. The Influencers is now available to stream internationally on Revry, the first LGBTQ+ virtual cable network.
 
Cliché: How excited are you to be able to have the opportunity to work with Revry? 
Mike Heslin: Super excited! As a queer filmmaker, it feels like a great fit since Revry is a LGBTQ network. One of my production company’s missions is to elevate LGBTQ+ stories, characters, and artists – so we are thrilled to find a new home and partner in Revry. 
Tell us about your new show, The Influencers.
The Influencers is a new satirical comedy series that follows six social media “stars” as they compete in a series of creative challenges under one roof for an exclusive brand deal with the latest millennial juice craze: Jücytox. As cameras capture each influencer in real life, the manicured versions they present to the world online implode before our eyes. Witty and fun with a dash of heartbreak, The Influencers combines the best of mockumentaries such as The Comeback and Best in Show with the latest obsession-worthy reality TV formats to provide a satirical behind-the-scenes look at the lengths people will go to in their quest for (insta)fame. 
 
What about the influencer world lends itself to the mockumentary format? 
Everything! Influencer culture is all about a perceived, curated “reality”, so the idea of a show within a show where we get to see both the filtered versions they present online as well as what they are like in reality when they can’t perfectly edit and manicure everything really tickled me. For people who so carefully curate their image, I thought it was a compelling and interesting idea to see what these people would actually be like if you put them in a big-brother style house where they no longer have control of the edit.  
Influencers are often stereotyped as vain and superficial, which is perfect for parody. Are any of the characters inspired by your own experiences or interactions with influencers? 
Some of them but I can’t reveal which characters! I was between acting gigs and was freelancing for a social media agency working as a social media director and creative director. Casting and contracting influencers was part of my day to day and while there are tons of influencers out there who are super intelligent and incredibly business savvy, I happened to work with a few that were gorgeous, sweet, but who were lacking any real skillset. I started to wonder what would happen if these individuals had to prove themselves in a real public forum and how they would fare on an unfiltered platform where you couldn’t perfectly curate your persona. Thus the inception for The Influencers was born! 
 
Would you say you’re attempting to poke fun at the influencers or humanize them? Or a bit of both? 
It’s satire, so a bit of both. Most of us are active participants in today’s social media culture in some shape or form, so I think it’s important to be self-aware, to laugh at ourselves and to not take everything so seriously. 
What do you think it says about the current state of our society that everyone is so obsessed with follower counts? 
I don’t think it’s a new phenomenon. I think with or without social media, everyone just ultimately wants to be liked and respected. That being said, social media certainly can exacerbate the need to be liked and can be very polarizing (especially in times of political turmoil and a pandemic). I worry about the effect it has on our youth who are being raised in an era of unrealistic standards, but ultimately would argue that social media connects us and brings us together despite all of the negative attributes that can come with it, and connection is always a good thing. I feel connected to more people and like checking in with and keeping tabs on distant relatives or old friends from back home that I probably would have lost touch with had I not had social media. I also think it can be a great tool to market and educate but again, it definitely is a double edged sword. 
 
Does the show examine what drives people to want to become social media influencers? 
It more so examines what comes with online fame and the lengths people will go to to achieve it. It also examines what happens when you put someone who essentially doesn’t have a real skill set in coveted positions of power and/or responsibility. 
 
If you were an influencer, what kind of content would you make? 
I try to do my part to help advocate and educate for my LGBTQ+ community online already, but if I could be any kind of influencer I’d want to be a travel influencer. Getting paid to jet set around the globe and stay in five-star hotels in different countries doesn’t sound like the worst job in the world.
 
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Mike Heslin Satirizes Pursuit of Social Media Stardom in New Mockumentary, “The Influencers.” Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mike Heslin.