Bangkok Post

Screen tests involved ‘sex on camera’

- MICHAEL WILSON

>>A young actress named Pearl arrives at an apartment in Brooklyn to meet her talent agent for a screen test. But there’s been a change in plans, the agent gently informs her: To make the footage really pop, Pearl will strip nude and have sex with him on camera.

That is the driving plotline of Tape, a movie opening in online screenings this week, with a villain whose words and actions might seem too brazen to be real. “I need to know, as a performer, you have the capacity to do this,” he tells the reluctant Pearl, adding, “You’re in control of all of this.”

But the film is based on an actress’s descriptio­n of an encounter with an actual agent, and off screen, recent lawsuits filed by models describe similar behaviour by the same man, a little-known player in the entertainm­ent industry’s backwaters. He is 41, lives in Brooklyn, and he is, as they say, having a moment.

His name is Brhonson Lexier St Surin and, after at least 10 years of dwelling on the fringes of the film and modelling industries, he finds himself in separate simultaneo­us spotlights — a movie that draws attention to two lawsuits that in turn seem to closely track the plot of the movie.

The accusation­s are also a reminder that young women with ambition in the entertainm­ent industry are far more likely to encounter a little-known agent who meets clients at a Starbucks in Chelsea than a cigar-chomping mogul who can make or break Hollywood careers.

And these incidents were not from a bygone era — the women said their encounters with St Surin took place as recently as 2017.

“It is the culture that we as women live in,” Deborah Kampmeier, the director of Tape, said. “It’s right now. It’s not back then.”

St Surin, leaving a court hearing in Brooklyn on March 3, declined to discuss the case. “I can’t comment on the allegation­s,” he said. He is representi­ng himself in court and said his filings would speak for him. He did not respond to follow-up requests for comment.

The film was scheduled to open in an East Village theatre before the coronaviru­s outbreak closed the city’s cinemas. Instead, Tape is screening online every evening until April 9. Each screening will be followed by an online panel discussion; the creators hope to replicate the experience of being together in a theatre.

Tape is based on the account of an actress, Annarosa Mudd, who works with Kampmeier and helped turn her story into the film. She also joined the cast — not to play the actress but to portray a former victim-turned-avenger who is stalking the agent.

Mudd, 35, said in an interview that she met St Surin in 2010 through Casting Networks, a site for actors seeking exposure. “I am eager to learn and to develop myself into a profession­al,” she wrote in an email exchange with the man who went by “Lex” that she shared with The New York Times.

She was invited to audition for a reality show about young actors and met St Surin at a rehearsal space near Astor Place in Manhattan. “He seemed like the people you meet when you do that,” she said. “He knew how to create a dialogue that created support and comfort.”

She was told she wasn’t selected for the show, and the following day, she received an email from St Surin: “Your potential was impeded by your fear, nervousnes­s and lack of preparatio­n,” he wrote, before offering to place her in his “protégé programme”.

“As a protégé, you will have a certain set of responsibi­lities to me as your patron,” he wrote, according to the emails provided by Mudd. He offered to help her “expression and body articulati­on” in a screen test that would include “a love-scene and a fight-scene”.

She agreed. The two met at an apartment in downtown Brooklyn in March 2010. Together, they acted from a script about a husband and wife facing hard times.

The scene included a kiss that was “like acting”, Mudd said, but then St Surin told her she needed to appear nude in another scene. Then came another twist: “At some point it was revealed that we were going to have actual sex on camera,” she said.

She said that she objected and stalled for time, and that St Surin — who had already disrobed — matter of factly stated his case, over some hours, for shooting the scene. The incident is portrayed in Tape, with the actor playing an agent named “Lux”, Tarek Bishara, nude and sharing “my knowledge of the sacred arts, both ancient and modern”.

In the film, as in Mudd’s account of the actual incident, the actress agreed. St Surin asked Mudd to state, on camera, that she consented to the scene and that she was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, she said.

Only after the filming of Tape was completed did Mudd learn of two lawsuits naming St Surin. One was filed last year but was withdrawn and replaced with a new version this month, when St Surin was served with a copy in a Brooklyn courtroom.

A second lawsuit has four anonymous plaintiffs, all models suing for breach of contract and emotional abuse. Both were brought by the same lawyer, Steven Fairchild.

The models alleged in the lawsuit that they answered a casting call for a project described as “a fine art series that exhibits the seductive and alluring power of the female form and essence,” to be used for a “private collection and a museum exhibition” that would include “nudity and/or sexual situations.”

One model, Anne Therese Gennari, 28, one of the four plaintiffs who agreed to be quoted by name, said she auditioned for a spot in the project in a studio near Astor Place. She was rejected, she said, but was called back by St Surin. She arrived to find another model already there.

St Surin instructed the women to kiss on camera, which “lasted a long time and made them feel awkward and uncomforta­ble,” the lawsuit states.

None of the women interviewe­d said they had seen any footage of themselves in the years since the alleged incidents.

 ??  ?? TAINTED RECORD: Brhonson Lexier St Surin, a talent agent, is being sued by several models accusing him of emotional abuse.
TAINTED RECORD: Brhonson Lexier St Surin, a talent agent, is being sued by several models accusing him of emotional abuse.

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