S&M Sally has its world premiere at the Frameline Film Festival. It's a comedy about a lesbian couple, Jamie and Jill who explore the underground world of BDSM, while their friends David and Lola juggle a possible threesome. It was written and directed by Michelle Ehlen who also stars as Jamie. This is now the third film about this couple and their friends. It's the conclusion of Ehlen's Jamie and Jill trilogy.
Ehlen is very busy gearing up for the big premiere. It's gotten a lot of good responses and will playing at several festivals. I was able to get Ehlen to sit down and respond to some questions about herself and the making of this movie. Here is some of the brief Q & A:
What sparked the idea to do this film?
"I actually went to a few BDSM clubs out of curiosity and found them nothing like how they are portrayed in movies; I thought it would be fun to explore that scene with Jamie and Jill (returning characters from Butch Jamie and Heterosexual Jill), and utilize Jamie's insecurities and assumptions as a way to explore that world comedically without making S&M the butt of the joke. I also thought the distinct roles of dominance and submission in the BDSM scene would be an interesting vehicle to explore relationship dynamics and butch identity."
When did you start writing it? How long did it take you to write? How long does it take for you to write a feature in general?
"I started writing it shortly before Heterosexual Jill premiered in 2013. It took a little over a year to write, which is generally how long it takes me to write a script because I'm balancing it with a full-time job and other ongoing projects."
Do you always prefer to act in the movies you write and direct?
"Not always, but I do think it's fun and it's something that I wanted to do while I had the chance, while I was still working on smaller productions where I have the ability to make that decision. But ultimately, I come up with a story idea first, then as that unfolds I'll see if there's a role for me; I don't write a story with the idea that I want to play a certain character. For me, it's always a thematic issue that compels me to write a script and create certain characters."
How difficult is it for you to wear all three hats and probably more? Stressful? Enervating? Exciting?
"It's fun for me - there are compromises at times, but I really enjoy doing all the different roles."
What was the schedule like? Probably not a lot of shooting days?
"Yeah, we shot for only 9 days, which is really fast. But my DP Olivia Kuan is so efficient that we were really able to move quickly enough to get what we needed."
Being the third in the series, did you find making this easy?
"I wouldn't say it's ever really 'easy,' but it does get easier. But there's a danger in that, as you can take that for granted and think 'I know what I'm doing - I've done this before' and then your over-confidence gets in the way. I think for the acting part of it, I felt as if I lived and breathed this character, but then when I started acting that first day, I felt off my game and I hadn't realized it was something I'd get rusty at."
Where were you born? Where did you go to school? Give me a little bit of a bio?
"I grew up in Orange County, a conservative part of Southern California. I went to college at Smith College in Massachusetts, known for being liberal and having a large lesbian community, so I wanted to go there to basically experience the opposite of Orange County. Then after I graduated, I came to L.A. to pursue filmmaking and I studied at The Los Angeles Film School."
Was making movies something you always wanted to do?
"Not consciously, but I think I was always working toward it. I started acting when I was 8, and did a lot of theater growing up; until high school, I wanted to be an actor like my aunt and uncle. I also started filming and editing my own videos in Junior High (not acting in them), and continued that through High School and college. I always loved immersing myself in various projects but didn't think it was really a career path. I studied Sociology in college and thought I would go into that, but my girlfriend at the time suggested I go into film and it just clicked for me. When I moved to L.A., I thought I wanted to be an editor so I worked in post-production for awhile before deciding to pursue writing and directing at the L.A. Film School. Now, I feel like all of my background - acting, editing, even Sociology, helps inform what I do."
S&M Sally premieres on Sunday, June 21 with another screening on June 26.