"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 http://www.amnh.org/explore/margaret-mead-film-festival-2016/films/the-love-industry/ 

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.