Michael K. Feinstein started his filmmaking career doing short films and even directed three episodes of the MTV series Short Comings. However, he has delved into feature films with The Browsing Effect, the story about the ups and downs of using dating apps from the mindset of a group of friends. The film will be released to VOD and Digital platforms on April 9 from Gravitas Ventures.
World Film Geek had the chance to talk to Feinstein about his feature film directorial debut.
Hey Michael, thank you so much for talking about The Browsing Effect. I found it to be such a great comedic and yet at the same time, realistic look at the world of online dating and its ups and downs.
I really appreciate that, thank you!
What inspired you to write and direct this film?
I think anyone who watches the film can tell you that it’s very personal. A lot of the experiences and feelings expressed by the characters in the film are things that I went through, felt, or people close to me went through. And as I started online dating and using apps to meet people, I started to recognize how much you open up to different types of people and have different kinds of experiences that I felt like there has been a narrow vision seen in films.
In films, it is usually about desperate people who want to get laid. And I very quickly, I thought so many different types of people were using it for so many different types of reasons. As a writer, that kind of excited me. Here’s something that’s really being talked about that could be and should be.
The film tackles both the advantages as well as the consequences of online dating and dating apps today. What is your take on online dating?
I think anyone who just says either “online dating is good” or “online dating is bad” is missing the point. I mean it’s so big now. So many people are using it. People are meeting the loves of their lives on these apps. They will spend the rest of their lives together and have children. I mean, there are those who already have children because of these algorithms.
But, on the other hand, you expose yourself to strangers. Bad stuff can happen too. People have been murdered from using these apps. At the end of the day, there is a middle ground between finding true love and getting murdered. That’s what I think of online dating, somewhere between finding the love of your life and finding your murderer.
The ensemble cast were great in this, from Josh Margolin and Nikki SooHoo to Megan Guinan and Drew Fonteiro, each character having a somehat different personality. What was the cast like off-set?
We very quickly realized making an independent film, the question that lies is are the people on the crew people who really give a [censored]. You know, that cared. Because we don’t have a lot of money to offer or even get a lot of exposure. We didn’t know where the film will end up, getting distribution. We needed people who cared about the script and story and that was important for the crew too.
The cast was fantastic in that they wanted to be there, work on their characters, and make it as funny as possible and as true as possible. No one was there to pass the time or get a paycheck. They were wonderful to work with and these are people I consider my friends today.
How long did shooting take and what were the challenges you had to face?
Shooting took nineteen days and the big challenge was shooting a lot of pages of script in a short amount of time. We didn’t have a lot of money and finding locations was difficult. We were in L.A., so you may think, hey, we got a lot of locations to work with because we’re in L.A. On the other hand, you’re competing against production companies who have a lot more money or trying to pitch ideas to bars and restaurants that just made a ton of money for something shot on HBO. Why would they want to shoot something for you for a quarter of the amount? That was very difficult, and it takes a long time. Everything takes longer, and everything costs more. So that’s quite a challenge.
My favorite character in the film is Ben, played by Josh Margolin. We see a lot of him going first through his breakup, then going on all these different dates, then finding the right one but still having that fear of commitment. If you had to choose one of the four major characters in the film, which one would you say you are the closest to being?
Yeah, I mean Ben is clearly me in a lot of ways. Not entirely though because you’re trying to raise the characteristics in terms of the story so there is some adjustments. And Josh is actually a different person than I am. So, he made it a little different. From a starting point, he was very much a way of trying to encapsulate what I was going through at the time.
I went through a break up and then all of a sudden, I was thrown at the deep end of online dating and dating apps. And I felt kind of a whiplash with that. And with that character, I brought that emotional whiplash in the film. I think with all the characters, as a writer, you’re not in all of your characters. You add just bits and pieces of yourself as a person, because I don’t even know myself as a person. (laughs)
That’s what I liked about the film. Each character had their own experiences, but yet each one had a different personality. Something you rarely see in these films, but the cast did a great job here.
I appreciate hearing that.
Finally, are there any new projects that you can talk about?
Actually, I’m going back to school. That’s my newest project. In this whole process, for inspiration and other reasons, I’ve been watching more films that I’ve had as a kid. I fell in love with old cinema again and it was something I wanted to pursue. So, I’m going to USC next year to take up Film Studies. Like the history of film, and the critical analysis of film. My parents didn’t have to go to jail for me to get in (laughs). I’m very excited, but that will be a two-year program and I’m going to learn more about film and help enhance my writing and after that, maybe get to work on another movie.
That is so exciting to hear! The Browsing Effect comes to VOD and Digital on April 9. For those who want to see a look at the world of dating apps and both its advantages and consequences will definitely want to see this film. Thank you again Michael for taking the time to talk about the film.
Thank you so much for having me.
A Special Thank You goes to Katrina Wan PR and Michael K. Feinstein for making this interview possible.