Fake Famous: HBO Max’s New Documentary About Insta-Fame

“There’s so much that goes into portraying something that’s not really there” – New HBO Max documentary “Fake Famous” shows the work, the illusion and the tedium of influencer culture

fake famous
Image courtesy of HBO Max

Fame seems “like a good thing, and everyone wants it… So, if everybody wants it…” – That somewhat skeptical, somewhat rhetorical statement comes from Wylie, one of the influencers-in-the-making featured in Nick Bilton’s new documentary Fake Famous, streaming now on HBO Max and HBO Nordic. We’re queuing it up as the latest #WeekendWatch because it’s one of those films that does exactly what you think it’s going to do – and what you wanted it to do in the first place – while also giving us a peak behind the curtain of what goes on in the world of the “Instagram-famous”. Which, you’ll be shocked to discover, we don’t have any first-hand knowledge of, but we’re just as curious as the next person.

As a special correspondent for Vanity Fair, the film’s writer and director Nick Bilton has a keen eye for what it takes to stand out in a fast-paced, highly saturated media environment; so, he put his powers to the test by holding an open casting to find the next major influencer. Or, rather, to find a few lesser-known types with loads of potential, whose image and social media presence he could craft so expertly that they’d be able to rise beyond just influencer status – they’d be famous.

The doc centers around three such hopefuls – Dominique, Wylie and Chris – as they learn, grow and, yes, fake their way through photoshoots, follows and collabs in the hopes of catching their big break. And this is serious business for the three; a thriving social media account can mean getting spotted by brands, receiving free products and, if all the stars align, quitting their day jobs. So getting that perfect shot is an absolute must – even if that means crafting a complete illusion, and one that’s way more boring than the rest of us would ever guess:

“Working a menial job is hard, but “Fake Famous” demonstrates that being an influencer, too, can be a tedious kind of labor. In one amusing sequence, Bilton takes us behind the scenes of a photo shoot in which Dominique and Wylie are shown partaking in one-per-cent-like activities such as sipping champagne and eating chocolates poolside at the Four Seasons, relaxing blissfully on an international flight, and receiving a luxurious spa treatment.

“All of this, however, is smoke and mirrors: in the pictures, which are shot in quick succession at a single location, a toilet seat held aloft mimics a plane’s window, the champagne is apple juice, the chocolates are pats of butter dipped in cocoa powder, and the rose-petal-infused spa basin is a plastic kiddie pool.”
Naomi Fry, staff writer at The New Yorker.

fake famous
Image courtesy of HBO Max

Whatever your takeaway from this documentary, we can probably all agree that influencer fame – even the fake kind – is way more than just being pretty or knowing how to take a good picture. It was so interesting to see more of what goes into these ‘fabulous’ photo shoots, something Naomi Fry called “a kind of D.I.Y. creativity about all of this, a spirit of making do”; which is pretty impossible to fake, even if the picture’s not quite what it seems.

Fake Famous is streaming now on HBO Max and HBO Nordic.