Orlando – The Grind is a concise, emotional film about one man’s experience on the gay dating app Grindr. Only five minutes long, it was created in a week. Constructed by University of Central Florida student Robert Doobay, The Grind won the jury prize in the Campus Movie Fest on Feb. 19.
Now Doobay and his two actors—UCF student Gordon Hirsch Wilson and Stetson’s Drew Aldrich—are looking forward to the national finals in Hollywood this summer.
The film is available free at CampusMovieFest.com/movies/37685-The-Grind.
Through three separate interviews, Watermark got the lowdown:
WATERMARK: How did you get into this?
ROBERT DOBAY: I started doing film competitions in high school. My most common award is always for Best Editing. My cousin says I won’t eat or sleep or take restroom breaks or regard my personal hygiene; I’ll just edit. It takes 110% of my focus.
GORDON HIRSCH WILSON: Robert has a very visual view of the world. I agreed to do this project as a sort of favor. And then he came over one night with Drew, and I’d even made other plans that I had to cancel to do the filming. And then later, when I saw it all done, I thought, “Oh my God, Robert’s really talented at this!”
DOOBAY: I’ve known Drew for about a month now. We mashed on Tindr. [Laughs]
WILSON: And Robert and I met through Tindr. In fact, this wouldn’t have happened without social apps.
How much was scripted?
DOOBAY: I had ideas. I told [the actors] what I wanted to happen, and they brought it out themselves by relating to it. I didn’t want it to be too scripted.
DREW ALDRICH: In fact, Gordon and I didn’t actually meet until that night.
WILSON: None of the dialogue was written down. We were improvising…and I thought, okay, Drew’s cute, and I’d actually go on a date with him. We actually started getting to know each other on camera.
Was that a little nerve wracking?
ALDRICH: I’d never done anything like this before. Usually, my sexuality is pretty close to vest. Even though a few friends and family know about it, this is more of a way of shocking the hell out of them. I couldn’t think of a better way to do it, to bring more awareness to this aspect of the culture.
WILSON: Once it started happening, I really wanted to commit to it. I did the things I’d do anyway [meeting someone].
DOOBAY: Having them meet that night really worked for the film.
What about the perception that this is negative toward Grindr?
DOOBAY: I didn’t want the film to condemn Grindr or other apps, because they are convenient ways to meet gay people. But men will be men, and they’ll let their other head think for them.
WILSON: I’ve been on Scruff and Grindr, and I’ve had these experiences, these horror stories. But I’ve also had good ones, too.
DOOBAY: There’s a whole spectrum of discourse about how men conduct their online relationships, and this [film] is a part of that.
WILSON: Social apps are a totally new territory where people allow themselves to act in a way they’d never act in real life. I worry that some of the reception of the film will sound like we’re taking Grindr and Scruff to task. But the vast majority of people I’ve met—and the longest relationship I’ve had—were started online. It’s the way it is now.
There are a lot of Orlando locations:
DOOBAY: We started at Gordon’s house [in Colonialtown], where a majority of the film takes place.
WILSON: At 8 p.m., he arrived, and Robert wanted to make it look like I lived there myself, like I was lonely and seeking connection. Robert came in and moved things around.
DOOBAY: [The art on the walls] are all Gordon’s grandpa’s paintings, which was sort of added production value. We also went to BART and Lil’ Indies.
WILSON: I love how the film shows a side of Orlando that a lot of people outside of Florida don’t know about.
Besides the excellent editing, there’s a lot of cool use of focus in the film.
DOOBAY: Thank you! I used the 50mm Canon EF lens. It gives you a very shallow depth of field. When Randy [the character played by Wilson] was alone, I wanted the shots on a tripod—staid and static, like his life. When he starts talking to Mike [Aldrich], the color goes to warmer, the shots get more life. I go to handheld on the date, because it’s a more dynamic feel.
How did you feel about the film’s chances going into the competition?
DOOBAY: When people started talking about it—how natural it looked—I loved that.
ALDRICH: It had won four sets of competitions a week prior.
WILSON: I was amazed when Robert first shared it with me, because he’s really talented. But as we were watching it in the competition, I could tell it was really special.
Are you looking forward to the national competition?
DOOBAY: Yes, definitely.
ALDRICH: Gordon, Robert and I were talking about it immediately when it won.
WILSON: When else do we have an opportunity to do something like this?