Dissecting the Documentary: Cam Girlz

Dissecting the Documentary is a series of interviews with filmmakers, sharing their experience and thoughts during the filmmaking process. 

In April, director Sean Dunne (Oxyana, American Juggalo) came to Seattle for the screening of his newest film Cam Girlz– a documentary film that enters the world of internet sex workers who find economic freedom, empowerment, intimacy, and creative self expression from the comfort of their own homes. Sean and Cam Girlz producer Cass Greener were willing to share their experience making this film with SeaDoc.

What was your production schedule like? 

Cass: We were in production for almost a year an a half because we were trying to raise money. When Oxyana came out in 2013, we already knew we wanted to make Cam Girlz. But we didn’t start filming until January 2014 because we were trying to find funds.

What was your budget for the film?  

Cass: $150K from concept to distribution. We had one small investor, but it was basically half Kickstarter, half self funded.

Sean: We didn’t get any grant money. We didn’t apply- it’s a system we don’t participate in just because it seems a little old school- it seems time consuming and we just want to keep making films.

On Getting Access: It’s all about finding the one person who can introduce you to the community. 

Sean: In the beginning, we had a hard time getting access into the Cam Girl community. We did finally find someone- Sophia Locke who runs a thing called Cam Girl Mansion in Las Vegas where once or twice a year a bunch of girls rent a mansion and they all cam for a week. Everyone there makes a lot of money, they make tons of connections, their audiences can blend into each other… it’s a very tight knit community. And so Sophia called us up and said we should get out there. We saw it as an opportunity to film a bunch of girls in one place, get a bunch of stories down, cut down a trailer, and used it to get funding on Kickstarter.- and that’s exactly what we did. She got us a foothole into the community by letting us come to Vegas.

And afterwards, Cass did an open casting call for the film through twitter. We ended up interviewing around 40 women and 4-5 different men. We talked to a lot of people- We got a really good understanding of what it’s about.

On Film Festivals: Since we’re our own distributors, film festivals have become obsolete. 

Sean: It was obvious that this was not a festival film and I’m not a festival type of director. But the most obvious reason for not going the film festival route is that we’re not looking for distribution. We’re distributing these things ourselves instead of going to these festivals that serve as a marketplace.  We don’t want to be apart of that anymore. And oddly, you can get yourself noticed even more when you take yourself out of that equation.

Also, it’s expensive and it’s time consuming. A lot of people don’t talk about that when they talk about film festivals- and rarely anything comes out of it. We know where our audience is and they’re on the internet. And more people see our films the day we put them out online than the entirety of a year long festival run. It’s logical- we don’t have lots of money to throw at PR, to make prints of the film, and make all of these things that get so expensive. I think since we’re our own distributors, the film festival circuit has become obsolete for us.

The film is getting out there in an organic way- when people feel like they are discovering these things, they spread them. If becomes cultural currency.

On Documentary Storytelling: It’s about holding up a mirror to the audience.

Sean: My films are more about a reflection of what you think about than what I think about. We approach our work from a loving sense. We’re not trying to scare the audience in any way- we’re trying to do the opposite. In that sense, it feels like we’re swimming upstream. You see films that otherwise could have been great but look like a reality show- there are filled with all of these contrived moments because they need to hit a certain story point and it can be so much more than that. We want to take the form off the rails and make it about humanity… make it about gaining a further understanding and acceptance on the worlds that we go into.

Any Advice for Filmmakers?  

Cass: Enjoy the process.

Sean: The good shit starts happening and comes to you when you start looking inwards. When you improve yourself, inevitably what you’re giving off is better, more positive, more magnetic and more revealing. And that’s all we’re trying to do. Getting to a place that feels a little bit truer.

You can find out more about Cam Girlz here. Let us know what you think in the comments below!