Filmmaker Damien Dunstan followed six people's exploits on Grindr, and now you can too...
First published on 21 Mar 2013. Updated on 24 Feb 2014.
Every gay man worth his organic, Murray River salt knows about Grindr, the geo-location app that allows fellows of the fairer persuasion to find one another, check out each other’s profiles and eventually meet up for… conversation. But young, up-and-coming filmmaker Damien Dunstan wondered what the rest of the community knew or cared to know about this glob meet-and-root phenomenon. After holding an open casting call via YouTube in November 2011, Damien narrowed down a list of six young Sydney Grindr users (including Jack, above) and began to document their digital habits and the ways the app affected their lives. The result: an insightful and touchingeigh-part web series entitled The Grindr Guide.
Damien, you made us laugh, you made us cry – this doesn’t happen very often: what inspired you to create The Grindr Guide?
It was a mixture of my own experiences as a Grindr user and seeing potential in the story as well as seeing potential in the fact that the wider community might not know about this technological subculture, I guess.
You mentioned that you are a Grindr user outside of film research – did you spend a lot more time on the app when preparing for the documentary?
Actually, through doing the documentary, I felt the need to use it less. I guess I didn’t want to mix work and play too much.
Any nightmare Grindr experiences?
I’ve had both good and bad experiences – from serious relationships on one hand to being stood up on the other. Which is what I wanted to show in the web series too, that Grindr is a double-edged sword in many ways.
We found some of the episodes particularly moving, was the filming process and emotional one?
Absolutely! I think it’s inevitable as a documentary filmmaker that you feel a sense of connection when you’re spending so much time with the subjects of your film. And the subjects that made it into the film were the ones who had the smallest amount of filter between what actually happened and what they were prepared to say on camera. I only really knew one of the guys, Justin, before beginning filming but now I would consider all of the close friends. And we were handling some big issues; race, self-esteem, body-image, in some of the episodes so that became emotional at times.
There did seem to be an over-arching sense of loneliness throughout the series. Was that by coincidence or is their something inherently needy in this digital dating scene?
Well that was potentially a reflection on my sample size and the particular applicants that I ended up filming. They were all trying to push the app past what it's traditionally used for, instant gratification, and hoping for dates and maybe to form longer relationships. That was the kind of conflict I wanted to show. I also think that the people who use the app purely for recreational sex are also going to be people who are less likely to talk about those experiences on camera.
And finally, and perhaps most importantly, can you find true love on Grindr?
I do definitely but I think you can’t go onto the app looking for true love. I think if you do then you’re almost certainly going to be disappointed. That's something that everyone involved in the web series took from it, you have to have a loosening of your expectations and open yourself up to any potential.