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Don't 'Look' now: Showtime series shows how we are being watched

October 7, 2010 |  7:30 am


Don’t look now, but there are 40 million surveillance cameras in the United States trained on your every move.

That's just one of the factoids that you will pick up from "Look," an 11-part Showtime series that begins airing this Sunday.

The series is the creation of Hollywood director, writer and actor Adam Rifkin, who exposes the impact of digital media on our always-on-camera lives.

It's a spinoff of the movie of the same name that Rifkin directed three years ago that used surveillance cameras to capture interwoven narratives. The series has taken voyeurism to a new level, using web cams, cellphones and security cameras to follow various characters in Los Angeles as they tweet, stream, text, post on Facebook and upload to YouTube.

"All these things are the way we shoot and explore the series," Rifkin said. "The average American is now captured approximately 300 times a day" in shopping malls, department stores, gas stations, ATMs, bathrooms and dressing rooms.

His LOOK projects are not Orwellian; instead they explore the proliferation of “little brothers,” all of the gadgets and services that upload an endless stream of information and images about us, eliminating our ability to shield our lives from public scrutiny, Rifkin said. But he insists he is not sending a political message, just trying to raise awareness.

"I don't want the show to be preachy," he said. "I didn't want to take a side in the show or the movie. I didn't want to say all these surveillance cameras make our society safer.  And I didn't want to say that having all of these surveillance cameras is all bad. I do want to say that this is the way it is and that we should all be aware and alter our behavior accordingly."

Even having spent so much time focused on the idea that we are all being watched, Rifkin says he still forgets.

"I'll find myself in the elevator after a meeting at Showtime, the network that is airing my show about surveillance cameras, and I'll do something idiotic like dance in the elevator, forgetting there is a camera on me," Rifkin said. "We are all oblivious."

Rifkin, with the help of his Silicon Valley counterpart with the same name, entrepreneur Adam Rifkin, took that message to the tech world this week when he screened three episodes of the series at Twitter's San Francisco headquarters.

The two pals met when people started confusing them on the Internet. Rifkin the director goes by Hollywood Rifkin; Rifkin the entrepreneur, by Silicon Valley Rifkin.

"Twitter plays a bit of a character in the series just like in real life with some of the characters tweeting what they are up to," Rifkin said. "It was fun to share that with the people behind Twitter."

-- Jessica Guynn