Chat w/ Julian Shaw, Director of 'Use Me' | Brooklyn Film Festival

Use Me had its WORLD PREMIERE Sunday, June 02 at Brooklyn Film Festival. It’s a gripping thriller film about an ambitious documentary filmmaker discovers the darkest parts of himself when he turns his camera on a beautiful woman who humiliates men for money.

We had a chat with the director and star of the film, Julian Shaw. Here are the excerpts.

- What made you make a film of such "taboo" subject?

I'm attracted to provocative subject matter, and I personally enjoy the world of BDSM, but my goal wasn't just to titillate the audience - that is only entertaining for so long. I was drawn to the extreme emotional states that are involved in fantasy roleplay, and also the potential for such extreme fantasies to go terribly wrong when brought into reality. I discovered Ceara Lynch online and became fascinated by her. I pitched a documentary to her but after meeting up in Portland and filming some documentary material with her I realised she had the capacity and x factor to be the center of a fictionalized movie. I had made two documentaries already and I was ready to take on a new challenge. She was equally game. 

- What was the biggest challenges in making this film? How did you overcome them?

I'm a New Zealand-born Australian, so one of the biggest logistical hurdles was moving across the world to Portland to make the movie! It has been the biggest adventure in my life, and I fell in love along the way - they have been the best years of my life but also the hardest. Like all filmmakers, funding is challenging. The creative side of it is one thing but even a very intimate movie can cost a million bucks. Directing myself to a performance that I found acceptable was definitely challenging and I drew on my collaborators like Portland-based co-producer AJ Gordon to be honest and make sure I was getting what I needed out of myself. You don't want to get to the edit room and hate your leading man - even if it's you! Ceara is a born performer but not a trained actor, so we also had to find our own language and shorthand which was a little different to how I directed working actors like Joe Reitman and Jazlyn Yoder.

- What did you learn/discover about this world while making this film?

That domination and submission are two sides of the same coin.

- What film and filmmakers inspire you?

Nightcrawler did a great job of exploring a seedy netherworld in a truthful way. I also like protagonists who may not be 'likeable' but are compelling. I could have made my character more likeable to be honest, but it felt blander. I really decided to embrace the ambiguity of all these characters. Looked at various films that blend fact and fiction formally - Man Bites Dog, The Girlfriend Experience. My producer Jonathon Green encouraged me to revisit the 80s Scorsese movie After Hours - a great example of the 'one way trip to hell' downward spiral narrative. My favorite filmmakers do not make films in my style - part of growing is moving past influence and finding your own voice. I feel I'm now starting to do that after making films since I was a teenager.

- How has been your experience at BFF?

Amazing vibe, hot crowds - and come on... what other city would you rather have your World Premiere?

- What's your most favorite and least favorite thing about New York?

There's always something to do. I saw Bryan Cranston in Network on Broadway last night. Seeing Colbert live on Tuesday. Walked to the Guggenheim yesterday. There is no other city on earth with such a plethora of options at your disposal. My least favorite thing is also related to my favorite thing... sometimes the relentless pace can be exhausting. I make sure to take time out to meditate and do yoga to recharge.


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