I Am A Channel Image

I Am A Channel

By Andrew Stover | November 7, 2022

In a world driven by social media, behavior is often influenced for the worse. So, it would only make sense that influencer culture was an inexorable development. If you didn’t know already, an influencer is somebody who strives to build an online audience and then bombard them with content for financial gain. In the satirical and frighteningly relatable indie drama I Am A Channel, writer-director Brian Wiebe documents the sordid actions of an influencer that goes to great lengths to captivate a malleable audience.

That influencer is a young woman named Joanna (co-writer Christine Vrem-Ydstie), but she goes by Heidi online. Under her ebullient Heidi persona, Joanna addresses her online audience about her skin condition. Through some excellent cutting by Angie Vargos, the perspective frequently shifts from the phone camera filming Joanna/Heidi to the camera filming her from a farther and generally safer distance, ultimately detached from Joanna’s influencer facade. Right away, it is apparent that she is playing a role, and her persistence in the cause morphs into obsession, desperation, and then delusion.

Vrem-Ydstie and Wiebe weave together a collection of influencer videos throughout I Am A Channel. In Joanna’s case, she makes a breakfast tutorial, advertises a unique brand of essential oils, and takes on a new cleansing diet to “inspire” her fanbase. These tactics are very much in line with what today’s influencers do for money. Unfortunately, Joanna turns to vanity and consumerism at the expense of sincerity, thus revealing the baneful influence of influencer culture on impressionable young people. Still, Wiebe doesn’t get too serious, throwing in some abruptly funny scenes that poke fun at Joanna’s on and off-camera personas.

“…her persistence to the cause morphs into obsession, desperation, and then delusion.”

When not filming for her channel, Joanna lets go of her buoyant role and becomes her true self — crass, cynical, and unprincipled. Joanna is an unlikable protagonist. Even so, through the delivery of fervid gazes and mutters, Vrem-Ydstie finds herself committing to the role (or should I say roles?) completely, making it hard to look away. There’s a scene where Joanna filmed herself dancing with a Greek mask. She later receives backlash and is compelled to make an apology video. In it, the actor squeezes out tears and gives a contrived apology. I can’t count how many times YouTubers have made halfhearted apology videos. Joanna asks, “You guys love me anyway, right?” While money is usually an influencer’s motivation, so are love and adulation, which the film smartly and bluntly, touches on

Fifty minutes in, the plot advances into the spiritual. The lead becomes convinced that the gift of spiritual healing has been bestowed upon her. The idea that an influencer would stoop to such levels is not extremely outrageous. But the progression of this development is underwritten and rushed. Moreover, the scenes involving Joanna and her boyfriend (Ryan Imhoff) don’t quite work, but that has more to do with the boyfriend needing to be more fleshed out.

I Am A Channel is a sharp and quirky breakdown of influencer culture. It has a compelling lead performance, a satirical tone, and good editing. Wiebe clearly understands the common influencer and the lengths they may go to attract a fanbase.

I Am A Channel (2022)

Directed: Brian Wiebe

Written: Brian Wiebe, Christine Vrem-Ydstie

Starring: Christine Vrem-Ydstie, Ryan Imhoff, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

I Am A Channel  Image

"…a sharp and quirky breakdown of influencer culture."

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