Jonathan Leder’s new film Promiscuities is a sexy psychological thriller starring the gorgeous Amy Hood as a lost young woman exploring her personal issues through various sexual relationships. It’s a visual tour de force that takes erotic filmmaking to a new level, and is best viewed under the cover of darkness. Here, we talk with Jonathan about the film and his collaborative relationship with the leading actress and co-writer.
What is Promiscuities about?
Promiscuities is the story of a young woman (Diane) who was violently abused by her mother during childhood, and then seeks the help of a psychotherapist later in life, only to realize that he has a twisted agenda of his own. Diane’s problems primarily manifest themselves through her sexual psychosis, however, she has other very apparent psychological issues as well, her dependency on pills, alcohol, delusions, anger, fear, extreme self consciousness, a desperate need for love and affection, and dangerous self destructive tendencies. All of which are propelled and encouraged by her sadistic doctor.
The screenplay is an original story written by Amy Hood and myself. We began outlining the idea of Promiscuities back in January of this year, shortly after we published Fetishisms Volume 1. We began to think about a way to bring some of the psychological concepts we had been exploring to life in the context of a narrative film people could enjoy. We choose this subject matter because it allowed us to explore a lot of concepts that we were interested in. Psychological concepts, that affect many, if not all of us, in some way or another. The film is based on some true stories, some fiction, some personal influences.
How did you two meet and what was the working process like?
Amy and I have been working together now for nearly two years. Of course we met in the classic sort of model / photographer way. Working on this project was very in depth, but also very informal. A lot of research went into the project and we both came up with ideas that we pushed each other on. The overhead cost for producing this film was really very low, so we were able to spend a lot of time filming. We spent on and off nearly six months working on the project. If we didn’t like something, or the way something came out, we either scrapped it, or re did it. I think the process was very sculptural and tactile. We tried a lot of things, sometimes they were brilliant, other times (though not as often!) they were failures. The best part is being able to take risks, and having people around you that are able to support you when you take those risks.
This is such a sexually charged film…
Diane’s whole premise “I guess it’s safe to say I have a problem with sex” is sort of the jumping off point for exploration in this film. The idea of exploring aspects of human nature that other people are afraid to discuss in an intelligent and mature way is always interesting to me. Human beings are fascinating creatures, and I suppose I agree with Freud that human sexuality is often at the root of a large part of human psychology.
“I guess we always long for forbidden things” or “I knew I was alive with the heat of her hand around my cock.” Sure, it’s sexual, but these are universal truths that speak to all of us.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during the filming? How did you keep the talent comfortable during some of the more graphic scenes?
Filming went relatively well. Many of the scenes were improvised and the actors, especially Phillip Levine did a fantastic job with the improv. The whole scene when he is walking down the staircase at night is complete improv. Just right off the cuff. No script at all. Those scenes turned out so vibrantly, but I guess it was a risk. They could have been awful with other actors.
Some of the sexual scenes were a bit awkward to film, sometimes I had to push Amy to do things she wasn’t entirely comfortable to do, which I did not always enjoy. There are others that did not make it into the film because the ‘chemistry’ wasn’t there, but as long as you can go back and get it right, it’s no big deal. I guess after a while Amy got a bit burnt out making out with everyone.
Any tips for aspiring filmmakers?
Make your own rules. Study the great films. Ignore the formulaic crap coming out of Hollywood today completely. Take more risks. Take your time. Throw away your cell phone so you can concentrate. We made this film for under $3,000, but I also spent 350 hours editing it. Time is more important than money, in my opinion.
Promiscuities is available for digital download and streaming here
A Tribe Called Quest, Electric Relaxation, 1993
New music for your desktop speakers
As rapped by the movies
Shinola’s new RUNWELL CONTRAST CHRONO 47mm is the best looking timekeeper the American watchmaker has ever created.
These Larry David socks by Avi Gold are the perfect excuse to kick back and put your feet up anywhere. Info on ordering right here
The Glass Pot by Massimo Castagna
Grant Meyers, the erotic film foley artist.
All week we’ll be previewing cultural highlights from the upcoming fall season. Today we start with 34 can’t miss art exhibitions opening in September in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Paris.
“Like a piece of intestine with legs on it,” according to British naturalist and TV presenter Nick Barker, there’s nothing in the world quite like a Mexican mole lizard.
Neither mole nor lizard, the Mexican mole lizard (Bipes biporus) lives up to a third of its name by being a native of the Baja California peninsula in Mexico. Not a whole lot is known about this very secretive animal, but what we do know of the Mexican mole lizard is that everything you see here makes this little guy perfectly suited to a life lived in the dirt.
Mexican mole lizards live almost exclusively in a shallow underground environment made of loose or sandy soil, but can dig burrows up to 15 centimetres below the surface in search of food, a good place to mate, or just some valuable time away from all that desert heat. They belong to a lgenus called Bipes, which means “two legs”, and yep, all four species within this genus have them. These legs are extremely special adaptations – within a larger group of legless reptiles called Amphisbaenia, the four Bipes are the only species out of almost 200 close relatives to have ended up with them. At first glance, those rather disproportionately stumpy limbs might not look like much, but wait till you get a look at these very impressive digging claws.
Mexican mole lizards are so good at adapting, they once had two back legs, but got rid of them because they weren’t using them. We know this because when you X-ray a Mexican mole lizard, you can see the remnants of its missing legs poking out in its bone structure.
The tube-like body of the Mexican mole lizard tends to reach around 20 cm long and less than 1cm wide, and its scales are a rather pretty shade of pastel pink. And not only do these guys have scales on their bellies to help propel themselves through the soil the same way snakes do, but their bodies are highly segmented, which means they also move along just like earthworms.
If, like me, you think Mexican mole worms are adorable – just look at that face – then we have no problems, but if you think they’re creepy, let me put creepy in perspective for you. This is a caecilian, which basically looks like a Mexican mole lizard, except that it’s purple, has no legs, and looks like its face has been stuffed into a condom, nice and tight. Caecilians they move their segmented worm-like bodies around like, well, worms; they live their entire lives underground; and are only found in warm environments – all of which isn’t so different from the Mexican mole worm.
Except that when certain species of caecilians are born, they spend the first few weeks of their lives eating their mums alive. One newly discovered species of caecilian that engages in this practice has been named Microcaecilia dermatophaga (which literally means “little skin-feeding caecilian”), and investigations into the species’ behaviour in French Guiana last year revealed that the babies are born with little razer-sharp teeth, specifically designed to tear the flesh off their doting mother until they’re big enough to go out on their own and find less disgusting food. How great is our little Mexican friend looking now? All it eats is insects.
—Bec Crew / @BecCrew
15-year-old Fu Wengui of China has 10 vertebrae in his neck instead of the normal 7. Thanks to a Beijing-based charity, he will undergo surgery in hopes of reducing its length, which causes him nonstop pain and attention.
Your Brain On Coffee
We are pleased to present our 209th installment of Sound Advice featuring music selections from Cali Thornhill DeWitt. Cali is a multidisciplinary artist living and working in Los Angeles.
Sound Advice 209
01. On My Block by Scarface
02. Short Texas (UGK) by DJ Screw
03. Fallin’ (Chopped & Screwed) by Kp’da Truth / Alicia Keys
04. KLF ELF by Antwon (ft. Heems & Lakutis)
05. Wanna Be A Balla by Lil’ Troy (ft. Fat Pat, Yungstar, Lil’ Will, & H.A.W.K.)
06. Conversation With A devil by Andre Nickatina
07. Hell Yeah by Dead Prez
08. A B-Boy’s Alpha by Cannibal Ox
09. Rinky Dink II / We’re Gonna Rumble by Project Pat
10. Cadillac On 22’s by David Banner
11. Mo City Don by Z-Ro
12. Its Going Down by Lil Boosie
13. Sippin’ on Syrup (Screwed & Chopped version) by Three 6 Mafia (ft. UGK & Project Pat)
14. Burbons and Lacs by Master P
15. Ha by Juvenile
16. Pill Poppa by Big Moe (ft. Mike-D, J Dog & Trae)
17. 25 Lighters by DJ DMD (ft. Lil’ Keke & Fat Pat)
18. One Day by UGK
19. Get Down by Cam’ron
20. Live On Live Long by Capone-N-Noreaga
Download Sound Advice 209 Now!
Before talking with Scott Caan, the actor, I had no idea of what to expect. I mean, I’d seen him on the big screen in Novocaine and all of the Ocean’s series, and on TV in Entourage, but these were just characters, not the man himself. How close to the real Scott Caan were the people he portrayed? While I was supposed to be on the phone to talk about “Vanity,” his new book of photography and concurrent show at Martha Otero Gallery in Los Angeles, I was just as curious about finding out who he actually was. Who I discovered was a guy bursting with creativity and a clear outlook on life, whose talents stretched far beyond acting into music, writing, and of course, photography. He’d be just as comfortable on an Action Bronson track as he would be in a gallery, showing off the images he captured in a frame. Which is why we had this conversation in the first place.
The most obvious way to start this interview is by asking about how you got into photography?
On the first film I directed (Dallas 362) my cinematographer was a guy by the name of Philip Parmet. When I began the film I had the idea that I was going to focus on the acting, and while I knew what I wanted the movie to look like and understood what I felt was an interesting frame, I never really got it the way I did Until after I had spent six months with Phil Parmet. I basically glued myself to his hip while we were making the movie and he really inspired me to want to take photographs and understand the craft. He’s a fantastic photographer, and like I said, he inspired me to start shooting.
What was the first camera that you shot with?
A Nikon FE.
And you got this from your father as a gift?
Yeah, it was a camera that he had owned for a long time and then he gave it to me. He saw that I was getting into photography and film. It was a good gift.
Do you ever use a camera phone at all? Are you on Instagram?
None of that?
I actually looked on Instagram for you and instead found a pretty funny feed that was dedicated to your ass. So… the title of your book that’s coming out is Vanity.
Where’d you pull that name from?
You know, over the years I’ve done quite a few things to step outside of the world of just being an actor. I just always remember there’d be a critic or someone writing something for a magazine, or whatever it was, and they’d say that the work was a vanity project. You know? “It’s a vanity project.” It always had kind of a negative undertone. It just seemed like a bad thing. I was always confused by the word, and about 10 years ago, I looked it up. I don’t remember which definition it was specifically, but it was something about pride in oneself. I remember looking up the word and I still didn’t understand why a vanity project was such a terrible thing? The critic’s idea is basically using one’s clout or cache to put something out. The idea of art and photography or acting or painting or whatever it is, the fact is that if someone does it for the wrong reason, there’s a judge out there that says there are right and wrong reasons to want to be creative is bananas to me. The fact that people can destroy things and hate you and want you dead because you did it, it’s like I wonder what those people are doing on the weekends? By the way, I’m not angry about it. I don’t want it to come off like I am…
I completely understand where you’re coming from.
It’s like such a goofy trip. The whole thing. I remember being at a screening of a buddy of mine’s movie and he had just come back from Cannes where they told him it was the worst piece of shit they’d ever seen and that he should never make a film again, and that he should die. I remember him saying at this panel where a bunch of people liked the film—subjective, which is another interesting thing—he said to this crowd: “I didn’t do this for any other reason than that I wanted to. I just wanted to go make a film and I thought it was interesting and this guy wants me dead because I did it.” Anyway, for me, my first book was sort of tainted. I love the book, but it was sort of pushed in a direction that I didn’t necessarily want it pushed in. They wanted a ton of celebrities in the book, they wanted a ton of nude girls in the book because that’s what sells. It also got me thinking about the idea that people don’t really do anything anymore. People don’t do projects or things unless they’re potentially lucrative. No book has ever been lucrative, but obviously people want to make their money back. Studios make movies, they want to make their money back. I get it. It’s the idea, it’s what we’re doing. To me, I wanted to make a book—this book—to be just about pictures that I liked. They’re not about what will sell, they’re kind of all over the place, there’s not a real theme to the book. It’s just photos that I dig. Pictures that I’ve taken over the last ten years. The title, “Vanity”, comes from a combination of my photography being accused of being a vanity project, and owning it. If that’s what you want to call it, then that’s what it is. They’re just photos that I dig and I was able to put them out, you know? Hopefully, people won’t want me dead because of that.
Critics can be some of the worst people in the world, honestly. Slay for pay.
Well, listen, everybody has to have a job. There’s nothing wrong with a critic. I don’t mind critics because their job is to tell you what they thought of the movie, but there’s also a mean way of doing it too where you can see people’s failures in their critiques, you know?
Yeah, a critic of the critic would be a fantastic job.
Yeah, I’ve always said that that would be kinda cool.
So, the range of photography that I’ve seen from you, it goes from your access to celebrity to nudes to people on the street. Are you carrying a camera with you everywhere you go?
I used to. I don’t anymore, but yeah, I used to. The truth of the matter is, a lot of photographers that I look up to and respect, they’ll spend months and years somewhere and come up with a collection of photographs and make a book with a singular focus. I’m really lucky in one sense because I get to move around a lot. I’m picked up and dropped places because of my job, but I’m never one place too often and I never really get to focus too much on one specific subject. I think that’s part of the reason my pictures are all over the place.
Whose photographs are you looking at the most these days?
I really like what Estevan Oriol is doing. I could go on and run off a huge list of names, but his photographs are amazing. Are you familiar with him?
Yeah. His work is truly authentic. Completely off subject, I heard you on the Step Brothers track “Byron G” and that song is tight.
Are you a hip-hop head?
Well, I kind of just run with the 90s, like the golden era. On the website, we have a column called Reminisce Over This which is a play off of Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s They Reminisce Over You. While doing some research, I dug up an interview with you and Alchemist (The Whooliganz) on Rap City in 1993. That blew my mind. How that was being on Rap City at the age of 17?
Look man, the whole thing to me looking back was amazing but when you’re younger nobody can tell you shit. When you’re younger you know everything, you’re where you’re at and I was right where I was supposed to be. I thought I was nice and we got a record deal when I was 17. You don’t get humble until you’re a little bit older. Humility isn’t part of life when you’re a teenager, your brain hasn’t even started working properly yet.
Sometimes, I wish that my brain had never started working properly.
Yeah, I guess in some ways, but in some ways not. It was a trip. For me, I knew school wasn’t for me and I knew I wanted to do something creative. At the time, rap music was my life. Just everything about hip-hop was what I was moved by for tons and tons of reasons, that was the creative field that made sense to me and I loved rap music and at the time I thought I had a talent for it. Now, looking back, I realized there were way too many people that had much more potential than I had. I thought, look if you at least can’t tell yourself that you’re going to be the best, you’re in the wrong profession, you know?
As much as I loved it, I realized that my heart wasn’t 100% in this shit. I’ll still fuck with Alchemist, and if Action Bronson was like “Yo, you want to do a track?” I’ll say “yeah, I’ll write a rhyme.” I can write a hot verse every couple months. But writing records upon records upon records? I’ll leave that to rappers. Rap music is a very specific thing. Everybody in rap either does or should think that nobody can fuck with them. Otherwise you’re not going to go very far.
Yeah, humble rap is few and far between. I think De La Soul performs humble rap.
Yeah, but to me back then it was different. Rap music is pop music today. Listen, I still think there’s a lot of hot shit out there. We’re really having a conversation about hip-hop right now. I think there’s definitely a lot of really really really nice MCs out there right now but back then, from 90 to 95, that was it. That was really it. I was raised on that shit.
(Editors Note/Postscript) Sadly, this is where the recording cuts off. I forgot to check the stupid app I was using, and it just stopped working, even though the conversation continued on for another 15 minutes or so. I can tell you that we ventured into talking about being rebellious youths, playing sports, and that Scott used to write graffiti under the name “NOTE.” He is also a playwright, believes in a minimalist way of living, and doesn’t own an expensive watch. Also, because of his role on Hawaii Five-0 and the amount of time he spends on Oahu, he has some great recommendations for food spots. One being Sushi Sasabune, where it’s omakase or nothing.
Scott Caan is doing a book signing tonight (8/30) and his show continues through September 13th. Go see it.
Gary Panter first created this artwork as part of the logo for the Screamers, a seminal L.A. synthpunk band from the mid-70s to the early 80s. Now it’s available to add some edge to your office or abode as a 24″ x 34″ serigraph in an edition of 200.