Masturbation, a topic many find taboo. Even if it's something you do, it's not talked about. Filmmaker Sam Schectman shows the topic in a new light in his comedic short film "The Agency," being featured in the Manhattan Film Festival. PIX11 sat down with Schectman to discuss his film and what types of services the agency has to offer.
Alyssa Zauderer: "First off, you're a Long Island local?"
Sam Schectman: " I'm originally from Cederhurst, N.Y., I went upstate to Binghamton University where I double majored in English and film with a concentration in creative writing."
Alyssa: "You also created 'The Agency' when you were in college."
Sam: "That is correct, 'The Agency' was my honors senior thesis. I graduated with honors for that for a feature length script of 'The Agency,' which we shortened for the Manhattan Film Festival. It's funny it was actually my writing major that I did it for. Not a lot of kids were writing scripts but for me, I actually had to stand up in front of the English faculty and pitch this idea. They found value in it and thought it was an interesting social commentary which at the time the feature version was a bit more heavy that way."
Alyssa: "This isn't your first time in a film festival featuring 'The Agency.'"
Sam: "No it's not. I was featured in the Beverly Hills Shorts Festival where we actually walked away with 'Best Comedy' and 'Best Director.'
Alyssa: "Congratulations, that's a huge accomplishment."
Sam: "It was a really fun festival."
Alyssa: "What does it feel like to bring your film to a local festival?"
Sam: "It's really nice to be back in New York. It's nice to be screening at a venue that my friends and colleagues can come take a look at the movie. We haven't really had a wide distribution in any capacity. As you're touring the festival circuit you shy away from putting anything up online this way people actually go and see the movie. Being in a local festival and having people I know come see the film...I don't have a whole lot of family out in Los Angeles."
Alyssa: "So now let's talk about your film, 'The Agency,' what's it about?"
Sam: "It's about a twenty-something slacker who gets a job at an agency that offers its clientele a very particular piece of information. They tell you the exact number of times you've been masturbated to.They actually refer to it as a score. What happens through the course of the film is that our protagonist is able to examine his own interpersonal relationships and feelings of intimacy and arrives at the fact that he's in love with this girl that he's been best friends forever with."
Alyssa: "Does this open a Pandora's box of sex for Tommy?"
Sam: "More women he wanted to have sex with. I would really say that the theme here is people that we want to have sex with or want to be with, aren't actually the people we want to be with. In this case, the people Tommy has masturbated to over the course of his teenage life aren't really the women he'd ever want to have a relationship with. Masturbation, whether it be metaphorical or literally speaking, is being alone, not interacting with people and not asserting yourself in the world. Thematically, the film is about him moving from this private space by himself and literally jerking off to actually asserting himself and valuing the relationships he has around him."
Alyssa: "Masturbation is a pretty taboo topic, was that something you were trying to tap into?"
Sam: "Yeah when you're trying to get people's attention, which is certainly the effort in a short film. Something that is outrageous at first glance and then having people think about it in a slightly different way."
"The Agency" will be showing at the Manhattan Film Festival on Saturday, July 30, at 4:45 p.m., at the Symphony Space. Tickets are available online and at the door.
You can watch the trailer here.