Every now and then, we invite interesting voices from the industry around the world to participate in our feature series in which we peak behind the scenes, discover untold stories and amplify new voices, shared with our CHEEX community. This time we have had the pleasure to speak with the amazing Sheona MCDonald, filmmaker and producer of Candice- The Documentary – which we are going to show in our library this week. It is an intimate portrait and picture about the moving life of Candida Royalle – a true pioneer in the female porn industry, far ahead of her times, that had started walking the path many more feministic filmmakers e.g. Annie Sprinkle, Petra Joy, Ovidie, Erika Lust, Poppy Sanchez have joined later on.
We are really proud to finally feature Sheona McDonald as we have been trying for a long time. She was one of the last persons working together with Candida in the last 2 years, before her passing in 2015. So she could tell us a little bit about her own work, open our eyes further to the injustice that Candida Royalle had to deal with and also to educate us on how we can do better today.
You are doing mostly documentaries, why did you choose this format of artistic expression?
Even as a child I was always curious about ‘real’ stories, ‘real’ people. My mom would watch the American program 60 Minutes and I would hungrily consume the stories that people laid out about their lives and situations, I like to imagine what it would be like to live in someone else’s shoes. I am fascinated with the idea of being able to delve into worlds I would never normally have the opportunity to observe or be part of. I also love being able to spend time digging deep into one subject for a period of time, chasing rabbit holes and figuring out how to weave a story, what parts of the story are strong and resonant, how does an audience engage emotionally.
You were working together with Candida Royalle in her last 2 years: How have you met her?
I was working on a film Inside Her Sex that was originally about women and pornography (women as the end users and women making porn). I interviewed Candice for that project. Eventually that project became about female sexuality and shame. It was clear that it would be interesting to spend more time with Candice around that subject. When I approached her to ask if she would be willing to spend more time with me, she asked me if I’d be willing to help her make a film about her life. We agreed that the next time we met we would work on both, discuss both. We met to do work at her home in Mattituck, New York and that is when she made the phone call to the PI about trying to chase down her mother. We went forward from there.
How have you become interested in the subject of “female porn making” and Candida Royalle?
How was your relationship?
Our relationship was short and complicated. I wish I could say that it was brilliant, creative and uncomplicated, but that would be untrue. I think she was probably drawn to me and interested in having me help her tell her story because she could see that I was passionate, stubborn, creative and strong-willed…all attributes we share. However, those are also the things that challenged us about each other. I told her I would help tell her story and, even though it was an exceptionally challenging road, expensive and, in the end, completed after her passing, I do believe that she would have been pleased to know it got finished, that some of her story was out there. However, she would also be disappointed that it was my telling of her story and that she didn’t have a greater influence on how it came together.
I only knew her for two years and we lived in different countries on different coasts.
We both worked very hard towards our common goal of trying to find funds to make the film and she was very warm and candid about her life. She really did let me into her life and her home and her work. I really did work hard to finish what we’d started.
So, all this to say, in the end, I think it was an important relationship for us both.
5 attributes that would describe her?
Passionate, dedicated, intelligent, stubborn/strong-willed, creative
Porn or Performance. How would Candida have positioned herself?
I’m always wary of answering for Candice. There are many others who knew her for decades that are better equipped to handle questions about her perspective and position. However, if I were to imagine what she might say, based on how I knew her and what we talked about, I would say…
I know she really didn’t like the word porn to describe her work (though was challenged to find a more suitable word for her work). I would guess that when she was acting, it was performance. When she was directing and creating her own work, I think it was neither porn nor performance – rather passion, education, pioneership, bravery, vision…she was ahead of her time, using porn and performance for politics, education, pleasure and entertainment.
What do you think, has been left unsaid about Candida and her life?
I think the conversation that Candice started, the conversation she wanted to have (and for everyone to have) is one that we still need to have today. The dialogue that should be ongoing about female pleasure and exploration and expansion and place is still often hidden. Candice wanted to bring this conversation to the mainstream, to make it comfortable and commonplace. Her work still has value, her voice still has a place I think. She was brave and forward-thinking and I think her message is still contemporary.
What would her voice say today?
She’d be sad to not be here to answer these questions herself. She’d likely be pissed about Trump as president. She’d hate COVID-19. Her voice, I imagine, would continue to press on with the messages she’d worked towards her whole life – a ringing endorsement about the importance and power of female pleasure and our need, as women, to own it.
Did your work with Candida change your way of enjoying/experiencing watching porn?
Not specifically. She was part of a journey for me around porn. I can really overthink porn now – needing to make sure I feel like what I’m watching is ethical. I am more aware than ever about how women are portrayed. Unfortunately, as a result of the work, I tend to get more in my head than my body…
What is on your mind atm / bothering you?
Well, this is a challenging question. I would like to say I am unbothered and just simply grateful for my life, my health, my family, friends, work etc. I am, however, 2020 is a tricky year to be unbothered by.
I am bothered by not understanding entirely where to focus and what to believe.
What are the three things you wanna see in perfect porn?
It really depends on my mood. I will have to think about this question. Nothing is perfect. If porn were too perfect that wouldn’t work…imperfect, messy, female power and pleasure. I guess I would bat this question back and say that porn would be more perfect if there were more women involved in the process – I know there are women involved, but more of them…
If there is one thing in your work life you could change what would it be?
I am making a change. I am not going to produce any more documentaries once I complete the one I’m just finishing up. I am tired of working for very little money – so many hours of split focus…so much paperwork. I do remember that Candice was oft frustrated by the paperwork – she just wanted to be creative. I agree on that. The little stuff creates so much fractured time. So, in my work life, I want to have more creativity, more balance – more time focused on one thing rather than flip flopping to take care of so many little things all the time.
What’s your daily morning routine?
I have three kids, a husband, a dog and we just got a kitten. My house has been renovated for the last few months…so I have been without a bedroom to call my own. Add covid to the mix and I can say, honestly, that the morning routine is not routine. Usually involves exercise – trail running with friends, a dog walk, yoga, pilates…though sometimes a dip in the ocean. Often getting kids ready for something…in my mind, the perfect routine would be to wake early, meditate, stretch, walk the dog, make a healthy breakfast, write etc…but that’s not the reality at the moment!
Favourite MEME / Twitter / Instagram Account etc.
I’m not a person with a lot of favourites…I like variety and tend not to return to the same things over and again.
Thanks so much Sheona for sharing your time and openness with us!
We cannot wait to watch Candice – The documentary here on CHEEX and look forward to speaking with you soon again. Enjoy the time with your family and the last bits of summer.