If you’re someone who’s been on the internet most of their life, chances are you’ve been a victim of trolling – the posting of offensive and personal attacks online created with the sole intention of eliciting an emotional response from the target of the message.
It’s an issue Puerto Rican filmmaker Ramon Pesante thought was timely enough to make a movie about, especially in today’s society where polls show that 65 percent of millennials have reported experiencing some kind of online harassment or abuse in their lifetime.
“It’s easy to hide behind a keyboard,” Pesante told Remezcla during an interview last week. “But sooner or later, the hurt we cause catches up to us.”
In his new short film LMFAO, which was commissioned by LG Electronics and shot entirely on one of its V30 smartphones, Pesante wanted to make a statement about cyberbullying, but do it in a way that didn’t feel like an after-school special. He hoped to contribute something unique to the conversation by exposing online trolls and making the internet a safer place for everyone.
“We are in an age where the cyber world is an open playing field,” said Pesante, who lives in Brooklyn and works as a branded content creator for Viacom/BET. “People are able to commit crimes and harass other people with very little accountability.”
“Most people have been trolled one way or another. I thought they’d find some satisfaction in watching a troll getting trolled.”
Once tapped by LG Electronics, Pesante decided he would make a thriller for them. LMFAO screened with five other short films earlier this month at the 55th Annual New York Film Festival. The film tells the story of a nameless antagonist (played by Gerald Delgado), an online troll who spends his time on his computer and smartphone typing insulting comments to women and laughing off the responses he receives when they message him back upset about the things he has written to them.
Pesante captures the cruelty of the main character’s words by showing viewers what he is writing to each of his victims through stylized text boxes and real-time chatting. When one woman posts about how proud she is to be able to fit into one of her dresses again, the troll responds by typing, “You Don’t. #Fail.” Sheltered in his dark apartment alone and eating microwave dinners in front of his computer screen, Pesante paints a pathetic existence for the recluse who only seems to find joy when he’s tearing others down.
When the troll harasses the wrong person online, unusual events start occurring that make the cyberbully wonder if he has taken his bad behavior too far. With an unnerving score and ambient sound effects following the troll’s every move, Pesante keeps the tension high as he pushes his character closer to the edge.
Watch Ramon Pesante’s short film below.
“Most people have been trolled one way or another,” Pesante said. “I thought they’d find some satisfaction in watching a troll getting trolled.”
For Pesante, satisfaction comes from making his third film in four years. He shot LMFAO in only one day and finished editing it within a week. He calls the V30 a “game changing” product.
“I never shot a film on a smartphone before,” he said. “I knew once I played with the features that it was going to make filmmaking easier. People are going to find it handy for YouTube content, which is what everyone wants to do – including myself.”
Currently, Pesante is working on a web series about millennial parenting. Until that project is complete, he hopes more people share LMFAO with friends and family and help spread the message of the dangers of cyberbullying. He leaves victims of trolling with some sound advice he can’t emphasize enough if they find themselves in an uncomfortable or emotionally-draining situation online: “Block them!” he said. “They don’t know you, so whatever they say is irrelevant.”