Web series The Glass Bedroom, currently on ABC iview, aims to provoke conversations about social media.
The 6×5 minute series, directed by Kate Blackmore and produced by Bethany Bruce, profiles six different artists who use Instagram to create self-portraits.
It was commissioned for Art Bites, a joint initiative by the ABC and Screen Australia that was designed to encourage art-related content from early career filmmakers.
For the past decade, Blackmore has worked as a performance artist with the collective Barbara Cleveland, and the series is inspired by her interest in “the way that people perform in particular ways and in everyday contexts.”
“I started noticing that these young people were using Instagram as a platform for performance. There was a really interesting fusion of life and lifestyle, author and subject, personality and performance in their posts,” said the director.
Blackmore was introduced to producer Bruce through the series’ EP Bridget Ikin (Sherpa) – with whom Bruce was working at Felix Media thanks to a Screen Australia Enterprise grant.
Bruce was attracted to Blackmore's distinctive point of view.
“You can see in the series; she’s got quite a nuanced take on the performative self; peeling back the layers of these artists and revealing quite intimate portraits,” the producer told IF.
Each subject in the series was chosen for doing “interesting and provocative” things online.
“They’re not just taking photographs of food or banal aspects of their lives. The majority of them take selfies, and that’s what I’m interested in; how they perform a particular persona,” said Blackmore.
In particular, Blackmore wanted The Glass Bedroom to offer a counterpoint to the kinds of typical conversations about Instagram.
“Conversations around social media are generally quite reductive. Particularly with the older generation, there are a lot of words like narcissism and self-indulgence and things like that floating around when people talk about online profiles,” she said.
“What I was seeing with these particular artists, especially [those] from the young millennial generation, was that they were using the platform as a way to promote more marginalised identities. It was sort of a political platform for them.”
“So for example, Rowen Oliver – who’s one of the artists [profiled], who is a trans woman – she uses the platform to create more visibility around trans identities, to normalise the experience of trans identities. Even though she’s posting selfies every day, it’s kind of a political act.”
With a limited budget and each episode only five minutes long, Bruce said they had to know going into production exactly what they wanted to cover, which meant a detailed scripting process ahead of shooting.
“Confines of budget and time [meant] we had to work in quite a methodical way. It wasn’t so much that the story came to us in the footage; we very much knew what we wanted.”
The Glass Bedroom was shot by DOP Bonnie Elliott (Spear), who shaped each episode to the subject’s aesthetic.
“It was really important that the visual style responded to the artist’s own Instagram themes. For me, it was an obvious decision because they’re all amazing content creators; they’re experts in self-branding, the visual language and image economy,” said Blackmore.
“Bonnie looked at all of the feeds of the artists beforehand; the way the script and each shot worked was very much in response.”
Each episode is backed by a soundtrack from Aussie electronic musician Rainbow Chan – the first person Blackmore approached.
“She’s also from that generation and she understands Instagram. She sent us the main theme song, the intro track first. That was just so perfect, we had no changes. As soon as we heard that we were like – that’s the sound of the series,” said Blackmore.
Overall, the series took a year to put together, and Bruce is quick to underline the team's gratitude for the support from Screen Australia and the ABC.
“We would never have been able to get this funded any other way, and we both now have [a] credit with a broadcaster.”
The Glass Bedroom is on ABC iview until Feb 16.