The eight-part Quibi docuseries “Sex Next Door,” streaming Aug. 3, follows the personal and professional lives of four Seattle sex workers — but it’s not a particularly sexy show.
The series, airing on the “quick bites” streamer that launched in April featuring episodes of no more than 10 minutes each, contains little nudity or depictions of intercourse (though there are scenes with a BDSM practitioner that some viewers may consider graphic).
Rather, “what drew us to this was the idea of representation and letting these four individuals speak for themselves,” said “Sex Next Door” director Anthony B. Sacco.
Sacco says he and executive producer Josh Shader, who previously collaborated on Starz’s 2014 film-director competition series “The Chair,” were more interested in “the buildup going into the room [for sex work] and what happens after they go back to a loved one, a boyfriend or girlfriend. That, for us, is the better story.”
Sacco says the filmmakers wanted to avoid the typical locations for this subject matter — Las Vegas, New York — and were drawn to the backdrop of Seattle’s high-tech industry.
“The reality is sex work is happening everywhere, in every city, and we just came across a community of sex workers there who were willing to talk about this subject to create awareness and change,” Sacco says, noting that the Seattle sex workers they collaborated with were willing to take the risk — legally and otherwise — to participate in the series. “That all made this the perfect place to tell these stories.”
Shader says the sex workers profiled in “Sex Next Door” are individuals and don’t define all sex workers but offer a breadth of representation, from newcomer Holiday Stone to single mother Cayenne Amor to veteran sex worker/former ballerina Endza Adair and male BDSM practitioner Jessie Sparkles. (A Quibi representative declined to make any of the Seattle sex workers available for an interview.)
“If the audience takes away nothing other than the notion that sex workers are people too and deserve basic human rights, that’s powerful enough,” Shader says. “Representation matters; removing stigma matters.”
“Sex Next Door” filmed from 2017 to 2019, with Sacco and Shader flying in and spending roughly six months total in Seattle over that two-year period.
The story of Holiday Stone became the spine of the series, which begins before she’s seen her first client.
“That’s a documentary filmmaker’s dream, to have really great storytelling unfolding right in front of us,” Sacco says. “After she sees her first client, how is it going to change your relationship [with your boyfriend]? How will you navigate the relationship?”
In one scene, Holiday wonders what she’ll talk about with her first client, “especially if they’re someone who doesn’t have a lot of social skills, which I feel like that could happen in Seattle because we have such a big tech industry.”
Shader says they sparked to the idea for a series on sex workers following Amnesty International’s 2015 declaration that sex workers’ rights are human rights, a statement that was met with some backlash.
Filming on “Sex Next Door” began long before producers sold the series to Quibi.
“It’s definitely a different format on Quibi, but it was one we quickly came to love in the editing process because it calls for a faster pace of storytelling,” Shader says. “Because they’re faster paced, the episodes are easily consumed, and we found ourselves drawn to the idea of not just the short form, but creating episodes that want to pull the viewer into the next one as well, to drive the viewer from one episode to the next.”