An Interview with Filmmakers Ezra Ani and Micah Smith
Pillow Talk is a new video series about the quirks of intimate relationships. It was made in Jerusalem by budding filmmakers Ezra Ani and Micah Smith, who are from Baltimore and Los Angeles, respectively. Since I'm currently staying in Jerusalem, I was curious to hear about a local art project that explores romance, gender, and sexuality, so I decided to ask them some questions!
Pleasure Pie: How did Pillow Talk come to be? What is your intention for this project? What was your inspiration?
Ezra Ani: Pillow Talk is a collaboration between myself and my good friend, Micah. We’ve been making film projects together for the past eight years, but usually these projects are just for fun and don’t really get seen by anyone. Pillow Talk was our first attempt to create something that was intended for distribution.
In 2017, Micah and I made a short film together called Strangers. I liked the individual scenes of that film a lot more than the film as a whole, and I wanted to write more scenes that were complete stories in their own right. At the time, I was also reading a lot of short stories and was fascinated by how that literary genre has challenged our understanding of what makes a story a story. Particularly flash fiction. I guess you could say that Pillow Talk was an attempt to make flash fiction for film. It was certainly an attempt to tell relatable stories about the quirks and complexities of human intimacy in as distilled a form as possible. Stories that could be seen and shared in passing glimpses – a perfect format for social media distribution.
PP: How would you describe the cultural approach to sex in Jerusalem? Are there any ways that you wish it were different?
EA: If you leave out Tel Aviv, Israel as a whole is a rather conservative country with regards to sexuality. Jerusalem in particular is a very complex city that tries to navigate a vast amount of political, cultural and religious tensions within its jurisdiction. But within all this complexity there are many interesting and diverse voices that can be heard. I, for one, am very proud that a show like Pillow Talk was written and produced right here in Jerusalem. This city should continue to support local art and invest more in its young population. Steps are certainly being made already in that direction and we may see a different city in the coming years.
I do think that even in a conservative setting, sex education and access to information/treatment is incredibly important. I applaud organizations like Lada’at and The Jerusalem Open House for their work and I hope their positive impact continues to grow.
PP: The loneliness episode is my favorite — it's both sweet and heartbreaking. Do you have a favorite Pillow Talk episode?
EA: You guessed it. ‘Loneliness’ is my favorite episode as well. Micah’s favorite is ‘Subjectivity.’
PP: What do you think of feminism?
EA: I think our society as whole owes a great debt to the feminist movement, and we should continue to strive to achieve greater equality and hear more diverse voices.
On a more personal level, I am always fascinated by conversations about human nature, and I often wonder if the differences between men and women should be allowed to dictate our essence any more than all the other differences we have as individuals. I think that gender stereotypes have largely been toxic for our society and ought to be changed at the very least, if not abandoned altogether.
In Pillow Talk I tried to create dialogues that ignore gender stereotypes and never give either party the upper hand. The characters take turns being needy, emotional and irrational, and they struggle with their differences as inherently separate human beings, regardless of their particular gender.
PP: What do you think of monogamy and non-monogamy?
EA: Ironically, I think that for Pillow Talk’s target audience monogamy is starting to become passé. And, in a lot of ways, I support that shift. I think that if we continue to hold on to a very narrow view of relationships and love, we do a disservice to the diverse nature of our society. For much of our history, monogamy has served as a fundamental building block for the family and, by extension, for civilization as a whole. But it has also fueled the aggressive desire for totality, ownership and sameness, and has limited the individual (particularly women and members of the LGBT community) in ways that cannot be ignored. It is no mere coincidence that there is a direct correlation between the rise of 20th century feminism and the increased divorce rate in America. I think it is exciting that in my lifetime alone we have seen significant steps in changing the conversation around monogamy.
Despite all that, I chose to write a show that portrays a monogamous couple in bed. But I guess that Pillow Talk isn’t really about monogamy. Ultimately, the show is about human intimacy in general, and I think it has universal relevance regardless of relationship titles.
PP: Are you still making more episodes? What can we expect from Pillow Talk in the future?
EA: Pillow Talk isn’t over yet. Our first “season” will total 16 episodes. After that, we’ll have to wait and see. I would love to be able to make more Pillow Talk if there is a demand for it and funding can be found.
We are also embarking on the festival circuit with this season of Pillow Talk, and just last week we were accepted to the Austin Revolution Film Festival. Hopefully the first of many. So I guess even we don’t know what to expect in the future.