Q&A | Samantha Severin
Samantha Severin’s new short film “Blue” peeks into the life of a cam girl living somewhere between pleasure and panic. Blurring the lines between performance and personal life, the main character, played by Veronica Vilim, indulges in online attention and eventually, becomes wary when privacy is invaded off-screen.
The New York filmmaker wanted to explore the idea of privacy in the digital age where tech companies shamelessly prey on our personal information. Consistent with the film’s name, there is a generous amount of eerie blue light throughout the movie — the kind of light that emits from TV and computer screens. Occasional subway shots add to the overall mood, creating an almost anti-utopian outlook on the world we live in.
It’s a social commentary presented through Severin’s surreal lens. And with a sprinkle of horror scores every now and then, the short film is certain to keep you on edge. Paying tribute to the film’s release on Nowness, Severin shares with Flaunt, BTS images, and discusses the paranoia that comes with living in New York City.
How was the idea for “Blue” conceived? What inspired you to make a short film about the life of a camgirl?
I wanted to make something that showed a female character simultaneously enjoying male attention and being fearful of it. A camgirl can engage with the attention safely and anonymously behind a computer screen, where it’s fun and empowering. She even plays it up, performing an idea she has of what men want: she’s sweet and pretty, uncomplicated, interested in what they have to say and in pleasing them. It’s an act she does for money. Things take a turn when the barrier of anonymity breaks down and the attention becomes threatening and invasive. I wanted it to be a heightened portrayal of what it feels like being a woman and facing potential predation constantly.
Camming also appealed to me because it’s symbolic of the voyeurism of the internet. The idea that this character doesn’t know who’s on the other side of the screen feels like what it means to have a digital existence. We’ve never been able to peek into people’s private lives the way we can now. It’s so easy to access others and be accessed ourselves. It’s great in a lot of ways because people who haven’t been so visible before are now being seen and heard. But also strange - everyone’s watching and performing for each other.
And it obviously goes further than just social. Tech companies are constantly mining our personal data to more effectively advertise to us. The other day I wrote “buy toothpaste” in a note on my phone and saw an ad for Colgate on a social media platform within twenty minutes. Privacy has disappeared. When you look down at your phone, there are full companies of people looking back, studying you.
What was working on this project like for you?
I wrote the script years ago, in 2015 or 2016 when I first moved to New York City, but I didn’t pursue making it into anything at that point. The paranoia in it definitely comes from some experiences I had in the city, being approached on the subway, being followed, being chased home by a stranger. We shot it a little over a year ago. This is the first thing I’ve directed so every part of it has been a learning experience.
What was the hardest part about making this project happen? What was the most rewarding one?
The hardest part was paying for it. The most rewarding part was being on set making this idea in my head a real thing.
What role does this project play in your professional career? Where do you want to go next?
I want to do a music video. I have other short films written I’d also love to shoot and eventually want to work up to a feature. Or maybe I’ll retire now.
Written by: Valerie Stepanova