Filmmaker Bert Marcus produced the 2010 documentary “Teenage Paparazzo” before the age of Instagram, when celebrities were still somewhat shrouded in mystery save for the occasionally revelatory paparazzi shot. How times have changed. Marcus’ latest directorial project, “The American Meme,” which debuts Friday on Netflix, takes on what happens when social media stars’ public and private personas begin to blur.
Marcus and his crew followed Paris Hilton, Josh Ostrovsky, Brittany Furlan and Kirill Bichutsky for two years in order to examine how constantly feeding the maw of social media has affected their psyches.
“People have become open books and marketable commodities with the rise of social media, but what’s the effect of maintaining false personas to keep these businesses afloat?” asked Marcus. “We all put celebrities on a pedestal, but I wanted to demonstrate the real highs and lows that we can all relate to.”
Although the four have vastly different audiences, Marcus found that all of them “were forthright and honest in sharing the fundamental need to be loved. A lot of these characters became enraptured with seeking the attention of their fans. It’s a tricky balance to use social media as a tool rather than having it use you.”
He also interviewed DJ Khaled, Hailey Baldwin and Emily Ratajkowski for the film, some of whom turned up for Tuesday night’s Hollywood premiere and after party.
Marcus said he felt compelled to make the film because “as connected as we all are, there is an overwhelming feeling of being alone, where ‘FOMO’ is taken to a whole other level. The goal was to allow the viewer to see how they play a role in this, to realize we all have created this and are a part of it.”
Marcus said his next project may involve the public’s pushback on social media vis-à-vis Facebook. “There’s a dark side for sure,” he said.