VCU filmmaker delves into the impact of online dating’s more sexual side

by | Jan 21, 2016

“This video is pretty different from what I normally do, but it was pretty exciting,” said Alyssa Michener’s when I asked her what how she felt about creating the provocative and visually striking vid

“This video is pretty different from what I normally do, but it was pretty exciting,” said Alyssa Michener’s when I asked her what how she felt about creating the provocative and visually striking video “Automated.”

Alyssa started doing video work when she went to a VCU summer internship at the age of 16 and from there she decided to pursue film more seriously.

“I was watching a lot films,” Michener said. “I was really interested in what it meant to be behind the camera and as I came to college it became more of an experiment with medium and since then I just been playing around coming up with new concepts.”

The most recent concept was the video below which explores the impact online dating has on sexuality and interpersonal relationships.

Automated from Alyssa Michener on Vimeo.

In the video, interviewed subjects are trying to show themselves as someone or thing they’re not while the overlaid audio goes into the psyche of what they’re actually thinking, and describing their own online dating history.

Doing a video like this came into Alyssa’s mind partly from her own experiences with online dating, but also from conversations with people she knew. She realized that people were starting to build actual relationships with people they meet online.

Alyssa wanted to really dive into what this is doing to her generation.

“I find it interesting because this is something my generation as well as older generations deal with,” she said. “It’s something my friends talk about everyday, using these apps for dating and hooking up, and I find that really fascinating how it changes our personalities and how we present ourselves.”

Alyssa was fascinated with how these apps give people a chance to explore their own sexuality as well.

“At first I came into this piece with a negative outlook on [online dating] because it’s take away from personal interactions that were having with people,” she said about concerns she had about the practice going into production.

One of the negatives she kept mentioning is how being on dating apps like that makes it hard for people to figure out who is being authentic and genuine rather than someone just putting on a front.

She expressed concerns about how someone would distinguish the person they are talking to from who they actually are.

But then she thought about it and realized it would probably be a better video if she interviewed other people and got different opinions on the topic before injecting her own philosophies.

“I didn’t want to come in with a bias,” Michener said. She spoke to a number of people and before long her own ideas around the concept.

“I interviewed this one guy whose interview is in the video and he started talking about how it’s a really awesome platform for people that are gay, bisexual, or whatever to have this outlet to explore their own sexuality,” she said.

The heavy emphasis on sexuality in the video, with girls and boys showing their bodies off, made me wonder how dramatically Michener’s views on online dating really changed.

“I think it’s really amazing when someone can embrace their body and take pictures of themselves that they feel empowered by doing that, but I also feel that there is this pressure to do that,” she said. “There is pressure to try and present yourself in a more sexual way and although that can be an empowering and wonderful thing it can also be a demeaning and objectifying thing.”

She even admitted that she was on a well-known dating app for a while just as a social experiment and she ended up using some of her personal messages from her experience in the video as well.

“It was interesting for me to explore what it means for people to interact with me on that platform and how can I illicit really interesting conversations to people.”

The video “Automated” is an interesting topic that Alyssa admitted she was “very proud of” and is interested in doing more concepts like this in the future. She is a budding filmmaking star and “Automated” shows her documentarian skills might grow greatly in the future.

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

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