||Honey Lauren is a writer and director whose latest short is Wives of the Skies, a provocative and surprising pastiche of the way air hostesses were expected to present themselves back in the 1960s. It had been winning awards at festivals before the Covid-19 crisis, but will now be available on streaming services. She was kind enough to answer some questions on her work and its themes.
TSI: Were you always a fan of movies? Which were your favourites growing up?
HL: Oh, yes, I'm a huge movie groupie! The movies I liked growing up were way different from most kids' age... There was a cool arthouse movie theatre where I got see films like A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and docs like THE LAST WALTZ... It was amazing.
TSI: How did you get your start in the industry? I believe you began in acting?
HL: Yes, before I was writing and directing, I was acting. I left home at sixteen and went to ACT, (American Conservatory Theatre), in San Francisco. In San Francisco I worked with the award-winning ANGELS OF LIGHT... I eventually moved back to Los Angeles where I still did stage but started doing television and film. I was able to get an agent very quickly when I moved back to LA and booked my first television pilot called OTHERWORLD... It was so fun. We shot at Universal Studios and starred Jonathan Banks. It was my first union job and it was a great experience.
TSI: What made you want to get into directing? Did you have stories nobody else was telling?
HL: I originally started writing projects for myself. I still write myself in just about script... I do believe my screenplays are very original and character driven. When I first started writing I didn't have any real intentions to direct. I had this feature that was getting so much attention and was so close to being made... As things happen, funding got wiggy so I decided to make a short based on that script. I ended up being awarded funding for this short (DOT GOT SHOT), and I starred in it and co-directed it and it was a festival darling winning all kinds of awards and getting so much attention. So, for me, when I started directing it was to get my writing produced, now I really enjoy it so much and plan to keep going with it.
TSI: What gave you the idea for Wives of the Skies? Was it watching a specific film or TV show?
HL: It's always difficult for me to explain how I get my ideas, where they come from... how they come to me is curious even to myself! I see images, (in my head) of scenes and then the story often comes with that... I do know where the seed of some of the Stewardess images came from... I was sent an Ebay link for these 1965, vintage stewardess outfits. I was impressed with how they were not only collectable, high price items, but they were being bought and sold and bid on by almost exclusively men... I knew there was a story there...
TSI: Where did you learn about the Japanese bondage used in your film?
HL: What a great question... When I wrote the script I didn’t know what Shabari aka Kinbaku was. In the script I had these women bound and beautiful... not violent looking or hog tied... Or even overtly sexual... Again, I had this image I saw. It wasn't till I was ready to shoot and I had to figure out how to make these images happen... So I googled "beautiful roping" and Kinbaku came up and the literally translation is 'the beauty of tight binding' and when I saw it I was out of mind! I loved it and it was exactly what I was seeing in my mind when I wrote it. It's absolutely stunning! I of course didn't know how to do it myself so I did what you do when you need to find anything these days... I went to a site called MEET-UP and I was contacted back within five minutes! I got really lucky because the "Deshi" who contacted me, worked with the famous Master "K", a true master in the art of Kinbaku. Lucky for me he really liked the script and he was on board! Master "K" is the go to rope master I came to find out and he wrote a gorgeous book called THE BEAUTY OF KINBAKU.
TSI: Was it difficult to find a cast willing to star in this particular story with these requirements?
HL: You would think it would be, right? It wasn't at all. I had cast Rachel Alig, who I worked with several times before... We acted in several films for the artist/ director Paul McCarthy, who is so amazing. And working with him you really are put to the limits so I knew Rachel could handle this. And as I was auditioning ladies for the other role, I showed them pictures of Kinbaku and not one of them had any objections. It was dazzling.
Master "K" required that we do a rope rehearsal in his rope dojo and that was brilliant. That way the ladies could see if they were up to the task as it can be claustrophobic. Master "K" was all about safety of course, so we all felt comfortable. We worked out the designs, etc., so we could be very prepared on shoot days. Here's the thing, these ladies were really bound because you can't just rig the roping, you can't fake it. The ropes require a certain amount of tension to hold the design. I was totally awed by these two actresses, their capacity... It takes hours to shoot so they we bound for... Awhile!
TSI: What were you saying about comparing the tight uniforms of the stewardesses to the bondage?
HL: These Stewardesses were were pretty strapped into these uniforms! I did my research on these fabulous uniforms from the era, (1960s) These stewardesses had to be a certain size and weight and they were required to wear girdles... It was kinda crazy. And the fabric was specially made so they can bend and stretch and reach without losing the form or shape of the uniform and of course they were designed by famous fashion designers with names like Mary Wells, Pucci and Yves Saint Laurent... They were couture...
TSI: Do you think women are less objectified and taken more seriously now than they were back then, now that more avenues are open to women in work?
HL: I think in general woman still need to fight a whole lot harder to get work. And there remains still more work for men than woman, particularly in Hollywood. Yes, we have come along, long way... but in many respects, it's still a man's world.
TSI: Do you like the pop culture of the past and how our attitude to it changes through the prism of the present?
HL: I love the pop culture of the past and was heavily influenced by it my whole life. I had really cool parents who were open and hip and allowed exploration. They weren't 'judgey' and they weren't unkind about things that were new or that they didn't understand. And so, growing up like that, I was very open minded and curious. And of course, pop culture has always had a heavy influence on artists... Art equals life... And looking back even just to the 70's, I can see how naïve things were compared to where we are today... But never has art been more important than it is today because of our far reach with social media, the internet... and so the messaging now is so important with misinformation permeating our lives everyday as we open our computer. Pop culture is now mass culture and in many ways I think that's a good thing. I do. But again, responsibility is super important now. Especially with all that's going on globally. But evolution is to be expected and so we all must learn to pivot.
TSI: Do you think that people will always fantasise about this kind of thing? Do you think that the stewardesses in your film are in a position of power because of this?
HL: The 'male gaze' will always exist. Always. And that's not a bad thing or a thing that woman need to feel threatened or demeaned by. It is powerful to have that kind of attention. Men are easy... So, here's the question, with that attention comes opportunity... So, what do you want to say? That's the important question.
TSI: How has the coronavirus affected the film industry, as far as you've experienced it this year?
HL: It has decimated the industry... in the way business has been formally done. Films, television, film festivals cancelled. But business wants to do business and so we are a clever bunch... we figure out ways to move forward differently. But without rapid testing being the "norm", it makes it particularly hard for performers because we're the ones taking our masks off.
TSI: Do you have any projects on the way you would like to share with us?
HL: Oh, yes!!! I starred in the film, SWEET TASTE OF SOULS, which is getting a release in the next couple months and I'm super excited about that. It's a "social thriller" and I adore the people I worked with on that. Also, Paul McCarthy's film, NIGHT VADER... And Paul... well... he's so truly amazing on every level... what an honour to work with him. Also, I'm just finishing a novel I'll be releasing in the early part of 2021!
Many thanks to Honey Lauren for the interview, and try and check out Wives of the Skies when you can, readers, it's fun and kinky and genuinely smart.