Anja Marquart's directorial debut, She's Lost Control, dives headfirst into the controversial yet little known trade of sex surrogacy. Ronah (Brooke Bloom) is a graduate student and sex surrogate who keeps an emotional arm's distance from her clients, her family and everyone in between. Her cold exterior is nonetheless rattled when she begins to develop feeling for a new patient, Johnny (Marc Menchaca), at a costly price. Marquart spoke to us about the research process in crafting the script, and Ronah's central contradiction as both practitioner and scorner of intimacy.
What sort of background research did you do in writing a script that centers on sex surrogacy?
I'm attracted to stories and characters that are removed from my own world, so in writing the screenplay of She's Lost Control I was able to do a pretty substantial amount of research. Initially I had no idea that "surrogate partner therapy" even existed and when I started talking to people who have chosen to make this their profession, I was impressed. There's something very modern and brave about it, and I think it says something about the times we live in. We can connect with other people at the touch of a button, yet true intimacy (and, by extension, love) becomes harder to define. Two very knowledgeable surrogate partners who are based in LA agreed to consult with me and Brooke Bloom, who plays Ronah.
Was it important for Ronah's personal attributes to be defined in distinct contrast to her profession? She doesn't seem to practice what she preaches with respect to intimacy.
Correct. When discussing the part, Brooke Bloom and I decided to make Ronah the patient. Examine her own shortcomings and obstacles, which might be the very reasons she's chosen this profession. Intimacy is a complicated thing, and for Ronah it's something she excels at but only under certain conditions. Specifically, the contained set-ups of her professional life. Within boundaries that she controls literally everything seems to be possible. When you take away that corset, she's not that free anymore.
The film is set in New York, but primarily in apartments, such that our surroundings feel secondary. Can you speak about the characterization of the film's environs?
Good question. Pretty early on we wanted to tell a story that is set in the urban artifice of NYC but only reveal bits and pieces of the city, so that you don't necessarily recognize it at first. We spent a lot of time location scouting. And tried to steer away from hallmark locations. Which wasn't that easy and there are two shots in the film where an all too familiar (and heavily symbolic) landmark made its way into the film... I won't say which one it is. At one of our screenings someone said, "I only realized 30 minutes in that this film is set in NYC." It was this kind of remove that my DP, Zack Galler, and I were going for.