Phone Sex with a Twist: An Interview with Nicole Solomon

Nicole Solomon

Nicole Solomon is a Brooklyn based writer, filmmaker and phone sex worker who has managed to combine these skills to create award winning short film Small Talk, depicting phone sex work with a twist.

Having worked in the phone sex industry for years, Solomon has taken that experience and turned it into a 23 minute film full of heart–and guts.

The film follows Al, who works as a phone sex operator, and her friend Tanya, who is just out of an abusive relationship with a persistent ex. I got the chance to speak with Nicole, and dive into a conversation about what its like to be a woman in the sex industry, the importance of representation in film, and what its like living in Trump’s America.

What inspired you to make Small Talk?

I had been working as a phone sex operator for eight years and started writing a memoir that illustrated some of the psychological dynamics of it. I was trying to process feelings about my experience, but I realised I didn’t want to write it as a memoir, I started imagining a scenario–what if there was a woman having phone sex while dismembering a corpse? Those were the sort of images for Small Talk that started coming into my head, I started to see the violence in the film as a way I could explore through metaphor to explain the dehumanisation of it all. There’s things that are important to share to de-stigmatise working in the sex industry, I’ll get comments like: “You’re the first person I know to do anything like that.” I really doubt that’s true, I’m just the first person you met that is upfront about it. So that’s where Small Talk came from.

“Life is more ridiculous now than an SNL sketch.”

Part of why I made Small Talk is that most of the examples of films about phone sex hadn’t engaged in it as phone sex operators. I am more interested in hearing a story from the perspective of somebody who has experienced that story. Similarly, I am tired of movies about trans people where there aren’t any trans people involved in making it. We get this really warped view over and over that doesn’t really have much to do with actual trans people or their lives. It gives cis audiences this warped view of what it is like to be trans. You can say this of any marginalized group, but this matter is hugely important to me. I hope some day we can get past it, but I don’t have a positive frame of mind living as we are in Trump’s America.

And how do you feel about the Trump presidency?

He is a fascist but just doesn’t know what that means. I wake up every single day asking if this is reality. There’s some new ridiculous news about our president every day that should make everybody ashamed to be breathing the same air as him.

Most think he is full of shit but he still has a strong base of followers who think he can do whatever he wants. Life is more ridiculous now than a SNL sketch. I have a friend who I’m working with on a dystopian comic book which takes place 30 years from now and I’m looking at stuff that’s happening now and I’m like well shit, that thing we put in our dystopian comic just really happened. Its all happening right now, guess we were on to something!

Having made a film surrounding female sexuality, how do you feel about the representation of it in film?

Well any film that depicts female pleasure tends to get higher MPAA ratings here in the US; it’s seen as obscene or pornographic as opposed to the typical male depictions of sexuality. It shows how deeply embedded these patriarchal ideas are about women’s sexuality – it being seen as somehow more dirty. Viewing these people as sort of cardboard cutouts as opposed to 3 dimensional beings with psychologies and souls that we have accountability to. In doing phone sex, a lot of callers really didn’t want to think about what turned them on and why. I think that’s interesting. I’m not a fan but look at Lena Dunham, who got a lot of backlash at the frank portrayals of female sexuality in Girls. A lot of people got so upset about having a character that doesn’t have a model’s body, but still enjoys sex and has a realistic sex life. It seems hard for a lot of men to see women as both sexual beings and people. A lot of guys call up and they want a friend but they’re also horny and want to get off, but they feel they can’t get off with someone they see as a real person. They’ll get conflicted, say they don’t want to jerk off talking to me now because they don’t want to disrespect me. They can’t conceptualise female consent; they can’t conceptualise sexuality that is mutually pleasurable and communicative over phone.

“It’s always better to work with talented people than fancy gear.”

Have you ever experienced a caller developing feelings for you? Do they ever get attached?

Oh definitely, there’s a number I’ve spoken to that do. Its based on fantasy, they don’t know me but they develop feelings for my character, like if things were different we’d ride off into the sunset together.

What advice would you give, particularly to female filmmakers?

You can shoot on your phone, you can use the cheapest editing you can access. Don’t get spooked by the fact a lot of people in film make it sound like you need all this fancy shit and need to master it before you try to do anything, its not true. It’s always better to work with talented people than fancy gear. Work with whatever constraints you have, tell the story in a smart way. Plan, shoot, edit, learn what its like to create things in the media, just write. Carve out the time- that’s one of the hardest things. Put it online, on your blog and social media to start getting an audience. Join a writing group if you can so there are people you are accountable to, and from whom you can get feedback. Anyone reading with specific questions, feel free to come ask me on twitter @nicolewsolomon.

What projects are you working on now?

I have 4MileCircus, which is a media production company I run along with fellow filmmaker Sean Mannion. We make films while also doing production services, workshops about crowd funding, and advice on using social media as an independent artist. We made a short film called Mare, which we co-wrote and I directed. That came out last fall and its available online now, it’ll be in some festivals. Then I have another horror short currently in early pre-production that is inspired by recent political events. I’m really excited about that, keep your eyes peeled for some more horror from us.

You can find Nicole on Twitter: @NicoleWSolomon and Instagram: @NicoleWitte.

Small Talk is available to watch now on 4MileCircus

You can find out more about upcoming projects from Nicole at https://nicolewittesolomon.com/mare/

Nicole Solomon

 

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