WHILE YOU WERE GONE The Untold Story of Candida Royalle
A feature length documentary about iconic ex-porn star, activist and feminist pornographer Candida Royalle.
THANK YOU ALL WHO SUPPORTED US!
WHILE YOU WERE GONE: The Untold Story of Candida Royalle, is directed by Sheona McDonald and frames the life of Candida Royalle in a remarkable way.
Candida Royalle is a woman you think you know, with a story you’ve heard before.
A porn star, turned producer, turned advocate for women’s sexual rights.
But inside the story you know, is a woman you don’t.
Abandoned by her mother at a young age and raised in unusual circumstances, she was at the heart of these big moments, cultural shifts, who chose a path not many would... and then found a way to change her story... who fought for every inch of her success, who faced cancer head-on... and through all that, came to THIS place... this point where she's ready to tell her own story in a way we've never imagined... through the search for a mother she never knew... but is it too late?
Our first goal is to raise $135,000.00
For many this sounds like a lot of money, but in the world of film production, for a feature length documentary, this is a micro-budget.
This is what we need to cover just our basic costs. This will allow our mini-crew to film Candice’s journey to find her mother, and to put that story together in a compelling way.
When we talk about a mini-crew in this context, we are talking about Sheona producing, directing and editing the film and earning a stipend so that she can pay for basic living costs over the course of the year it will take to put this together. And then all the other people that will help make it shine, the composer, post production people, sound recordists and mixers etc.
We have cut this budget to the core - but this is what we need, at a minimum, to do it right. Without this funding the film can't be made.
For the sake of transparency here is a basic breakdown of costs:
$18,000.00 ABOVE THE LINE
(producer, director, writer, development, living and travel costs for a year)
(production assistant, travel for shooting, crew - camera, sound, equipment etc.)
(editor, assistant editor, equipment, colour correct, music composition, sound mix, stock footage, graphics etc)
$ 6,000 PUBLICITY
(legal fees, insurance, accountant, campaign %, banking fees, contingency, all the stuff you don’t think about that adds up)
This is still a very small budget for such an undertaking but will allow us a little more creativity in terms of style, exploration, travel, a longer and more extensive post production period, more funding for publicity and promotion, film festival travel etc.
ABOUT THE FILM
Why did you leave me? That's the question at the heart of a new documentary about the life of Candida Royalle.
While You Were Gone is an intimate portrait of a woman in search of answers – a daughter in search of the mother who walked out on her when she was only 18 months old. It was an event that would shape the woman Candida would become: fiercely independent, a pioneer in erotic filmmaking, a fighter who beat drug addiction and then, eventually, ovarian cancer into remission, three times over.
This film tells the story of two women. Candida, of course, and the woman she is today, 60 years after her mother left. Hers is a story told with the deeply personal candor of a survivor facing an uncertain future, set against the backdrop of a complex past, an exploration of how a singular event left its mark on her, and influenced her life, step after step.
But it also tells the story of a woman unknown, Peggy June, Candida’s mother. How could she walk out on two young daughters and never see them again? Where did she go? Where did she live? Where is she now? And, most importantly, did she ever look back?
Through Candida's search for answers to the question she's carried with her all these years, we meet the people she calls family – friends, colleagues, co-conspirators. And we come to understand the considerable impact her life's work has had, the ambition that continues to drive it forward, and the strength and vulnerability that it requires. We also go on to meet the family she longed to know, and in some cases, never knew existed.
While You Were Gone truly is an untold story. In a very public life where many stories about Candida have been told over and again, this one is fresh because it is still unfolding and it frames her life in a fresh and surprising way.
Realized in partnership with award-winning Canadian documentary filmmaker Sheona McDonald, While You Were Gone will challenge the preconceived notions we have about women in pornography, and along the way, explore the imprint our choices leave on our lives... and the lives of those around us.
Author, Visionary, Entrepreneur.
In 1984, Candida Royalle came up with the idea to produce adult erotica from a woman’s perspective. The mainstream porn industry scoffed at the idea, claiming “It can’t be done.”This only fuelled her determination.
She knew they were wrong.
Three decades later, her line of 18 features continues to bring in sales revenues and Candida Royalle is hailed as a pioneer in women’s erotica.
As Royalle's work grew in popularity, she became a media darling, appearing on talk shows from Phil Donahue to Anderson Cooper to Tyra Banks; and written up across the globe – the Times of London, the New York Times, Time Magazine, Glamour, Marie Claire – too many to list.
The international sexology community embraced her work for its egalitarian depiction of “positive sexual role modeling” and she was the first adult film producer to be invited in to membership by the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). She’s become a sought-after speaker, lecturing at the Smithsonian Institute, the American Psychiatric Association’s national conference, the World Congress on Sexology, and many more sexuality conferences and universities including Princeton, Columbia, Wellesley College and New York University.
In June, 2014, Royalle received a Doctorate in Human Sexuality for her life’s work from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality.
Building on the success of her films, and her work on female sexual empowerment and pleasure, Royalle partnered with Dutch industrial designer Jandirk Groet, and together they created the Natural Contours® line of high-style, discreet ergonomically designed personal massagers. The line debuted in 1999 and turned the world of sex toys on its head, showcasing vibrators as a “mainstream must-have” and raising the bar for all who followed.
In October 2004, Royalle authored her first book, How to Tell a Naked Man What to Do, (Simon & Schuster/Fireside). In 2006 she launched Femme Chocolat®, created to provide high quality intelligent erotica for the largely underserved non-caucasian market.
As pornography for women and couples grows in popularity, Candida continues to raise the bar. She is currently distributing the work of other feminist pornographers including European director, Petra Joy.
Royalle’s life has never been conventional. The daughter of an accomplished professional jazz drummer, she trained and performed in music, dance and art, attending New York’s High School of Art and Design, Parsons School of Design, and the City University of New York, where she was active in the women’s movement of the late ’60′s and early ’70′s. After a move West to San Francisco, she got involved with some of the original members of the infamous Cockettes, including the late Divine, to create avant garde jazz and theater productions.
In 1974, looking to finance her unconventional lifestyle, she entered the world of erotica as an adult performer and acted in more than twenty feature films. For some, this choice may have been seen as a dead end. But for Candida Royalle, this bold decision would shape the rest of her life.
At every fork in the road, Candida has chosen the path less traveled and, in so doing, has challenged herself, raised the bar and found a new way forward.
They say "it can't be done" and she says "just watch me!".
Throughout the course of her career Candida Royalle has talked about her work and her life in interviews for film and television, on talk shows and radio shows, in books and articles.
There are stories she has told many times. Her early life in New York; her interest in the women’s movement; travel west to San Francisco then LA, where she worked as an adult performer; starting Femme Productions and making erotic films for a female audience...
But the story she’s ready to tell now is one she hasn’t told before.
The story of her mother. A woman who left when she was a baby. A woman she never knew, but who touched every corner of her life.
Candida has been fighting ovarian cancer since 2010. And while she continues to keep it at bay, being confronted with her own mortality has lit a spark for her to answer the one question that’s lingered all these years: Why did her mother leave?
Candida has considered telling this story before, but part of telling one’s story is finding not only the right time, but the right people to help tell it.
Enter Sheona McDonald, a Canadian filmmaker working on a film about female sexuality and shame.
In July 2013, they met briefly in Manhattan and Sheona interviewed Candice.
The story Candice shared was the one so many of us are familiar with… but Sheona felt there was more to be told…. she reached out to Candice again six months later to request a deeper telling. Candice was willing to meet up again and made mention of the story of her mother.
Intuition? Intention? Fate? Timing?
It took only a brief conversation for both women to recognize they were unexpectedly on the road to making a film together.
Because sometimes the past is inspired by the future.
Because it is time to meet the Candice you don’t know.
Because Sheona is the one to help tell the story.
CREATIVE STYLE AND APPROACH
The story of two parallel lives.
One Candida Royalle, nee Candice. In the public eye for over four decades.
The other, Peggy June. A mother. But what else? Who is she?
Two woman, separated too soon… two lives, lived separately, but inextricably connected.
Using stock footage, photographs and stories of both women, in their own voices, in the voices of friends and family, colleagues and neighbours - we tell the stories of both of their lives.
Stylistically, this film will be as intimate as the story it's telling.
It will start in present day, on the road, as Candida searches to find the mother who left long ago, we will meet the people she meets and the family she finds.
As she unpacks the life of her mother, we will be taken back in time through her own life. Back as far as New York City, 1952, the year that a young Peggy June left Candice, her sister, her father, and fled to a different life, a different place...
The 1970's sexual revolution and Candice discovering herself against this backdrop.
Was Peggy June influenced by this movement?
Candice becoming Candida Royalle.
Peggy June, thousands of miles away.
The 1980s, an emerging film scene, helmed by Candida, discovering her own voice, stepping out from a shadow, into something this woman who is always a presence could be proud of.
Was her mother watching?
Recognizing her daughter on television?
Seeing herself in the woman Candice had become?
In the six decades of separation, did the lives of these two women ever collide - or is this the first time?
WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO?
The creation of a documentary of this scope, even with much of the story in place, takes months -- sometimes even years -- of hard work. It’s a collaborative process and even a small crew means involving dozens of people along the way.
With this micro-budget, we can ensure that those who work on the project are compensated at a very basic level. This also allows us to travel, and pays for a mini-crew, equipment, editing, post-production, acquiring rights to limited stock footage, and applying for screening at film festivals.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER
A noteworthy producer, director and writer, Sheona has been working in the film industry for over fifteen years and, in 2009, returned to Vancouver after running her company, Dimestore Productions Inc., out of Toronto for eight years.
Sheona has always had a passion for documentaries. In 1994, she made her first student short, With My Boots On, the story of author Rosalin MacPhee’s fight against breast cancer. She followed that production with Breaking the Cycle, an examination of domestic violence in the Aboriginal community in Vancouver.
Sheona then began a five-year odyssey independently producing LIFERS: Stories from Prison, an hour-long documentary about men serving life sentences in Canadian prisons. She also wrote, directed and narrated this project, which was acquired and broadcast on CBC Newsworld.
Sheona was nominated for a Gemini Award for the writing on a documentary she produced, wrote and directed called Capturing a Short Life for CBC Newsworld. This intensely beautiful and cinematic film explores the issue of infant loss, through examining how parents relate to, and remember their babies who are only here for a short period of time.
For the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver was one of twelve Canadian filmmakers selected to create a short narrative film. Momentum uses live action and animation to detail the strength of a relationship between a grandfather and his granddaughter from the beginning of her life to the end of his.
Sheona recently produced, directed and wrote television documentary called When Dreams Take Flight that explores the myths, dreams and obsessions of human beings desire to fly like birds, through following the process of a group of students building a human-powered ornithopter. This film was nominated for three Canadian Screen Awards and won two, for best writing and best editing.
In 2012, Sheona produced the television series Anna and Kristina’s Grocery Bag – Season 4 which was recently nominated for four Leo Awards including best series. She has also written on the series Pyros and directed the popular History Television show Ice Pilots.
Last year Sheona wrote and story edited an hour-long television doc about pro-gamers, PC Bang: Rise of the E-Sports Heroes and she is in post-production on her own documentary about the impact of shame on women’s sexuality, Inside Her Sex (working title).
Sheona lives and works in Vancouver with her husband of 14 years, Jonathan Lloyd Walker, an actor and writer, and their three children.
A NOTE ABOUT THE REWARDS
For Canadian projects there is an $8,000 cap.
If you are interested in contributing upwards of $8,000.00 CAD we have some additional incentives and we'd also be happy to discuss working with you in a producer or executive producer capacity.
Please send us a message and we'll get in touch!
OTHER LINKS OF INTEREST
Candida' interview with Lady Cheeky (link to be posted on July 31st)
More to come!
Risks and challenges
Making any film or video project, any creative project, is not without challenges.
There is the challenge of simply driving the creative mind to make work. The challenge of rising each morning and finding space in the clutter of our lives to sit down and create a concept and revise, revise, revise.
A film project has additional challenges. One is financial. Even in the world of inexpensive equipment and editing systems, people still need to get paid for their time, energy and skills. Another is logistics, will the people that need to be on camera be available, willing and compelling. But we feel good about these challenges, we like them.
For us, their are two challenges: the logistics of location and travel, and more profoundly, the emotional journey.
Candice lives in New York State, USA, Sheona lives in Vancouver, Canada. We will be on the road together visiting several states, lugging gear, offloading footage after long days, checking into flights and navigating strange roads, new neighborhoods and new people. In all of this there are bound to be some unexpected adventures.
Emotionally there are many factors at play.
When Sheona goes on the road she leaves behind a husband and three young children. Candice leaves behind her home and several pets.
Under normal circumstances these challenges are easily navigated, but with this particular project there is an emotional component that we can't underplay.
Candice has considered this film, this search for her mother, before.
But the timing, the collaborator, wasn’t right…
Now the timing is right, but it comes under the weight of other things. A battle with cancer, the possibility that Peggy June will have passed away or won't want to see Candice.
We are confident that we are equipped to handle these challenges and that the resulting film will be evocative and intimate, but we are aware that the things we confront along the way may not be straightforward.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (31 days)