It has been three weeks since the 2013 European Independent Film Festival and I still cannot get this documentary out of my head. The trailer was one of the Official Selection’s most viewed, but really, that doesn’t even do it justice. It would be impossible to even begin to convey all that’s depicted in this film in a mere 2 minutes.
American Courtesans discusses one of the most taboo subjects in the world: prostitution. You are drawn into the world of several real-life escorts, reliving raw experiences with these women as they open up their souls to tell you their story. The film does not force acceptance of this lifestyle upon you; it gives you a perspective that has never before been realized.
One of these real-life escorts featured in the film is none other than American Courtesans producer and creator, Kristen DiAngelo. While meeting her at the festival it is undeniable that the woman has an incredible energy about her. Her courageousness and bravery are certainly a force to be reckoned with, but I believe it is her complete and utter kindness that demonstrates the most. She has put her safety, her right to privacy, and so much more on the line in order to bring awareness to issues that are all too often pushed under the rug.
Having a chance to interview Kristen was entirely my pleasure and honor. Learn what it was like to make this heart wrenching, phenomenal documentary and live life with no regrets.
I really don’t know how it even came together. There are times that I look back on the process and it seems impossible that it really happened, but it did. When I approached my best friend Pearl, she shut me down in like, two seconds. However, I’ve never been one to shy away from a simple “no.” Pearl, like myself, has been conditioned to believe that we are only safe if no one knows [what we do]. So, we never talked, for fear… fear of hurting ourselves, fear of hurting others. But as we began to come together as a group, we all agreed that the only way to change public perception was for someone to step forward. So we agreed to put ourselves out there as openly and honestly as we could. For myself and many of the women, the film was both empowering and cathartic.
2. What was the process like of making the film? Did shooting take a while; did pre and post-production take a while?
American Courtesans, from conception to completion, only took 11 months. The first week we shot in California and then stopped for the holidays. While stopping for the holidays we stepped back to see what was working and what wasn’t working…that was one of the best things we could have done. It gave us time to re-evaluate and focus on what worked while altering what didn’t work. We then started up in January again with another two weeks of filming, and these two weeks took us on a road trip across America. At that point, the film was ready for post-production. Once some editing was done and we’d cut down the story a bit, we did a three-city, one-week shoot and were finished. Our post-production was done just as fast. In fact, American Courtesans was only in post for 10 weeks. Our editor Bobby Poirier worked with James Johnson, our director, and together they worked magic with this film. Then it was off to Fancy Film who did our color correction and formatting…amazing job. I must say that having a wonderful crew made the whole process so much easier as it was my first film.
3. Was there a single event that inspired you to create the film, or was it more of an accumulation of everything you’ve been through? Were you inspired to create this film by other women, or other people?
Throughout my life I have known many sex workers. Mainly women, but men too. These individuals are some of the most intelligent, honest and compassionate people I have ever met. I simply wanted others to see what I did.
4. Was there a reason for getting back in the sex-industry world after you had stopped and began working as a businesswoman? Do you think most women’s main reasons for getting back in the business are financial ones?
I had been working in corporate America for approximately six years when I began to have health problems. I thought I would get better, but I didn’t. Over the next two years I began evaluating my life and came to the conclusion that time was a precious thing and I wanted more than what I had. So, after a total of eight years of working in finance, I made the decision to return to this world [the sex industry world], and here I am. There were two things that factored into me making that decision: time and money. I needed to make enough to continue supporting myself, but at the same time, I needed to work fewer hours with less stress.
There are many reasons that people become sex workers, probably as many as any other occupation. However, like most jobs, people go to work for a paycheck. No matter how much a person loves their occupation or hates it, they most likely wouldn’t show up unless they were paid. Sex work is no different.
5. Are you happy with the way your life has turned out? (In the film you stated that you were content). Do you have regrets?
I have no regrets. My life has been a life filled with both joy and sorrow. I’ve experienced highs that most will never know, and lows that only serve to make those highs that much more amazing. I heard a saying once that surely applies to my life…. “Everyone dies, but not everyone lives”… and I have lived. No regrets.
By Ally Oberrotman