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Hot Docs 2023: Qs à la mode with… Sophie Compton and Reuben Hamlyn (Another Body)

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Co-directors Sophie Compton and Reuben Hamlyn explore the dangerous implications of deepfake technology in Another Body. We posed our Qs à la mode to the pair, and here’s what they shared!

If we had to describe our film using only three adjectives, they would be: Chilling, inspiring, tech-savvy.

We decided to make this film because: Deepfakes are being weaponized as the latest tool of violence against women — used to shame, minimize, and silence. These videos are fake, but their impacts are all too real. This abuse, which disproportionately targets women, reduces their full participation in all aspects of life. We wanted to humanize these ideas, show [viewers] how they play out across a life, and chart the extraordinary strength it takes to fight against these social impulses. We hope [our film] will bolster efforts to rewrite the laws that govern the Internet, and deepen people’s understanding of how online misogyny has very tangible impacts on our world.

The thing that surprised us most about our film’s subject/topic was: Seeing the true extent and depth of the silencing effect deepfakes engender has been shocking. We came to understand the depth and breadth of this — people who have changed names, changed jobs, feared telling close friends and family. Of the hundreds of thousands of survivors, there are only a handful who feel safe to talk about this publicly. Silencing at this scale is having an unnoticed impact on women’s participation in society.

Our favorite moment/scene/sequence in our film is: The investigation scene where Taylor and Julia take matters into their own hands, and dive into the disturbing world of deepfake forums to hunt down the person who targeted them. This scene plays in almost real-time — interspersed with backstories about the guy who did it — and what it follows is a live investigative process in which the women discover far more than they could ever have imagined. We love the emotional range in that scene: Taylor goes from being disturbed and anxious to fired up and angry as the hunt for clues picks up pace… to devastated upon discovering new information.

The most challenging part of making our film was: Protecting the identity of our contributors, while telling their stories in a deeply personal way. Few targets of deepfake abuse share their story due to the risk of retaliation. Due to the risks involved for the contributors, we needed to develop a filmmaking practice that would ensure Taylor and Julia’s identities would be protected. That challenge [then] became the project’s greatest creative opportunity. “Taylor” and “Julia” are pseudonyms. Two actresses offered their faces to Taylor and Julia to be their deepfake “face veils” and protect their identity. Identifying details, such as names, locations, and Taylor’s college have been altered. And we use state-of-the-art 3D graphics made with game-engine software Unreal Engine to reenact the physical environments we cannot show.

Our most invaluable piece of doc-making gear was/is: Zoom. It was already our vision before the pandemic hit for Taylor to self-document her journey via video calls and intimate video diaries. We wanted to get access to moments that we could never capture with film crew — the live in-the-moment updates as her investigation progressed, the late nights and early mornings she spent dealing with this situation. When Covid hit, we realized we were already running an entirely virtual production. Without the constraints of time and budget, Zoom let us spend hours and hours talking to Taylor, and the freedom to explore parts of the story that we may never have uncovered otherwise.

One piece of documentary-filmmaking advice we’d like to share with aspiring documentarians is: Keep investigating. We spent months looking through deepfake forums before we came across Taylor’s story by fluke. Then, when she was pursuing her case, we were shocked at the revelations that kept on emerging. We nearly stopped delving at so many points, and if we had, there would have been so much story left untold.


Want to check out their film, or just learn more about it?
Get the scoop, and your tickets, here!

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