Follow Her director Sylvia Caminer knows all the potential pitfalls of making a psychosexual thriller: cheesy sex scenes, falling into tropes, and at worst, actors who feel exploited. She avoids them all in the brand-new Follow Her, written by and starring Dani Barker, a former influencer herself whose script skillfully subverts cliche in favor of a meta exploration of the genre.
The film, out today, is Caminer’s first feature after years working as a producer and documentarian, covering subjects ranging from travel to singer Rick Springfield. Caminer uses her skills as a documentarian to quickly convey a sense of place and non-judgmentally immerse you in the world of Jess Peters (Barker).
What Is Follow Her About?
Peters a kind of OnlyFans model/influencer who pulls a decent social media following by recording her odd, paid encounters with men — without their knowledge or consent. (She usually blurs their faces, but one date goes wrong.) Then she meets a handsome weirdo named Tom Brady (yep), who will pay her to help him finish his screenplay. He’s played by an amusingly devilish Luke Cook.
The movie’s release follows a very successful festival run that included FilmQuest and the Austin Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for Dark Matters Feature. The film has earned accolades at every stop for its fun, knowing approach to erotic thriller traditions. Follow Her knows what questions are running through the audience’s heads, and works them into the dialogue between Jess and Tom.
When her foot isn’t in his mouth, that is.
“It’s an erotic thriller about a young woman who goes a bit too far online,” Caminer explains. “I also like to say it’s almost a cautionary tale about social media.”
The script came to Caminer when Barker reached out to one of her filmmaking partners, director John Gallagher, and he recommended Caminer for the job because she had produced several of his films, including Blue Moon, The Deli and Men Lie. She was immediately drawn to Jess.
“I was like, God — a female protagonist who isn’t perfect. I love flawed characters, because I haven’t met anyone that isn’t flawed,” Caminer recalls.
Sylvia Caminer on Knowing and Breaking the Rules
She notes that while Hollywood films are doing a better job of increasing the percentage of women onscreen, “I feel like we might be tending to idolize or put up women on pedestals, and I think that’s not healthy. So I liked a female protagonist who wasn’t perfect — that you’d even think, ‘Well, I’m not sure I’m rooting for her. She’s doing some really morally objectionable things.’
“But yet she fights,” Caminer adds. “I wouldn’t be interested in a woman who was just objectified or didn’t fight back. And she’s a strong, headstrong woman who makes choices and lives by them. And so that was really compelling.”
She worked closely with Barker and Cook to coordinate intimate scenes that veer quickly from passionate to scary to comedic. The fact that Barker was writing for a character she also played helped ensure a basic comfort level. In fact, the script initially went further than the final film.
“I will say that first draft I read was way riskier,” Caminer says. “I think it probably would have been NC-17. So Dani was very comfortable. … I am definitely in the school of less is more. Because I love classic old films. And you look at someone like Hitchcock or even John Ford, all the great old-time directors… you don’t have to do so much.
“You don’t have to show so much. You don’t have gore. There’s a place for gore and horror for sure. That’s probably not my first preference for the type of film I would make though. So yeah, it’s definitely just an R. It’s not even a hard R.”
Follow Her, from Quiver Distribution, is now in select theaters and available on VOD.
Main image: Follow Her writer-director Dani Barker.