TIM BAROS interviews Stacie Passon, writer and director of the new lesbian drama Concussion

In Concussion, Abbey (a very good Robin Weigert, above right) has been hit in the head by a baseball at her son’s baseball game. It’s not life-threatening, but it turns out to be life-changing because after this incident Abbey embarks on a new path to explore another side of her sexuality.

The new awakening would be fine if Abbey were single, but she’s not. She’s married to her partner Kate (Julie Fain Lawrence), a frigid high-powered attorney and the bread winner of the family. They’ve got two children and a wide circle of friends, mostly straight women and couples, and live in leafy quiet suburban New Jersey.

On the surface it seems that fortysomething Abbey is living a simplistic, boring married life but after her concussion, she buys a worn-down Manhattan apartment and enlists the help of DIY man Justin (a very sexy Johnny Tchaikovsky) to fix it up.

After her concussion Abbey feels she wants more sexually, something new and exciting. And after paying a woman prostitute to satisfy her sexual needs, it’s not too long before Justin arranges, with the help of his college girlfriend who puts her way through school by being a pimpess, for Abbey to start seeing women in the new flat, women who will pay Abbey for sex.

Was it the concussion that changed Abbey? For her this is a new experience as well as a sexual awakening. She’s nervous at first, but then she becomes very comfortable, with female customers from all walks of life: a young fat woman who’s never had sex before, an older woman who appears to fall for Abbey, and also one woman who turns out to be a neighbour (a very sexy Maggie Siff, above left). But that doesn’t stop Abbey, she’s getting a thrill from her new “hobby”. And she assumes that Sam won’t find out because Sam is too busy with her job and practically neglecting the family, but it turns out that Abbey gets too caught up in these sexual escapades and starts neglecting her role in the family as well.

First-time writer and director Stacie Passon creates a film that could’ve been about either a straight or gay couple. Passon’s uniqueness and clarity comes through in the character of Abbey, a woman who literally needed to get knocked on the head to realise that perhaps something was missing in her life, and that women, whether gay or straight, have sexual needs that at times their partners can’t fulfil. Passon successfully takes us to a whole different level of a lesbian relationship, with excellent performances throughout.

Concussion is now available on DVD. Buy it here

TIM BAROS caught up with Stacie and had a few questions for her:

You wrote the film. How did you come up with such a unique storyline?
I’m finding that I like to write about women who do something bold as they emerge from the gap years of motherhood. I thought working as a lesbian hooker was an interesting choice for this woman. The idea took hold and the story just fell out from there. It wasn’t until I was in production that I was like, what the heck did I write? Luckily, I had some incredible people around me who loved it, saw its potential and championed it.

Were there any roadblocks for you in making this film as a lesbian first-time filmmaker?
Not really and completely. I thought it would be a tiny film (and it is, but it didn’t end up being as tiny as I thought it would be). So I just started sending out the script and got people like Executive Producer Anthony Cupo and Producer Rose Troche interested in the idea and before I knew it, we were shooting. Nobody questioned my ability to do it because I had so much commercial stuff under my belt, Anthony and I knew if we could get it shot, we’d be able to find a way to get it finished, and Rose is all about helping women directors.

I’m sure you’ve been asked this question several times. Would you say your film is a sort of Fifty Shades of Grey for gay women?
I’ve never been asked that question! But I love it. I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, but maybe I should. But the prevailing attitude is that while Concussion is about power and intimacy, it’s really for everybody. I think it will make couples think about what a long-term relationship really takes. It’s hard work.

Was it easy to cast the film?
I wouldn’t say easy, except for Robin Weigert who was my first choice. She signed on right away, which made things a lot easier. I got so incredibly lucky with that aspect of it. And Maggie Siff. Overall, it wasn’t easy to get people to trust a first-time director with sex scenes, no. Most people would read what was on the page and pass because they didn’t know what the overall aesthetic was going to be. I had to do a lot of talking to people in those months, let me tell you, describing the style, etc.

What’s next for Stacie Passon?
Oh boy, so much. But I will say, a television pilot, a film for Michael Douglas’s company, and an independent film which is being supported by Sundance and Tribeca called Strange Things Started Happening.

Maggie Siff, Johnny Tchaikovsky, Robin Weigert, Julie Fain Lawrence