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Meet the 2014 Sundance Filmmakers #31: Madeleine Olnek Introduces Hilarious Take on Prostitution and Sexuality in 'The Foxy Merkins'

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire January 16, 2014 at 11:10AM

The world of prostitution now has two new --and very distinct-- faces in "The Foxy Merkins," an off-beat comedy about prostitutes in NYC. Director Madeleine Olnek's latest feature manages to hilariously broaden perceptions of the world's oldest profession while enlightening its viewers on the issue of sexual identity.
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Madeleine Olnek

The world of prostitution now has two new -- and very distinct -- faces in "The Foxy Merkins," an off-beat comedy about prostitutes in NYC. Director Madeleine Olnek's latest feature manages to hilariously broaden perceptions of the world's oldest profession while enlightening its viewers on the issue of sexual identity.

What It's About: This film is a comedy about two lesbian hookers-- one gay and the other straight-- who work the streets of New York City. It's been described as a "Prostitute Buddy Comedy."

So What It's Really About: It's about the currency of our human relationships, and what women's emotional freedom from sexuality looks like.

Tell us briefly about yourself. What's your background? I trained as an actor, but then soon moved into directing and writing for theater. I worked in downtown NYC theaters, the urgency and relevance of which have a lot in common with independent film. What was great about working in that arena was that I had the opportunity to put on over twenty plays. Eventually I was drawn more to film when independent filmmaking became more accessible as technology changed.

What was the biggest challenge in completing this film? That's a hard one, because they keep on coming! I thought it might be different with this film, because honestly, we had shown the film at "NEXT WEEKEND," Sundance's first festival in LA last August, and our two screenings were so well received we were even nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Most people might think our hard work was all over and it would just be a cake-walk to Sundance. But we actually had so much more to work on in the push to get to Sundance and to get the film distributor-ready. Currently, however, our biggest challenge is our kickstarter campaign. 

What cameras did you shoot on? Our DP Anna Stypko is the Canon 7D Master--she can do amazing things with that camera, so we decided to shoot on it.

What do you want your Sundance audience to take away from your film? If an experience is funny enough, you can enjoy stepping into an entirely different world, and you can even relate to it.

Have any films inspired you? Our movie is a parody of - and riff on - iconic male hustler films such as "Midnight Cowboy" and "My Own Private Idaho," so we were very directly inspired by those movies. We were more generally inspired by the French New Wave and the fact that they were movies about other movies, just like ours is. The humor in those films is priceless and often unwritten about. For me, their daring comedy is what makes them so memorable, and we tried to take similar leaps out in public with our film.

Tell us about your kickstarter campaign. We are currently running one at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/239809784/the-foxy-merkins-hooking-our-way-to-sundance-2014 and it will be going on all during Sundance! I know it's a lot to run a kickstarter during the busiest and most hectic festival, but it always works better for us to ask people to back the project after they have seen it and enjoyed it.

What's next for you? I have two feature projects I'm working on, one is highbrow and one is lowbrow-- and they are both comedies. I got a grant for one from the New York State Council of the Arts, so I am going right into working on that as soon as Sundance is over.

Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2014 festival. For profiles, click HERE.


This article is related to: Meet the 2014 Sundance Filmmakers, Sundance Film Festival, The Foxy Merkins