“Work” is a short film by Irish-born writer, actress, and director Aoife Williamson. The short tells the story of Lilith, a musician and escort, on a day when her two working worlds collide.
Aoife trained in Ireland and in New York, where she now lives. Acting in theatre and indie film for the past seventeen years, she has now moved her attention to creating her own work. Her short film screened at Bushwick Film Festival, New York Shorts, Fist Full of Films and Cork International Film Festival and is still doing the rounds. She recently discussed the film via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you discover your talent for acting and how did you break into the theater?
Aoife Williamson (AW): My first theatrical experience was in a school play. I played Sleeping Beauty so, as you can imagine, I didn’t have to do very much! I loved the rush I got from being on stage. I childishly decided that was what I wanted to do with my life and just stuck with it! I left “normal” school when I was fifteen to attend an acting conservatory. There, I had an inspirational teacher, Belinda Wilde, who stoked my fire further. My time in that school in Kinsale was affirming, and from there I began performing in theatre and indie films semi-professionally.
MM: Did your love for writing come after your love for acting or before?
AW: As a kid I would write children’s stories but I was very bad at finishing them. I also loved drawing, sculpture, dancing, music and singing. I loved all the arts and found it a bit overwhelming, never quite giving enough time to any of them. So, when I chose acting, I made that my main artistic expression and left the others to fall by the wayside somewhat. Writing was consistent in my life as a way to self-counsel but not as an art. It wasn’t until 2020 that I got the courage to write a short screenplay, and that was “Work.”
MM: What kinds of characters do you most enjoy portraying?
AW: I love naturalistic comedy most. I like to portray someone living their life the best they can, dealing with the hypocrisy of the world around them. I especially like finding honesty in outlandish characters and situations.
MM: You’ve worked in several countries, so which has had the liveliest art scene?
AW: I worked only briefly in New Zealand and India. In Ireland I was younger and in a different place in my life. New York is where I have explored most as an artist, so I have to say here. Cultures collide beautifully at every turn and it births fresh, unique ideas and creations. There is so much to see and be involved in. It’s hard not to stumble upon something outstanding here, and yet still find the familiar.
MM: How did you come up with the idea for “Work”?
AW: A close friend shared with me her experiences as a high-end escort. I found her stories hilarious, vulnerable, and brave. Her attitude was that it was a money job like any other—she didn’t love it or hate it, she was good at it but it didn’t define her.
In New York it seems like almost everyone has a side hustle as well as a passion. I wanted to write a story that showed sex work as just another job, similar to the bar work that I was doing.
In the film Lilith has to create a song in a day between clients at work. As artists, we all have those “drop everything and work your ass off and maybe this could change your life” moments.
For my protagonist, I was also inspired by the mythical character of Lilith, Adam’s first wife before Eve who refused to be subservient to him. To me, she represents a powerful woman who rejects the oppressive system within which she was placed.
MM: In this film, you bring attention to sex work. Why was this specific topic so important for you to explore?
AW: It occurred to me that the portrayals I saw of sex work in film tended to portray the provider in some manner of desperation; someone homeless, a victim of human trafficking, an addict or someone very young and naïve. I wanted to add to the few depictions out there of sex workers who have chosen this job in sound mind and are perfectly okay with it.
MM: The song in this movie is really catchy, did you create it?
AW: My fiancé, DMac Burns, wrote and produced the song. He composed the music for the film and was my sounding board throughout the writing process.
MM: How long did it take to cast and film this movie?
AW: It took about a month to cast and three days to film. A couple of months later we took half a day to film cutaways of the city to use for transitions.
MM: What’s your favorite part of this film and why?
AW: I suppose the tone. It’s funny, uncomfortable and natural. I was going for something specific and I am happy with how it feels.
MM: What are your favorite things about working as an actress in New York?
AW: I love the sense of community. There is some healthy competition, but for the most part we all have each other’s back and see each other’s shows. It is a hard path and it means so much to have a friendly face in the audience or even someone to laugh with when you tank an audition.
MM: What other projects are you working on right now and what themes or issues might you like to address in future works?
AW: Right now, I am in the process of turning “Work” into a series. I see each episode being a day in the life of an entirely different sex worker in NYC. I wrote about one of the more classic situations in the short film, a young white foreign female but there are so many different types of sex workers that need representation. And me oh my so many kinks to choose from! I am also writing a series inspired by where I am from in West Cork; a beautiful mix of hippies, rural Ireland, party drugs and herbal medicine.
MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
AW: I guess if HBO wanted to pick up my “Work” series, that wouldn’t be so bad? And maybe Netflix wants my West Cork show… Nothing big, ya know…
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