Truth is often stranger than fiction, but these days it’s harder than ever to separate the two. Such is the case with The Upper Footage, a found-footage film about the supposed real-life cover up of a young girl’s overdose in an affluent NYC socialite’s apartment. The movie is now available online (read our review), but the one thing people are likely to walk away with – whether they see the film or not – are questions about its level of authenticity (or lack thereof). 

We’ve done the necessary digging to settle the issue of the Upper Footage, once and for all. And while the answers may be just what you expected, there is nonetheless a lot of intrigue surrounding this film and its long road to the screen.

The Story We’ve Been Told

Here’s a quick rundown of the “official” story surrounding the film:

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“Jackie,” Devon and Taylor in ‘The Upper Footage’

The film recounts a night in 2009, in which “affluent New Yorkers” Blake Pennington, Will Erixon, Taylor Green and Devon Petrovsky left a nightclub bar with a young woman who was never seen alive again. In 2010, a video called “Socialite Overdose” hit YouTube, depicting four young men with pixilated faces standing over a pixel-faced girl who was overdosing in the bathroom of a what is asserted to be Pennington’s  NYC apartment. The video was blackmail, part of a 393-minute reel that Pennington had allegedly shot on the night of the woman’s disappearance.

In 2011 more clips from the video surfaced (and were quickly pulled), this time said to feature some popular young celebrities partying with Pennington and co. over a mountain of cocaine. At that point the story hit the media radar – despite the thick fog of uncertainty surrounding the story.

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The story and celebrity connections were soon dropped by the media – until filmmaker Quentin Tarantino allegedly purchased the rights to the entire tape that same year (2011), and began production on a documentary and featurette called Upper, said to be a scathing inditement of the upper class’s ability to circumvent justice.

Tarantino supposedly released a trailer in September 2011; however, shady behind-the-scenes backlash had him suddenly pulling the trailer from the Web and killing the film. In October 2011, a cryptic message appeared on the Upper movie site proclaiming that “we” were now in possession of the footage – with no explanation of who “we” is. The Upper Footage is presumably an edited-down version of the night in question  – this time without the censored details.

So what’s the REAL story? Well, as I said “truth is often stranger than fiction…”


The REAL Story

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As it turns out, the Website Dread Central has been all over this for months; they reached out to Upper Footage director Justin Cole about the authenticity issue and received the following response:

With much hesitation I am officially announcing that “The Upper Footage” is not actually real. All of the media and hoopla around it is in fact real but as for the film actually depicting a young girl’s death and cover-up, it does not. I knew I would have to come out about this eventually but I was hoping a few more people would be able to experience it as-is beforehand.

But hold on: threads of this film’s story were actually reported by legitimate news outlets as far back as 2011. How did that occur if Cole’s film was totally fake? The director explains:

I have always been interested in the media, and wondered how much of what is reported on is actually true. Spending my life hearing celebrities complain that tabloids made up stories without any factual backing, I figured that focusing on celebrity media would be a good target.

Over a two-year period we were able to create a narrative using the media to report on events that did not happen, and people that only existed as characters in a film. We fooled countless media outlets several times throughout the process. From garnering 800,000 plus views on a clip from the film of a girl overdosing that people thought was real, to creating a Hollywood drug scandal using clips from the film that wound up as the top story on Entertainment Tonight, to having characters from the film reported on as real people (while getting recognized in character in the real world) etc. etc. Along the way fiction started to blend with reality as we were contacted by some of the biggest names in the industry including Paramount Pictures.

We here at Screen Rant recently got a first-hand taste of exactly what Cole describes: earlier this year we wrote a faux article for April Fools stating that Full House was getting a reboot. Seven months later, that exact story was picked up and reported by major news outlets as being true – all based on clearly-labeled joke we concocted.  Our takeaway? Modern media is an unreliable medium, filled with “journalists” who never check sources or authenticate what it is they are reporting. Scary stuff to think about.

However, the case of The Upper Footage gets even more strange: Cole revealed in his letter that there is in fact real scandal surrounding the film – just not the kind we thought. Apparently, the actress who plays the overdosing party girl is the daughter of someone famous – and when it came to some of the more risque scenes of the film, that actress had an eleventh-hour change of heart that caused her family to try to bury Cole’s carefully orchestrated opus:

Something I have never mentioned and never planned to was that the girl who played the part of Jackie is the daughter of a famous actor/actress, and due to the nature of the project and a controversial scene that involves nudity the mother wanted edits to be made to the film…

We started to hear rumors that said actress’s parent was trying to interfere with the project… At our first screening, people who had already bought tickets were told to pay again, comps were turned away and when asked about the film those in the ticket booth said they had no idea. We made sure to document all of this so I welcome anyone involved to dispute my claims (not to mention that our theatrical poster was defaced before it was returned to us).

After this happened I was beyond infuriated. I planned on coming out with exactly what happened as soon as I walked out of the theater but after seeing the reaction the audience had I just couldn’t bring myself to do so. The response was exactly what I dreamed about when this whole thing was just a concept in my head 4 years ago.

I will not say the actress’s name, and even if she comes forward I’m not sure that I will even confirm her involvement. I am honestly disgusted by the way everything went down and have no interest in being associated with her.

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The Mysterious “Jackie”

Cole’s explanation of the film’s path to release is much more extensive than the excerpt above – to read it in full, head over to Dread Central.

What do you make of all this? Does the fact that something totally false was reported as real surprise/disturb you? Is the real use of affluence to suppress someone’s artistic endeavor equally surprising/disturbing? Let us know in the comments.

The Upper Footage is now available online. You can purchase “Tickets” HERE. The film is 90 minutes long and is Not Rated, though it contains drugs, language, adult situations and brief nudity.

Go here to READ our REVIEW.