Invisible Narratives Is The Hollywood Studio Casting Influencers As … Themselves
In 2020, internet fame is just the first rung on the career ladder for popular creators. Influencers have gone on to host television shows or launch music careers or come out with product lines, but they’ve yet to really conquer Hollywood. People like Addison Rae are trying (the TikTok star plays the lead role in the upcoming remake He’s All That), while other companies are finding them voice-acting gigs. Still, influencers have yet to find any lasting success in Hollywood as IRL actors. But production company Invisible Narratives thinks they may have found the solution: casting them as themselves.
“We always say we're this ‘tradigital’ business,” Peter Leeb, the president of Invisible Narratives, tells me in a phone call. “It was always about taking the best of Hollywood, which is storytelling, and taking the components of the digital business and being able to directly reach audiences.”
Invisible Narratives is currently best known for Crimson, a horror flick starring FaZe Clan’s Brian Awadis aka FaZe Rug, who plays himself but with a creepy clown neighbor. Next up: an as-yet-untitled feature starring 22-year-old YouTuber and TikTok star Larray as a fictionalized version of himself who goes back in time to the ‘90s, before smartphones or any of his fame. It’s up to him to work his way back to 2021.
“[Creators are] always looking for new opportunities in terms of expanding their own reach [and] being able to satisfy the need of their audiences beyond social platforms,” Leeb says. “And so we built the company that helps bridge the gap between the two.”
How do you decide which influencers to work with?
We own the collective experience of dealing with the big names and the names that have very strong fandoms but tend not to be in the limelight. It's the blend between the two. We really look at it as [influencers] playing themselves. There was a mistake in Hollywood trying to turn creators into somebody they're not. That's not why audiences have followed them and loved them through and through. So it's about finding the right personality, the right individual or group and fandom more than anything, and molding stories with them.
What does that molding process look like?
We have an ongoing writers' room that we run with hundreds of different types of writers from different backgrounds [working on] different story arcs. And it always starts story first, creator first, more than anything. Then we think about what type of partner we would want that would make a lot of sense. What are their passion points? So if you look at somebody like Larray...we don't want him to be any different. We don't want to push him to levels that audiences aren't used to. The authenticity of everything we do is key in these projects.
This is still a new world for internet creators. Are they given any kind of education to help them adapt?
There's a huge amount of education. Brian [Awadis] has done a number of interviews publicly just about the amount of education and knowledge he's gained from the process. We ultimately paired Brian with a very acclaimed and established Hollywood director and editor in Greg Plotkin. So far [creators] have gotten a tremendous amount of value out of it for themselves personally. I know they're even thinking about how they make their normal videos or TikToks slightly different based on what they're learning.
What are the benefits on your end of working with digital creators?
The whole notion of the business is to be able to work with talent of any type, right? So we started in a more digital nascent state with FaZe Clan and with Larray. But if you extrapolate the term “talent,” it can cover digital creators, it can cover musicians, artists, traditional actors who have an inherent built-in relationship with their audience, which for us is the most important. So even in our feature film, Songbird, we were the first remote Hollywood production. It's a traditional theatrical movie we produced with Michael Bay, but the two stars of it, KJ Apa and Sofia Carson, had that same built-in rooted fandom that's just as rabid as somebody like Larray.
Speaking of, how has the pandemic affected these films?
I mean, we've now made two projects fully completed from idea through distribution. So we've learned a lot when others are still trying to figure out how to do it. I think it puts us in an incredible position to keep building and making more of these projects in the way we've done it. We've reinvented the entire production process from the way we look at the content as it's being shot on set to the protocols, the amount of people that are on set, to locations, to what we can do in post-production.
Have you noticed a difference in how the films are received by viewers when they feature a digital star versus a traditional star?
It's not something they're accustomed to seeing. When you say the word “concert,” everybody in the world knows what a concert is and what the format of the concert is. When we say we're making a feature film with FaZe Rug as himself, there isn't that tangible connection or definition to what that means. There's not a real example I can point to in the marketplace that has done something like we've done. The qualitative angle to the whole thing is strictly what the fans are saying on Twitter and on social platforms right now. And from everything we've seen, there's an overwhelming excitement for this type of content for this fan base.