Movie of the Week: “Strictly Sexual: A Love Story”

Once a week, we’ll pick out one of Fancast’s many full-length free feature films to spotlight. Sure, you’ll check out the big stuff like Ned Kelly, Heart and Souls and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but the smaller movies need shout-outs, too.

The Movie of the Week is Strictly Sexual: A Love Story (Rated R, so turn back now if that bothers you), starring Amber Benson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Kristen Kerr (seen on Dexter) as Donna and Christi Ann, two successful women who are sick and tired of the complications of dating and relationships and decide to change the way they do things. Embracing their new philosophy of keeping their dealings with men strictly sexual, they even invite a pair of handsome construction worker guys, Joe (Johann Urb) and Stanny (Stevie Long), to move into their pool house for on-site satisfaction purposes. Of course, nothing is ever that simple, and things get weird in a hurry. Watch the movie right here on Fancast, and check out our Q&A with screenwriter and co-star Stevie Long to find out more about this interesting take on modern love from director and Independent Spirit Award winner Joel Viertel.

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Q&A with “Strictly Sexual” Screenwriter Stevie Long

Q. What would you say to someone sitting down to watch this movie for the first time, to prepare them for what they’re about to see?
Stevie Long: Love can get ugly. People in love say and do awful things to each other. The movie progresses like a relationship: At first it’s all fun and games, then it gets real, then the fighting starts.

Q. What was the genesis of this project? What inspired you to write this story?
Long: I have my heart broken annually. I’m not complaining, it’s nobody’s fault. But I think watching Casablanca changed the way I looked at heartache. It’s the greatest love story of all time, and it suddenly hit me that THE BOY AND GIRL DON’T END UP TOGETHER AT THE END! “We’ll always have Paris”, ya know? I’m a helpless romantic who has these whirlwind affairs, and eventually, they come to an end. Most movies, they live happily ever after. That’s not real life. Not me. Not most people. The divorce rate is over 50%, so even when people take vows and get a license to stay together forever, it’s statistically, more likely than not, gonna fail. So I wanted to make a movie saying sometimes you fall in love, and then you fall out, and that’s okay. That’s life. Enjoy it. That said, I’ll never be as cool as Humphrey Bogart about it, but aim high.

Q. How’d you get the project off the ground once the script was done? How difficult was that?
Long: Difficult would be an understatement. It took about six years, meeting with producers who swore they could raise the financing, who said I needed to change the script to make the movie “bigger”, whatever that means, and of course no financier wanted me to act in it. They wanted a movie star. Joel Viertel, the director would always say “if we can find someone more appropriate to play Stanny than Stevie Long, we’ll cast him”. And he meant that as a director, he just couldn’t find anyone more suited for the role. Not to say I’m a brilliant actor, but the character is written in my voice.

Q. What was the most challenging part of making this film?
Long: After getting the $100,000 we needed to make the film, the hardest part was casting. We needed to find two guys who would have the chemistry of best friends, and two women who had the chemistry of best friends. Multiplied by each boy and girl had to have the chemistry of a couple in love. That’s a tough combination, a permutation of four separate yet interwoven relationships amid four people, all of which had to work, or the entire movie wouldn’t stand up.

Q. How involved were you in the production beyond writing and acting? How different is the final product from what you originally imagined when writing it?
Long: I was very involved in the production, from casting, to shooting, to editing. But I had full faith in Joel directing me, in directing the movie. The story for me was always emotional. Joel viewed it more practically, a case study in two relationships – one built on sex, the other on friendship. So while the director approached it from a different vantage point, the story was the same. We made a great team. On studio films, a screenwriter has no say in anything. In fact, most writers have been replaced by the time the movie is shooting. When you make indie films on a shoestring budget, you’re the only writer – and a dozen other jobs. I found all the locations, helped unload trucks in the morning and packed them at night when we wrapped. Joel Viertel is a great director. He and I always saw eye to eye on the film. We edited some lines for pacing, but overall, it’s word for word exactly the script I wrote.

Q. Were the actors gung-ho for this, or was there any need to coax them out of their shells to do a movie this frank?
Long: Every sex scene somehow informs their character, there’s nothing gratuitous. Kristen Kerr was sometimes intimidated by the frankness, but that fed into her performance and character perfectly. Johann Urb is European, so he doesn’t get uptight about anything involving nudity or sexuality, they have naked people on TV over there in Estonia, always have.

Q. How would you prep Buffy fans watching this to see their Tara?
Long: Amber Benson fans get to see her play an aggressive yet emotionally stunted character. It’s easy for an actress to play a ‘nice’ person. For the record, Amber is one of the most laid back, ‘normal’ actresses I’ve ever worked with, but the role of Donna is a real head-case. I’ve dated girls like that, we all know them: women who can be fun, smart, sexy, but their insecurity makes them vicious. Self esteem so low that if you care about them, they will eviscerate you to drive you away. My point is you have to be pretty damned talented to play a role like that and have the audience root for you. Amber Benson makes the character sympathetic, and sexy as hell.

Q. Any particular scenes you like best that you think people should pay special attention to, or look out for?
Long: There’s a scene where my character, Stanny, is just banging away on Donna, talking dirty to her, she’s tied up and getting it doggy-style while blindfolded… and my character stops. He doesn’t want her like this anymore. Tries to tell her he wants to make love to her. He wants intimacy, a connection. She wants raw, unattached sex. She not only tells him ‘no,’ but she tells him to get the hell out of her house. I personally have had this happen to me, with several different women. It’s not just the girls I attract, because it’s happened to a lot of men I know. I’ve gotten a lot of email saying “that happened to me.” Men are more emotional than most movies will have you believe. And women, god bless ‘em, can be a lot more detached.

Q. What would you say is the overall message you’d like people to take from this film?
Long: Love doesn’t last forever, but it doesn’t mean you didn’t love the person at the time.

Amber Benson and Stevie Long in "Strictly Sexual" (Cinetic)

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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