ToY: The Movie
When two worlds collide, they can change each other forever. ToY begins centered around Chloe, played by Briana Evigan, a young artist who comes from money and struggles with ongoing depression and drug abuse. The foundation her mother started, who committed suicide years prior, is attempting to pay Chloe off to disassociate her from the charity after she walked out of rehab and had a meltdown at her art opening. She refuses, despite the plea from the legal team and her father. She spends her evenings photographing and interviewing models and sex workers, asking how they got into their line of work and paying them for their time.
As soon as the camera starts rolling, it is clear that Kat is different from her previous subjects. Embraced artfully by Kerry Norton, she enters Chloe's world and turns it upside-down. She is commanding and calculating. Chloe asks, "Do you like what you do?" To which Kat responds, "I like being good at what I do." She gives her clients what she knows they want, not what they think they want, and she's damn good at it. Chloe asks what she wants to which Kat responds, "You want someone to come here and shit all over your world, make you do things you really want to do but can't. You said you wanted brutal honesty because you are looking for someone to come in here and tell you things you don't want to hear." When Chloe presses, Kat returns back to finances. Their transaction is done.
Chloe requests to see Kat again who, in the midst of her career going downward as she ages and other complications with her work, agrees to move in with Chloe temporarily. They push and pull at each other and end up in a romantic relationship, each having something to seek from the other woman. With territory that could easily lead to melodrama, the strength and honesty of the portrayals by the two lead actresses keeps the characters humanized and the severity of the situations carried with respect. We spoke to Briana Evigan about what drives Chloe, how she got involved with the role, and what she hopes viewers leave the film with.
First and foremost, Chloe is an artist. Are there any particular artists or galleries you referenced when developing Chloe's taste or personal aesthetic?
Yes actually! Chloe was based around Francesca Woodman. Patrick [Chapman], our director, introduced me to her work. She shot mainly nude polaroids. I watched a documentary on her that was very helpful for me getting into the character. She was a super talented artist and had a beautiful mind. Definitely a lot of darkness but I loved trying to get into her mind and understand what it was like to be her. She was very fascinating to me.
The film's director is also a painter. How did his background assist with helping understand an artist's mindset?
Patrick's background was very helpful during shooting. He made it very easy for me to see things the way he did. From the start, he had such a cool way of explaining everything to me. It was one of the main reasons I wanted to play Chloe, because of his vision. Patrick is so talented and was so specific with all of his details which is why the movie turned out to be so cool and so beautiful. I loved all of his shots. I believe he was an editor before directing and that had a big part in his shots and setups. He's got such a good eye.
What do you think it is about Chloe that compelled her to question sex workers and models, both women who use their bodies for their work?
I think Chloe was just questioning everything in life. A girl with a lot of money which allows her to pay people and do whatever she wants. She likes to push the limits and make people uncomfortable. She's not scared of that at all. She wants answers. I wouldn't call this necessarily a lesbian film. I believe Chloe starts to fall in love with a soul. That's what it's all about in life. She wouldn't label herself as anything, she's open to anything and feels very, very deeply. She loves the female body and, when it comes to Kat, finds her aging absolutely beautiful, normal, and real. Chloe likes real. That's something I related to in real life as well.
What kind preparation did you and/or co-star Kerry Norton do to understand the lifestyle and psychology of the sex industry, if any?
I didn't do much research on the sex industry to be honest. I think showing up to the sex club in the film was enough for me! [Laughs.] It was pretty insane. I did look into a lot of nude photography though. I love taking photos in my everyday life so just kinda fine tuning my skills to really make sure I looked like this is what I do all day, everyday. Kerry and I didn't have much prep time together, we kind of just jumped into things. We felt very comfortable together though and connected right from the start. Kerry was really good at lighting up the set and keeping things funny. It was a pretty heavy movie to shoot so it was definitely a bonus having her around! She fricken' rocks.
How did you first get involved with the film? What drew you to the role?
I got an offer for ToY right when I got on a flight from London to come home. Read it twice on the plane and absolutely loved it! I was a little nervous to take on this role though I must admit. It was a leap for me compared to some other roles I've played but I was beyond excited to take it on. I was hoping too that it would be a film that could shift my career in a different direction. I really wanted to become Chloe. I grew up with some Chloes so it was fun to pull from them and tap into some old memories. Talking with Patrick, the director, was the next step in me saying yes. I saw his vision and that was it. Easy yes. I was a little nervous to about doing the nudity love scene with Kerry. All these weird thoughts came to mind like... "Is my dad ever gonna see this? What about his friends? Uhh, that makes me wildly uncomfortable!" But it's my life, my career, and I had to remember I wanted to tell this story no matter what. I am very comfortable with my body so that wasn't the issue... I used to LOVE streaking. [Laughs.]
What is it about Kat that draws Chloe to her? What is she looking for in the other woman?
Chloe's drawn to Kat because she's real. She's blunt, she's interesting, she's forward. Kat really teaches Chloe a lot. She admires the way she is. She's interested in why Kat is in the sex world, obviously, and she wants to help Kat get out of it. By her spending more time with Kat, it means Kat's working less. Chloe likes to be in control and that is definitely a way to control their relationship and where Kat is. I do believe there's a piece of her being older and her mother dying at such a young age is underneath some layers too. Not that she wants Kat to be her mommy but Kat's maturity and class are two things Chloe doesn't have and probably won't ever.
The film had its premiere at Cinequest but also screened at LGBTQIA festivals Reelout and FilmOut. What were the responses at the festivals like? Was there a difference in reactions between the audiences, either in person or on social media?
The response to the film, every time I was in the theater at least, was awesome! I was very nervous for people to see it and had no idea how it was going to turn out. I was super impressed and beyond pleased with everyone's comments and reactions. People had a lot of questions and really wanted to engage and talk about this film with me.
The film has light-hearted moments but is also filled with a lot of complex emotions. How do you mentally keep balanced when juggling the moods during such a quick shoot?
I keep to myself a lot. Keep quiet and keep in my head. I guess ya just kinda let the dark thoughts roll on through!
What is the significance behind the title ToY?
Just that Kat and Chloe toy with each other as far as I know.
Is there a message or feeling you hope viewers leave with after watching the film?
You can't save people. You've got to want it yourself, what ever it is you're battling. You can show up and be there and give them everything. Love deeply, there's always another option other than taking your life. There's so much out there to live for. Be friends with your shadow. It's important to know it and recognize it so when life does get heavy and dark you can come out of it. Be the crazy wild artist you are. No one will ever be exactly like you so make your print.