“It’s a fact: the smartphone and its social media applications are addictive. As habit-forming effects surface at an alarming rate, we seem to shift our gaze. Bite-sized warning flares lift into the public sphere, but this vital discussion rarely goes beyond clickbait headlines and trendy explorations. UNDER THE INFLUENCE is a documentary series that raises a mirror to our obsessive society by building sensitive inroads to the conversation, rather than arriving at some prescriptive conclusion. True stories ripped from the headlines allow our audience to identify with specific characters and plotlines, while respecting the evolving nature of the subject matter.” Director Nicco Quiñones on UNDER THE INFLUENCE which is in the Title Sequence section of SxSW Film 2020.
Editor’s Note: While SxSW was officially cancelled on March 6th, 2020, the below interview was one of many that already took place prior to the festival. To respect the creators, all already performed interviews are presented in their unedited entirety below. All of the below works WILL make their way out into the world in one way or another, and we will update this article with updated information when we have it. — JW
Welcome to the amazing SxSW and congratulations! Are you planning to attend SxSW?
I’m excited to be attending SXSW 2020. Although we’ve shot in Austin before, I have never been to the festival. Our team is honored to be competing at the first SXSW we attend.
What is it about Austin, either the festival or the town itself, that excites you the most?
Matt Morgan, who created our title sequence hails from Fort Worth, TX and John Quiñones, our executive producer originally hails from San Antonio, TX. The entire state holds a special place in all of our hearts; I’m excited to be part of such a special festival in Austin, to hear the distinct musical notes and taste the best barbecue there is.
How did you first hear about the SxSW and wishing to send your project into the festival?
I grew up in Park City, UT and asked for an internship at Park City Television when I was eleven years old. That exposed me to the Sundance Film Festival very young, and to the importance of the entire festival world as a filmmaker. SXSW became a big goal of mine ever since.
Tell me about the idea behind your project and getting it made!
UNDER THE INFLUENCE is a documentary series that has been close to my heart for years. Thus far independently financed, it’s been one of the greatest challenges I’ve ever taken on. Shooting began a few years back, when we started asking questions on camera that we felt many people had become afraid to ask themselves. Once I started tugging at the thread of why people do what they do on social media, the answers came crashing down upon us.
I think what makes the project unique is that I do all of our interviews with a light touch. I’m just as entrenched in our cultural time and place as anyone, just as guilty of experiencing the highs and lows that come with carrying every form of media in our pockets at all times. Our genuine curiosity and willingness to learn has been the fan to the flame of this entire process.
Who are some of your main creative inspirations?
Stanley Kubrick, Errol Morris, Andrew Jarecki, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, John Quiñones, Julian Quiñones, Matt Morgan & Conor Murphy.
How did you put this together from a technical viewpoint? What sort of cameras/lenses did you use and/or did you have any creative challenges in making it?
Our opening sequence was created entirely in Cinema 4D by Zach Law. Matt Morgan began crafting it based off my initial concept, which was further developed by selecting Madge’s song as our theme, diving into the song’s meaning and pre-visualizing the sequence based on its exact timing and feeling. The idea was certainly molded by the process, evolving to be different than the concept we started with. I think that evolution made the final piece what it is.
After SxSW, where is it going next? Anywhere you would love to show it?
After the title sequence of our documentary series premiered at SXSW in March, our team is open to continuing a festival run with it.
If you know of anyone around you wanting to become a filmmaker/creator, what would you suggest to get their start?
Reach out to someone in the filmmaking business, and ask to intern on something they’re working on. Show up, be respectful of people, process, and do the very best work you can. In my experience, that will lead to someone asking if you’re busy tomorrow.
For more information on this film and to follow its progress into the festival world, point your browser to www.sxsw.com/film!