WILL & CARLY: Selfie Dystopia

The London based duo Will & Carly’s signature films delve deeper into society’s most pressing issues, including the latest ‘trend’ for cosmetic surgery based on Snapchat filters.

Carly tells us more about this on the basis of their film ‘FilterFace’, as well as other projects past and upcoming.

WILL & CARLY: Selfie Dystopia 1
Will & Carly, FilterFace, Filmstill, 2020

To the question “what does a face show?” one could quite simply answer: a person. A face has its own particularities that we recognise and that stand out. Immediately, the face calls for this kind of response linked to identity.

But now it seems that the face is being put to the test: airbrushing and filters add specs to your selfie, from erased pores to lifted jowls, huge eyes or even bunny ears…

a ‘flawless face’ a la Insta or Snapchat that is so transformed it looks surreal.

Will & Carly, FILTERFACE, Filmstill, 2020
Will & Carly, FilterFace, Filmstill, 2020

This quest for ‘perfection’ is a symptom of body dysmorphia, which we discussed with Carly on the occasion of their latest film, ‘FilterFace’. The duo Will and Carly is known for their thought-provoking films that go deep beneath the ‘skin’ of society’s troubles. Let’s find out more about their work and what motivates and inspires them….

WILL & CARLY: Selfie Dystopia 2

Air, fire, water, earth…which of these elements would you choose in relation to your self and your creative practice, and why?

That’s a very interesting opening question, and one we’ve never been asked before so thank you.

Having toyed between fire and earth, we’ve settled on Fire.

Fire because we’re very excitable and passionate people who enjoy making provocative films that shine a light on important topics in ways they haven’t been seen before.

We like to make stimulating films that highlight crucial subjects from another angle.

Will and Carly, Photo credit: Marco Mori

We are all very appearance focused. Instagram is basically a clown costume: an image of joy, of perfection […] but reality is chaos.

[Alex Lockwood, owner of Elephant Gallery]

Will & Carly, FILTERFACE, Filmstill, 2020
Will & Carly, FilterFace, Filmstill, 2020


This aspect of Insta is pushed to the extreme with Snapchat and its range of ‘Filter Faces’, including clown-like ones… What is ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’ and why did you choose performance and dance to address this issue?

Snapchat Dysmorphia is what doctors have labelled this new mental health disorder whereby young people are becoming so addicted to their filtered selfies that they’re seeking out plastic surgery to become the idealised, filtered version of themselves.

The problem stems from the whole concept of social media and the role of “likes”. Young people, in particular, are becoming increasingly addicted to the likes and comments they receive on their posts.

Due to this bizarre form of social validation, they are choosing to go under the knife to look like their best performing post.

Will & Carly, FilterFace, Behind the scenes stills, 2020
Will & Carly, FilterFace, Behind the scenes stills, 2020

This is both alarming and surreal.

We wanted to use dance because we felt that the social media is becoming this weird, disturbing performance – some kind of twisted show – where people flaunt and parade themselves in front of their peers. It’s perpetuated by the rise of social media influencers who are idolised and worshipped by their fans.

FilterFace takes these behaviours, and our inner struggles and translates them into dance.

Will & Carly, FilterFace, Behind the scenes stills, 2020
Will & Carly, FilterFace, Behind the scenes stills, 2020

I’m not so interested in how they move as in what moves them

[Pina Bausch]

In ‘FilterFace’, movement creates a tension and suspense that’s really gripping, dancing to try breaking free from hiding oneself. It creates a kind of push and pull effect of fear and hope, vulnerability and inner struggle. Can you tell us more about the choreography itself and ‘behind-the-scenes’ working with Isabella Mahmoud ?

We had the pleasure of working with Isabella on a previous project, and knew her distinctive and unique style would be perfect for FilterFace. She has a very visceral and physical approach to her choreography, you can feel every inch of stress that she puts her body under and the emotion of every small movement.

We knew we wanted the choreography to draw inspiration from the behaviours and practices found on social media; the perpetual camera posing, body contorting for a perfect shot and ritualistic worshipping of people because of their appearance.

Isabella took this and transformed it into a dark, dreamlike ballet.

Will & Carly, FilterFace, Filmstill, 2020
Will & Carly, FilterFace, Filmstill, 2020

Is there a particular genre of cinema or music that inspired you for the atmosphere you wanted to recreate in Filter Face? The denouement is quite surreal…

Originally the plan for the music was to compose a nightmarish version of an old music box melody.

Something candy coated but with a slight sinister edge.

A little ballerina locked away, alone in the darkness, waiting to perform, waiting for her chance to put on a show and shine.

Will & Carly, FilterFace, Behind the scenes stills, 2020
Will & Carly, FilterFace, Behind the scenes stills, 2020

But then, I guess the great thing about filmmaking is that sometimes you just stumble on something that embodies all the qualities you were after but didn’t know existed.

When we heard “Panic” by Forest Swords we couldn’t believe it. It had something we couldn’t put our finger on but which felt so right.

Mournful, hypnotic with a painful loneliness left us feeling haunted and in awe.

Will & Carly, FilterFace, Behind the scenes stills, 2020
Will & Carly, FilterFace, Behind the scenes stills, 2020

Fear is your only true enemy

This quote from one of your films, ‘No more Knives LDN’, resonates ever more poignantly today…Can you tell us more about that particular project?

A lot of our work tries to tackle human and social issues close to our heart. In 2018, London suffered a knife crime epidemic with record numbers of young Londoners being killed in a spate of stabbings.

It got so bad that it was almost becoming normal to read about on your daily commute.

Will & Carly, FilterFace, Behind the scenes stills, 2020
Will & Carly, FilterFace, Behind the scenes stills, 2020


We wanted to explore this serious subject matter without resorting to familiar tropes.

Poetry is a powerful tool of influence and has been used as a way to convey messages and emotions throughout history.

When elegant, undiluted and eloquent words flow from the mouth and mind of a young person, it is captivating and spellbinding.

We knew by combining spoken word with arresting visuals we could create a powerful film that would compel people to sit up and take notice.

Will & Carly, FilterFace, Filmstill, 2020
Will & Carly, FilterFace, Filmstill, 2020

Can you give us examples of other projects you have worked on and / or plan to do that address aspects of our psychology or other social issues, especially since confinement?

Recent events have made us question our white privilege and subsequently the racial prejudice black people experience in the UK.

We have written a script and put together a treatment and are now in the process of trying to find some funding/production support.

The film aims to shine a light on the daily racial bias experienced by the black community to help inspire compassion, understanding and change.

2020 must be the year that we turn the tide by consciously being anti-racist and proactively undoing any racial bias that exists within our society.

Will & Carly, FilterFace, Behind the scenes stills, 2020
Will & Carly, FilterFace, Behind the scenes stills, 2020

Do you have personal favourites in music you find uplifting at the moment, besides for your creative work?

We listen to a lot of techno. And a lot of Afrobeats.

We recently watched a film called Babyteeth by Shannon Murphy and there was this scene where the lead actress dances euphorically to this track called “Come Meh Way” by Sudan Archives.

That is now a firm feature on our playlist.

“Come Meh Way” by Sudan Archives

Do you consider yourself spiritual and how might this feed into your work?

I wouldn’t say we’re spiritual as such, but we have a moral compass that guides and informs the work we do and we have a real affinity with nature.

Ultimately our work aims to raise awareness of important issues, and inspire change.

Hopefully we can leave the world in a better state than we found it.

Will & Carly, FilterFace, Behind the scenes stills, 2020
Will & Carly, FilterFace, Behind the scenes stills, 2020

A phrase or word of wisdom that guides you these days…?

Hope

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT WILL & CARLY ON THEIR WEBSITE OR FOLLOW THEIR WORK ON INSTAGRAM HERE!

Author: Alexandra Etienne