One of the highlights from this year’s Sundance Film Festival was “Ingrid Goes West” (opening in theaters Friday), a dark comedy starring Aubrey Plaza as Ingrid, a girl so addicted to her Instagram account that she becomes dangerously obsessed with the “Insta-famous” Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen).
With the help of Taylor’s account, Ingrid knows everything from where Taylor lives to her favorite shops and restaurants. After inheriting over $60,000 following the death of her mother, and trying to put her life together after ruining her friend’s wedding because she wasn’t invited, Ingrid decides to start a new life out in California, in the same neighborhood Taylor lives in. The movie then chronicles Ingrid’s “Single White Female”-like lengths to become Taylor’s friend.
Plaza and Olsen talked to Business Insider at Sundance about the movie’s commentary on social media, their realization that being internet famous can be a good business model, and the story behind one of the movie’s funniest scenes (if you were a fan of K-Ci & JoJo, keep reading).
Jason Guerrasio: Is it frightening to think that there might be a person like Ingrid out there trying to connect with you through social media?
Aubrey Plaza: I don’t think about that. I wouldn’t think about that.
Elizabeth Olsen: I just don’t want people to know what I’m doing. [Laughs] And not that I think I have a stalker, I just want to stay private.
Guerrasio: What do you guys think of social media in general? The movie is kind of a commentary on where we are.
Plaza: I think it’s its own animal that is evolving and it’s something that in years to come we’ll look back on and learn a lot about. We’re in it right now, so it’s really hard to have a perspective on it, but it feels scary to me.
Olsen: I think it’s advancing so fast and there’s something always new, I think we’re still exploring how it’s most beneficial. “Black Mirror” is a show that shows you the scariest version, it’s almost a cautionary tale.
Guerrasio: I feel this movie is the same way, too. I mean, there are things you want to tell your fans, but you also want privacy and not to be trolled.
Plaza: Yeah, I’m a private person and don’t like sharing my private life with people, but as a producer and being in a professional business, there is a part of it where you need to give back. It’s nice to emote something and you want to make things for those people, so having that is good sometimes.
Olsen: I keep thinking about maybe doing it —
Olsen: Yeah, but I probably won’t.
Olsen: Though I think about doing it.
Plaza: It’s like coming up with something to post and then going, “Forget it, I’m not doing it.”
Olsen: Yeah, I mean, honestly, from a specific business point of view, it would help me. But not in film or acting, it would help me in the other picture of all this, which is branding. Using it when I do a cover story, that would be helpful for me. And inevitably that is helpful for your projects. So there is a cycle and social media is very important to all those companies that you want to be on good terms with so you can promote your projects. I understand it from a business point of view and I have friends who handle it like a business, like you Aubrey (after a hiatus on Instagram, Plaza is back on it). But I just don’t know how to commit to it.
Guerrasio: You can always start one and have someone else be in charge of it.
Olsen: No, I would want to do it. (Olsen is now on Instagram.)
Guerrasio: Aubrey, did you do a lot of research to play Ingrid?
Plaza: I definitely did a lot of thinking about it. I think the script was well-written and the character just jumped off the page. I think [director] Matt [Spicer] and I had so many conversations about what’s wrong with her — it’s never really stated.
Guerrasio: How about you, Elizabeth?
Olsen: Yeah, I did research. Matt actually had a list of 35 people on Instagram who we could model Taylor off of. When Matt first told me to do it, I was like, if I’m playing someone who does drugs, I don’t have to go and become a drug addict, but at a point I was like, “Eh, lean into it.” So I learned how to take Instagram-pro quality pictures with my phone.
Guerrasio: Doing the perfect selfie.
Olsen: Well, I’m not good at that. So Matt set up a fake account for me and I followed 35 people and it’s fascinating. I have no clue who these people are, but they have millions and millions of followers and they get paid for it and they all look fabulous and they get invited to very prestigious things. I thought it was fascinating and humanizing. I try not to place judgments as a general rule of thumb but I think I had a little bit of judgment before and now I understand it’s a potential career just like any other career.
Guerrasio: One of the funniest scenes is when you two are in the car singing the K-Ci & JoJo song “All My Life.” How did that come together?
Olsen: I think there was another song first, but they couldn’t get the rights for it.
Plaza: Yeah, it was Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose.”
Olsen: Oh, right! And doing this song was so much better.
Plaza: Wasn’t that our first day together?
Olsen: Yeah, first scene we shot. I had practiced those lyrics so many times.
Plaza: I had not practiced. But yeah, you knew it. We were just in a desert in that truck in the middle of the night just singing that song.
Olsen: It was so much fun.
Guerrasio: How many renditions did you do?
Plaza: We did numerous versions. All different levels of energy from both of us. I’m sure we did real weird stuff, even weirder than the finished cut.
Olsen: We smoked so many cigarettes.
Plaza: It was so trashy, I loved it.
Olsen: [Laughs] It was great.
Plaza: It was this “Thelma & Louise” vibe.
Guerrasio: Aubrey, you are a producer on this film and another Sundance entry “The Little Hours.” How does that feel, having work that you started from the ground up?
Plaza: It’s really exciting. I’ve never produced before so it’s always exciting as an actor to see your movie at Sundance, but as a producer it’s even more exciting because you were there from the very beginning. It’s like your child.
Guerrasio: Is the next step directing?
Plaza: I mean, I went to film school for writing and directing and I definitely want to direct, but I don’t know when that will be.
Guerrasio: Any directing aspirations, Elizabeth?
Olsen: I like acting. Though right now I’m developing two things and I have never had more fun pitching and being on projects from the beginning. It’s frustrating but it becomes this thing that you fall in love with.