SWITCH By Stavroula Toska Heads to LA Femme International Film Festival
A provocative new pilot for television is poised to dominate the competition at this year's LA Femme International Film Festival. Switch, written by and starring Stavroula Toska, and directed by Toska, Cady McClain, Laurie Weltz, and Katie Maguire, is based on the real-life experiences of Toska who was a writer/actress turned successful dominatrix in Manhattan. Switch will screen on Thursday, October 17, 2019, 4PM at the Regal Cinema, LA Live.
Originally conceived as a documentary about dominatrixes and their clients, once Toska went "undercover" to get a first-hand, inside look at the BDSM world, she found herself seduced by the aura of power and redemption that consumed her. After working for several years as "Mistress Kassandra," Toska removed herself from the work so she could concentrate on developing her story into a scripted series instead.
The pilot stars Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck, Steel Magnolias), Cady McClain (All My Children), Jon Lindstrom (Bosch, True Detective), Mark Borkowski (Boardwalk Empire, House of Cards), India Ennenga (The Irishman, About Scout), Bobby Rodriguez (When They See Us, Seals Team), and Catherine Eaton (Interpretation of Dreams, The Sounding).
Viewers are given unprecedented access as Toska takes them on an authentic journey from a deeply benevolent, unorthodox and cerebral POV by following Stella and the main characters as they navigate leading a double life, while fighting the battle for power, identity, ambition, love and family. The series explores the many aspects of human nature, trauma and conditioning that most people never discuss openly, and follows in the steps of Brene Brown's work on vulnerability and Bessel Van Der Kolk's decades of research focusing on the brain, mind and body in the healing of trauma. In some ways, Switch is a workplace drama, much like ER, but in a BDSM dungeon instead of an operating room.
As the episode opens, we meet Stella, an immigrant woman with a dark past who begins training as a professional dominatrix in New York City's most exclusive BDSM Establishment Athena's Temple aka The "Temp", all this while looking to empower herself and build a better life.
While Stella awakens to the reality that everyone leads three lives - one public, one private and one secret, she is also trying to discover who she truly is herself. Determined to change everything in her life and become THE MISTRESS of her own fate, Stella forgets one very important thing...in order to find her light she must embrace the darkness within.
Creator Toska shares that while she originally took up the dominatrix mantle for "research," it wasn't long before the lure of incredible compensation, both financial and emotional, overtook her.
"Five years into working as a dominatrix, I was offered $1.2M dollars to do something for a client that would potentially put my life at risk," she recalls. "By that point I had long left the BDSM dungeon I was working in and had gotten into the independent dominatrix game - a whole other world."
The lifestyle was light years away from her traditional Greek roots and middle- class mentality. "You see, the biggest drug of them all is power. And I was pretty high by that point. But this offer, and the fact that I was seriously thinking about accepting it, made me stop at my tracks and think about what I want to do next with my life," she says. So, she left the business at the top of her game and decided to create a scripted series based on her experiences instead. The result is Switch, the most provocative franchise series in recent programming.
The LA Femme International Film Festival is now in its 15th year as one of Los Angeles' premiere film festivals dedicated to celebrating and promoting female artists both in front of and behind the camera. In addition to bestowing awards in multiple categories, from short subjects to documentaries to commercials, LA Femme is proud to present the Lupe Ontiveros Award to a performer who embodies the spirit, audacity and dedication to art that its namesake represented.
Switch will screen on Thursday, October 17 at 4pm at the Regal Cinema Complex at LA Live, 1000 Olympic Blvd. in downtown LA. Tickets are available at the box office or by visiting the festival's website www.lafemme.org/tickets.