The penultimate film in year long project Six Short Films from filmmakers Hunt Beaty, José Andrés Cardona & Wesley Wingo, Pay Pig (helmed by Hunt) takes us into the world of financial domination and a small town bodybuilder whose modern kink sees him send money and expensive gifts to a dominatrix who never lets him forget just how worthless he is. DN had the pleasure of talking to Hunt about finding inspiration in the vast world of internet powered fetishes and how he and his Six Short Films collaborators decided to put preciousness behind them to get to the work of productive filmmaking.
What inspired this dramatic exploration of the world of financial domination?
For Pay Pig, I was initially inspired by a conversation I had over dinner with a good friend’s brother who happens to be an amateur bodybuilder. He was telling me various stories about how he gets hit up online, particularly on Instagram, from people asking to buy his work out shorts. Not kidding. Despite the inherent humor in all of this, my curiosity was piqued and I wanted to see how common the scenario he described was. After an enlightening dive down the online rabbit hole of fetishes (that has probably forever tainted my search history) I was pretty floored by the amount of new and unique sexual fetishes that apparently flourish by relying on the power and connectivity of the internet. I found numerous market places where people buy and sell used underwear online, and it seemed that folks had an infinite number of specific reasons for doing so. What stood out to me was thinking about how a lot of these so-called fetishes have likely existed in various forms for a while, without a mechanism to grow and become what they are now until the maturation of the internet. That’s when – amidst sifting through online marketplaces of used underwear – I stumbled across something new, “financial domination.”
I was pretty floored by the amount of new and unique sexual fetishes that apparently flourish by relying on the power and connectivity of the internet.
Several hours of watching YouTube and sifting through forums on this new found subculture and I had an idea for a short. The whole thing seemed inherently modern, dystopian, kind of wild to me. It posed a lot of interesting questions about what technology can and will continue to do to our relationships and the ways we express ourselves sexually. A whole cornucopia of new sexual relationships have taken root, for good or ill.
Was the creation of Pay Pig guided by a specific agenda of what you want to achieve with the film?
Simply put, we were looking to get another film in the can and maintain momentum in our process, hopefully with an idea that was about something we thought hadn’t quite been tackled before. I hoped to make something modern and thought-provoking. It was important to me to be able to wade into the waters of this fetish of “financial domination” a little bit and explore it without casting judgement.
Another aspect of this whole concept that interested me was the power dynamic at play in these relationships, particularly how it relates to gender and some evolved, bizarre, idea of modern masculinity or femininity. Is Lexi truly all powerful and “breaking down walls,” by somewhat subverting traditional power dynamics or is she some kind of victim of this whole modern form of earning a living in her own way? Meanwhile, Blane is literally building up his own body into a “masculine ideal”, while simultaneously trying to fund his own desire for a unique kind of subordination or emasculation by Lexi.
Again, we’re definitely not trying to provide an answer to this – not that we even could – it’s just all to say we felt there were a lot of interesting ideas bubbling around in this whole world and it provokes infinite philosophical questions related to both potential problems and unpredictable benefits of our evolution and notions about overall human progress. Everything surrounding the interaction of money to sex is multifaceted and has taken several different shapes over the course of our history. It’s amusing to be able to stare at a brand new and unexpected version of that online via our payment networks and social media tools.
To top it off, it provides a window to look at how new technological tools (communication and payment) that will inevitably impact our relationships and sexuality in new, challenging ways. My brain starts to explode when thinking about everything this fetish can provoke, but that’s what we found worthwhile about trying to tell a story built around it.
Did you reach out to any of the financial dominatrixes you discovered in the research phase to help build Lexi’s character? How did you approach scripting interactions between her and Blane which felt authentic to the reality of this type of power dynamic?
Actually, I did not reach out to any dominatrixes to prep for the project, though I did very seriously consider it and came close. Ultimately, I just felt while it’d definitely be insightful and interesting, we weren’t making a documentary after all and it might just give me TOO MUCH to think about if that makes any sense. For these projects as a whole, our main goal was to be able to keep moving at a good pace and not get overly bogged down. We knew none of these movies was going to be “our grand opus” haha. The priority was always to maintain momentum and finish the project in a timely manner within the parameters we’d laid out.
That being said, I did do a substantial amount of research and cruising around and down online rabbit holes just looking for examples of real life people involved in this fetish. After all of that, it felt like I distilled and absorbed a lot of what I found interesting then did my best to inject some of that same energy back into the dialogue in the script. I also had a ton of invaluable back and forth with my collaborators Wes and Andres as well. We got into many debates about stuff that felt real and things that just weren’t coming off the way I had intended. Those two do a wonderful job of keeping me honest and grounded throughout the scripting process and they both contributed to the writing as well as we got into the process of shooting pickups to finish the movie. Everything was very organic and fun throughout.
For these projects as a whole, our main goal was to be able to keep moving at a good pace and not get overly bogged down.
Finally, a big factor in this process was actually actress Francesca Anderson. She deserves a lot of credit in terms of helping the interactions between Lexi and Blane remain authentic. She’s very methodical and thoughtful when she’s playing a character and does her due diligence to figure it all out. She did plenty of her own research for the role. Throughout the shoot, I really felt myself leaning on her at times to let me know when something wasn’t feeling quite like what Lexi would say to Blane. There were several occasions where I’d have an idea for a bit of Lexi dialogue and Frankie would correctly push back because she had found a good sense of who Lexi was and what she would say. In hindsight, moments like that are when the power of collaboration involved in making a film really shine through and I think that is truly invaluable.
Could you take us through how you went about making the film?
First off, this film was made as part of a little collective effort over the past year between myself and two friends (José Andrés Cardona, Wesley Wingo) that has since been dubbed “Six Short Films”. For a better and proper backstory on that, please check this link out. Essentially the idea was to wade back into narrative filmmaking after years working in commercials (each in our own technical speciality) and kind of remind ourselves why we entered this industry in the first place The main point of these films was to get creating again and maintain that momentum for a year, primarily by being completely invested with each other’s films as we rotated the director role.
After that, we wanted to resist the urge to be overly precious (who has time for that any more?) and have one of the films get hung up in post-production for well over a year, or worse, never get finished (we’ve all worked on THOSE projects). We knew we needed to start MAKING projects, releasing online, then move on to the next one. We hoped to find energy and re-light our own creative fires, so to speak, by rinsing and repeating this process with this priority in mind – keep going, don’t stop.
As with all the previous films in this series, production on this one was lean and mean and with an “all hands on deck” mentality since the “crew” consisted mainly of our close friends and other folks we work with who could show up and give us a day here or there. For this short, we did at least have a proper art person, Kendra Eaves, on set for the entirety of the shoot since there was a bit more going on this time around. She was awesome to collaborate with, and honestly, we couldn’t have kept everything in line art-wise on this one without her, which really helped make this story feel honest.
Our main gym location thankfully came via our co-producer and close friend, Reed Adler, whose father owns a top notch gym in New Jersey and was kind enough to let us shoot during one of the only windows of time that they’re closed; overnight from Sunday to Monday. For the others, we relied on resources like Peerspace and even picked up the testimonial sections in my office and apartment.
Our good friend Eugene Ioannou also served as our connection to Rob Youells in the 11th hour before production. As we were looking for a very particular person -an actual bodybuilder who also had great acting chops-finding our “Blane” proved difficult. Thankful to have found someone as capable and charismatic as Rob; otherwise this film would have never gotten off the ground. Coincidentally, Rob was in a short film that Wesley shot years ago with Eugene directing, called Off Season, so we had a little insight into what Rob would be bringing to the table. It was also great to bring back Francesca Anderson from our previous film, F*ck Bunny; she’s so much fun to work with and really does her due diligence to dig into whatever character she’s playing and makes genuinely thoughtful choices as a result.
I’m forever thankful to have two rock solid collaborators who manage to keep me grounded in the language of film as we move through the process from start to finish.
As with The Sound of Your Voice previously, after principal photography was completed we realized there were still aspects of this story that needed a bit more unpacking and primarily restructuring. Wesley, Andrés, and I all rolled up our sleeves and clunkily, tediously, found an altered, yet more streamlined shape for the movie to take. Led by Andres’ many stabs at structure in the edit, and Wesley’s keen eye for big picture and maintaining a “through line” for the film, we ultimately decided to do a couple of pick up shoot days (on an iPhone!) that yielded the YouTube “confessional” moments which give the film a bit more of a backbone to hang on.
To say it was stressful would be putting it mildly, but I’m forever thankful to have two rock solid collaborators who manage to keep me grounded in the language of film as we move through the process from start to finish. As a result of all of that, this film did take a couple of months longer to finish than the others we’ve made and longer than we certainly ever hoped or intended. Given all the back and forth and debate and indecision with this one, it did serve as yet another reminder as to why we structured the overall process for these shorts the way we had (don’t be too precious, make choices and move on) and a good gut check about how to keep yourself moving and motivated on a creative front. All three of us are already starting to feel too old to be dragging our heels. If anything is going to happen to us, we’ve got to MAKE it happen by actually MAKING and completing projects. Less talking, more doing.
What are you working on now?
I’m continuing to explore opportunities producing and directing commercial and branded content as a freelancer, alongside weighing the development of a feature length script intended for Wesley Wingo to helm. More imminent, however, is the release of the 6th and final film in this series titled, In Color, directed by José Andrés Cardona.