I directed and acted in a movie called Use Me – a fictional thriller about real-life people. The story focuses on my character, Julian, an ambitious documentary filmmaker, and his relationship with an “online humiliatrix,” Ceara Lynch – part girl-next-door/part alpha-bitch-goddess who has made a fortune being very mean to men online, without ever getting naked. Ceara Lynch is a real person and she really does this for a living. Her specialty is “financial domination” – basically, a fetish that involves giving ample amounts of one’s hard-earned money to an imperious woman. This may be one of the few things in life that sounds too good to be true, yet actually is true.
The movie was recently sold to distributor Gravitas Ventures and released around the world on VOD and Blu-ray. In Australia and New Zealand, my home turf, it has been released digitally by Filmink Presents.
However, getting attention in an over-saturated media landscape without a Hollywood marketing budget is hard work. This meant that Ceara and I found ourselves spit-balling viral marketing pranks that we could pull to bring more attention to our well-reviewed but somewhat obscure movie. Then it hit her. “Let’s release the kissing scene from the movie on an actual porn site,” she said.
In Use Me’s “kissing scene,” Ceara and I shoot a video of ourselves smooching and heavy-petting for a wealthy investor who, in return, offers to donate $7,500 to the documentary-within-the-film.
Ultimately, our make-out session escalates into a raucous sex scene as the physical tension between documentary-maker and his subject is finally, explosively released. I loved the idea of releasing an extended version of this scene on an actual porn site. It was meta, sexy, and on-brand for our “erotic thriller.” Plus, it was ‘movie sex’, not real sex, so I had somehow found the credibility loophole that stopped me from going ‘full porno.’
I documented the process in a vlog. You can watch it here:
Ceara and I edited the rushes from the “kissing scene” down to a titillating seven minutes. I told my family what was about to happen. The responses were mixed. My sister thought it was ingenious marketing. My mother momentarily thought that I might be ruining my mainstream acting career. My dad was just elated.
Once we released the video on Clips 4 Sale, my life turned upside down.
To put it mildly, sales exceeded expectations. My minor notoriety as a filmmaker and actor had absolutely nothing to do with the response, and my 50% cut of the gross profits was, in retrospect, generous. Ceara’s core followers were the ones buying it – and it seemed as though every single one of them was doing so.
The mainstream value of Use Me – a traditionally released feature film – did perhaps enhance the buzz and must-see factor of our video. It wasn’t just a smutty clip – it was connected to a product that people could watch on Amazon Prime or buy on DVD from Target. For a downloadable piece of porn, it had a rare aura of prestige and pedigree. So many people bought the clip that it ascended from the morass of the seven million porno clips on our host website Clips 4 SALE to the top 20 and then the top 10.
Sensing a possible financial windfall, I asked Ceara if I should set up a site for my own “tributes” – i.e., the monetary tips that a man gives to his favourite dominatrix. “Make an Amazon Wish List,” she replied. “Trust me.”
For an hour or so, not quite believing it would amount to anything, I created an Amazon Wish List that contained everything I needed and craved: a new camcorder, an actual bed (for several months, I’d been sleeping on a mattress on the floor), a new MacBook Pro (my old one, worn to the bone from video editing, had a screen half-covered in leaking black electro-sludge). I couldn’t resist adding a bunch of items I didn’t need but sure did want – a football jersey, giant bags of protein, a blender, an espresso coffee maker, deluxe leather travel bags, gift cards for Uber, Best Buy and Air BnB. I had fun.
The next morning, as I toiled through a day at work, collecting not much more than minimum wage, a tweet from Ceara flashed on my phone: “(Client X) just cleared @julianrshaw’s wishlist. My what a cuck!”
My heart raced with excitement. I quickly navigated to my Amazon app and discovered that my entire Wish List had, indeed, been stripped bare in one orgiastic spending spree. Soon, to the shock of my flatmates, scores of boxes arrived at my door. I’d received my new bed, the De’Longhi coffee maker, a Crock-Pot, baking trays, the Sony camcorder, and the new laptop. There were 28 packages in total, with contents valued at over $5,000. For Ceara, this sort of thing was just another day at the office. For me, it was a life-changing miracle.
Ceara, truly a genius entrepreneur, came up with an idea to further humiliate and torture the wealthy client who had cleaned out my wishlist. “I’m going to cuck the shit out of him,” she said. Every day, she changed the price of the clip from $19.99 to $1,000. Her dutiful slave, Client X, paid the premium price, downloaded the clip, DIDN’T watch it, deleted it, and then, 24 hours later, re-purchased it for another $1,000. Every day for 12 days.
You may find this inconceivable. I don’t. Although I affect a wide-eyed “how is this possible?” line of questioning in my vlog, I’ll admit to doing so in the same calculated manner as Louis Theroux or Michael Moore. I’m simply setting up Ceara to explain to the audience, in plain terms, something I already understand fully.
While lavishing money on a cam girl isn’t my particular vice (praise the lord), I appreciate the sweet pain of masochism. Even as I played the role of well-hung stud in my clip with Ceara, the truth is, I could just as easily derive masochistic sexual pleasure from taking the point of view of the hapless cuckold. My musculature and natural confidence simply typecast me in the role of the alpha tormentor.
All BDSM is a variation on the same theme of power imbalance. One participant has a lot of power, while the other has none. Therein lies the turn-on. Money is the greatest form of power and status in our society. Old-fashioned ideals persist about men being the “providers.” Ergo, it’s a painful pleasure to willingly surrender your hard-earned bucks to a woman who is giving you “nothing” in return. Actually, let’s interrogate that idea further, as the notion that this wealthy client is getting “nothing” out of the transaction isn’t exactly correct.
Essentially, Client X was getting two weeks of persistent sexual pleasure: a raging, bubbling almost-orgasm driving him to the point of sexual frenzy. You can see how, for someone with a high disposable income, $12,000 might be a reasonable price to pay for 12 days of sexual ecstasy.
“So, you’ve got gay guys buying you stuff on the Internet?” asked one of my best mates from Sydney over Facebook Messenger. This is a complex point. Sexuality is a spectrum, and while the man who cleaned out my Wish List (and paid an exorbitant price to download and delete the clip) was, indeed, deriving sexual pleasure from paying me, he was doing so only because of my affiliation with a famed Amazonian alpha female. If not for Ceara, I would have gotten nothing. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” as Jerry Seinfeld once said, but it’s not quite on the money either to call this client gay or even bisexual.
As an add-on, some male followers of mine, with zero interest in Ceara, were inspired to buy gifts for me – gourmet coffee, expensive underwear, tank tops – off my re-populated Amazon Wish List. So, in another sense, my Aussie friend was right!
After all was said and done, I met up with Ceara to swap checks. I owed her the split of the gross from our sold-out theatrical screening of Use Me at the Living Room Theater in Portland. After the rental and marketing costs were deducted from the “four-walling” of our cinema screening, she made out with a cool $45. Meanwhile, Ceara impassively wrote me a check for $5,290. The comparison isn’t quite fair but it’s poignant. Here, old media and new media were colliding – and the disparity was clear to see.
After crunching the numbers in my head (my payday minus Ceara’s 50% and the clip site’s 40% commission), I realised that our little kissing clip had grossed over $15,000 USD. When you consider the cost of production (close to zero), that’s big box office. The profitability of my “make-out video” is in Blair Witch territory – a staggering multiplier. It’s a feat I may never achieve with Use Me, though I’m confident that, throughout its distribution life, the film will be profitable for my producer.
Despite all this, I’m not quitting my day job. For me, nothing replaces the hard-won satisfaction of acting and directing. I have friends who have stayed the course in Hollywood and gone from starving artists to multi-millionaires. But I’m not in it for the money. I do it because I love it and because I enjoy entertaining others.
In Use Me, one of the questions I set out to answer was: What does the American Dream mean today? After all, Ceara’s lawyer famously called her the embodiment of the American Dream after recounting the time when she sold her canned poop for a whopping $4,000. If selling your bodily waste at a premium embodies the “entrepreneurial spirit” of American capitalism, then Ceara is as close to living “the dream” as anyone else is.
As I walked through the Portland snow to a Chase ATM so that I could deposit one of the fattest checks I’ve ever received, I wondered if I had momentarily found the elusive American Dream at the end of the rainbow after all.