Use Me: Breaking down the docu-thriller with director and star Julian Shaw

Photo: Use Me -- Image Courtesy Gravitas Ventures
Photo: Use Me -- Image Courtesy Gravitas Ventures /
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Use Me
Photo: Use Me — Image Courtesy Gravitas Ventures /

We chatted with Julian Shaw, the star and director of new docu-thriller Use Me. We talk about Ceara Lynch, the line between fact and fiction, and more!

Use Me is a new docu-thriller from Gravitas Ventures that follows the life of humiliatrix Ceara Lynch and a documentary filmmaker who gets in way over his head. Julian Shaw directed and starred in the film as a fictionalized version of himself.

Shaw formerly produced a British Film Institute Award-winning documentary and is an accomplished filmmaker and author. The auteur does an exceptional job of blurring the line between fact and fiction in this compelling and tense thriller.

We had the chance to chat with Shaw about his work on Use Me, how he came up with the idea for a docufiction and what creating this fascinating film entailed.

1428 Elm: I just had the chance to watch the movie yesterday, and I enjoyed it.

Julian Shaw: Thank you so much, that’s nice to hear.

1428 Elm: It reminded me of the movie Cam, I don’t know if you’ve seen that one, it came out last year.

JS: I haven’t seen it. I would love to watch that one. The initial shoots for this film started in 2013 or 2014, so it’s interesting when something comes out in a similar vein. It makes you wonder if there’s something in the zeitgeist.

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1428 Elm: What do you think it is about camgirls and sex work that people find so fascinating?

JS: I think the fact that it is an illicit side of life that has been hidden for so long, and now we have it at our disposal. If you have an iPhone, you literally have access to every piece of pornography ever made. You can access any sex worker in one minute by reaching into your pocket.

I think there is a fascination with how we manage that. There is such a glut of options. How do we manage ourselves? What are the ethical boundaries? Do we just give in to our impulses?

My film deals with the ethics of online sex work and control, addiction, and obsession. I think it’s fascinating because it’s scary having access to so much. I think that’s a struggle for people. I think technology is a struggle. As cool as it is, it can make everything possible. We have to control ourselves.

Use Me
Photo: Use Me — Image Courtesy Gravitas Ventures /

1428 Elm: One thing I liked about Use Me is that I didn’t feel it portrayed Ceara in a bad light. How did you guys go about creating this thriller? Did you collaborate with her on the story?

JS: I wrote the script and directed it, but I was using her life as my raw material, some aspects are very close to reality, and some are quite fictionalized. But everything started with the truth and what she does in her work. I respect what she does. I think she is a very smart entrepreneur.

I appreciate you saying that we didn’t present the world in a negative light, because I don’t feel negative about the world, I feel positive about anything people do with consent that makes them happy.

I think human sexuality is an amazing rainbow. Consent is the only barrier for me. As long as there is consent and understanding, I think it’s great, you know, whatever turns you on. So I guess that sex-positive message comes through because that’s my point of view.

Also, we’ve seen many stories where sex workers are broken in some way. That wasn’t true for Ceara, and I felt that story had been told already. I wanted to give a fresh spin. I wanted to provide a different angle from what we’re used to seeing.

1428 Elm: I think it does come across as a positive story. As you said, we’ve seen many stories about people miserable doing sex work, and it’s great to see more positive portrayals.

JS: Right, and sometimes it is like that too. There is a lot of bad stuff in the industry, but there are other aspects to it as well.