If you love a good documentary, then you've come to the right place.
TODAY With Hoda & Jenna launched a Documentary of the Month Club, and February's pick is "Fake Famous."
In the film, released Feb. 2 on HBO and HBO Max, director Nick Bilton conducts an experiment in which he turns three young Los Angeles residents with relatively small social media followings — aspiring actor Dominque Druckman, fashion designer Chris Bailey and real estate assistant Wylie Heiner — into influencers.
Bilton boosts each of their Instagram followings by buying fake followers and bots to interact with their posts, and employs various tricks and props to fabricate glamorous backdrops — filling a kiddie pool with rose petals, renting a set that resembles the inside of a private jet.
"Fake Famous" explores how achieving influencer status affects each of its subjects.
Heiner becomes uncomfortable when he begins getting messages calling out his new persona and fake followers.
Bailey dismisses the inauthenticity of the experiment, saying, “If you asked me if I would rather take 100,000 fake followers or 100 real ones, I’m taking the real ones all day."
Even Druckman, who embraces the lifestyle the most, accepting gifts from brands and taking a trip to Las Vegas with other influencers, comes to a different conclusion after the COVID-19 pandemic hits, saying, "I don't need to brag that I got free stuff for no reason right now."
"I've had so many realizations into how, like, fake all of this is," Druckman adds. "Seeing influencers post bikini pictures while there's opera singers singing on balconies in Italy. Can't you notice or acknowledge or call action to something that's not yourself and your body on the beach? It just feels inauthentic and shows me something I don't want to do."
“It's not just about the fake followers and the fake photos and the fake fame that's so troubling here," Bilton says at the end of the film. "At the end of the day, they don't make you feel better about yourself. The entire concept of influencing is to make you feel worse.”
Bilton, Druckman and Heiner joined TODAY with Hoda & Jenna Thursday to talk more about the doc's impact.
"I think the one thing that I took away from this ... is that almost 90 percent of kids today want to be famous influencers; that is the job they want more than anything else on this planet," said Bilton, a journalist who's covered technology for 15 years. "And when you look at the numbers, there are potentially about 200 million people on big tech companies, Instagram, so on and so forth, that are considered influencers because they have a huge number next to their name. They have a million followers, or 100,000. And I wanted to show in this film that that number's not real. Most of the time, it's completely made up."
"I learned quite a bit, but mostly just that everything isn't what it seems, that people are trying but at the end of the day they're kind of deceiving people," said Druckman. "So, trying to be more honest and transparent with social media is what I'm going to be doing moving forward with my Instagram."
"It is sad, thinking that you're looking for likes and validation from strangers, and you really don't need any of that stuff," Heiner said. "That's what I took away from the whole experience, is that I don't need these likes from these random people who I barely know."