How to Lose Your Virginity
Director/Producer: Therese Shechter
Length: 67 min.
At a workshop I was giving 10 years ago, Therese Shechter showed me an intriguing short called I Was a Teenage Feminist. That short became a feature documentary. We had many laughs and I had many realizations while collaborating on it. When she called me last year to work on How to Lose Your Virginity, I knew I was in for another few rounds of a-ha moments, oh-my moments and sheer laughter. From a successful Kickstarter campaign to its upcoming NYC premiere, Shechter is a filmmaker with a voice, and images, like no other.
It has launched both purity balls and porn franchises, defines a young woman’s morality — but has no medical definition. Enter the magical world of virginity, where a white wedding dress can restore a woman’s innocence and replacement hymens can be purchased online. Filmmaker Therese Shechter uses her own path out of virginity to explore why our sex-crazed society cherishes this so-called precious gift. Along the way, we meet sex educators, virginity auctioneers, abstinence advocates, and young men and women who bare their tales of doing it—or not doing it. How To Lose Your Virginity uncovers the myths and misogyny surrounding a rite of passage that many obsess about but few truly understand.
Select Festivals, Screenings, Broadcast & Awards:
- DOC NYC (U.S. premiere) New York City on November 17, 2013
- St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival, Canada, 2013
- Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, Czech Republic, 2013
- Film Festival for Women’s Rights, Korea, 2013
- Cucalorus Film Festival, Wilmington, NC, 2013
- Israel: YES Docu Television Broadcast, 2013
- Australia: SBS 2 Television Broadcast, 2013
- New York
- San Francisco
- St. Paul, MN
- 7 years from first research to finished film, with several long breaks to fundraise
- 6 months of editing broken up into 2 sessions
- 1 month developing the film’s transmedia companion, The V-Card Diaries
- 3 months of image/video research and clearances
- Initial fundraising party and individual donations: $5,000
- Two Kickstarter campaigns two years apart: $50,000
- The rest was self-financed
- In-kind support worth over $100,000 for production, research, equipment worth, including a finishing funds in-kind grant from New York Women in Film and Television, pro-bono fair use materials certification from Stanford Law School Fair Use Project, and transmedia project development through two POV Hackathons
Columbia College in Chicago in her 30s after a career in graphic design and journalism. She got an internship in New York two years into the program and dropped out.
Ontario College of Art, in Toronto, right after high school. After her film school stint, a documentary workshop taught by filmmaker Macky Alston gave her the push to start her first film, I Was a Teenage Feminist.
For a Living:
Shechter’s film-related income comes from sales of DVDs, TV distribution and speaking engagements. She makes most of her living doing graphic design (her first career) and small video projects for others.
Shechter had a series of freelance magazine design jobs, which gave her a good income and a flexible schedule. However, there was always tension between not wanting to turn down work and income versus needing to find time to work on the film.
- I Was a Teenage Feminist (feature documentary, 2005)
- How I Learned To Speak Turkish (documentary short, 2006)
- Womanly Perfection (animated short, 2007)
- #slutwalknyc (documentary short, 2013)
Therese’s Smart Move
The film uses a lot of archival materials to give context to ideas she discusses about virginity. “I thought I’d have to cut them out or go broke paying fees, or get sued. Until I discovered Stanford Law School’s Fair Use Project,” Shechter said with relief. Applying for a pro-bono review was long and complicated, but once she was got in, they reviewed and certified most of her third-party materials. “We still had to clear materials not under fair use, but working with them gave me an education and peace of mind.”
“With personal and potentially controversial films like How To Lose Your Virginity, you really need a mind meld between collaborators.” Shechter knew she couldn’t work with people who didn’t get the project, even if they were the most talented people in the world. “No one needs ‘yes men,’ and being able to justify choices is part of story development, but ultimately collaborators need to share my vision and want to bring it to life.”
Shechter ranks high in memorable moments the day she and her crew spent on the set of first-timer porn franchise Barely Legal investigating how the porn industry defines and depicts virginity. “We didn’t know what to expect, but the cast and crew were gracious and fun. We got astonishing footage and interviews. Watching people being filmed having sex on a car was weird and ultimately kind of disturbing, but it made for the most memorable shoot of the film.”
Will She Relapse and Make Another Film?
Right now, Shechter is focusing on getting How To Lose Your Virginity out to schools and organizations, starting honest conversations about sexuality, and continuing to develop the transmedia storytelling project The V-Card Diaries. “I say I’ll never make another film because getting funding is so brutal, but, yeah, I have a couple of new ideas up my sleeve.”
How to Lose Your Virginity has its U.S. premiere at DOC NYC 2013. For show times and tickets, visit docnyc.net.