|WITHHELD, 15min, UK, Thriller/Drama
Directed by James Bowsher
A short psychological thriller about the power of performance between Stephanie (a phone sex worker) and an unknown caller.
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James Bowsher (1991) has been a practitioner in both film and theatre for numerous years. From working with the National Youth Theatre on the Olympic opening ceremonies to co-ordinating Catalan social documentaries he has done a wide variety of different projects. At the age on 21, James was accepted as a member of the United Kingdom’s National Youth Film Academy. Most recently he has been working with Blue Cedar Films on productions such as ‘Ladies First’ and ‘Withheld’.
There is a contract in place and the caller cannot possibly believe that the person on the other end of the phone is ‘actually’ doing what they say they are doing. The phone allows for a suspension of disbelief and subsequently a space for performance, from which the caller can project their fantasies, which is true to some degree in all performative art forms.
The next step came after thinking that this interaction is quite unique, not in terms of content, but in that the performer modulates themselves to the whims of the client. This was perfectly expressed by one of the phone-sex workers blurbs in Toldano’s gallery:
“‘To the caller, when I first answer, I am the inanimate Barbie. They do not know what I look like or who I am. They can only imagine. It’s my job to indulge their fantasies, to convince them that I am not a doll – I am their dream turned real. If they ask if I am blonde, I become a blonde. I respond to every sound the caller makes with an affirmation. I encourage them, I breathe life into the fantasy, I carve the doll out of flesh.’”
This led me to think – what if the audience didn’t want to see a performance? What if they wanted the actor to take of their mask? What would happen next?