I started editing this week's film on Tuesday, and for twenty-four hours I honestly believed I wasn't going to be able to show you it. Not because of technical difficulties: but because the scenario was so unpleasant that editing it actually left me a little bit traumatised.
This is one of my nastier fantasies. I wrote it, and Tom, playing the role of top, followed my script exactly. It needed to be intense to achieve the emotional effect I was after, and as an actor, I knew he could deliver. But the first time I watched the footage, it left me shaking. This is horrible, I thought, I can't possibly publish this.
Luckily, by the time I'd wound up the story to its conclusion, the initial shock had worn off, and I changed my mind.
This is a story about a generational culture clash between old and new: the repressive moralism of the late 1800s and the "new woman" emerging by the Roaring Twenties, who proclaimed her right to vote, drive, date, dance, drink and smoke. There's a clear potential for punishment in the resulting conflict.
The original form of this fantasy was dark and solitary, a flapper trapped in an abusive domestic situation, envying her friends their freedom - and, eventually, after one particularly severe punishment, effecting her escape. It was always crucial to my enjoyment of this violent, non-consensual scenario that the mistreated heroine win out in the end.
When I had the chance to shoot with Zille in an amazing period apartment, I seized the opportunity to invite her into the scenario. This was the first scene we filmed together, and it was not an easy shoot. With so many shot changes and other factors to consider, we got behind schedule and I found the whole thing pretty stressful. This was only the fourth video I'd ever produced, and I was still on a very steep learning curve. But it was also glorious, because after months, if not years, of admiring Zille online I was finally with her, in person - getting spanked with her - and it was a constant delight to explore this new dimension to our existing friendship. I think it's pretty clear from how this scene plays out how much we'd been looking forward to meeting each other!
Here are some screencaps I grabbed from the behind the scenes footage:
The petting session our characters indulge in to console themselves after their punishment was not, in fact, scripted: it was a purely spontaneous mutual development on the spur of the moment. But it fits. The real beauty of it is that repressive Uncle Thomas couldn't even imagine that such a thing might be possible!
This film should probably come with a trigger warning for domestic abuse. The punishment sequences are not nice: the whippings are delivered in anger, there's shouting, struggling and crying, and Tom is convincingly unpleasant in his role of my horrid uncle. But the story, ultimately, has a happy ending. The repressive ideas of his generation have a sell-by date, and the "new woman" he so abhors, in the end, will long outlive him.
I'm rather hoping that the next time I shoot with Zille we'll have the chance to film the sequel to this. I do believe that the young flappers succeed in their plan to escape Uncle's clutches and sail across the ocean to prohibition-era California. I'm sure many adventures await them there! For a start, I'm looking forward to meeting Zille's bohemian gin-distilling aunt...
I particularly enjoyed putting together the soundtrack for this one, including hits by the Duke Ellington Orchestra (Admiration and Saratoga Swing), My Cutie's Due from Two to Two Today and There'll Be Some Changes Made by Billy Higgins. I'm indebted to both Zille and her partner Duncan not only for their roles in the film, but for teaming up to produce such beautiful photography to complement it. There are a total of 113 photographs accompanying the film, plus 11 behind the scenes snaps, all gorgeously atmospheric. Thanks so much to Sleek Images for their help bringing one of my more challenging fantasies to life.