Analyzing Promiscuity: An Interview With Jonathan Leder

leder-interview

Jonathan Leder’s new film Promiscuities is a sexy psychological thriller starring the gorgeous Amy Hood as a lost young woman seduced into 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 (18+)

2 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Dan

    Who conducted the interview ?

  2. John Arnold

    While Amy Hood is extremely hot, and while I applaud individual filmmakers and artists making lucrative art, at 12$ for roughly 45 minutes of total video, with much of the footage being the same dialogue and shots, merely re-titled, I feel as a consumer I got ripped off. When the actual movie is only twice as long as the trailer and there is no real new content, and this is not stated overtly to the potential consumer- even if the quality is good and artistry entertaining, even if there was a 2-second shot fellatio, I still feel I got ripped off. I would have been even more pissed if I had shelled out the extra 18$ for the magazine. I don’t feel that bad about it because the monies went directly to the artists. But there is no back story, no explanation of how the psychologist got his patient. Essentially, this is best viewed as a criticism on the derivative narratives of porn: whereas porn uses plot as a device to get to sex, this film uses plot as sex and yet despite the fellatio, it essentially fails where David Lynch’s work does not. This could have been bigger than Mulholland Drive, Color of Night, or Brown Bunny. Instead the filmmaker stops far short of the goal and relies on repackaged sound bites and clips emulating the pron trailers of the 70’s or today’s video downloads to make critical points when as a viewer I want to to actually see the movie, not keep having a single montage repeatedly staged in new ways. This, however, may have been the exact conceit the filmmaker was attempting to achieve, and if so, he was successful. Essentially the piece is anticlimactic.

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