Manifestation Television Inc.

Sweet Talk

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(48 minutes, SD, Colour, 4:3, 2005)

Inspired by infomercials on late night television, filmmaker Steven James May naively sets out to make a documentary about phone sex workers.  After much searching, three veterans of the phone sex industry (two of whom are in their 50s) literally welcome May into their homes and communities. Individually, Maria, Ginger and Dolores reveal their own unique connections to the modern North American sex industry.  Combined, they provide full and unrestricted access to the craft and business of aural entertainment.

DISCLAIMER: This documentary includes graphic phone sex and is not appropriate for minors or prudish adults. 

Written, produced and directed by Steven James May. Co-directed by Lorna Kirk.


Bonus Footage
Director Commentary
English Subtitles
Production Stills
Animation Storyboards


Bonus clip featuring Ginger discussing "Pecker Cheques"

Bonus clip featuring Dolores French on the phone with Annie Sprinkle


Sweet Talk (photo credit: Ryan Whynott)

Sweet Talk (photo credit: Ryan Whynott)

Sweet Talk (photo credit: Ryan Whynott)

SJM introducing Sweet Talk at the AFF (photo: AKS)


February 12, 2010

Sex, Lies, and Long-Distance Carrier Charges

By John Semley

Valentine's Day is for lovers, right? Candy, flowers, candlelit dinners, and all that? For some people, maybe. But for those whose idea of romance consists of sitting at home and getting off while some stranger they've never met moans over a phone line, the documentary Sweet Talk may be a more fitting Valentine.

Canadian filmmaker Steven James May's Sweet Talk, a documentary about phone sex workers, has been airing on the SexTV cable channel for a while. Sweet Talk trails three women -- Maria, Ginger, and Dolores -- as they demystify exactly what it looks like on the other end of all those 1-900 numbers listed in the back pages of NOW.

Anyone who remembers Jennifer Jason Leigh's scenes in Robert Altman's Short Cuts, where she lazily teases strangers over the phone while Chris Penn broods around their apartment, may not be shocked to find out how routine a professional phone sex gig is. But what makes Sweet Talk more than just a backdoor glance into a halfway shady profession is the charisma of its subjects.

Though all sort-of foxy in their own way, none of the three women featured in Sweet Talk are the kind of bottle-blonde sorority girls you'll find on late night Quest infomercials. Maria is a mother of two, whose home office is about as romantic as an H&R Block, and whose real ambition is to be a writer (as of filming, she's written 250 pages of a mystery novel tentatively titled Sane Insanity). Ginger's turn to the world of aural sex came out of financial necessity, since she needed to supplement her job as a waitress. And Dolores seems the least removed of the bunch, dressing up in frilly negligees, and eagerly describing sissification fantasies. She also succeeds in effectively turning the camera around on the director, a rare feat for any but the most nimble documentary subjects.

All in all, it's a pretty solid documentary, one which allows these women to speak for themselves, and turns a non-judgmental eye on their line of work. Valentine's Day sees the release of Sweet Talk on DVD, via the movie's website. Sunday will also see a special DVD launch in Toronto. May is pretty mum on the details, but anyone who's so inclined can email manifestationtv(at)yahoo(dot)com for more information.

It's not exactly a fancy dinner and moonlit stroll, but the Sweet Talk DVD premiere may be the perfect place to take more adventurous sweethearts, or to shake the blistered hands of local phone sex enthusiasts.


The Coast

September 15, 2005

On the line

By Mike Fleury

Some content in Steven James May's film Sweet Talk came under censorship scrutiny, and emerged mostly unscathed. Mike Fleury dials in.

When Halifax filmmaker Steven James May set out to document the lives of three women working in the phone sex industry, he knew that he would dealing with some touchy subject matter. Sure enough, in the weeks leading up to his film's premier at the Atlantic Film Festival on September 22, he was busy working out a compromise with one of the film's main financers, The Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation, which objected to some of the content in May's 48-minute feature Sweet Talk.

But just like good phone sex, this story has a happy ending.

"I think because it's a documentary on phone sex, it's a topic where everyone seems to have an opinion," says May. "It's a good thing, but it does seem to strike a nerve with some people."

The documentary was originally conceived as an hour-long feature for the cable channel SexTV, a division of CHUM Limited in Toronto. The film is still going to be shown on SexTV, but it will be making its debut at the Atlantic Film Festival.

As a financial backer of the project, CHUM was on board from the very beginning. But with limited other resources for funding, May turned to the NSFDC for help.

"I had trouble raising the money to make this film," explains May. "If it wasn't for the NSFDC, this film wouldn't have been made, so I am really grateful to them."

However, upon seeing a roughly finished version of the film, the NSFDC did express some concerns about the content of the documentary. Not surprisingly, May says that they were specifically worried about some of the explicit language that occurs during recorded phone conversations between the three women featured in the film and their respective clients.

"Also," says May, "I don't want to give too much away, but one of the women in the film gets really into her work when she's on a call. It's something I wasn't really expecting."

There were never any objections from the Atlantic Film Festival regarding the content of the film. After seeing a rough cut of the documentary, the film was unconditionally accepted into the festival lineup. Although the AFF was not interested in becoming involved in any kind of dispute regarding the film's content, festival communications manager Ivy Ho did offer the AFF's official position on the Sweet Talk situation.

We accepted it and we'll be showing it as is," says Ho. "Because it's a festival screening, we don't censor. We have a lot more freedom. As far as we're concerned, we'll screen whatever [May] wants us to screen."

May said that his intention while making the film was not to shock or offend, but simply to portray the three women in the film as skilled and entrepreneurial individuals. He says that any potentially offensive material in the final version of the film should be taken in context with the overall message of the documentary.

"I think some people may look at a film like this and at first they say, "Whoa. I haven't seen that before," he says. "If you're going to have women up on screen doing this job, obviously there are concerns. Is this a good way for them to be making money? Are they being exploited? But I wanted this picture to have integrity, to give context, and in the end I think I managed to explain why I'm putting in some of the [edgier] things I was putting in."

In the end, May and the NSFDC were able to reach a compromise that satisfied both sides, managing to avoid a messy censorship conflict or a dispute about May's creative freedom. The version of the film that will be screening at the Atlantic Film Festival will be identical to the version that will eventually be seen on SexTV. Ultimately, May is satisfied with the final cut, and he says he's happy that things didn't have to get ugly between him and his investors.

"In the end, they were supportive," he says. "I think it helped that when [the NSFDC and I] were talking about editing different parts of the film, I told them that I had every intention of showing this film to my mother."

Sweet Talk w/After Frank, 9:30pm, September 22 at Park Lane 4.

Sweet Talk (sculpture by Mike Sharpe)