In “Hooked”, Todd Ahlberg takes viewers into the world of “online crusing” – the hooking up of gay men over the Internet for actual, physical sexual encounters. Whether you’re looking to learn the ins and outs of online cruising, or just curious for a no-holds-barred look into this new major pastime in the gay community – “Hooked” is an eye opening experience.

We spoke with filmmaker Todd Ahlberg to find out what exactly it took to get “Hooked”.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’ve always loved technology and media, so making a film about and with the aid of the Internet seemed like a natural. I was born in SF, CA, and have recently relocated back to the Bay Area from Los Angeles. Do I miss LA? Not in the slightest.

What was the first film you ever made?
I guess it was in high school… senior year project. I made a film called “a la mode” (In Fashion). It was about a photographer and a model. She winds up on the cover of “Vogue”. It was terrible… basically a 20 minute music video. I got an A.

What brought about the making of “Hooked”?
Beyond the subject matter of the film – gay men and our attraction to the “instant hook-up” afforded by the Internet – the over-arching theme that drew my attention was much more general. It has to do with the fact that, as technology continues to enter (invade?) our lives, we are affected in ways we couldn’t even imagine a few short years ago. The proliferation of the Internet over the last decade is the prime example. Social, intellectual, emotional – all of these aspects of our society are affected by the instant, “always on” characteristic of the Internet.

And so, as a gay man, I decided to try to explore this larger issue within the tiny corner of the Internet universe I refer to as the “online cruising scene,” particularly since it was an area I was familiar with. I really view the feelings and thoughts of the guys in the film as representing a microcosm of the entire population, affected in one way or another by technology in general, and the Internet specifically.

Now specific to the “online cruising” phenomenon, the other over-arching point that I wanted to make was that, by and large, the men in this realm ARE in fact searching for more. Call it love, relationship, whatever. However, given the minimal commitment required of an online hook-up, it almost becomes the equivalent of fast-food-intimacy; we take the path of least resistance to satisfy our immediate need/urge, while forgoing an investment in the future (e.g., nurturing a relationship over quick, anonymous hook-ups).

What was the budget and how long did it take you to make it?
My budget was basically whatever I could afford to throw at the film. It was my first film, so I wasn’t about to try to raise outside money for it. It took about 18 months from the day the idea popped into my head until it premiered at my first film festival.

It all started on a hot Summer evening in Los Angeles. To be honest, it was immediately after my meeting someone from the Internet that the idea for the film occurred to me. It was then that I began to wonder how this new pastime of us gay men was affecting us as a community and as individuals. I began to think I couldn’t be the only person thinking about this, and thus began my research into the subject.

I spent around 6 months preparing the film for production. This mostly consisted of recruiting potential interviewee subjects via the Internet itself. In a few short weeks, I had received over 1,200 responses from men wanting to appear in the film. From this total I slowly narrowed the list down to around 25 men who I would ultimately interview for the film.

The following Spring I hit the road, and for the next eight weeks I, my camera and a light kit drove 11,000 miles around the country, stopping in big cities and small towns to meet and interview the guys I picked for the film.

What do you think drew these men to this film?
What drew the interviewees to the film was their agreeing that the issue was an important one to explore. Also, for many of them, there was a sort of healing process in getting their feelings on their activity out in the open.

What festivals has your film screened at? Did it win any awards?
Premiered at Palm Springs Int’l, then screened at around 40 more.

What made you sign with Film Threat DVD?
I liked the philosophy of the company, the edginess, the aggressiveness.

Any upcoming projects?
I’m currently working on another documentary, this one exploring the crystal meth culture and epidemic within the gay community. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.

“Hooked” is now available at the Film Threat Shop!

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