Under the Influencer - Taking Time to Grow

Under the Influencer - Taking Time to Grow

Now available as video-on-demand, the new independent film, Under the Influencer, written and directed by Alex Haughey, takes a good look at celebrity culture and social media influence from the point of view of the influencer. After working for a social media influencer himself, Haughey recalls that his job wasn't so good but ended up being a fascinating character study.


Meet Tori (Taylor Joree Scorse). She's been on social media for 10 years but, now in her early 20's, is getting a little too old for her audience. Her show, Tori Time, has built up quite a following with the help of Sarah (Sara Young Chandler), her assistant, and Christopher (Zach Paul Brown), her producer. Christopher is always pushing her to be camera-ready and she is, even in the doctor's office.


Deciding to do something for herself, she buys a carcerous plant, earning her the undisguised disdain of the nursery attendant, who tells her that plant needs pruning every day. When Christopher sees Tori in the garden, he tells her, "There's no time for contemplation! Got videos to make!" The plant becomes a symbol of Tori's journey to life beyond social media.



Taylor Joree Scorse as Tori in "Under the Influencer."  © 2023 Vision Films. All Rights Reserved. 


Tori needs constant care, just like her plant. Her number of views is plummeting and the comments on her videos are anything but flattering. She tries to get a leg up by appearing on her friend, Becca's (Ava Westcott), show, "Mecca of Becca," but that backfires. She sees shrinks and tarot card readers and even converses with a version of herself who gives dubious advice.


When she decides to share something more personal, the negative comments leave her reeling. Tori's journey to self-discovery is painful and public and she finally lands in an unexpected place: a church. The scene is quite funny as she struggles to pray, having no clue what to do, but her prayer is honest. As she prays to God the Father, she says, "Authenticity seems like something you'd approve of."



Taylor Joree Scorse as Tori in "Under the Influencer."  © 2023 Vision Films. All Rights Reserved. 


So, Tori decides to go for authenticity and unexpected things happen, especially when she sheds her social media persona. Not only does the audience gets glimpses of the real Tori behind the garish makeup and fake smile, but so does Sayer (Spencer Vaughn Kelly), whom she meets in the botanical gardens. Their Before Sunrise-esque conversation opens all kinds of possibilities as, even though the ending is disappointingly unrealistic, we are left hoping that Tori is open to embracing them.



Spencer Vaughn Kelly as Sayer and Taylor Joree Scorse as Tori in "Under the Influencer."  © 2023 Vision Films. All Rights Reserved. 


In my ministry, I often speak with teenagers about bringing their faith and values into their social media choices. Many of the resources on internet safety focus on the user, which is good and proper. However, when talking about balance in our online lives, we sometimes forget to think about the people we admire, the influencers. Under the Influencer fills a gap and reminds us to remember that what we see online is never the whole story of a person's life. We might even be moved to pray for them.


Check out this activity from the Pauline Center for Media Studies: Praying for Celebrities.







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