Official Film Festival Selections
- BEST FILM: Thriller Feedback Film Festival (2017)
- Nominated for BEST FILM: Shriekfest Film Festival (2017)
- Toronto After Dark Film Festival (2017)
- Shriekfest Film Festival (2017)
- National Film Festival for Talented Youth (2017) - World Premiere
- Cannes Short Film Corner (2017)
- Thriller Feedback Film Festival (2017)
Producers: Matthew Steggles & James Bowsher
Director: James Bowher
Writer: James Bowsher
'Withheld' is a short psychological thriller about the power of performance between Stephanie (a phone sex worker) and an unknown caller
I had for a long time wanted to make a film about performance, however, it is a subject that had been examined in a multitude of modes by numerous filmmakers. I wanted to capture the sometimes uneasy boundary between the performer and the audience, how performance can easily be turned on its head and make a voyeur of the spectator. After seeing Phillip Toledano’s excellent photo exhibit on phone sex workers it struck me that this was the perfect arena to set this film.
There is a contract in place and the caller cannot possibly believe that the person on the other end of the phone is ‘actually’ doing what they say they are doing. The phone allows for a suspension of disbelief and subsequently a space for performance, from which the caller can project their fantasies, which is true to some degree in all performative art forms.
The next step came after thinking that this interaction is quite unique, not in terms of content, but in that, the performer modulates themselves to the whims of the client. This was perfectly expressed by one of the phone-sex workers blurbs in Toledano's gallery:
“‘To the caller, when I first answer, I am the inanimate Barbie. They do not know what I look like or who I am. They can only imagine. It’s my job to indulge their fantasies, to convince them that I am not a doll – I am their dream turned real. If they ask if I am blonde, I become a blonde. I respond to every sound the caller makes with an affirmation. I encourage them, I breathe life into the fantasy, I carve the doll out of flesh.’”
This led me to think - what if the audience didn't want to see a performance? What if they wanted the actor to take off their mask? What would happen next?