The Making of We’re All Going to the World’s Fair

The 22nd will see the realease of the Sundance sensation on HBO Max.

The screen splashes a blue aura onto the basement walls, onto the dusty keyboard, onto the teenage boy’s face. Right now, in 2002, he’s talking with his friends, attempting to ignore the messages from WAJ that continue to pop-up with an alarming frequency.

The boy is twelve, WAJ over twenty but who’s to know what’s real? They never met, except online, on this message board dedicated to Scream fanfictions. A tight-knit community. Recurrent users make their way in the works of others, only to meet a cruel fate. A collective creation reminiscent of the Lovecraft mythos, on a much smaller scale.

WAJ first Dm’d the boy explaining he’s gay, unemployed, living at his parents’ house. Too many times the boy had to fight the suicidal tendancies of this adult he’s never even met. Boy’s just a grade schooler. He thinks WAj is lonely. The young man’s trauma is a burden to the teenager.

Hence why the boy’s ignoring WAJ right now, in the blue bubble of the screen. Auto-defense. Mechanism spanned in millions of years of evolution. Every time the boy clicks he’s online, WAJ contacts him. So he’s started to pretend he’s not there. To be alone with his friends.

But Waj’s last message catches the boy’s eyes.

“I’m becoming a vampire,” it says. “I’m scared.”

The boy doesn’t think this is true, doesn’t even consider it could be a grooming scheme. Imagine, just for one instant, if the internet had enabled him to meet a real life vampire.

In 2018, Jane Schoenbrun, then known as Dan, would unleash upon the world a found footage documentary named A Self-Induced Hallucination. Which had a fair amount of success for something posted online. Two teens had just taken one of their friends to the wood before stabbing her forty times claiming they did it for the Slenderman.

Jane had never heard of the Slenderman mythos or the Creepypasta community. But this horde of people coming together to create collectively resonated with her. She found acertain poetry in the earlier webisodes. Before the mainstream took over and everyone emulated whatever had first been working.

Still, she knew this story because she had already lived through it. lived through the creation and the power play, through the online sensation of belonging.

At that time, Jane had “only” helped a group of filmmakers make unconscious:collective. A project in which filmmakers had to direct the dreams of others.

Jane says she learned a lot about her as an artist through helping make this film. How to make something appear dream-like for instance. To try and create connections between two sequences using only our subconscious. A process she would use in We’re All Going to the World’s Fair to try and emulate the randomness of the YouTube algorithm.

The documentary gains momentum but does not fill the void. Jane needs to make a movie about Creepypasta, about hauntology but more importantly about her own transition since she’s beginning HRT. A movie about a character trying to belong, a movie about dysphoria. To write it, she drowns herself in Alex G’s music and the Blue Nile band, trying to get in a transelike state. Jane says she’s putting image on music is how she directs. She has this idea the film cinematography should begin as usual and devolve into the shitty aesthetic of computer webcam capture.

Luckily, her previous efforts have not been in vain. So she writes to everyone she knows asking for money, for anyone who would like to help her produce her movie. Most are dead ends but she finds Dweck Productions.

One of the important part of the movie is the algorithm feel. For this the team hires YouTube filmmaker Evan Santiago or ASMR artist Slight Sounds to give them videos that’ll play randomly through the movie. A producer is given the role of knowing all the fake online material they created and when it’s supposed to play.

There’s still the cast problem. While Jane knows who’s going to play JBL, she still has no Casey. It’s first through pictures that she takes a liking to Anna Cobb. Audition confirms the aspiring actress is everything Jane wanted. Anna doesn’t come from an acting background but she always wanted to be an actress. She’ll prepare for three months for the role. Nonetheless, Jane still hides the lead who she is going to play with, in order to get more genuine reaction out of her.

For the location, one of Jane’s friends agreed to host the whole production for a month, which is very lucky when you get the type of DIY filmmaking that went behind the scenes. A place Anna Cobb claims was perfect for this movie for it really gave her space.

Jane has a very precise idea of her movie. Ever since the inception. Hence why she knows she needs a BRZRK song. BRZRK is a producer with a cult-following thanks to My Teenage Dream Ended album. The producer accept the collaboration and once Jane sees Anna dancing for the first time she hushes: Stop. Don’t try to repeat that. We’ll just do it in front of the camera next.

But even though Jane says she puts images on top of music she still has no score for her movie.

Shooting ends right before the pandemic. The movie seems mute although it is even more relevant now. She did write while listening to Alex G, so one of her friends told her: You don’t know how much musicians would like to score a movie. You asked BRZRK. Ask Alex, maybe he’ll accept.

Jane does. A whole movie bargained through emails with producers, with online creators, with music artists.

At first Alex Gaccepts and tries to emulate already existing soundtracks. Soon, he and Jane devised this plan where the music will go against the audience’s expectations.

Everything is falling in place.

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair premieres at Sundance. Digital edition because of the pandemic. A lot of interviewers think it fits the film. People are now watching a young girl act in front of her laptop through their laptop.

Movie gets picked up for more money than it was made with a release both in theaters and on HBO Max. Although some distributors claim the movie is too artsy, that they want something akin but not exactly like that, Jane’s creation starts a bidding war. Her second feature will be produced by A24.

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Basile Lebret

Basile Lebret

I write about the history of artmaking, I don’t do reviews.