A womxn on the brink of suicide finds unexpected new life in an ostracized doctor's office through pioneering electrical technology.
"O" is a flow between comedy and drama (with maybe a fun speck of horror).
This project touches upon the myths surrounding the origin of the first vibrator machine -- through this playful and titillating perspective we explore a far deeper discussion of female pleasure and body ownership.
This film/ proof-of-concept sheds light on prior narratives that have long denied pleasure, joy and beauty as an elevating and driving force of our collective expansion -- especially in the female spaces of gender experience.
Mariana has 10 shorts and 2 pilots in her writing portfolio. This project serves as a strong sample of her storytelling, inspired by themes of liberation through the lens of the underdogs, the odds ones, the pioneers and the visionaries of human history (& beyond).
ELENA HERNANDEZ, formerly ELENA WILLIAMSON
Unwell. Severely bound and blind to it. She was born into the Californian upper class and forced into its values since birth.
Her love and desire to honor her family is what has kept her alive.
DR. AMOS JOHNSON (Mason Heidger)
A kind man devoted to a medicine path beyond his time.
A firm believer in bringing a future that celebrates freedom. He is a pioneer and a free thinker, ostracized by local townspeople because he does not fit their mold.
"So much of the fight women have been in historically has been of survival amidst spaces of negation — especially around pleasure and ownership of their bodies."
- adrienne maree brown, contemporary Pleasure Activist
For too long we've witnessed patriarchy-dominated narratives on female pleasure of our bodies as a source of joy and primal beauty. To this day, we deny ourselves freedom of pleasure -- we think of it as 'taboo'. We hide these feelings from our kids, from our loved us... and perhaps most dangerously, from ourselves.
This is a story of liberation and catharsis from this denial space, and a re-telling of the story around what it means to be a 'proper' womxn as she reclaims her power through clitoral orgasm, and connection with a male figure that has total separation from her sexuality. It's the story of a vibrator as beyond a source of pleasure that 'imitates' that of a man.
It is meant to make us TALK ABOUT the beautiful parts of us we are ashamed to talk about.. without cringing at the idea. That's where the magic of this film lies: it doesn't make you uncomfortable -- it drives you to open up. It makes you laugh, cry, and release some of those denials we all carry from generations past.
"The fear that we cannot grow beyond whatever distortions we may find within ourselves keeps us docile and loyal and obedient, externally defined, and leads us to accept many facets of our oppression as women. (...)
But when we begin to live from within outward, in touch with the power of the erotic within ourselves, and allowing that power to inform and illuminate our actions upon the world around us, then we begin to be responsible to ourselves in the deepest sense. For as we begin to recognize our deepest feelings, we begin to give up, of necessity, being satisfied with suffering and self-negation, and with the numbness which so often seems like their only alternative in our society." - Uses of The Erotic: The Erotic As Power, Audrey Lorde
"My early years were embedded in religious schooling within a very patriarchal society. It led me to embrace narratives of (my) pleasure as a sin -- and to see my body's expression as something to be dulled. I've not been taught to see the natural beauty and intrinsic magic of my body as I learned womxhood; it wasn't a part of the social ways of my culture. On the other hand, I was consistently fed the objectification of female bodies as a source of male pleasure and gaze. Through this film, we hope to offer a catharsis; pleasure education as a source of activism. O brings to light the beauty that is the release of the wild, natural, beautiful female energy of the past... left out of the history books, but made into art."
-- Mariana Arôxa
The fact that Dr. Johnson is a gay man is a very relevant character choice -- one that illuminates his dissociation from any sexual tone to his work with Elena, and serves to also shed light on how society imposed their own vision on sexual expression in those times -- and how it affected his own self-perception as a human, being. His character arc is as profound as Elena's, and their connection is the spark that sets all of this magic in motion.
"O" is a calling-card to vibrational tone (pun intended) of the stories Mariana is passionate about telling -- all of which intersect on themes of justice, liberation, freedom of expression and gender fluidity -- expressed through epic audio-visual perspectives.
The Perfect Location Doesn't Exist --- Oh, wait. It does.
The Historical Harris House, Glendale, CA. Four widows have lived here. It also honors a Goddess who worked as a sex therapist, and who we believe is strongly sending us greenlit vibes. Thank you, Amie. Shine on.
We take this opportunity to honor the Tongva Tribes of the First Nations that lived in the lands where we will be shooting this project. We honor your presence, your energy, and we are grateful for the possibility to make art towards liberation and inclusion of all humans as one in our ascension to joy, pleasure and unconditional love.
Historical Authenticity: Wardrobe
The turn of the century in California offered us an array of intricate options for wardrobe. Elena's two piece widow garment was fully hand-sewn by Mariana Aroxa's grandmother, Lucia Oliveira, as a donation to the film. It took Lucia 3 weeks to sew the two pieces, both made of satin and lace.
The corset, specifically, carries a lot of weight into Elena's storyline -- the type of corset she wears is not typical of what most women of her time chose. There is a very peculiar reason for this (which you will see in the film, YAY!) . Lucia Oliveira also custom-made Elena's corset, since nothing quite like it exists in this world. She also made all necessary undergarments -- authentic to the time period.
Our inspiration came directly from historical research on the fashion of the times (as it relates to the character's specificities), as well as shows such as The Gilded Age (HBO), 1883 (Paramount +), Enola Holmes (Netflix).
Mariana Arôxa | Writer + Actor | Elena Hernandez
With over a decade working as a professional actor in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mariana began writing as a creative outlet to develop her acting craft. She then realized she had a love for writing as deep as her love for acting. She began to write characters that she couldn't find on casting profiles. It's been a journey of love ever since. She also works as an actor in film, theatre, video games, and as a voice-over artist. She is now based in Los Angeles.
Mason Heidger | Actor + Editor | Dr. Amos Johnson
Mason has been a professional actor for over a decade since graduating from The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, in 2010. He has since appeared in over 40 films, including 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, as Officer Rucka. He also won Best Performance of the Year at the 2019 Actor's Awards in Los Angeles.
Remy Neymarc | Director of Photography (WME)
A rare talent of visual storytelling and a reference for visual artistry in New York. He has brought masterpieces to life at Neymarc Visuals -- a company he shares with his brother, Andre Neymarc. He has been establishing a solid filmmaking career with his eye for magnificent creations.
A sample of his award-winning work can be found here, featured on Omeleto. We are one lucky team to have his invaluable vision directing the photography of this art piece.
Rae Cofsky | Director + Producer
Director, actor, choreographer and coach, Rae is originally from a small town in central Massachusetts, and is now based in LA. She has a B.A. in Theatre Arts + Communication from Westfield State University and has earned her MFA at the Academy of Art University (San Francisco). She is extremely passionate about collaborating with artists on social justice, womxn and LGBTQIA+ driven art pieces. It is an honor to have her sensibility guiding O's direction.
Lidiya Korotko | Assistant Director + Producer
A multicultural MENA immigrant, Lidiya Korotko pioneers character driven narratives with globally inclusive themes focusing on women, children and the forgotten within underrepresented communities. A Shondaland Director Mentorship Finalist and a Women In Media CAMERAderie Fellow Lidiya has written, directed and produced riveting films that premiered at multiple Oscar qualifying film festivals receiving multiple awards such as Best Film and Best Director and acquiring National distribution with several streaming platforms. She is proud to say that her work got a personal recognition and a seal of approval by the Head of Creative Production of Shondaland, Tom Verica, and the director of BBC's Peaky Blinders, Anthony Byrne.
Daniel Figueiredo | Executive Producer
A Brazilian award-winning multi-instrumentalist, Daniel is also a TV/Film composer and Music Producer, co-owner of MusicSolution, Up-tracks and owner of AudioXpression. He has worked on Latin Grammy winning and nominated projects, including the 2020 “Best Instrumental Album” nominee Leo Amuedo Plays Daniel Figueiredo, the “Best Christian Music Album” winner Fruto de Amor by Aline Barros, and the “Best Samba/Pagode Album” winner Nosso Samba tá na Rua by Beth Carvalho.
Gerson Lopes | Composer & Still Photography
A multi-hyphenate artist, Gerson is an established photographer with a high level education in music composition.
Gerson has a keen eye and ear for magic.
This film beckons a very delicate and specific musical flow of storytelling. Gerson's energy, intuition and talents bring yet another elevation for the production value of this art piece.
Scott Gore | Associate Producer
A former US Navy, Scott has traveled all over the world loving, learning from and serving people living in hard places.
Six years ago, Scott lost his best friend to suicide and a few years later his life was falling apart. That's when he woke up one morning with an idea for a screenplay, and has not stopped writing since.
Scott is best known for his screenplays Instant Karma and Woman in the Maze. One of his current projects is called Albert - a screenplay about the most famous scientist who ever lived. A strong supporter of cinematic stories of overcoming pain, Scott found connection to the story O brings to life.
Savannah Yergeau | Art Director
Hailing from the south coast of Massachusetts, Savannah grew up homeschooled by an artist mother. As a result she was able to explore many mediums of art as a child. She became obsessed with stylized music videos as a teenager, and knew she was meant to dive into filmmaking with a focus on design. After receiving her Bachelors of Fine Art in Film from The Academy of Art in San Francisco, Savannah moved to LA where she quickly started to find work on features, commercials, and her favorite: music videos. She hopes her art can inspire other young womxn to go into design.
David Dadon | Sound Engineer
LA based, with a background working in iconic recording studios. David brings his love for warm analog sounds to set, making every production feel like a day at the studio.
Kurt Hall | Gaffer
Vera Ludmilla | Craft & On Set Mama/Angel
Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Vera is known for her exquisite healthy dishes with a Brazilian touch, great taste in music, and an absolute passion for filmmaking. She has worked with countless music and film legends and lovers ever since her chef career started in New York in the 80's. She is currently living in Los Angeles. More info on her catering work can be found here.
Rachael Angell | Hair Design
Kristin Moody | Make-Up
Karol Mesquita | Wardrobe Assistant
Lina Li | Assistant Camera Operator
Nico | Boom Operator
Kyle Sloan | Grip
Diamond Linen | Slate / Script Supervisor / PA
Saba Khan | PR Assistant / Slate / PA
Thalma | Production Assistant
Blake Weaver | Production Assistant
Elucidations | FAQ's et al:
How did the story come to the paper?
Mariana has always been fascinated with the Victorian Era and wanted to create a story around a Latinx womxn who lived in that time-space.
Serendipitously (as if Elena already had her writer in mind), Mariana came across an article discussing the controversial 'myths' around the first vibrator's origins -- mentioned in Rachel P. Maines' book "The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator and Women's Sexual Satisfaction."
Hallie Lieberman & Eric Schatzberg (Georgia Institute of Technology) discredit Maine's notes in their paper "A Failure of Academic quality Control: The Technology of Orgasm," claiming there were no historical evidence that doctors indeed used the vibrator machine to heal female patients at the turn of the 19th century.
This further instigated Mariana to dive deep into -- what if indeed that possibility was a fact? It is no secret that womxn's stories have been poorly anecdoted in our past -- and at many times, completely left out of the books. Who is to say the story doesn't have truth to it?
To clarify: "O" does not aim to prove or disprove history and its facts. It is aimed to showcase an angle through which female pleasure and untold stories of minority groups get a chance to be verbalized, portrayed with beauty and liberation as its foundation. We aim for you to feel. To release. To Expand. Through art inspired by the past, from a lens of the present, to bring further joy into the future.
What about the film "Hysteria" (2011) ? Hasn't this story already been told?
Haven't hundreds of the same super-hero tales been told and retold, and retold in the screens? Literally, you guys... three Spider-Man's. 'Nuff said.
For the sake of indulging those who feel this story has already been told: HYSTERIA (2011) is a romantic comedy -- in essence, it is about a romance between a cis doctor and a strong-willed cis activist womxn aiming to give visibility to the poor.
Although it has been marketed as a film focused on the story of first vibrator and its medical usage, the main female character actually belittles the use of the device as a source of healing (totally justified for her character).
Hysteria was beautifully made, sweet and light-hearted tale, but the film does not aim to educate on female pleasure as a source of activism and liberation. The vibrator treatment is referred to mainly as a source of fame and financial abundance for the doctor -- which is used to support his lover's honorable charity work. Freakin' epic story. One that needs to also be told! But... it's not what we're telling with "O".
Why the use of "womxn" instead of "woman"?
There is always controversy with regards to less normative terminology, so we wish to address how womxn is used as a term for our project: The word woman has its origins in the English language as wīfmon, -man (see wife, man), a formation peculiar to English, the ancient word being wife. Much like the word Vagina has its origins in the late 17th century from the Latin ‘sheath, scabbard’. Literally -- the word vagina only exists in relationship and in service to covering the sword. Yep. More on this vagina terminology later, as we develop the mini-series.
In essence, WOMAN is a word that comes from a direct connection with and in relationship to man. Heck, the word itself contains 'man' in it. This is why we choose to use womxn -- to remove the concept that the cis man needs to be present for a womxn's story to be validated. It's a language detail, but one that matters to our story.
Important to note: We are not establishing the use of this word in any form or shape to dictate or impose anything with regards to transgender groups (an also controversial critique of the womxn, womyn, and woman terminologies) -- we celebrate ALL humans and living creatures fully in whichever way they wish to be termed! We are SO here for it. Trans, gender fluidity, queers of any and all respects - WE HONOR YOU. Period. Labels can go f*** themselves, ultimately. We just needed to use a term for our main female character, and womxn is the most relevant for her story.
Why use herstory instead of history?
To further elucidate on the above womxn choice, we specifically want to clarify that this story is told from a female driven lens -- as we reflected in question 1 (above), most of the reports and anecdotes on stories of the past have been recorded through a male-centered perspective. It is accurate to say 'history', because that is essentially what history books reflect - history from a man's perspective. Instead, we would like to elevate Elena's story and elevate other lenses through which our past can be seen from.
What are some references that have inspired this project?
The Principles of Pleasure, Netflix Documentary
Sex and Communication, Masterclass by Emily Morse
Passion and Power, Amazon Prime (Dir. Wendy Slick, Emiko Omori)
Books, Essays and Journals:
Emergent Strategy, adrienne marie brown
Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power, Audrey Lorde
Pussy: A Reclamation, Regena Thomashauer
Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés
A Failure of Academic Quality Control: The Technology of Orgasm, Hallie Lieberman & Eric Schatzberg
The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria", the Vibrator and Women's Sexual Satisfaction, Rachel P. Maines