Photo by: Archipelago Productions
We caught up with Lauren Gillis who co-created, wrote, and produced along with Alaine Hutton the three-episode sketch comedy series Content Farm which premiered on CBC Gem on March 29. The sketch shorts are “self-contained mashups of sketch comedy and horror, rooted in internet culture. They interrogate topics such as intellectual property and ownership, the slipperiness of identity, and failures of human communication and connection.

Check out our conversation with Lauren below.

How did you come up with the idea for Content Farm?

Lauren Gillis (LG): You’re doomscrolling, and you accidentally pause on something crappy, and think “oh no, the algorithm knows I spent 0.2 seconds longer on this, now it thinks I’m interested”. So you let yourself spend a full second there, because you can’t stop it now, and the video is something like “This red balloon was filled glittery slime, this blue balloon was filled with pulverized meat paste, you’re about to find out what I filled this green balloon with…” and it’s just balloons being cut open? Why am I looking at this? It’s so bad, and it has 5 million views. How can that be? Are these human views? Is this content made by humans?

This feeling of being unsure whether you’re seeing human or bot activity is the source of Content Farm. From there, we asked: if you were a bot, what would the internet teach you about appearing to be human? And the answer to that is just so exquisitely bad, we couldn’t resist making a show about it.

Did you work with AI technology before this project?

LG: Not intentionally. I assume there’s AI doing a lot of stuff I’m not aware of. Sometimes companies tell us when the tools they provide incorporate advances in machine learning, but only if it sounds cool. When it sounds obtuse or creepy, there’s no press release. I assume I have been using and interacting with the products of machine learning long before we started making this show in 2020 and started consciously using things like deepfake and AI-generated imagery.

Content Farm. Photo by: Archipelago Productions

Content Farm is one of the first of its kind to use fully AI deepfake to create the main characters. Do you think this will become the norm in the future as AI continues to evolve?

LG: I think the scope of what we refer to as a “deepfake” will continue to shift. It used to be limited to face-swapped video footage (and you’d have to keep your head pretty still). This classic kind is what we use in Content Farm, the face of “Jessica’ (a bot-generated influencer) is created and performed using deepfake. In the world of the show, there are vocal and full-body deepfakes available too, which weren’t officially “a thing” when we started writing this show. Convincing vocal deepfakes became part of our real world by the time we released the show.

The series also provides social commentary. Can you tell us more about this?

LG: Besides bots stealing faces and generating fake people from scratch for revenue, we touch on a couple other areas where tech helps people push the idea of authenticity through an ethical meat grinder. There’s a deepfake reality dating show where the bachelors don’t know if the women they are dating are deepfaking their faces, bodies, and voices, or just, you know, being their true selves on a fake beach.

In another segment we look at that most awkward phenomenon of cryptomnesia where you think “I have a great original idea!” And guess what? You’re just remembering something you heard but your brain was hiding that from you so now you look like a big plagiarist. I think human embarrassment opens the door to thinking about important problems. And if it doesn’t, then you can just enjoy the schadenfreude, but you already know that because you’re on the internet.


Stream Content Farm on CBC Gem.

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