October 17, 2013

Filmmaker Focus #4 Brazen Saddles

Every week (or sometimes 3 times per week...) we present a new interview with someone who decided, "I want to make a bike porn and share it with Bike Smut!"

Our 4th interview is also our 3rd (and final, for now) interview with a Montreal based artist. Extra exciting because tonight is also the world premiere of this movie!

Do you have a back story?:

SKYLAR: You mean besides being really into bikes and sex and the blurring of those lines?

An introduction to who you are:
Julia is a recent journalism graduate with plenty of video experience under her belt, though this is the first piece of fiction she's ever done. She's quite capable of working a DSLR one handed while riding a bike.

Skylar was a philosophy and sexuality studies student, who put that to use by being a bike messenger for a while (lots of time to think and lots of ass-on-saddle time). The last video Skylar made before this was a chalkboard stop-motion animation when he was 9.

We're also partners, both really into bikes, sex, and the sexiness of bikes and people on them.

Do you like filmmaking?  Why?:

SKYLAR: Yes! Although there have been many long and stressful nights in this process, seeing ideas represented and creating something feels great.

JULIA: I work with other people’s films on a daily basis as a so having my own ideas being worked on feels great. Also having a wonderful group of people who believe in the project we created is very rewarding.

SKYLAR: I think the best part of making this film was really the process itself. When we first started reaching out to people, I think we said, "the most important thing we're doing here is having fun". And it totally was, from huddling under blankets in insane Montreal weather to sexy folk riding bikes in sexy outfits around town, to sitting down at the end of the day with beers and food and just hanging out.

Have you made movies before? What were they like?

JULIA: Never fiction! Julia has done lots of mini docs and music videos.

Why do you make the movies you do?

JULIA: We made Brazen Saddles because we wanted to make an erotic film in Montréal, exploring issues we think are important, such as representation of women in bike culture and consent.

How you came to shoot for Bike Smut and what you hope people will gain from watching your movie?:

SKYLAR: We went to Bike Smut last year in Montreal and loved it. One thing we noticed though was the quality of a lot of the films. We don't mean content, even one of the ones done in one take on what seemed to be an iPhone was sexy as hell. We asked, "Why isn't there much alternative porn with higher production quality?" That got into a long conversation on viewership, the economy of porn, the means of production, access to porn (paid vs. free), etc.  Somewhere in that process we finally realized what we had available to us: a couple DSLR cameras and people who know how to use them, a cargo bike + trailer to haul gear, friends with lighting equipment or access to equipment, friends with shops or connections to bike shops, and of course, friends interested in getting naked. All of a sudden it was just as simple as, "Let's do it."

As for what we want people to gain from watching it… Maybe some increased blood flow, a little sweat, some heart racing? We're definitely a little nervous because we aimed so high with what we wanted from the film, probably higher than what time realistically permitted (and the time that was totally volunteered by the other 20 or so people involved). I think aside from being turned on, we really hope people appreciate the sex scene. The whole film was scripted except for this, and that was intentional. We wanted to film something very real, not contrived or planned. We think we got this, and it's pretty fucking sexy.

Tell us about your movie:

SKYLAR: It takes place in a small quiet town, where everything is relatively peaceful and orderly, largely thanks to the kind, helpful, and law-enforcing town Sheriff. Everything would be great in this orderly world if it wasn't for the ruckus girl-gang, Lola and the Alleycats, who make mischief and disregard all the rules of the road to ride fast and hard. One day, the Sheriff has enough of the Alleycats teasing and blatant disregard for the law and takes chase. Without giving much more away, let's just say chasing some sexy riders with asses in the air who playfully taunt and tease you while you sweat it out might get some a little hot.

Tell us about the process:

JULIA: We really wanted everyone involved to be part of it, especially the actors. We wrote the script and then had a session where we talked about porn, bikes, femininity and bikes, women and bikes, bikes and gender, and also about the actors’ roles within the script. Especially for the main characters, we let them build their identities as they felt it. We didn’t write it in that the Sheriff would wear pink, for example. That was something that the actor wanted and that collaboration was something we really enjoyed.

Who wrote it?:
We did.

What was it like filming outside?:

SKYLAR: Terrible. We had a very tight schedule, since coordinating over a dozen people to dedicate a whole day (multiple days really) to shooting is not easy. The first day of shooting we had 9 hours of shooting planned. It was April 20th, and on that day it went from 70F/21C, partially cloudy, and gorgeous, 34F/1C with hail, to sun, to rain, to sun, to snow, to sun, to heavy winds that ruined any audio recording. It was ridiculous, because we were concerned with "continuity" on screen, but reality didn't even have continuity.

We of course also got one asshole cat-calling some of our actresses in the middle of a shot, who wouldn't leave even when a dozen people were yelling at him to get out. Though, humorously, he did end up yelling "Whatever, you're probably making some gay porno anyways", and we yelled back "Yes! We are actually!"

How did you find people to help you make this movie?

SKYLAR: Through journalism school, sexuality studies, and messenger life, we seemed to have a pretty strong network already. We did a couple call-outs though, and the response was very positive. We've actually got a few people already who contacted us interested in getting involved in another one.

What about shooting on location?

JULIA: When we had people in skimpy clothing ride bikes and pretend it wasn’t a cold, snowy Montreal April day by the Lachine canal, it was a bit of a challenge. After that, everything seemed easy.

In the bike shop?

JULIA: We got the full support from a local bike co-op, Right to Move, who not only gave us permission to shoot in their space, but also generously contributed to the fund that went to feed the actors and crew. Shooting in their space was awesome!

What were the biggest challenges?

SKYLAR: The biggest challenge hands down had to be coordination of a crew this big. We ended up losing shooting time because too much time passed before we could get everyone together again. Tattoos were gotten, hair changed, bikes changed, the trees filled in with leaves, the sun was setting in a different part of the sky, there was no way we could do it without it being obvious. This is also the challenge of so much of the film being outdoors. It'd be different if we were paying people, cause then we can be more adamant about production needs like availabilities and such, but it was all volunteer. As is, most people involved put in 20+ hours into the making of this film.

What would you have done differently?

SKYLAR: If we do it again, we'll work with a much smaller cast and probably find an indoor set.

What about the sex?

JULIA: When we were about to shoot the sex scene, the actors requested everyone from the crew to take off their pants! And if that was to make them more comfortable, it definitely worked. We were thrilled with the results, and it really comes through how much they are into it.

What would you say to people who do not think this qualifies as porn?

SKYLAR:Well, what qualifies as "porn", or "erotica" or just "sexual imagery" or whatever rating boards use? We don't really care too much about whether or not this "qualifies as porn", we just hope people find it sexy, that there's a comfortableness in this sexiness, and that it's apparent our actresses and crew were having fun.

Tell us a story about your community learning about obscenity and how your community has changed.

JULIA: It’s interesting you ask that. In our little sex-positive, university-educated, radical politics bubble we don’t think anything we did with our film is obscene in any way. Personally, I prefer to call our film “erotica”, which is artistic work “that deals substantively with erotically stimulating or sexually arousing subject matter” (thanks Wiki), while “obscenity” is defined by U.S. Law as material that can be considered by the average person “of prurient interests”. And prurient has also a relative meaning, “having or encouraging an excessive interest in sexual matters.” So does our film have prurient interests? I don’t think so. I don’t think there is and “excessive” interest in sexual matters. But that’s beside the point.

Our partnership with the community in Montreal was essential for Brazen Saddles to happen. We filmed in two bike shops, one of them a co-op, we borrowed equipment from a community TV station, from bike community people, friends and acquaintances. I’m not sure the community has changed in a significant way, but I know that conversations over what is “pornographic” have been sparked, as well as what is the role of a community in supporting sex-positivity.

Would you like to shoot for Bike Smut again? What would you tell other potential filmmakers?

JULIA: We would love to! I’d tell other potential filmmakers to get in touch and talk about their plans. I know it definitely helped us, and it’d be great to have open lines of communication with Bike Smut content creators.

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Thank you Julia, Skylar and the entire cast, crew and supporters of Brazen Saddles! We are thrilled to present the world premiere of your film tonight in Montreal!

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