When writer and director Michael Sasso emailed me telling me he’d read one of my articles on hookup culture and had been inspired to make a web series about casual sex, I was intrigued. And a little wary. I’d seen the genus of realistic rom-coms spiral out of control lately. It seems where there’s a dating trope, there is also a web series about it.
Sasso’s series is called Swipe Click Bang (basically: Tinder in three words). It unfolds in a series of 6 vignettes that each revolve around one “hookup” — the outrageous, the melancholy and apparently, the filmworthy. The filmmakers were kind enough to share one of their first episodes with us. It dissects a casual sexual encounter between two members of a highly fraught and palm-sweaty species — the neurotic.
I talked to Sasso and his co-executive producers and writers Mike Vitale and Joseph Amato about the flood of hookup apps, Louie, and why they think Swipe Click Bang deserves the watch.
What’s the inspiration for Swipe Click Bang? Was a lot of the material from your own experiences on apps like Tinder, Grindr, etc. I’m wondering how much of this is true.
Sasso: Finding out that people were using apps to simply hookup, as opposed to “date” in the traditional sense, was inspiration enough.
A number of friends and coworkers all started using Tinder around the same time, and the stories I started hearing about their awkward encounters and one-night-stands blew me away! I live in a sort of commune with four other artists, and one of them became a big Tinder user, and I witnessed a parade of women he’d bring over from using the app. With each woman, I would see my roommate and his date play “the game.” Sure, they were on a “date,” and they went through the smalltalk and activities like watching a movie or whatever, but it was clear where these dates were going; a lot of the women spent the night. I kept note of this behavior, and some of it made it into Swipe Click Bang.
As we worked on the material, it became apparent that the majority of our creative partners, crew, and cast had used hookup apps. […] Vitale’s friend told us about his experiences on Grindr, and according to him, the “Grindr culture” went like this: two guys meet up, they speak very little so as not to get to know one another, and when they’re done, they go their separate ways. Capisce. Then Vitale pitched to me his idea about that situation happening but where one of the partners didn’t “get it,” and was instead totally smitten with the other partner. I thought it was hilarious and tragic and “Hit It and Quit It” was written a few days later.
From what I can gather, hookup apps are just the catalyst for getting 2 people together. After that, human nature, impulses, and discomfort take over, and those things are pretty damn universal.
You said you take cues from Louie and In Treatment. What are you borrowing?
Sasso: In Treatment is special to me because it is enormously cinematic even though it relies so heavily on performance and the written word. It’s usually just two people in a room talking, but it’s as gripping and engaging as anything I’ve ever seen. So when taking on a series that’s almost all foreplay or pillow talk, In Treatment was a good guide as far as what makes an intimate, contained story engaging. It illustrates how much more open we sometimes are with our feelings when we’re forced to talk to a stranger.
Vitale: A huge influence on how we wanted to approach the show was Louie’s convention-breaking formula of using an episode comprised of vignettes to explore a theme. Beyond that, Louie also explores situations where comedy and drama meet.
Amato: Louis C.K. respects his audience. He doesn’t feel the need to pander or walk them through. Treating your audience like this was huge for us because we do not have a lot of time to tell a story and the less you need to explain, the better.
I noticed that you sort of wallow in those awkward pauses and long takes. The audio was very granular. You hear gulps, breathy tones, spit sometimes. My second-hand anxiety was off the charts while watching episodes like “Neurotics.”
Sasso: This was absolutely intentional. A lot of web-based content competes with short attention spans by cutting quickly. While keeping those attention spans is a real concern, what we wanted, foremost, was to create a cinematic experience true to what the characters are feeling and experiencing. A pervading theme in the series is the discomfort of being with someone you’ve just slept with and who you don’t really know. Staying in a long take lets you absorb those moments and feel what the characters must be feeling.
How do you approach your sex scenes?
Sasso: Every time I go to shoot a sex scene, I expect it to be more difficult than it really is. I fear the actors will get shy, the crew will suddenly gawk, and make actors nervous, etc. But in every instance it just isn’t an issue. It’s just part of the scene. I don’t think professional actors see much of a line between emotional and physical intimacy in a scene.
Amato: Sometimes you concern yourself so much with the technical aspects of filmmaking, you forget there’s a guy standing on set with a tube sock taped over his penis…seriously.
Okay. It’s sort of hard to tell — are you all pro hookup app?
Vitale: I am pro-hookup and hookup apps. Speaking as someone who has suffered from dating anxiety, it’s nice that people have a viable option to just meet up and see if they “click” without needing to fight through the anxious moments that come with trying to pick up someone at a bar. So yeah, go hookup, people!
Sasso: The short answer: Yes, I am pro-hookup. The long answer: Hookup culture, like digital culture, has a dark side. It fosters loneliness. So long as people aren’t so lonely that they expect to find love where there might be only lust, then it’s a healthy next step in the evolution of courtship. Hookup culture accepts that physical and sensual compatibility are part of overall compatibility, and sometimes that type of compatibility needs to be explored before a couple discusses their favorite Jay-Z album or childhood dreams.