Last October, the short film Trophy Boy premiered to a swanky West Hollywood audience, and since its debut, the film — about a sexy-but-insufferable social media influencer who loses his clout when his wealthy benefactor boyfriend dumps him — has received some great news: Trophy Boy is going to be adapted into a full-fledged television series.
The 13-minute short film — watch it below — centers around James (played by Emrhys Cooper, who also directed Trophy Boy), one of those actor-model-jetsetter hybrids for whom social media is a way to flaunt his fabulous life to the masses. “The truth is, I don’t really do much of anything at all,” James tells us at the film’s outset, following a montage of his grandiose socialite’s life. But when his well-off sugar daddy gives him the boot, he finds himself destitute, with no job prospects and hopeless. His response to a friend (Anthony Johnston, who wrote the short) proposing that he could get a job: “Gross.”
It’s a story that frankly doesn’t seem too far-fetched these days, which is why Trophy Boy has resonated with modern audiences. “I never anticipated that on the film’s release it would catch fire the way it did,” Cooper tells Hornet during a discussion about the film’s trajectory. “After Trophy Boy got into the Cannes Film Festival, people started taking notice and looking at it in a serious way. It ended up on the desk of Holly Hines of Dynamic Television. We flew to L.A. to take meetings with them and various other production companies and studios, but decided that Dynamic was the best home.”
The idea of the “influencer” isn’t exactly something new, of course. “Personally, I think it’s been around for a while,” Cooper says. “As a student of history, you can go back as far as Cleopatra, who I believe was the first influencer on a global scale. In recent history you can look at the myths and lore surrounding Jackie Kennedy and how she managed her persona in the media.”
But who could have imagined in Cleopatra’s time that “influencer status” would eventually carry with it the prestige and privileges now associated with being a social media star? “Now it’s on steroids,” says Cooper. “With the advent of social media, everything is speed up. I often think of Andy Warhol’s quote ‘In the future everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame.'”
“More like 30 seconds,” he laughs.
While the James character that Cooper plays in Trophy Boy isn’t exactly a shining example of empathy — or even kindness — the notion of people using social media for self-validation and the crafting of a false sense of superiority isn’t foreign to Cooper, who shares with us an interesting story.
“Over the last five years I really started to notice the schism between the reality of our lives and the avatars that we create for ourselves on social media grow wider and wider,” he says. “It really landed with me a couple of years ago when I was visiting the U.K. An old friend told me he didn’t want to join us for a night on the town because he felt embarrassed that he had been going through financial difficulties and couldn’t keep up. He’d been looking at the highlights of everyone’s lives online and felt like he didn’t measure up. In reality he’s living a successful and balanced life, raising a family and working an honest job, whereas I had been posting the highlights on social media for validation.”
Now that a series version of Trophy Boy is officially in the cards, the all-too-common story of characters like James will naturally reach a larger audience. But the TV adaptation also grants the opportunity to craft additional colorful characters.
The series, which will be named Trophy Boys, expands the world of the short film, following a group of interconnected influencers as they struggle with the demands of being social media stars and maintaining the farfetched life they fabricate for followers.
“The series is inspired and based on a lot of my own personal experiences that will not only entertain, but also hopefully awaken the audience to the dangers of giving too much weight to social media,” Cooper tells us. “Maybe remind them that ‘All that glitters is not gold.'”
Watch the short film Trophy Boy, starring and directed by Emrhys Cooper, here:
The TV adaptation of Trophy Boy is currently being developed.
Featured image by Robin Isherwood