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In case you’re wondering if there’s any mom content in this film, YES there is! Daisy is one of the main characters in the film & suspects that she lost custody of her daughter because she was very vocal about the district attorney not enforcing the pimping & pandering laws in the strip clubs. The reality is that many sex workers are mothers and do sex work to support their families. This film isn’t about the morality of their choices–it’s about the reality of the labor conditions & what women are doing to survive in this industry. If you think that sex work is exploitive, I can’t disagree. But I strongly believe that if sex workers have better working conditions & labor rights, they can make healthier choices. There would be far less violence in this sex industry if people who exploited them were held accountable. And adult businesses would be held to the same labor standards as your average business. The American worker has rights, why not sex workers?
License to Pimp CHARACTERS & STORY:
License to Pimp is a feature documentary about the choices that three San Francisco strippers make as their workplaces engage in illegal labor practices. Strip clubs refuse to pay strippers even minimum wages & actually charge them for the privilege to work. I worked in half of San Francisco’s strip clubs during the 1990s and witnessed their transformation into brothels as a result of the stage fees. Now as a filmmaker, I uncover current working conditions & try to find out how strip clubs are able to operate outside the law.
What would you do to change the system? DAISY ANARCHY goes public about how the strip clubs’ illegal fees have pushed many strippers to prostitute. She appears before city and state agencies to demand that they enforce the laws to uphold workers’ rights. One agency listens. The Commission on the Status of Women drafts legislation to recognize strippers as employees, end the stage fees, & dismantle the illegal private booths. A battle ensues as strip clubs & most surprisingly the strippers themselves rally in support of the illegal conditions and try to maintain the status quo.
What would you do to keep your job? LOLA begins stripping as a 16 year old after learning her mother has cancer & needs treatment. When her club increases their mandatory work fees to $200, Lola can no longer just lapdance. As co-workers prostitute to make their fees, Lola must decide how far she’ll push her own sexual boundaries to keep her job since her family relies on her. Lola’s story will be animated because she is afraid of strip club retaliation and feels anonymity will protect her.
What would you do to stay in control? MARIKO PASSION quits stripping at her favorite club as the work becomes increasingly sexual and spills into her personal life. When she files wage complaints against former strip club employers to collect her back-wages & stage fees, she can no longer strip in San Francisco clubs. She relocates to Los Angeles to teach high school & moonlights for an escort agency. Because the agency takes a 60% cut of her shows, Mariko decides to go solo. Can she work independently & safely and keep all of her earnings?
Each woman makes distinctly different decisions yet our collective journeys are woven into one story of strippers negotiating our labor rights within the sex industry.
WHY I’M MAKING License to Pimp:
During the years I stripped in San Francisco, I witnessed strip clubs become increasingly greedy as they took more & more of the dancers’ tips. It wasn’t enough that they never paid strippers any wages but now they required us to pay to work.
Imagine this scenario: every day you go to work, you have to cough up $200 by the end of your workday. You might even have to pay $400 to $600. Pay or else you’re suspended or fired. What would you do? I saw many women turn tricks for tips so they could pay their strip club pimps and avoid being fired. Those who refused to have sex found it difficult to make their quotas and were eventually fired or quit.
Like many of the other strippers I worked alongside, I didn’t want to prostitute because it was a sexual boundary I wasn’t comfortable with crossing. But all that changed when the stage fees were introduced. Now there was severe infighting amongst the workers as lapdancers were pitted against prostitutes in order to make the illegal stage fees. I support prostitutes & their right to work safely, consensually, independently & without being criminalized. But I don’t think strip clubs are the appropriate venue for them to work in—even if they’re engaging in consensual prostitution. But I understand why many strippers prostitute.
As stripping increasingly gains acceptance within popular culture, more and more women & teenage girls enter this industry and are unaware of their rights & workplace realities. This documentary reveals the impact these illegal practices have on workers. This is why License to Pimp needs to be made.
WHY IS License to Pimp IMPORTANT?
This documentary shows how each of the featured women approaches the various labor rights violations and how these violations fuel exploitative conditions within the sex industry. The irony is that strippers are in fact entitled to the same labor protections as the average American worker—they’re just not enforced. This documentary isn’t about the morality of doing sex work, but follows the paths of women trying to remain within the sex industry on their own terms. Through each of the strippers’ situations, License to Pimp offers tangible ways that sex workers try to better this industry so it’s safer, fair, legal, & less violent.
We’ve finished shooting the film and are in post-production, which is the most expensive phase of making a film. So far, I’ve funded the cash expenses for film through some foundation grants but the bulk is from my own pocket. I’ve been fortunate enough to find talented filmmakers & interns who’ve worked for free to film this documentary. But this is not sustainable. Maintaining hi-quality production values & content requires bringing on a talented, experienced crew. So we’re turning to You, Our Audience, to help get this film completed & out into the world!
We need $30,000 to complete a Rough Cut of License to Pimp. If we miss our $30,000 goal by even a single dollar, we get NOTHING. ZIP. ZERO. ZILCH. NADA. $00,000.00. So it’s ALL or NOTHING.
License to Pimp is an important story and needs to be seen & heard. We have stories that you haven’t heard before. It’s rare that sex workers who work for someone (namely the strip clubs) feel comfortable revealing what really goes on beyond the glitter, in the private booths & VIP rooms, & when dealing with management. This documentary has material you’ve never seen before and will help you better understand exotic dancers’ working conditions!
HOW FUNDS WILL BE USED to COMPLETE License to Pimp:
With $30,000, we can complete a Rough Cut of License to Pimp with each of the women’s journeys laid out. The Editor & I will be able to collaborate on how the story unfolds as we review nearly 400 hours of footage and find gems that illustrate each character’s path. We’ll experiment with interweaving Lola, Mariko, Daisy, & my journeys to tell a compelling, unique story.
Lola agreed to participate in the film on the condition that we protect her identity because she was retaliated against once for speaking out & is worried for her safety and those of her loved ones. Her extensive interviews will come to life through animation. We will re-appropriate the visual style of Latino porno-novellas (aka “historiettas”) which are sexually graphic comic books and re-tell Lola’s story within a feminist context. We’ll complete the storyboards for Lola’s animation. The character designer will hand draw the art for Lola’s animation, which will be scanned & be prepped to be animated. Using Lola’s actual interviews as the basis for her story, we’ll work with voice actors & replace Lola’s audio. The animation crew will then take the artwork & use their magic to create the animatics, which are essentially mock ups of how Lola’s story will play out in screen time. It’ll include the dialogue & audio FX.
Successfully raising $30,000 means that our creative team can be…well creative. Instead of fundraising, we can focus on crafting the best possible story. With a tight Rough Cut in hand, we’ll be able to secure completion funds to finish the film.
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the stories of Sex Workers getting seen & heard!