Thanks Toronto for the film review!

The Love Industry - Review by Kierston Drier

This twenty minute documentary is a fascinating look into the world of professional online-dating profile writers. Following two different professionals who use two drastically different methods, we see the ins and outs of a growing profession that targets people who want to find love online. Lisa Hoehn, takes a “gut” approach to profile ghost writing, reviewing people and tweaking what naturally feels best. She’s seen everything under the sun when it comes to online dating, from cheating lovers to terrible break ups. When she meets another online profile writer, who uses a more mathematical, data-based approach to his work, they completely clash- showing that love isn’t always easy to find- even when finding it is part of your job.


Our heroes are fascinating, engaging and lovable. The film paints an often humorous, honest and occasionally painfully familiar portrait for a vast number of people who have gone online to find their next partner. THE LOVE INDUSTRY is about a lot of things- our modern world, social media, niche business opportunities- but ultimately it’s about one incredible part of existence- the hurdles and rewards of meaningful human connection.

"The Love Industry" - Or - "Two depressed white queer people versus New York City"

Great news!!!!! Our short documentary, “The Love Industry” will premiere on October 15th, 2016 at the Margaret Mead Film Festival in Manhattan. The festival is hosted by the American Museum of Natural History. For ticket information please visit 

We developed this project a year ago as part of an NYU graduate thesis project. The NYU department responsible is the Program in Culture & Media, Department of Anthropology which is currently celebrating their 30th anniversary and is led by Dr. Faye Ginsburg. 

This is a 20-minute film that takes a different look at online dating. Many projects that involve online dating are frustratingly superficial. For those interested in media related to online dating, you’ll either find projects about catfishing, user experiences, the shock-and-awe of mobile technologies, and tying a neat little bow on a heteronormative love story. I’m uninterested in these stories. As far as the technology goes, mediating love has been around for the last 300 years, and a mobile phone is just one new way of looking for love and/or sex. I truly feel like we need to get over this shock-and-awe factor in order to appreciate the nuance of this connective interface. 

So the backstory on this project: I went on one “date” in the fall of 2014 with a woman I met off Tinder. We met at a bar in Williamsburg around 3am. Her name is Lisa and she’s a writer and online dating profile ghostwriter. Her work interested me, but I was more interested in the generalities of how she expressed her personal and professional persona. She’s, well, intriguing and somewhat addictive to be around. We didn’t really stay in touch until the spring of 2015 when she called me for a phone interview. She was doing research for her new book, You Probably Shouldn’t Write That: Tips and Tricks for Creating an Online Dating Profile That Doesn’t Suck. Nothing I said about dating made it into the publication of her book because I was way off-base with what she needed. I made my answers too academic. Honestly I was probably trying to impress her with my jargon. Didn’t work. 

Later that year I was on my way to my first thesis seminar ready to pitch an idea for a film. No, the film was not the one that would become “The Love Industry”. Instead I had a film idea that began with an actor in Chicago and his relationship with a professional clown who is also a Jesuit priest and philosophy professor. It was to be a film about performance and the healing power of laughter. As I was pacing around Broadway and 8th ready to pitch this idea, I receive a text from a woman, let's call her, um, Kate. Kate and I were dating for the last 18 months - long distance from Chicago. The text simply said, “We’re through”. Was I just dumped over a text? Yes, I was just dumped over a text. A damn text. Somewhat confused, and definitely distraught, I walked into my seminar ready to pitch my priest/clown documentary when the panel agreed that the material just wasn’t very timely. There was no sense of urgency in sharing that story. “What else do you have?” they asked. All I could think of at that moment was Kate and dating and how we met off OkCupid, and I blurted out that I once met a woman who professionally ghostwrites online dating profiles. “Love it!!! It’s so - NOW!” they exclaimed. “You could film yourself going on dates, it will be great!” I was told. My eyes rolled so far back into my head I could see my own brain implode. Dating was the very last thing I wanted to think about at that very moment, and now I’m going to potentially make a film about it.

Needless to say, I didn’t film myself going on dates. God, no. 

It turned out that there’s a ton of material on the topic and I could take this story pretty much any way I wanted. We have enough to cut a feature, but not enough budget for the lawyer fees and promotion it takes to get a feature cut together. We talked to dating professionals, consultants, actors, photographers, humorists, and even an actress that went on a bizarre date with Martin Shkreli. I have the rights to a New York Post video about a professional female penis photographer. Unfortunately none of that made the 20-minute short version, but instead what is left is a piece that opens up, what I hope, is a larger conversation about online dating because our audience is comforted with seeing the underside of the dating industry. It's a story that recaps dating, but also paints a portrait about what Lisa's role in my life means and the interesting timing of the film production. It’s not that I believe that online dating is being misrepresented, or that struggles aren’t being had, but I do believe that there’s a shockingly small cross-section of stories out there about online dating and it’s depressing people. I don’t want people asking what online dating is, I want them asking what online dating means for themselves. Nuance is beautiful. 

Full Synopsis: How does one construct love in the digital world? Filmmaker, Matthew Cusimano, a professional wedding videographer, discovers Lisa Hoehn, a professional online dating profile ghostwriter. Cusimano relates to Hoehn’s exhaustive lifestyle of constructing the romantic stories of strangers and follows Hoehn’s creative process after her first book publication and exposure to the media. As Cusimano and Hoehn reflect on edited romance, Hoehn reveals the struggle with maintaining her own personal relationships and illustrates the complicated role of working in the relationship industry.

Revisiting Peace Corps and "The Road to Wakapoa"

Before I begin with deconstructing this video project, there's something else on my mind. I've had several marketing specialists for my business and website tell me that these blogs need to be short, concise, and tailored strictly to the business. I thought long and hard about this approach, and there's something about my Peace Corps experience that rejects this thought. Understanding the nuance of an event requires the long form, and that's why I got into documentary and not journalism, that's why I moved to New York and not Los Angeles, that's why I finished my Peace Corps service and didn't take a short cut resume builder. I've had a handful of individuals tell me flat out how much meaning my old Peace Corps blogs during my service meant to them- perhaps it made them reflect on their own privilege, career, and emotional intelligence as it has for me. This has made my heart melt, and I'm grateful for their support. And if I'm true to myself and I really act upon what I believe, these blogs aren't going to be influenced by statistics, money, business politics, or other opinions. I've been trying something a little crazy - I'm making movies for myself. It started in Peace Corps as a mode of art therapy, and I discovered a few things because of this approach, and it's an approach I'm going to continue. I'm making movies for myself, that I enjoy, and I'm writing for self-preservation, and if anyone else wants to absorb my approach to film and what Mango Tree is all about, they're welcome to participate in the discussion.


I recently had my really good friend and super talented editor, Kirstie Mattheis, upload an HD version of a project we assembled in 2013, "The Road to Wakapoa". Before it was only uploaded as SD because of the limitations of living in Guyana.

I fell into a swamp - but the camera was okay. Wakapoa, Guyana. Feb. '13.

I fell into a swamp - but the camera was okay. Wakapoa, Guyana. Feb. '13.

The premise of "The Road to Wakapoa" was simple: documenting a road building project in the remote savannah wetlands of Guyana, not terribly far from the coast on the western half of the country. Three years later, looking at the project, I'm reminded of how hard it was. Not for me necessarily, let's be real, I was just a visitor, but reminded of the village politics, bureaucracy, and having two groups of extremely privileged porcelain-white American high school students in the background. 

So what became of the video project? As I learned first hand, and was later reinforced in graduate school a couple years later, the camera changes the behavior of your subject as well as the filmmaker. I could either hide this process or celebrate it, and back in 2013 I was constantly in the process of hiding myself as an author of this project. I'm neither seen nor heard, and yet it's not entirely sans my own ego, I realize, but it was a first experimentation in a long line of experiments that dove into media representation. Lesley had concerns about if what she said was taken out of context, and I had concerns during the entire process if every possible question and pitfall addressed by our audience was alluded to. It's not an easy task, especially given the optics of volunteer placement in a formerly western colonized developing country. It's not easy. 

I used the film later in my own village in Guyana as a model for a community project, as we were in the process of constructing a library (a story on its me). I didn't get much response from it - I think some people felt resentment that I spent so much time in Wakapoa (5 nonconsecutive weeks) as opposed to my own village in the region of Berbice. It's hard reflecting, even several years later, on what I could've done better within the bounds of media representation. My inclination is to say I should've had even less of an alluded presence in terms of any media projects I involved myself in, although given the relative nature of each individual project nothing is absolute. Everything I work on for now on makes me think of this project and tangent projects in Guyana. Everything I owe to my career from 2013 forward is because of this moment. 

Capturing Kirstie's best moments, Oct. '15, New York, New York. 

Capturing Kirstie's best moments, Oct. '15, New York, New York. 

The nuance of politics aside, the nature of the filmmaking process cemented bonds between Lesley and her community in Wakapoa, and changed my relationship with a friend from undergrad. Kirstie and I were friends in undergrad, but we worked together to see this project through, even though I lived in Guyana and she lived (and lives) in Los Angeles. Why did she volunteer for this project? I'll leave that up to her to answer.

I learned what is meant to have a close digital friendship with someone I hadn't seen in the flesh since 2010, and even though this video project consumed 2012 - 2013, we didn't see each other in real life until October 2015 in New York City. We had a blast in NYC, six years of catching up with a best friend. Wakapoa opened up and blossomed a friendship that changed my life, and even in my darkest moods while living abroad, Kirstie always had a digital presence and helped me through the toughest of times. It's amazing how the filmmaking process changes lives. 

As far as I've heard, the central host agency, Builders Beyond Borders, has kept to their word and checks up on the road project from time to time. I've heard the community has come together to make regular repairs to the road and I really hope that this continues to provide a model for others looking to implement similar projects with minimal resources. I understand that the video itself is glossy and a bit reductive, but man is it hard to convey the pain that this village upheld in seeing this project through. The Amerindians that I've worked with are somewhat reserved in nature, it's hard to read their faces, but trust me, that project for physical, logistical, and emotional reasons, was no easy task (did I mention that already?)


Today we launch!!!

Matt & Leah studying Film Theory abroad during undergrad together. Florence, Italy. 2009.

Matt & Leah studying Film Theory abroad during undergrad together. Florence, Italy. 2009.

We've launched our own production company! After years of traveling, teaching, degree consuming, and most of all, shooting film and video, we've decided to work for ourselves. I (Matt) will be doing most of the postings and updates between our events page and our documentary domain. Which brings me to my first point: why present ourselves as both a documentary and event production company? Why not just docs? The work we do for events (a) really does help pave the way for documentary projects by supplementing costs. Also (b) we love shooting events. I've shot weddings for the last six years, and I always find them an adventure each time. And Leah loves concerts. Plus, by shooting events to offset small documentary budgets, we don't have to adhere to the influence of grants or investors that may fund documentaries. We're able to make decisions for ourselves and distance ourselves from potential conflict of interest. 

But yes, as I've just alluded to, I'm primarily working with my friend, colleague, and roommate, Leah. Leah and I have been friends since we did undergrad together eight years ago. We were the big awkward dorkuses in the film & video department - myself concentrating in directing and herself in cinematography. Since undergrad we both lived in the same apartment with the same friends in Chicago at different times (our location sound friend Scott and his makeup professional girlfriend Violet). Leah then migrated to New York shortly after, and I wrestled with going into Peace Corps service.

I lived, taught, and shot plenty of video in South America during Peace Corps. One of my favorite things about Guyana was the available produce which was relatively affordable (rice being the most affordable). But usually a good mango can be pulled directly from a tree in your backyard, and that to me was always astounding. You mean I can eat directly from a tree? Seems like such a normal concept, but if you grew up in suburban Chicago and you think of mangos as gross and mealy because they've traveled so far to get to your nearest grocer, the idea of seeing a mango directly on the tree is magical. It made me appreciate mangos in a way that would've only been possible because I chose an unusual path towards filmmaking and landed up in South America. And mangos directly from the tree are so much better than from your Chicago grocer. 

I met up with Leah directly after Peace Corps, and she helped me move into a Brooklyn apartment with her, and we've been roommates ever since. I love New York. I love the variance, the struggle, and the plethora of stories hidden around every corner. Most of all, working in New York has many options: television, studio film, independent film, commercial, documentary, journalism, music video, events, fashion, theatre, etc. For someone who loves to absorb information by shifting perspective, New York seems like the place to be. 

Graduate school was no easy feat in New York. I worked full time hours to attend the most expensive school in the most expensive US city. I worked to purchase new video equipment, and came up with an arsenal of gear in anticipation of launching this company. I then used my grad school loans to pay rent and buy food to make ends meet. 

And now we have a production company! I now have the freedom to pick and choose projects, and the flexibility to subcontract myself out to other NYC companies in the fields I listed above and work on projects I really believe in, that I think are important. And hopefully our cashflow will continue to remain steady so we don't have to sell out. 

I wrestled for a long time if my way into the film industry is the correct way. Now I take pride in my unusual path towards a career that I find technically interesting, and that has extreme cultural significance that fulfills my soul. I love making movies, but I also find the need to work and volunteer on important causes. Mango Tree Productions helps me do both. It's important to me that I volunteer my time to documentary projects for worthy causes each year, and if anyone has ideas, we'd love to hear about them. If I can use my skills, experience, and camera to amplify the voice of a disenfranchised community or individual, with an important story, or vital cause, I'll gladly volunteer my time. 

So here's to you, New York City! A couple of Midwesterners out to make some movies!