‘At first I didn’t see the point’: Talent manager Alex Reid on becoming talent for ‘Byron Baes’

Nathan Favro and Alex Reid in 'Byron Baes'. (Image: Paul A. Broben/Netflix © 2022)

When Eureka Productions approached talent manager Alex Reid about a series on influencers being made in his adopted home of Byron, it was a minute before he realised they wanted him in the cast rather than one of his clients.

“I took a bit of convincing, to be honest, because I didn’t see the point. But they gave me a point and once I began to learn more about the project, I became more interested in being a part of it,” he said.

The project was Byron Baes, a ‘docusoap’ that has been hotly debated from when it was greenlit last April right through to its premiere on March 11.

The Australian Netflix Original series was produced by Eureka Productions and executive produced by Emma Lamb, alongside Superreal co-founders Julian Morgans and Rachel Tuffery.

Last year’s production announcement, released in the form of a postcard, promised a “‘feed’ of hot Instagrammers living their best lives, and being their best selves”.

It’s a world Reid knows well, having co-founded Amplify, a company that manages Instagrammers, Tiktokers, and Youtubers, while also creating talent-based IP.

However, his seven years of experience in the field has mostly come from behind the camera, rather than in front of it.

The Queensland native said although he was initially “terrified” about being in the spotlight, he had a clear objective for being part of the series.

“In advertising, ‘influencer’ is such a dirty word. What annoys me is that there is this question about the authenticity of followers and people who buy followers, comments and likes and to be honest, that affects my business in the real world,” he said.

“If you’ve got Google and a Visa card, you can buy an audience and while there is technology out there that is cleaning that up, there is still a general perception that a lot of the influencer industry isn’t real.

“For me, that show was about sounding the horn that there are ways out there of looking into audience, and shifting perceptions of what an influencer is by highlighting what an influencer should be.”

It’s a motive that causes conflict early on in the series, as Reid questions the validity of fellow ‘bae’ Jade Foster’s 1.2 million instagram followers, many of which are from Turkey and Iran, prompting an angry outburst from the self-proclaimed ‘biggest male influencer in Australia’.

While the intensity of the pair’s confrontation has led some on social media to speculate if parts of the series are in fact scripted, Reid said the exchange served as proof of the opposite.

Alex Reid (image: James Gourley/Netflix © 2022)

“In my world, asking someone where their audience is from is something I do every day – that’s my world.

“It’s the same for networks, streamers and different media platforms – you live and die by your audience and where it is from – so for me it was something I ask every day.”

Despite being billed as a “love letter to Byron”, much of the local community did not reciprocate during production, with a petition calling on authorities to block the show’s producers from acquiring filming permits garnering nearly 10,000 signatures, and members of the Byron Shire Council publicly voicing their disapproval of the project.

The language used in reviews of the program has also been far from affectionate, ranging from The Guardian‘s description of a “wholly contrived” program “full of horrible characters” to NME‘s assessment that it is a “‘so bad it’s good’ reality TV series that is, in fact, just very bad”. However, a number of critics have agreed it does make for compelling viewing.

Reid was philosophical about the negative response to what he regards as great export for Australia.

“It’s beautifully shot. Obviously there is a lot of hate-watching going on out there but there is still a lot of watching,” he said.

“As much as everyone likes to trash the format, there is a reason that it exists – there’s a reason we’re on episode 159,000 of MAFS and that is because people like watching this kind of TV and its escapism.

“Netflix and Eureka had a lot of hurdles to jump through and a lot of issues in making this show but they pushed through and I’m very proud of it. I’m sure the teams at Netflix and Eureka are as well.”

Byron Baes is currently streaming on Netflix.