Actor-Director Troy Beyer Talks About Sex
by Tom Cunha
Actress/writer Troy Beyer adds the credit of filmmaker to her resume
with the just released “Let’s Talk About Sex,” an intimate, unflinching
take on female sexuality which centers around a young Miami advice
columnist (played by Beyer) and her two friends, working on a
documentary about women and how they relate to each other and men. While learning about the sexual dislikes and fetishes of an abundance of
Florida women, the three deal with and explore their own sexual needs
and emotional hang-ups. Blended throughout the film is real documentary
footage of women that Beyer approached on the streets, who candidly
elaborate on what turns them on and off. Beyer’s goal in making this
film is to provide insight into female sexuality, which, she feels, is
socially influenced by a male perspective.
Beyer began acting as a child on Sesame Street. She was a regular on
Dynasty while in her teens before moving onto features like “Rooftops,”
“The Five Heartbeats,” and, most recently, Robert Altman’s “The
Gingerbread Man.” “Sex,” which she also wrote, marks her feature
directorial debut. It was acquired last year at Sundance by Fine Line
indieWIRE: Do you think that female sexuality, particularly the
discussion of it, is still considered taboo in our society?
Troy Beyer: I think sexuality for women is different than it is for men,
and I think we view sexuality from a male perspective. As a result of
viewing it from that perspective, we put upon ourselves false
expectations. So I wanted to try and explore what sex means to us, for
women, because we are emotional by nature. Sex is the umbrella, but
beneath that umbrella are so many other denominators that are crucial.
Like your self image. For instance, with Lena (played by Randi
Ingerman), giving too much too soon; and Michelle (played by Paget
Brewster), being so ballsy and wanting to find a guy with bigger balls
than her. These conflicts all spill over into the sexual arena. That’s
what I wanted to explore.
The girls are all really one person at different stages in their life.
We’ve all been the Lena, getting too much too soon and wanting someone
to approve of us to validate our existence. And then you go into the
next phase. After you get hurt from being Lena you become Michelle,
which is the ‘fuck you before I let you hurt me.’ And then Jazz is the
character that, when she’s been the Lena and the Michelle and she’s
actually found someone cool, she’s not enough.
iW: Where did the idea to make this film come from?
Beyer: I was sitting around in the living room with a bunch of my
friends. I said, ‘OK, let’s get the video camera out and everyone has
to talk about a like, a dislike or a skill or thrill when it comes to
dating and mating in the ‘90s.’ So one of my friends ran to the pantry
and got out a can of peaches. I said, ‘What are you gonna do with the
peaches?’ She said, ‘I’m gonna lick it the way I wanna be licked.’ My
other friend got out a cucumber and did her demonstration. It was
really fun. I love getting people to talk about things that are hardly
ever discussed. I looked at it the next morning and thought ‘This is
definitely a movie because it’s so honest and so real and so
entertaining.’ These are all the elements that make for a good film.
It was also quite emotional when the girls started talking about their
dislikes. So, that’s how it happened.
iW: I know you made this film on a small budget and a tight schedule.
Explain a little about what that was like.
Beyer: I can explain in one word. Torture. It was really a very tough
experience, but I had so much fun. It was probably the best experience
I had on a set, in spite of everything. I had written a film called
B.A.P.S. When I saw the final cut, I was so devastated because I really
believed that my words had not honestly made it onto the screen. The
director was a writer/director himself and it was the first time he had
directed someone else’s writing. He took the liberty of changing stuff
as he shot the film. At the end of the day, when I saw the film, I
hated it. I was really embarrassed and it was too late for me to take my
name off the picture. Then I got killed by the critics. Me! The
writer! I just thought I’m gonna take the money from this awful
experience and put it into my own film. I’m gonna direct it and make
sure my words make it to the screen. If the critics try to kill me now,
there’s nothing they can say that’s gonna hurt me because I know that I
did my very best. Those are my words on screen and I stand by them. So
I took the money from B.A.P.S to make my movie.
iW: Did you ever pitch the idea to studios?
iW: So you were intent on making it yourself.
Beyer: Yes. Absolutely. I didn’t even want to go anywhere else
because I didn’t want the same thing to happen again. I wanted complete
control. To me, a true independent film is a film without interference.
iW: So then you showed it to the studios after it was done in its
Beyer: We got a first assembly together and we went to Sundance. We
made a trailer. A few of us from the film went to Sundance and stood on
Main Street and just started handing out the trailer to anyone who
looked like an executive in a position to buy a film. We got there at
8:00 on a Thursday and by 1:00 in the morning on a Friday, we had sold
the film. I was so naive and ignorant that I thought, ‘This is just the
way it happens.’
iW: I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a film being sold to a prominent
distributor that way.
Beyer: It’s been a great experience. I made the film for $300,000. I
have since sold it for over 4 million, including domestic and
iW: What was all the fuss about over the rating?
Beyer: It’s an R, but there’s a scene in the international version, the
director’s cut, where I have a girl lick a peach the way she wants to be
licked. It’s very clean, innocent, no nudity, no profanity and the MPAA
said there’s no way in the world that we’re letting you release this
film as an R with that scene. I can have big busted women jerking off a
beer bottle, but I can’t have a girl, an innocent all-American white
girl lick a peach. It just goes back to my theory that society as a
whole views sex from a male perspective. It’s OK for Howard Stern to
have a woman downing something, or Madonna to down an Evian bottle if it
has to do with male anatomy, but when it comes to female anatomy and
pleasures for women, people can’t deal.
iW: When putting together the documentary footage for the film, you just
went up to random women on the streets of South Beach, FL and asked them
to discuss sex. Was is difficult getting these women to talk?
Beyer: Not at all. Women so desperately want to be heard.
iW: Did anyone ever refuse?
Beyer: About 5 or 6 girls.
iW: About how many people did you approach?
Beyer: Over 500. Do you want to hear something else interesting?
Beyer: Of all the women I approached, I only found one virgin. And it’s
not like I was just in clubs or anything. I was at the beach, the park,
I was everywhere.
iW: Did you learn anything you didn’t already know about women from
making this film?
Beyer: Absolutely. I learned that we are all very terrified. We’re
afraid because we have really deep emotional experiences as a result of
our relationships. More so than men, I think, because, although I’m
sure men do internalize these things, women have no choice but to
internalize, because as human beings we are internal. Everything is
about us. We’re emotional. Our genitalia is internal. And men, they’re
very external. Women have these experiences, and they’re so deep and so
profound and we really seem to think that we’re alone in our experiences
because we don’t talk about them. We don’t hear other women and their
stories, other than talking about the size of a guy’s dick. I’ve
learned that women are really afraid because we think that we go through
these things alone. What I wanted to get across in this film is that we
may have these experiences alone, but we’re not alone in our
experiences. I think that kind of information can be really
liberating. It can help alleviate a lot of the fear that we feel.
iW: Any big catastrophes working on such a tight schedule and small
Beyer: Yes, Hurricane Lily. We were in a penthouse in South Beach, Miami
and the hurricane was headed directly toward our penthouse. We only had
18 days because I was doing [the television series] “Murder One” at the
time as an actress and I had an 18 day hiatus. If that hurricane had
come toward us, production would have been shut down. I don’t know when
I would have been able to finish the film. We only had the set for
basically a week and a half and then everything else was exterior. The
hurricane was coming right towards us and at the last minute made a
right and went to Cuba. It was pretty intense. The other thing that was
sort of interesting was the fact that the majority of my crew were
female so I just had to keep a lot of Midol on the craft service table.
PMS, man, that was intense. Between hurricane Lily and PMS, those were
my biggest issues.
iW: So, after all this do you want to continue as a filmmaker?
Beyer: My preference is writing, directing and acting, in that order.
And yes, I’d like to continue on as a filmmaker but I only want to do
projects that I’m really passionate about. I don’t want to do something
cause I’m getting paid a million dollars to do it. For me, it’s the
process that I enjoy and if I’m going to commit myself, I need to be
really, really passionate about it.