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Tips for Sex Workers Giving Media Interviews

Excerpts from the Media Survival Guide for Sex Workers by Alexandra Beesley
As a documentary maker and sex worker I have worked with such people as Sky Television, Granada, ABC, BBC, SBS and ITV, and have experienced first hand how easy it is to manipulate, titillate and use footage and sound bites out of context.
The media's power to influence our culture is obvious and mainstream media's tendency to gravitate towards the superficial and sensational means that people who work in the sex industry are generally portrayed under a negative light, enforcing and perpetuating stereotypes.

 

If you've been approached by any media organization or representative to do a documentary or interview, here are a few tips that may help you decide whether you will participate or not:

 

  • Establish who the Producer, the Director, Broadcaster and Production Company are
  • Find out how long the Broadcaster holds the Rights to the program, in which countries or territories it will initially be shown, and how many times
  • Will there be video or cable distribution of the program?
  • Will the program ever be shown on the Internet?
  • Will your image be used to promote the program?
  • Make sure you see draft of the program, or list of questions if an interview. If possible, ascertain the motivation of the program's creators.
  • If you feel you must remain anonymous, don't participate in the program. Wigs don't work, and promises of "fixing it in post-production" or "fixing it in the edit" should not be depended upon.
  • See if the production company or program makers have done any previous work, and if so, locate or request a copy to view. Production companies or program makers can perhaps be researched on the Web.
  • Release forms: By signing a release and consent form, you are signing away all your rights to the work you have just done for the program in perpetuity. Once you have signed it, there is usually little you can legally do to then prevent your likeness being used in any way by the broadcaster / production company. Also be aware that any production company / broadcaster will usually insist that you sign such a document.
  • Release forms are often tricky, my suggestion would be to try and sign the form after you have completed your role in the program (ie. at the end of the day), and only sign if you feel confident that the work you've done for the program maker, combined with the integrity of the program maker themselves, will not cause you any adverse effects at some future date. You may also attempt to request to view the final cut, though often program makers will agree to almost anything in order to obtain your release and consent, and if you really want them to follow through, ensure that your requests are actually included in the document you are signing. This also applies to any payment that may have been offered, and requests for a copy of the finished product. Always make sure you get a copy of the release form, as well as a copy of the finished program at the end of it all.


The final point to remember is that Film and Television programs (and to a lesser extent, radio, print media and Internet) are forever. Who knows when and where the program will be shown 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years from now. How will this program go into the air, video, cable or being endlessly repeated on late night television will impact upon you. Think about where you may be at in your life at this time and how it could impact upon it before making any decisions.
 

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