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Talking to the Director Behind Pam Anderson's Sci-Fi Reinvention

Luke Gilford’s ‘Connected’ forces audiences to grapple with loneliness in the modern age. It’s a new dawn for technology, humanism, and the former 'Baywatch' actress.

by Annie Armstrong
Feb 18 2016, 3:00pm

Photo by Tucker Tripp. Images courtesy the artists

This article contains spoilers for Connected, a new sci-fi film that debuted last week on Motherboard. You should watch the film here before reading it. 

Last week, Motherboard released Connected, an exclusive sci-fi short by acclaimed fashion photographer Luke Gilford. The film takes place in the near-future and stars Pamela Anderson as an aging ‘AuraCycle’ instructor struggling to maintain her health both physically and mentally.

Today, The Creators Project releases an interview with Gilford on the making of Connected and how he sees the near future playing out. Read up on his predictions, and check out some ethereal behind the scenes photos from the film, below:

Photo by Tucker Tripp

The Creators Project: So, how did you want audiences to react to the ideas Connected brings up?

Luke Gilford: Well it’s a short so it’s a really condensed idea. We’ve spent a lot of time really exploring these ideas in depth and you know we’ve considered these ideas for a full feature. So it’s really scratching on the surface of a lot of these ideas about how humanity and technology are intersecting in really interesting ways. So I hope that even though it’s a short, that people can start to think about some of those ideas about where we’re going with social media. This isn’t a warning message, it’s purposefully ambivalent, because I myself am really ambivalent about a lot of these things. I’m kind of in this generation that’s a little bit in the middle of people that are a bit older than me that are really scared of technology and people a little bit younger than me are completely accepting of it and don’t think twice about it. So i think that my generation has an interesting relationship with it that’s a little bit ambiguous. I see a lot of the very exciting aspects of technology and how we’re merging with it, and ideas of transhumanism are super interesting to me.

Photo by Tucker Tripp

What is transhumanism to you?

Well, transgender is when you’re transcending gender and transitioning your gender, and transhumanism is transcending humanism and humanity for technology. It’s like when we start to become more like cyborgs. I’m really interested in that and it seems to be, in a lot of ways, where we’re heading in the near-future. This really is a near-future film. It’s not a science fiction film. I tell people that this is five minutes in[to] the future, and that’s something that I worked really hard for people to feel is palpable—that this is now.

Photo by Tucker Tripp

For example, originally the SoulCycle class at the beginning was an actual SoulCycle class with people in the classroom, and at the last minute i decided to change it to a Pelotone cycle class—it’s a brand that’s doing this now. It’s the most famous one that I know where you basically buy the bike and you can watch these pre-recorded classes, and it’s this whole webcam interface. I thought it’s really interesting that this is happening now, and that you can just be in the privacy of your own home taking a SoulCycle class. I was interested in how her character could become more and more alienated—she’s not even interacting with real people she’s that alone. She’s just teaching these classes through a computer screen.

Photo by Tucker Tripp

When she plugs in at the end, is she alone? Or is she transcending alone-ness?

Well, that’s why she’s so desperate to be connected—that even though she’s completely still in her own mind, she’s connecting to a network. It’s like starting a Facebook account—you’re still alone on your computer, but you’re a part of a greater network of people. So, that’s the logic there, she’s feeling connected to this larger network but she’s still entirely alone. Really, it’s a question about what are they doing with her information and where is she going with this, and what happens next in terms of once you are connected.

Photo by Tucker Tripp

That’s interesting that you bring up the different generations. I feel like I’m there too where it’s the older generation within me that feels afraid of technology even though I can’t actually name something that’s inherently wrong about it.

And that’s the thing with Jackie, too. The technology really addresses these things that she’s longing for. And I think that’s the purpose of it, it’s supposed to improve our lives or make things easier. So fundamentally, it’s based on the life that we already know and just trying to make things easier, quicker, whatever. In terms of connection, it is meant to bring people together that wouldn’t already know each other or have similar interests. On the surface, it does all seem great. What we wanted to achieve with the film was to show what’s great about it but also what can also be a little bit scary.

Photo by Tucker Tripp

So you mentioned earlier that Pamela Anderson was sort of reinvented for this film. To what extent was she on-board with that?

Well, it was a process. I’ve previously done work with ideas of self-perception, transformation, and re-invention. Stuff like that. This was done in a bit more of a conceptual way, so I knew with this film that I wanted to explore some of these themes but in a more narrative, grounded way. I’ve always been fascinated by sex symbols like Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot. Their allure rests mainly on the surface, so that always makes me wonder what lies beneath. [Pam Anderson] is the sex symbol of my generation and she’s still such an iconic symbol of America around the world. I’ve always been really curious about her because of all the activism she does.

Photo by Tucker Tripp

I thought, if she has so much empathy for animals and other living things, that might actually make her a good actress. And nobody’s ever thought of her as a good actress—on Baywatch, she told me they’d say, “pretend it’s real! Action!” and, if the shot was in focus, they’d move on. It was never about the craft of filmmaking, really. She says herself that she got away with murder in a bikini, and was just kind of bopping around on the beach and having fun and making money and having kids. Then after she had kids she kind of disappeared, she raised her kids herself without a nanny, and activism became her main thing. Press around the world only asked her about her boobs, so she wrote PETA a letter saying, “use my celebrity to raise issues about something other than my boobs.” She’s still their most famous spokesperson. The emphasis there always made her interesting to me. When we met, I saw a real thoughtfulness and introspection about her life and legacy and the idea of aging. I really wanted to bring forth and draw out a really vulnerable performance that draws the line between reality and fiction.

Photo by Tucker Tripp

Watch all of Luke Gilford’s Connected on Motherboard here, and check out his own work on his website.

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