A guy, a girl and a cameraman…Graff (center) on his first date with Sarah.
Boy meets girl. Boy asks girl to send in video describing herself. Boy dates girl on YouTube, where he has the viewing public vote to decide whether boy and girl should continue dating.
So it isn’t exactly the way your grandparents met. But Noah Graff, a Jewish 28-year-old aspiring filmmaker from Bucktown, hopes this is the way he will meet the Jewish girl of his dreams…oh, and become a successful filmmaker in the process.
Almost a decade ago, Graff filmed a documentary following his journey from Chicago to San Francisco on a Greyhound bus, where he met: “a chef from a nudist spa, a 36-year-old bisexual grandfather and a guy who had just gotten out of prison.”
Now, Graff gets a little more personal through his own YouTube reality show, “Jew Complete Me,” which he launched in May of 2007. Hi idea was to solicit Jewish 20- and 30-something women for biographical videos and ask voters to pick a few of their favorites for Graff to go out with.
To Graff’s disappointment, he hasn’t had enough entries for voters to choose from. Early on, he received a request from a Jewish cross-dressing man. He politely declined. Several women, he says, have offered to go on a date with him off camera, but he says they clam up at the thought of dating on film. “I’ve learned girls are very cautious about putting themselves up on the Internet,” Graff says. “For all the girls who are cautious, though, it seems there must be some who love the spotlight…girls with real chutzpah.”
Graff did go on dates with three such chutzpah-having women—Sarah, who is not Jewish, Heather, and Jenna, who lives in Madison, Wisc. He posted each of the dates in multi-part episodes on YouTube. For instance, he edited the video of his date with Sarah (see above)—which lasted about four hours in real time—down to 6 1/2 minutes on the site. After being up on the site for a month, the tape of the date had been viewed 1,714 times. Though YouTube viewers have not voted on whether or not he should continue dating out each of the three women, they have commented on the site about whether or not they liked the women and what they thought of Graff.
For many months, Graff pledged not to “cheat on the show,” meaning he planned to stick with the project and only date on camera. After Thanksgiving, though, he gave up on that pledge, as he has discovered he will probably meet more women off camera than on, but he says he still plans to continue the show.
Despite his lackluster success so far, Graff—who was raised a Conservative Jew in the southern suburbs of Olympia Fields—says he’s optimistic that, through word of mouth, Jewish women will submit videos too. He says that eventually he wants to marry a Jewish woman because, “I want to hold onto my Jewish identity and keep that identity going by having Jewish kids.”
To most daters, with the exception of the many aspiring reality television stars, the thought of dating on camera ranks right up there with root canals without Novocaine, but Graff says he finds value in dating on camera and in reviewing himself and his date on videotape following their evening out. “After the date, when I watch myself over and over again, I learn a lot about myself and I realize some of the stupid things I say and I notice my body language and posture,” he says. “For instance, if you play sports and watch the videotape, you get a really good perspective on yourself. You can’t really know how you look until you watch yourself on camera.”