How Should a Film ME?*

by Emily Wells

Me_by_Logan_White_Final_072adj.jpg

Photo: Logan White

Me_by_Logan_White_Final_085.jpg

Photo: Logan White

How Should a Film ME?*

An interview with Jefery Levy and Susan Traylor inside an essay by Emily Wells inside a play in one act by Werner Barnsdall

ME

begins with fictional Hollywood producer Jefery Levy—played by real-life Levy—telling his actress friend Susan Traylor—played by Traylor, making sense now?—that he has one of the biggest shows in the world. Levy is under the delusion that a reality show, three seasons in, is being made about him as he goes about life in his own home. Jefery asks Susan to step in and write, produce, and direct his life in order to help bring his ratings back up.

In real life, Levy is a successful producer,  and Traylor’s a successful actress. Yet the two co-wrote and produced this film, leading viewers to question what’s fact and what’s fiction. And that line becomes increasingly difficult to keep sight of as the film progresses—to the filmmakers’ credit. The film’s profound self-awareness is what makes it work.

YOU and YOUR FRIEND brunch in Beverly Hills.

YOUR FRIEND: Oh my god we’d make such a good reality show.

YOU: Why?

YOUR FRIEND: We are so L.A.

YOU: That’s what everyone in L.A. says.

YOUR FRIEND: So?

YOU: So if everyone had a reality show then who’d watch them?

YOUR FRIEND: Oh-muh-gawd they’re coming. Play it cool.

 “I stumbled upon something called ‘The Truman Delusion,’” Levy says, in a real-life interview. “It is an actually abnormal psychological state, of which there have been approximately one thousand documented cases by some East Coast-based psychiatrists. In the Truman Delusion, the patient believes that he/she is the star of his/her own “show” and that he/she is being filmed at all times.”

The cast, which includes Nathalie Love, Steve Agee, and Molly Ringwald,all work together brilliantly to blur the lines between themselves, their self-obsessed characters, and the reality show tropes their characters strive to fulfill. In a mock-ad for an upcoming episode of the reality series, the meta-cast that Traylor has assembled is listed as: a movie star impersonator, a sex-crazed network executive, a stoned-out surfer chick, a neurotic chef, a psychotic maid, a rock ‘n’ roll butler, an idiotic underdressed security guard, a guy in a stupid hat, a writer-director-producer-actress and pathological liar (Traylor), a Levy who thinks he’s the star of his own reality show, a scheming bride, and a jealous husband.

The portended episode promises “a fight, a heart attack, weird sex, lots of drinking, casual drug use, another heart attack, LARPing, and a promise.” The players constantly address the audience, be it real or perceived. These embellished characters rely on each other (and the audience) in order to construct their own identities, which means that their self-performances are often at odds with those of the other characters.

The characters of ME possess a just conviction. “The mission of the show is to ease suffering for all mankind,” Levy says, leaving me once again wondering if he is referring to the show his character thinks he is in, the show Susan’s character is making, or the film itself. Through this poignantly absurd film, Traylor and Levy have created a meta-examination of the reality show industry, identity-obsessed culture, personal performance, and Los Angeles itself. As a viewer, I feel implicated in their critique, but never enough to look away—and that, of course, proves the point. It’s a pertinent work.

JEFERY LEVY and SUSAN TRAYLOR saunter in, laughing, an inside joke perhaps. They take two seats across from you and your friend.

YOUR FRIEND: How do I look?

YOU: Like a self-obsessed narcissist.

YOUR FRIEND: Love you. You’re so real. (pause) Hi Jefery. Susan, hi...

*Heti, S. (2012). How Should a Person Be? New York: Henry Holt and Company.