Sean Dunne is a director obsessed with examining the hidden corners of America. Whether he’s delving deep into the world of hardcore fans of the rap duo Insane Clown Posse in American Juggalo, or spending time in the Appalachian mountains exploring a town in the throes of an Oxycontin abuse epidemic in Oxyana, Dunne’s films are ultimately about human beings living their lives. He approaches them honestly and directly, and in doing so, says something new about the world around us. “[My films] are my attempt at constructing a mosaic of the place I live and love,” Dunne says. “Each film is aimed at making that mosaic more colorful, more nuanced. Ultimately, when looked at as a whole, I want my documentaries to expose the things that make us all the same.”
His latest film, Cam Girlz, is about the lives of webcam sex workers in America.
Can you talk about how you got interested in documenting the lives of the women that do this kind of work for a living?
I’d been aware that camming was a profession for a few years but never really thought twice about it. During the making of my last documentary, Oxyana, I was under a huge amount of stress and allowing the subject matter get the best of me. I thought to myself that my next project should be something that didn’t make me so damn depressed. Around that time I heard someone refer to these women as “cam girls” and I thought that sounded like the title of a film I would want to make. So I started to look into it a little more, and the more I did the more I realized how multi-layered being a cam girl is — so many compelling issues at play. These are women who are doing sex work from the comfort and safety of their own homes. The idea that this could be happening anywhere, in bedrooms all over the country, and that these women were seemingly empowered by this line of work challenged my preconceived notions not only about sex and the adult industry but about society as a whole and what constitutes independence.
Was it difficult to get Cam Girlz off the ground? Were people reluctant to talk to you?
The cam girl community as a whole has to kind of be on guard at all times. They are constantly bombarded with trolls and creeps trying to gain further access, so rightfully they were a bit suspicious when we started trolling and creeping around trying to gain further access. We earned their trust by being honest about what we were doing and referencing our previous work. A wonderfully talented and brilliant cam girl named Sophia Locke eventually contacted us about the project and she got it right away. Once Sophia Locke vouched for us we were able to meet a lot more girls and the initial reluctance turned to support. It all comes down to trust, they are putting a ton of trust in us and we are in them.
Did anything weird or unexpected happen?
Making this film in the first place feels pretty weird and unexpected. It’s surreal. I feel like I’ve fallen into some sort of documentary fever dream. I would have never expected to meet as many likeminded people as I have in the cam world. What they’re doing in porn, I’m trying to do in film. Both industries are on the decline because the internet has allowed people like us to fund, produce and distribute our own content. That’s a paradigm shifter. I think it says a lot about who these women really are. They are business owners and their creativity and hard work are how they stay competitive. Such badasses.
Your films often look at subcultures that might be wary of outsiders. How do you make people comfortable with your presence?
I don’t think there is any secret to it. It’s about connecting with people and it’s genuine, I really do want to give people a voice. I really do find real people endlessly fascinating. If I can connect with someone and make them feel that, I can usually get a very honest version of that person and the camera almost becomes inconsequential. That shit spans boarders, I don’t care where you are, people want to connect with each other and share their stories. It’s a beautiful thing and I feel grateful every day that I can be a part of that.