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Whore Next Door, Siouxsie Q, Shine Louise Houston, Snapshot - By - June 24, 2015 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Whore Next Door, Siouxsie Q, Shine Louise Houston, Snapshot

The way the fog creeps over the Golden Gate and spills into North Beach, the bizarre ruins of Adolph Sutro's mansion looming over the ghostly Cliff House — even in summertime, San Francisco is an ideal backdrop for mystery and intrigue. Alfred Hitchcock fell in love with our city in the late 1930s and went on to film at many San Francisco landmarks, like Mission Dolores and the Legion of Honor.

This summer, veteran Bay Area filmmaker Shine Louise Houston, of The Crash Pad Series and Pink and White Productions, is hoping to capture a taste of Hitchcock's San Francisco. Snapshot, her fifth feature film, is an erotic thriller, but this iteration of San Fran-suspense features radical queer sex as well as a coming-out story.

Photographer Charlie, played by BDSM porn starlet Beretta James, falls for Danny, an older butch played by former Lusty Lady dancer and queer porn-favorite Chocolate Chip. But when Charlie accidentally snaps a photo of a murderer and becomes his next target, things get complicated. Film buffs would call it a MacGuffin; I call it a murderous meet-cute.

Houston has garnered critical acclaim for her sex positive films that showcase the complexities of queer desire. Champion: Love Hurts, was named movie of the year at the 2009 Feminist Porn Awards, and even received a nod from the mainstream porn industry with a 2010 AVN nomination for best video feature.

Houston hopes to make an even bigger splash with Snapshot, and while Pink and White Productions has some seed money, it's not quite enough to finish the film. While other queer and independent artists can seek grant or government funding, artists who showcase explicit sexuality often don't have the same opportunities.

To get Snapshot made, Houston and the Pink and White team turned to crowdfunding, despite the contentious relationship folks in the sex industry have often had with these platforms.

“I was apprehensive about using a crowdfunding platform,” Houston said, and with good reason. Recently, a sex worker from Houston who goes by the name Kamylla said the short-lived A&E show 8 Minutes had promised her resources that would help her exit the sex industry, but those resources never came. Kamylla, along with sex worker activists, started a crowdfunding campaign to help pay her family's rent and bills while she transitioned out of the industry. But both her GoFundMe and her Tilt campaigns were shut down, presumably because of Kamylla's sex worker status.

So before Houston and her team embarked on a campaign to raise $40,000 for Snapshot, they reached out to Indiegogo to make sure the campaign wouldn't be pulled. They were heartened by Tobi Hill-Meyer of HandBasket Films, who recently funded her project Doing it Again: In Depth, an explicit documentary displaying the hook-up dynamics of trans women, on Kickstarter; and queer porn producer/performer Courtney Trouble, who is currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo for art school tuition. Houston even found successful crowdfunding campaigns for tentacle porn, so they figured Snapshot had a shot.

But just a few days after the campaign launched, Houston and her team were blindsided when it was, indeed, shut down. They assumed once again that sex worker stigma was rearing its ugly head and stomping on the dreams of ambitious queer artists.

But it turns out, Snapshot's campaign was shut down due to a minor violation of Indiegogo's Terms of Service completely unrelated to the content of the film. One of the perks offered to donors was entry into a VIP party that included a goodie bag and a raffle ticket. Indiegogo prohibits campaigns from offering “any form of lottery or gambling” as a perk, which would include a good old-fashioned raffle ticket.

Houston remedied this oversight, and the campaign was reactivated and will continue until July 2. Snapshot is slated to begin production later that month.

“I feel that the landscape must be shifting,” Houston said of sex workers and crowdfunding.

Indiegogo's website is full of empowering adages like, “Create the world you want to see, one idea at a time”— and perhaps this time the company means it.

As more sex workers and adult content producers are given access to the crowdfunding economy, perhaps there is a sliver of hope for people who work in the adult industry to one day be seen as legitimate on any platform.