Sticky the Movie: The Full Story

I just completed an article for Vue Weekly about an awesome new documentary that will hopefully be coming your way soon (no pun intended). Sticky the Movie addresses the touchy subject of masturbation. Film-maker Nicholas Tana shared a lot of great information with me about making the movie but only a small part of it could be included in the VUE article. Below is all of his answers to my questions. This is unedited - just exactly what he told me. I'm hoping that the movie will be complete and ready for a screening here next year.

How did you get involved in making this movie?

Originally, the idea to make a documentary on masturbation started as a joke. I had been kidding with a girlfriend of mine about funny documentary ideas, and the idea for a mockumentary on masturbation came up, in a matter of speaking, and after I started doing some research for a mockumentary, I realized that there was tons of fodder for a serious documentary. The word itself - masturbation - has been thought to derive from two older latin words that essentially translate to mean: “to disturb with the hand” or “to rape with the hand.” I thought that alone was amazing that our actual medical dictionary term could have such derisive origins. Even today, there are groups of people who believe that masturbation can deplete the body of essential life energy. A cancer study in 2009 conducted in Cambridge indicated that for some men masturbation could increase the risk of prostate cancer. Even though a cancer study in 2004 in the United States indicated that masturbation could in fact help to prevent prostate cancer. So it’s truly a sticky subject.

Why did you want to make a movie about masturbation? What is the viewpoint or purpose of the movie?

The film asks the question, why is something that most everybody does, so difficult to talk about. and goes on to seek the answers through interviews with authors, sex educators, porn stars, celebrated figures, and ordinary people. Societal opinions of masturbation have varied throughout the ages with extreme polarity, at one point in history, Victorian nursemaids in England would masturbate the children they cared for to relax them and get them to sleep, yet at the same time, masturbation was associated with hair loss and insanity. Sticky: a documentary on masturbation, explores this controversy in an attempt to better understand why there has been all this mixed reaction to such a common fundamental sexual act. The controversy surrounding masturbation is evident in the extremely different terms used throughout history to describe masturbation. Throughout the ages, it has been called both self-love and self-pollution, self-pleasure and self-abuse, this “whacky” is explored from a psychological, medical, business, and moral perspective.

How long has it been in production? What are next steps? How long do you have to go?

We’ve been in production for about eight years now. However, the actual time spent making the documentary would likely be condensed into several years. While at first, we managed to raise 85% of the budget within the first year of making the film, the economy tanked in 2009, and really adversely affected our ability to raise the rest of the money. I spent the next few years trying to raise the money through corporate sponsors or investors, and while many liked the film, people were a still skeptical about jumping on board because the documentary market really collapsed. While the subject matter is perfect for some brands, sex toy companies, energy drinks, etc., other companies wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. However, people have volunteered to help me finish this film because they understand it’s potential impact and value on the world. I managed to get a new editor, Johann Martinez, who works on a comedy horror web-series I created called Hell’s Kitty, to join the team on deferred pay, and to help me finish the documentary. A sex therapist and educator from New York City, Michael Demarco, has also joined the team and helped in our social media, and has even arranged for some east coast interviews. Now we are about three months away from finishing the edits. We pretty much have most of our interviews done now, although we’d like to interview someone from both cancer studies I mentioned earlier that were done related to the effects of masturbation on the prostate in men. We hope to hit the festival circuit with the film in 2015, and to even do a college “SAFER THAN SAFE SEX” Tour that same year.

What is the most surprising or memorable thing that happened while you were doing your research for the movie?

This is a tough question to answer because there were so many surprising moments. The crew was surprised when Nina Hartley answered the door to her place naked. I remember watching Nina Hartley masturbate and thinking this is my job right now. I make movies and I’m getting paid to watch this legendary porn star masturbate on camera. We even had a woman demonstrate how she could make herself orgasm by breathing. That got so loud our cameraman had to cover his ears. The primatologist telling us how bonobo monkeys increase their vaginal secretions when they mastuburbate, and that this could have had a hand in human evolution was pretty surprising, too. One day our small crew were on a porn set, and another day we were at a Catholic church with a priest telling us that masturbation is an absolute sin. We really got around making this film.

How have people reacted when you've told them you're making this film or when you've asked them to contribute?

Mostly, people laugh; while others, blush and refuse to shake my hand. Those that recognize the value of this film, eagerly want to participate because they realize that we are making history. There has never been a feature documentary made quite like this. We’ve gathered over sixty interviews with everyone from porn stars to psychiatrists, to religious figures, to even the former Surgeon General. Those that don’t understand what we are doing, want nothing to do with the film for fear that it might get them into trouble. The reactions are very extreme. I love movies like that when they have the potential to really shake things up a bit.

For example, it was nearly impossible getting teachers to interview. I had to rely on a friend and my cousin. The same was true for an Islamic imam. I had to get a good friend’s dad who is Muslim to conduct that interview. When I tried to get my Alma mater, Arizona State University, to lend me social media interns, they refused to post a listing about my request on the school job listing board. Even though the trailer on our website is PG, and I’ve had a Harvard Gender Studies teacher email me to request a copy of this film for their class. When I asked the decision makers at ASU's honor's college, why they refused to post my listing, they simply wrote back to me stating that they would not post anything about my film leaving me to guess at the reason. This is why I’m making this film. When an educational facility, ironically one that has been named Playboy’s campus for several years, is too afraid to post something about a film that addresses a fundamental natural part of sexuality, I think anything that we can do to stimulate conversation is a good thing.

Why is it important to you to have this movie produced and available to the public?

The United States has had more sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies than any other modern nation in the world. I’m convinced that this is because we don’t talk to our children about sex. This film is sure to get people talking. In fact, one of the grade school teachers interviewed in the film reveals how a student of hers asked her once, if they could get herpes from masturbating. Clearly there are questions that need to be answered. I've read statistics that state that two of the biggest problems leading to martial problems are arguments about finance and sex. I figure this film in it's own way is addresses half of the problem.

You've got some fairly big celebrity names in the trailer, how did you get them involved in the film?

I wrote them or contacted their media relations people. When I told them what I hoped to accomplish with educating people about a subject that touches us all, literally, they were on board to help with the task. Larry Flynt has always liked to push the boundaries of sexuality and what makes people uncomfortable and so his involvement didn’t quite surprise me. I admire him for giving us a chance as a indie. documentary team, because at the time we had barely a trailer, not the one you see today on Janeane Garofalo is someone I met at an event and we both shared the Catholic upbringing, and she liked what I was doing with the film, and decided to give me an interview. Most of the higher profile people really liked what we were doing and wanted to give us a hand in making history with a ground breaking film that gets people thinking about why we both love and fear sex, and this is no more evident than when it comes to sex with ourselves.

Though do not have a release date set yet but we hope to finish the film in the next four months and hit the festivals for 2015. If you like and support what we are doing, please send positive encouraging comments to our Youtube videos, subscribe to our channel, give us thumbs up on our videos, like us on Facebook, and follow us on twitter. This all helps us to convince distributors to get this film out there for everyone to see. You can access all of our social media on our website: