“It’s as raw and real as anything I’ve put my name on” — Sean Dunne introduces us to his ‘Cam Girlz’: a film about internet sex work

Rob Munday
10 min readNov 24, 2014

Part one of my interview with Sean Dunne was published on May 21, 2014 on Directors Notes — see the original article here

For anyone working in the world of film journalism, there will be directors you can’t wait to talk to and others you’d really rather not. Over the last couple of years Sean Dunne has firmly established himself at the top of that first pile for me. It helps that I like his work and it helps that we’ve watched him grow from a short film director discovering his style, to a confident feature director determined to make his mark on the industry.

However, the main reason I anticipate these talks with Dunne so much is because of the way he approaches them — there’s no guarded secrets here, no mincing of words and no pussy footing around. He seems intent on making films under his own rule and his openness and honesty to talk about the industry in which he works is like a refreshing slap to the face.

Dunne’s first feature Oxyana Premiered at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, where the filmmaker won the Best New Documentary Director Award

With his debut 2013 feature Oxyana only feeling like it just wrapped the other day, Dunne is once again returning to the feature film format for his next project, Cam Girlz — a documentary about women who do internet sex work via web cam. In the first of a series of interviews with the filmmaker, which will covering funding, production, distribution and much more, we speak to Dunne about his Oxyana experience, raising money for Cam Girlz and what people can expect from his latest project:

Cam Girlz is set to be your second feature length film, how has the reaction been to your first Oxyana?

The reaction to Oxyana has been incredible. We premiered last year at Tribeca Film Festival and won a special jury mention for best doc and I won for best new documentary director. It really blew us away. We put the film out ourselves and it really seems to have captivated people and sparked a necessary dialogue about addiction and poverty.

Oxyana — A transition from Short Film to Feature with Sean Dunne

We became aware of your work on Directors Notes through your short film career, how does the feature world differ and did you learn anything making Oxyana that you’ll carry over into this latest production?

Dunne’s short film work became very popular on the Vimeo platform, where audiences enjoyed his entertaining bite-size portions of Americana

The feature world differs because there is an added element of expectation. With my short films I feel like their success was based solely in the filmmaking and I’m comfortable being judged on that. With a feature people seem to get hung up on what the fucken budget was or what festivals it’s in or what awards it has or how it’s distributed, even how much money it makes. Like any of those factors make a goddamn difference. The filmmaking is almost secondary. That’s a pretty lame trend. I won’t get caught up in it.

What I learned from Oxyana that I’ve made sure to carry over to Cam Girlz is to truly enjoy the process, every part of it, live the fucken process. It was really tempting during the making of Oxyana to almost wish the time away…to just get through it due to the nature of what we were making. I realize now that the beauty of making documentaries is in the process, digging deep and feeling the truth you want to portray.

As with Oxyana, you managed to raise a pretty decent amount of money on Kickstarter for Cam Girlz, how important has the crowd-funding site been in your feature film career so far?

Kickstarter has proved an invaluable tool for us. It’s not just about raising money it’s about finding your audience. You can be sure that the good people who take the time to watch and back your project are also going to be your biggest proponents when you’re putting the film out. That’s grassroots. I’m all about it.

What crowdfunding has done for me as a filmmaker is allowed for greater autonomy creatively. We had offers to fund Cam Girlz in a more traditional way but ultimately we decided to pass in order to maintain control. We’re not answering to anyone but ourselves which make the films more pure and potent in my opinion.

You’ve even had two backers pledge $10k+ to be executive producers on the film, how surprised are you that people are donating such large amounts of money?

Yeah that was really cool. They’re both part of the team now. They both wanted to learn and be a part of the process from the start and it’s morphing into this rad, fucked up DIY film school. By the time this film is out they’ll have an education from the inside. I’m so psyched they found us.

As a filmmaker, do you feel any added pressure to meet the expectations of your backers when using Kickstarter?

No, not really. I’m just gonna do my thing. I assume that’s what they want anyway.

Where did the idea to make Cam Girlz come from?

I had been yearning to make a film about women that challenge the establishment. During the making of Oxyana I remember being curious about the lives of the women who you see in those pop ups while you’re watching porn. Real women broadcasting from their bedrooms. Who were they? What were they like? How did they end up doing this? I did some research and stumbled into this fascinating online community of women who did this sort of “internet sex work” from the comfort and safety of their homes. I saw them refer to themselves as cam girls and that sounded like the title of a film I would want to see…so I decided to make it.

From there it has snowballed and transformed into something bigger and more nuanced than I could have ever initially imagined. I think people are going to dig it.

What can fans of your earlier work expect from Cam Girlz? A similar style or something totally different?

It’s as raw and real as anything I’ve put my name on. Stylistically, I’m evolving and trying some new things that I feel will elevate the film and the subject matter. Expect a pleasure trip that challenges and enlightens.

What does the immediate future hold for the production and when can we expect to see the final film?

We’re still filming and will wrap on June 12th. From there we’ll spend the summer editing and fucking with music. That should be fun. We’re on pace to have this thing done by the fall and out by January.

“They are to porn what I am to film” — Sean Dunne nears completion…of feature doc ‘Cam Girlz’

Part two of my interview with Sean Dunne was published on November 24th, 2014 on Directors Notes — see the original article here

It’s not often we’ll invite a filmmaker onto Directors Notes twice to talk about the same film, but since Sean Dunne’s work ethic seems to revolve around always breaking with expectations, we thought why not. Now, I could lie, I said I planned to do the interview in parts because I wanted to follow the film from pre-production to post, but in all honesty while that did come into my thinking, really I just enjoy talking to the director. In our last interview I waxed lyrical about my appreciation for his interview style and there’s no change this time around. With his latest feature documentary Cam Girlz currently in the editing suite, edging closer to completion, Dunne joins us once again to talk about no regrets, his new lease on life and taking psychedelics:

The plan was to wrap the shoot on June 12th and spend the summer “editing and fucking with music” — how’d that work out? Everything go to plan?

Yeah, we had a great time. The rest of the shoot really immersed us in that world. I’m basically a cam girl now. We ended up shooting in 7 or 8 different cities and meeting so many inspiring women. After that we took this wild beast back to my editor Kathy Gatto and we started the post. Kathy’s great, she dove right in headfirst and didn’t let the subject matter or the sheer amount of material intimidate her. Once we found a loose structure we brought in the composers and everything began to take shape. I’m really proud of what we’ve done with Cam Girlz, the music, the edit, honoring the subject, the muh fucken cinematography MAMITA…everything came together. Everyone got what I was trying to do, so it worked out. So psyched for people to see it.

When I questioned you about how making Oxyana would impact the production of Cam Girlz you seemed intent on living and enjoying the process and digging deeper? Do you think your experience on Oxyana impacted how you went about making Cam Girlz? And did you make sure you enjoyed the Cam Girlz production?

Oxyana impacted everything in my life. It opened up a new world for me and certainly influenced the way we made Cam Girlz, mainly that we wanted to approach it differently. I didn’t want to dread any part of it, I wanted to be more patient and present throughout.

I’m filled with gratitude and awe and that’s made every facet of the process more fun for me. I think that sentiment of living the process has not only impacted Cam Girlz but also the way I live my day-to-day life. Shit has just been better since I’ve been committed to always living in the moment and appreciating the beauty and perfection in everything. More so than ever these films are a natural extension of my personality. I think the work I’m doing on myself is going to reflect in my films. It might be subtle, but I see it. Cam Girlz was the first film I made with this, at the risk of sound corny, new lease on life.

Looking back at the shoot, now that you have a bit of distance from it, would you have done anything different?

Nope, no regrets.

You described Cam Girlz as being “as raw and real as anything I’ve put my name on” — how is this going to be reflected in the edit? And have you tried anything new in post this time round?

It’s a very intimate film. The women didn’t hold back, they represented themselves well and didn’t pull and punches. That’s where the rawness comes from, their voices. The idea once we got back to the edit was to build a world where they all felt like one, a mosaic, like they belong together even though we shot with a large diversity of women. That took a good amount of playing around in the edit room. This edit was different mainly because I never “interviewed” anyone on camera, the camera just observed. I did one on one audio only conversations with each girl, kept the stakes low and tried to get the most honest version of them that I could. The post process was driven mostly by those audio only conversations. We had messed with that idea on a couple commercial projects but this was our first attempt at applying it to a bigger project. I loved it.

As is often the case with your work, Cam Girlz takes us on a journey into a particular sub-culture of America, one not-often covered by mass media. I’m always intrigued to know if the people you meet whilst filming have any impact on your life and I suppose with Cam Girlz in particular, what did you take from your time with these women who challenge the establishment?

Really good question. The cam girls we filmed with had a great deal of impact on me. I learned so much from them. I think we have a lot in common, they are to porn what I am to film, threatening the establishment, creating and distributing their own stuff and most importantly, not asking permission to do so. The only difference is they don’t have society’s blessing and I do, because I have clothes on. Seems silly.

What’s the plan for the film now? Have you got a distribution route planned?

We’re not dealing with gatekeepers any more. We’ll put it out ourselves with support from partners to help spread the word. We just pictured locked so now we’re going to sound mix it and start the process of marketing. A lot more will be revealed in the next month or so, depending on who wants to get behind a film like this, my guess is that the establishment are too big of pussies to work with people like us. Regardless, you’ll see Cam Girlz on a computer screen near you early next year.

We saw on Twitter the other day that you were already thinking about your next project and were on the lookout for anyone describing themselves as an ‘angel investigator’ and ‘psychonaut’ — what can you tell us about your next project?

About a year ago I got into taking psychedelics and it completely changed me. I’m shocked that it’s not the only thing anyone ever talks about. So I’m going to make a film called On Psychedelics that explores that stuff in my way. I need money to get it started. Do you know any rich people who understand the importance of psychedelics? That’s what I need.

Sean and his team have been providing updates throughout the production process over on their Twitter account @camgirlzdoc

Originally published at www.directorsnotes.com on May 21, 2014.

Rob Munday

Managing Editor at Short of the Week | Co-founder of Directors Notes | Short Film Curator | Bournemouth University Employee