Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Today's entry ends the Chloe dialogues. Thank you, Chloe, for regaling us with your stories! - Kyle
Any final thoughts on being involved in the film making process? Has it been a positive experience so far? Any negatives? What do you hope audiences will "take away" with them from viewing the final film?
As a lifelong fan of film and self-taught cinephile, having a movie made about Chloe's exploits, is an absolute dream come true. I've always been a hit at dinner parties, regaling often-shocked guests with stories about clients and their particular peccadilloes, but to see myself and my experiences onscreen gives them a validity that I didn't even know that I craved until I saw it.
Carlos, the screenwriter worked so diligently with me to create the tenderness I knew this particular client's story needed. He is an amazing talent. Paul, the actor who plays me, is the true star of the movie. The subtle nuances with his voice, the softness of his gestures, and his fearless ability to find the humanity in his paralyzed client had me in tears more than once. In fact, it was a bit creepy he was so dead-on with his interpretation of me and the scene. We'll be seeing more of him, no doubt.
And I can't even begin to imagine this story in anyone else's hands but yours. You are one of the most sensitive people I know. In fact, you'd make a great manwhore. If the film thing doesn't work out, please give me a call... Seriously, I hope that people who see one of Chloe's (er, my) sessions will begin to question what sex is and how they define it for themselves. I want to broaden people's notions of what's attractive and what's not. To open people up to the beauty in everyone. And, finally, to see that the essence of true bliss lies in non-judgement.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
We are running into the home stretch on the edit for AUSTIN, the second installment of FOURPLAY, with a rough cut screening last week going very well. So, thought I'd post a few photos from the shoot before the year winds down. Happy Holidaze! - Kyle
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Were you involved in the recent campaign to decriminalize sex-work in San Francisco? Were you disappointed in the out-come of that vote?
I wasn't directly involved with Proposition K on last November's ballot, but I definitely did my own song and dance on it's behalf with my inner circle, including friends, family, and clients. It lost 43% to 51%, but it was interesting to see how close it actually was and how people felt about the issue.
Sadly, sex-work is often conflated with human trafficking in order to scare typically-liberal people into thinking that they're personally contributing to the sexual slavery of Third World women by greedy traffickers if they approve of letting people do with their bodies what they choose in the comfort of their own homes.
But the irony of the situation is that with cultural acceptance of a once-thought "sin" is that it loses it's sensual, "dirty" electricity once it becomes more mainstream; thereby bringing down my prices to remain competitive and subsequently killing my business. Just like I know many pot growers here in California who rue the day when pot becomes legal because they're going to lose A LOT of money.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
"Real Sex: the aesthetics and economics of art-house porn" by Jon Lewis
I think it does an amazing job laying out the history of films that investigate sexuality and their marginalization by "mainstream" media. Also, reveals yet again the hypocrisy of the MPAA ratings board that lets "anything go" w/ torture porn movies like the psychotic SAW franchise, but is scared shitless of frank, adult films that deal with the very social, and frankly "normal", contours of our lives as sexual human beings.
This is what we are up against, folks. If you make a film dealing with a variety of dramatic/comedic situations that just happen to pivot around sex, will it only be relegated to the "art" ghetto (and the bottom of that ghetto)? Or is there a place, perhaps on-line, where these shorts can find a wider, broader audience that partakes in massive amounts of pornography every day, but sees very little "art" that deals w/ the interior, emotional lives of those engaging in sex acts? Also, since most "art-house porn" strives for hyper-realism (see, they are really doing it!), what will viewers make of our very Romantic, surreal, comedic dramas that strive to break your heart, not bust your nutt (or bust your balls as is the case w/Euro-nihilists like Lars von Trier)? We'll see.
Chloe sent me these photos of himself w/ Paul Soileau (Aliya in SAN FRANCISCO) as his performance art alter-ego Christeene. I told Chloe it was "High Art meets Low Trash" to which he retorted "Yes, Christeene is a stunning work of art and I am definitely a piece of low, low trash..." - Kyle
Monday, December 7, 2009
Chloe continues her talk about sex work...
The workers at the top of the hierarchy are the providers who work for themselves online and travel. These are the folks who usually get busted with someone famous. They tend to be educated, above-average looking, with the ability to market themselves well and know their niche category. It is often a means to an end with this set too, and they are rarely lifers, or it is their main profession.
But these are hardly the folks people think of when one mentions "prostitute." It also must be said that genetic women make the most money at this venture, while transsexuals (TS's) and transvestites (TV's) make less, but men, poor things, make the least.
Isn't it ironic that conventional modeling and prostitution are the only two professions where women make more than men? I'd love to see people become more aware of the ways in which sex is commodified in our culture, but the irony is that I bank on repression and the taboo qualities of sex in our Calvinistic culture, so in some ways it's better that it stays this way.
In the dark, online, all alone...
Thursday, December 3, 2009
What changes would you like to see occur in people's attitudes toward sex-work and sex-workers? How far into the future is that day when negative attitudes will change?
It's no secret that when anyone mentions sex work or sex workers everyone automatically thinks of streetwalkers with pimps and needles hanging out of their arms. Not that all streetwalkers are junkies or addicts, but usually that scene has an element of desperation or addiction somewhere nearby.
I suppose I'd like everyone to be more aware of what I call the Hooker Hierarchy. There are all kinds of workers filling the needs of all levels of society. Sadly, at the bottom are the streetwalkers. It's the most obvious, in plain view, sometimes stunningly gorgeous in it's brazenness, in fact; which is why people have the association of hooking with streetwalking.
Above that, there are people who work out of bars, clubs, massage parlors, and even brothels, but they're still working for someone else usually. As is the case with agencies. It's just a more female-centric arrangement, with the women running the agencies having usually been the workers themselves at one point.
But to me, a pimp is a pimp is a pimp. Then there are the providers who work an ad online. At one level you have the Craigslist folks who are just doing it for the money, who aren't really concerned with presenting themselves at their finest, and have been known to constantly make "deals" and end up just bringing the whole pricing game down for everyone - typically young, dumb, and just need rent money or a new pair of shoes for going out Saturday night.
Monday, November 23, 2009
When last we left Chloe with Fireman Frank, Frank was just about to open his metal box...
After one last exhale, he opened it and I saw things I immediately recognized: women's clothes. Although mainly lingerie, stockings, and panties, there were other items one could describe as Frederick's-of-Hollywood sexy: the ubiquitous black, shiny, cheap mini-skirt, a sparkly sequinned blouse from the Large Gals department, and even a pair of beat up high heels that looked like two dainty red patent Tonka firetrucks in a size 15. He continued to cry and couldn't even look at me.
Shame is a powerful theme in my work that I'm often forced to deal with. I see people at their most private and vulnerable. I'm so lucky I'm as sensitive as I am. And so is Frank.
This is what I give to my clients: understanding, love, guidance, encouragement, mind-blowing sex any way they want it, when they want it, and all completely free of judgement. Frank and I have been seeing each other for over 9 years now. He comes over, we'll spend an hour getting him dressed in modern women's clothes that actually fit him and make him feel the way he wants to feel, with his "outside matching his inside", as he likes to say. The best part of Frank, or Bella's (as he likes to be called when dressed), story is that he came out to his sons as a crossdresser. I've even met one of them.
I could write volumes on the injustices of such a world that would allow a man who bravely and regularly saves the lives of complete strangers to feel so hideously about himself. I'll never fully understand the power we attribute to inanimate pieces of cloth. But what I do understand is what Frank and I give to each other after nine years of talking, laughing, bumping "pussies" and trying on hats! And anyone who doesn't understand needs to unpack his/her own impermeable metal box.
Monday, November 16, 2009
When last we left Chloe with Fireman Frank, Frank was just about to open his metal box...
But back to Frank and his metal case... Once we began to talk and I put him at ease with arm-stroking and complete eye contact, it became clear to me why he was with me. He sheepishly began his tale of always having a secret that he carried with him since he was a young man, as young as 10, he said.
It was obviously very difficult for him to talk about and he began to cry while explaining that his beloved wife had died of breast cancer recently. As he unlocked the impermeable chrome box, he explained that it was a secret that he had never been able to share with her, and he began to sob and gasp for breath the way one does when one really lets go. It was a weeping of great regret.
The case was unlocked and yet he still wouldn't open. He had to put in a certain three digit code to unlock the inner lock, which he did while taking deep breaths, and I cradled him with one arm while stroking his hair and wiping his forehead. He paused before making the final unveiling of what lay inside, looked at me, and said that he had never, ever shown the contents of this to anyone. I said that I was so pleased that he'd chosen me and I was very excited to share this moment with him.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Any particular story involving a client that you find especially illustrative or moving?
More than anything, I think I give my clients understanding - this includes listening and, once again, the fine art of non-judgement. No one illustrates this better than Frank the Fireman.
Frank came to me the first time not long after I had started doing sex work almost 10 years ago. He is a large, striking, handsome Italian originally from New York City, born and raised in Hell's Kitchen. At the time, Frank was in his late 40's, a devoted husband of almost 30 years, with 3 grown sons (two doctors and an architect), and a well-respected and highly decorated Fire Marshall for a small suburb outside of San Francisco.
Like most of my clients their first time, he was visibly nervous and carrying a medium-sized metal suitcase with a padlock on it. I wasn't sure what to make of him, huge and hirsute, but I laughed to myself remembering what power I seemed to have over these men, dressed in a short, pussy-pink peignoir, with a short dark wig called "Ingenue", staggering around in 4" Gucci stilettos.
After I put the money away and got him the pre-poured glass of water that they all invariably want, we sat down to talk, as I always do with my clients. My formula, by the way, is based on three 20-minute cycles: the first 20 minutes is getting to know them and make them comfortable, the second 20 minutes is the actual sex, and the third 20 is blissful joking, sweet-nothings, and clean-up. Before you know it, an hour has passed and I've made another friend and feel a bit richer for services rendered.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
The second part of my interview with Paul Soileau, aka Christeene, aka Aliya, a short and sweet 3 minutes. Above is a make-up test photo, with a bit of "shady lady" action going on that Chloe helped us avoid during shooting. - Kyle
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
And if we needed a reason to go "adults only", above is the first from an intimate yet performative series of gallery-ready self portraiture snapshots that Chloe has taken over the years waiting for clients to arrive in hotel rooms. Also, I've heard from several of you via e-mail with interesting comments on Chloe's thoughts, but would love it if you would post them here to the blog so we might all participate. I think these interview segments certainly challenge a lot of assumptions (and raise a few eyebrows!), and I think everyone would benefit from hearing a range of reactions, even if they are contrary. We all benefit from civil and open discussion! :) - Kyle
What satisfaction does your work give you? What do you give to your clients?
My work is immensely satisfying. I get to make people cum and make money at the same time! How fucking fabulous is that?? I derive great satisfaction in knowing that someone leaves my apartment relaxed, with a smile on his face, feeling smugly satisfied at having gotten away with something naughty and I can pay my bills and save some cash and buy myself those new Louboutins or take a trip to Paris for my birthday. It's also great to get my own sexual needs taken care of while I'm making money - definitely two birds with one stone. I save so much time not having to pursue sex, but rather let it find and pay me!
I give my clients different things depending on who they are, of course. In general though, I always give my clients genuine emotion and affection. I have a stable of more than 30 regulars who come to see me on a regular basis. That could be once a week, once a month, even once every two months.
Regardless of the time frame, these are all people with whom I've been having long-term, emotionally and sexually-fulfilling relationships. Stop and try to wrap your brain around that! Most of us can barely even maintain one relationship! I suppose I just have A LOT of love to give. I know my client's real names, their wive's and children's names, their professions, even sometimes their addresses - trust me, nothing makes a client hotter than being buttfucked by a gorgeous tranny in his own bed while his wife and children are away visiting her sister Sally in Indiana!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Today begins an amazing series of exchanges with SAN FRANCISCO production consultant Chloe, a professional transvestite sex-worker. Chloe of course has another name but we'll need refer to him by his pseudonym to protect his identity since sex-work is still illegal in these here United States. I first met Chloe through a mutual friend while working in San Francisco editing Michael Jacob's AUDIENCE OF ONE. Needless to say, I came to that first meeting with a lot of stereotypes and baggage regarding sex-work and sex-workers (e.g. sex-work = prostitution = always exploitative = always bad!). Well, needless to say, my stereotypes died hard and our relationship has been one of the more treasured friendships I've developed over the course of my lifetime. I hope you find these exchanges as moving and funny (Chloe has a wonderful sense of humor) as I do! - Kyle
What led you to do the work you do?
The perfect synthesis of the dot.com boom (lots of shy, young, horny cubicle nerds with lots of money!), the proliferation of the internet, the invention of erosguide.com, and my staggering amount of college debt.
The year was 2000 and I was a regular at a SF club called Trannyshack. I enjoyed the fashion of drag and the completely different sexual possibilities it presented. I noticed that when I put on a wig, some lipstick, a short skirt, and a gorgeous pair of high heels, a totally different set of eyes were upon me. Mostly straight or bi, but almost never gay.
I was able to sleep with ridiculously hot straight guys that wouldn't have even noticed me had I been dressed as my normal skinny-art-damaged-fag self. Whoa. I could actually walk out of the club on the arm of the straight(ish) stud that all the gays were salivating over and it felt amazing. We call it the "Tranny's Revenge." I could make the gay guys jealous who wouldn't give me the time of day, by sleeping with the straight guys that they drooled over.
But back to the original question: An amazing tranny who worked the door, Chocolate (nope, she's white), once asked me where I advertised and what I charged. I had absolutely no idea what she meant. When she told me that I could make "A LOT of money," I began to ask questions. She taught me everything and "turned me out," as they say.
I paid off my college loans in less than a year and haven't slept with a gay man in years - except for my boyfriends. Well, unless you count, the jerk-off sessions in the steam room at the gym, where I'm always the ONLY guy in there with a perfect mani/pedi of Chanel's Vamp. But again - who really knows if all those guys are gay? Doubt it...
Friday, October 16, 2009
1. David Altmejd - He's the one I was telling you about. Werewolves and chicken men. French-canadian... crystals symbols of growth energy and light click here and here for some images.
3. Cary Liebowitz -funny, funny, funny, Woody Allen self deprecation. Also: works for sothebys (or Christies) in print dept. so he knows his shit.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
The first part of a brief interview I conducted w/ actor Paul Soileau, who plays the character of Aliya, the transvestite sex-worker in SAN FRANCISCO. Paul is known around Austin and the whole USofA for his character creations of Christeene and Rebecca Havemeyer. Checkout Christine's new video, shot by PJ Raval as part of their Three Dollar Cinema collaboration, for "Tears from My Pussy", off of Christeene's soon to be released "Soldier of Pleasure" album. Funny... and frightening! - Kyle
Thursday, October 1, 2009
After running w/ a friend the other day, I got into a discussion briefly that at one point centered on the inability of American people, via their popular culture, to critique themselves. That some sort of apex of investigation and potentially transformational critique had been reached in the 1960-1970s and we have always, as children of the 70s, been living in its wake. Also, how much I strive, how much I yearn for this kind of introspective, how much I in my own small way aspire to deep, lacerating, critique and investigation, a chance to tell painful truths to myself and others so that we might see where we were once blind. O.K., a little too Christian there, but that was the tradition in which I was raised. I think, this clip from Norman Lear's radical television intervention MARY HARTMAN, MARY HARTMAN (I can't bring myself to call it a "show", since it was more a Trojan horse culture bomb), says everything I want to say tonight and I keen for what has been lost. May we find it again, this country, this culture, lost in delusion and denial. Stick with it till the jaw dropping end, and wonder when we will ever see anything like it again.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Here's my chat w/ Gary Chason, the actor who plays Tom, the husband who orders his own special encounter in SAN FRANCISCO. Gary has created quite a rep for himself during his forth career as an actor (DEAR PILLOW, et al). He gave me my first film job as a video assist operator during his third career as a film producer in Houston in 1989, following his very successful second career as a casting director on such films as THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, PAPER MOON, and PRETTY BABY, which followed his first career as a ballet dancer. Finally, a bit of a spoiler - Tom is "afflicted", but we won't reveal what exactly the affliction is, you'll have to see SAN FRANCISCO for that. - Kyle
1. First thoughts:
When my mother was dying of cancer the television networks were spewing gobs of "Disease of the Week" movies. I despised them then, and still do, because they invariably used human illness and misery to achieve their dramatic effect, which I considered cheap, shallow, and insensitive. The "healthy" characters typically felt some emotional uplift in their treacly - and highly unrealistic - endings. So "Affliction" movies - a term that fits San Francisco - have always been my least favorite genre, followed by carnographic, or splatter, movies, and anything with a zombie, vampire, or superhero. So it was with great trepidation that I read the script.
Upon reading the script, I was relieved to see that this wasn't a typical affliction film, including for me these redeeming qualities: 1. the afflicted character, which I was slated to play, actually got to have fun, to be the one uplifted at the end; and 2. sexual perversity was the vehicle for that uplift. Redemption through sexual perversity is definitely my favorite kind, even though, personally, I would have made different choices than Tom did in his life.
2. What helped you prepare?
The knowledge that I was actually going to get paid. Not much, of course, but every little bit helps.
3. Challenges? Fears?
The biggest physical challenge was being perfectly still at all times. It's difficult to move the eyes without also moving the head. And I couldn't help but dread the razzing I would receive from my beer-drinking buddies about the irrumatio sequence. But the most daunting issue was backstory. I was so disturbed when I reflected upon what must have happened to Tom that I just couldn't go there. I decided to avoid backstory altogether - and not practice what I preach - and simply react, to be in the moment at all times. Later, I realized that that would be exactly what Tom would have done. The last thing he'd want to think about was the terrible trauma he had experienced.
4. Learned about the world or yourself?
Being an actor is still new to me. I've been a Casting Director, Director, Acting Teacher and Coach, but it's been many decades since I performed as an actor, largely because I considered it unethical for a Casting Director to also be an actor. But I left my professional casting career behind many years ago in order to concentrate on making my own films, so the ethical question is now moot. But because of my work casting and teaching - seeing the struggles and mistakes and seeing how many would-be actors made fools of themselves in auditions - I was terrified at the very idea of getting in front of the camera and acting. I've gotten over that and have come to realize that I possess that essential quality that an actor must have to be any good at all: Fearlessness. This project did not create that break though but definitely confirmed it.
While at first I thought the role would present too many challenges for me to accept, I also felt that nobody else, within a reasonable geographic range, would consider doing it. I believe in Kyle Henry as a filmmaker and wanted, as a colleague, to support his efforts. And wimping out would have been a serious code violation for me. I'm glad I did it and hope my efforts as an actor have contributed in a positive way.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO begins with a call from a woman to a transvestite prostitute. We do not for what reason Aliya has been called to Anne's home in Marin County, California... but we will soon find out. Anne is played by Cyndi Williams, the lead actress in my other feature film ROOM, and she will graciously begin an interview series with the three leads of SF that I'm conducting via e-mail. I've also inserted a few responses to her answers below in red.
CYNDI WILLIAMS as ANNE
1) What were your first feelings when being approached to play your role in SAN FRANCISCO? First thoughts after reading the script?
I’m not easily shocked. When I read the script, I thought it was beautiful and strange.
Kyle had asked me to be a reader for some of the auditioning actors, saying I was too young for the role in SAN FRANCISCO. To my surprise, he ended up offering me the role anyway. I was thrilled to accept, and hugely relieved that my character’s only nakedness would be emotional nakedness! I’d gotten enough body criticism after ROOM to last me the rest of my life. Nothing like googling yourself and half the entries pass judgment on your body! Yes, that is shallow of me, but that was my first thought about the role! Clothes stay on! Yay!
IT IS NOT THE WOMAN WHO IS PERVERSE, BUT THE SOCIETY IN WHICH SHE LIVES! Isn't it bloody perverse that Cyndi, a frankly radiant woman, should be singled out for judgment in ROOM? I remember a man at the Woodstock Film Festival (a wonderful fest, btw!), who asked "Why did you cast such a fat actress as your lead?" and I just got so irate that the whole purpose of making the film had been lost on this guy. Cyndi is more representative of a NORMAL American woman than any of the major stars trotted as "All-American" by Hollywood. I remember the filmmaker Barbara Hammer was in audience and she blurted out something like "I don't know what the hell you're talking about, I think Cyndi is beautiful!" and there was applause, which made me feel great. Wish Cyndi could've been there! I think often that film, advertising, image-making, et al, has done a HUGE disservice to our conception of ourselves and what is and isn't acceptable about our own bodies. It has also limited our connection to ourselves as sensual beings. Everyone has the capacity for giving and receiving pleasure. It is only the hucksters of more crap who want us to believe that pleasure is only possible within a narrow range.
2) What, if anything, helped you prepare to play your role?
Before the shoot, Gary and I got together with Kyle and P.J. and took photographs together at the Long Center here in Austin, for set dressing. The upscale location and our dressed-up look helped me hone in on the type of life this couple led before the husband’s accident.
3) What particular challenges did you face playing your role? Any fears you had to overcome?
ROOM was the film in which I had to wrestle many, many fears to the ground. In SAN FRANCISCO, I think the men had the more difficult time!
4) During the process of making the film, was there anything you learned about the world or yourself that you feel like sharing?
I don’t know that I learned this so much as it was graphically illustrated in this experience: Laughter and tears are not opposites on a spectrum; they are mushed up against each other in a sticky sweet mess. Underlying the words of my scenes was an urge to laugh and/or cry. But this isn’t about Anne and she keeps a stiff upper lip. This film makes me think about acts of kindness as well, how an act of kindness is a gift, and how these little gifts can come from unexpected places. Everyone is offering gifts in SAN FRANCISCO: Anne selflessly gives her husband what he desires, the hooker and the husband give each other an intimacy beyond a business transaction. Oh, yeah, and I learned that you really can’t dye hair grey.
5) Finally, anything extra you'd like to share about the process and experience of making this film?
I loved the way the scenes in the house were filmed! Our tiny crew lived, ate, and filmed in the house. There was time to shoot scenes over and over, to play them differently, to see what worked best. As an actor who has a lot more theater experience than film experience, I reveled in the opportunity to explore the possibilities in a scene. I loved my day on set; I loved the sense of purpose and teamwork radiating from cast and crew. It was a very satisfying experience.
Monday, August 17, 2009
1) Very happy to report that the Austin Film Society awarded FOURPLAY an $7K production grant for the next segment (TAMPA or NEW HAVEN?), which will hopefully be shot in December.
2) Want to make it officially known that Jim McKay, director of such films as OUR SONG, GIRLSTOWN, EVERYDAY PEOPLE, et al, has signed on as an Executive Producer for FOURPLAY. Jim and Michael Stipe, via their company C-Hundred Film Corp, were executive producers of my previous feature film, ROOM. I'll have more exciting news about this later...
Saturday, August 15, 2009
It's been over six months since we shot SAN FRANCISCO, in both that beautiful city by the bay and what I consider to be its Texas sister city, Austin. In no particular order, below is a list of some of my personal highlights/insights from that shoot:
1) OVERSHOOT: As much as producers, the industry, directors, academics, critics, filmmaking textbooks love to analyze a final film as if it was hatched fully formed from the mind of the writers/directors, filmmaking is a process, and anyone who tells you otherwise is just simply a liar fishing for the "genius" boobie prize. We shot A LOT on SF, I mean like a 20:1 ratio, which is why I LOVE video and do not fetishize film. I love performers. I love performance. I love giving these amazingly talented, fragile, wonderful people who are insane enough to pursue an acting career every possibile opportunity to get not only my interpretation of a scene "right," but for us to co-create at least several workable variations within each an every take for the moments they are inhabiting. I want to get into the editing room and be as surprised by the range the film's characters have as I am when reading a draft of a script or working with the actors on-set. I want to squeeze as much life out of the material as possible. So, I say, if you are shooting on video and have the time, overshoot.
2) SEX SCENES ARE CHOREOGRAPHY: With SF, we had three days of rehearsal. Every movement during the sex scenes was blocked and rehearsed with the actors (clothes on) days before the film shoot. The last thing I wanted the actors to feel was physically vulnerable. They and I needed to know what they were doing, how they were doing it, what would be seen, so all those technical/vanity questions could get out of the way so the real work, acting, could take place. Good performances, at least in my book, are created through trust. The actors have to know there is a safety net that you the director are providing and rehearsals are the first step toward creating that safety net. Without it, emotional vulnerability is not going to happen when you say "roll camera" and that's what I need: raw, naked, vulnerable human beings revealing themselves to each other and to me.
3) HIRE REAL ACTORS: There's a lot of talk these days about non-professional performers being fresh and new. That somehow not knowing what you are doing can be more revealing than what trained professional actors can reveal through crafted performances. I don't believe that one bit. Behind all the stuttering, mumbling, frightened performances we are given in these films, I see people flailing around without a clue what they are doing, let alone what their next line of dialogue is, and there is nothing fresh about it. NONE of the people I know are as inarticulate, unfeeling, uncritical, unemotional as these film's characters would lead us to believe. The idea that non-professionals, who are not in-on-the-process as co-creators, since they lack valuable skills of re-creating and simulating heightened emotional states that we all experience, are somehow better equipped to deal with the VERY phony and fake environment of a film set is naive at best, deluded at the worst. What you are given is a flat-lined, narrow bandwidth expression of "realism", and it's a gimmick I think that is worn out it's welcome. I don't mean to beat a dead horse here, and for low-stakes drama this is a perfectly adequate approach, but these FOURPLAY shorts are high-stakes, emotionally complicated stories that require active co-creators with skills.
So, Carlos and I auditioned as many people as I could for the role of Aliya, assisted by the hard-working and amazing casting director Vicky Boone, and luckily Paul Soileau walked through the door. Carlos and I had seen Paul perform several times as Rebecca Havemeyer, but this wonderfully campy character did not prepare us for how amazingly subtle, genuine and sincere Paul could be as a film performer. He blew us away and we knew we had a film after his audition was over. Cyndi Williams, star of ROOM, was serendipitously a reader at these auditions and it also was self-evident that she would make a perfect caring, confused, fragile yet determined wife of the man requesting a session with a transvestite sex-worker. For the character of Tom, who has a special medical condition which I won't reveal, finding the right actor was a challenge. Naively, somehow I thought mature actors in town would be chomping at the bit to act in a short with a transvestite sex-scene. Wrong! Several turned me down without reading the script. A few humored me with a reading and a phone call but forthrightly stated that they weren't comfortable with this film as part of their oeuvre. Finally, contacted Gary Chason, an old friend from Houston who actually gave me my first film job as a video-assist operator when I was twenty years old. Gary is one of those amazing Renaissance men whose had ten careers: ballet dancer; casting director for such films as THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, PAPER MOON, BREWSTER McCLOUD, PRETTY BABY and PARIS, TEXAS; director of commercials and his own feature films; and most recently, an actor, starting w/ Bryan Poyser and Jake Vaughn's DEAR PILLOW. He read the script, we met for drinks, he asked me about my intentions, listened, then said something along the lines of "You know, I always tell my acting students to be fearless, and although this role scares the shit out of me, I'd be a complete hypocrite if I didn't do it, so yes, I'm in."
The performers and crew, the people I work with and get to know better over the course of a film shoot, are always the highlight of production.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
"Barfly On The Wall" - Austin Chronicle, Aug 14th, 2009
"Kinky Sex..." - IndieWire, June 4th, 2009
Glad I was nice to that Chronicle writer! Although I'm always nice on set, because hell, why would I or anyone be mean to people working for nothing or next-to-nothing?! Although I do get cranky when I'm tired and cranked on too much coffee. Apologies all around. :)
Monday, August 10, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
O.K., so starting for the first time a blog and asking myself: What useful information can I convey that I would want to read in anyone's blog to make it worthwhile reading? Well, here's my mission statement:
1) To provide as much information as possible about all the stages of production, post-production, distribution for FOURPLAY, a series of short films that highlights sexual transgressions:
In AUSTIN, a young couple debates baby making;
in TAMPA, a man finds nirvana in a public restroom;
in SKOKIE, a woman falls for her pastor’s dog;
and in SAN FRANCISCO, a cross-dressing prostitute faces a challenging assignment.
Hopefully we'll all learn something along the way and I look forward to your comments. These are emotionally high stakes stories that require bravura performances and we are doing all this on a very small budget. Hope we are up the task! Also, by making a series of shorts, we don't know what the final form will be, or if there will be a final form versus a series of forms (e.g. stand alone shorts serially released on VOD, a narrative feature packaged for festival/theatrical/cable/DVD distribution, or an add on for free to a progressive sex-ed websites like Nightcharm or Jane's Guide or Butt Magazine). Who knows?
2) To try to be as honest with myself as possible about WHY this film (films?) is a necessary addition to a public conversation on the way we as Americans image and imagine sex vs the reality of our lived experience. Sex scenes, particularly in American Indie films, have driven me figuratively up the wall during the last twenty years. Mostly the fantasies of white straight men, they have been for me a horrific cultural/political/social regression from the high points of difficult/painful/heart-breaking honesty conveyed through some of my favorite works from the 1960s-70s, including: MIDNIGHT COWBOY, SUNDAY BLOOD SUNDAY, RENDEZVOUS WITH ANNA, PERFORMANCE, BAD TIMING, AN UNMARRIED WOMAN, FIVE EASY PIECES, HAROLD AND MAUDE, A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE, BLOOM IN LOVE, A SIMPLE STORY, A DAY IN THE DEATH OF JOE EGG, IF..., WOMEN IN LOVE, et al. We are interested in telling stories where sex functions as it does in our real lives: as potentially major/minor turning point/s in not only the relationships we create through the acts themselves but also in our understanding of ourselves and the world around us through committing these acts. The bandwidth is so narrow right now in how sex acts function in film narratives that I really believe the above mentioned works would be impossible to produce on the scale they were made in their time, which were pretty damn small scale mostly to begin with. And that is a VERY SAD commentary on us and our country and the dominant popular culture. We hope to arrogantly re-start, re-invigorate, revive that conversation not only as a cultural product, but as a personal growth experience. I hope making these films change me and community of people I work with in some small way for the better. We'll see.
3) As a way for the entire cast/crew to comment on their FOURPLAY experiences and why they are committing themselves, for very little monetary gain, to this mission. I'll start off with asking the amazing writers Carlos Treviño and Jessica Hedrick to explain their personal relationship to their "true tales of sexual intimacy", but hopefully will have all the key participants contribute at some point along the way.
4) Bizarre, funny, interesting photos/production stills from our shoots; advance previews of shorts through rough-cut clips, and all the normal detritus that never finds a proper resting place other than my computer and a shoe box in my closet after a film wraps. I guess this will be a virtual shoe-box, then, so at least if my house is engulfed in flames like Aldous Huxley's home in California was in 1961, I won't lose most of my archives like he did.
O.K., that's enough to chew on for now. Next post will be about production high-points from SAN FRANCISCO, which we shot in January of 2009. To wet your appetite, a behind the scenes photo of Paul Soileau, one of the actors from the film.