Turning the Sex Work Redemption Narrative on Its Ass

Oct 24, 2013 • Causes, Film, Sex Industry

RedUP's Red Umbrella Diaries documentary

The Red Umbrella Project (RedUP) is a sex worker project based in New York City. Founded in 2010, RedUP works to amplify the voices of people in the sex industry, providing media training and support to sex workers and empowering them to share their stories, advocate for their rights, and fight discrimination. Since its inception, RedUP has hosted the monthly Red Umbrella Diaries, sex worker storytelling events where people can break out of the solitary existence of sex work and share their experiences with an audience. Over one hundred sex workers have told their stories at this event over the years.

In early October, RedUP created a Kickstarter campaign to take the Diaries beyond the intimacy of the lounge, beyond the Lower East Side, beyond New York, even — and bring them to the world as a documentary. Formatted in the style of the concert documentary, a crew will follow seven sex worker story-tellers as they prepare to go live in front of 200 people at New York’s multicultural musical clearinghouse, Joe’s Pub, weaving together the excitement of that night with intimate, sit-down interviews with every performer. The film explores the question: what happens when people whose voices are never heard in mainstream media take control of their own stories and how they are presented to the world?

The story-tellers featured are Anna Saini, Audacia Ray, Ceyenne Doroshow, Dominick, Essence Revealed, Page, and Sailor. Emmy Award-winner David Kornfield will be directing. Producer and editor Chris Fiore and cinematographer Rob Hobson join him. RedUP is partnering with Act Zero Films to produce and distribute the documentary.

Though the project has reached its funding goal as of this week, supporters are encouraged to pledge more to buy the project more time with the crew. RedUP founder Audacia Ray writes, “At our event at Joe’s Pub on November 14th we will also be presenting the debut of our Trans Women’s Theatre Troupe. The troupe has been developing an original piece of theater this fall and are very excited to perform at Joe’s Pub. If we reach our stretch goal of $18,000 we will be able to produce and edit a short film about the troupe that we will make available online. In addition to shooting the debut performance, our crew will interview troupe members at their rehearsal and edit a video that will showcase the work of the troupe.”

Header image courtesy RedUP, featuring story-tellers. Standing, from left to right: Sailor, your average next-door beefy furry cub for hire, coming to NYC via Tel Aviv and Cape Town; Audacia Ray, RedUP founder; Dominick, author of the advice column for Rentboy; Ceyenne Doroshow, author of Cooking in Heels: A Memoir Cookbook; anna saini, a femme-crip-working-class survivor. Kneeling: Page Campbell, a second-generation stripper from California; and Essence Revealed, a first generation Bajan, a stripper and teacher of burlesque.