Before production began on Afternoon Delight, writer/director Jill Soloway didn't know where her first feature film would take place. “Maybe this is Chicago,” her hometown, she mused at the time. “Maybe this is San Francisco.”
“When we were getting closer, it was like, if we were going to do this, it's going to happen in my neighborhood,” says the longtime Silver Lake resident and writer/producer for shows including Showtime's The United States of Tara and HBO's Six Feet Under. “I did a rewrite and quickly it got so much better because of the specificity and I was able to kind of name all the locations. It started out of necessity but it was one of those happy accidents that made the script better.”
Her first feature film, which earned her the Directing Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival, is so Silver Lake-centric that it's hard to imagine the story of a bored, hipster housewife who adopts a stripper as a nanny taking place anywhere else.
Having lived in Silver Lake for almost two decades, Soloway says, “There's this marine layer melancholy that I really love in terms of the tone, that can make you feel a certain way in the morning, where you can feel just kind of lost.” Afternoon Delight's foggy, smoggy panoramas were taken from the heights of Baxter Street, overlooking the Silver Lake Reservoir. “Which is potentially becoming my brand: Silver Lake Melancholy,” Soloway jokes, referring to similar landscape shots in her 2011 short film, Una Hora Por Favora.
In honor of Afternoon Delight opening at the West L.A. Landmark Theatre today and at the Los Feliz 3 the following weekend, we asked Soloway to share five of her favorite neighborhood spots, as seen in her directorial debut about sex, marriage and strippers.
Soloway re-named this Jewish community center “Eastside JCC” in Afternoon Delight, a nod to her real-life organization, East Side Jews, which hosts cultural get-togethers and Sabbath dinners on the last Friday of every month in East Side locations like Golden Road Brewery, Barbarella Bar and Marsh Street Nature Park. The mother of a 16-year-old and a 4-year-old, Soloway serves on the board of the Silverlake JCC, where both her kids went to school. In Afternoon Delight, restless stay-at-home mom Rachel (played by Kathryn Hahn) volunteers here and eventually unleashes a shitstorm with the other JCC moms after she invites a stripper into the community. “The moms [in the movie] are definitely exaggerated versions of the moms in my world. They're all based on real ladies,” says Soloway.
In the movie, Rachel takes her husband Jeff (played by Josh Radnor) to downtown L.A. strip club Sam's Hofbrau in the hopes of reviving their sexless marriage. But when Rachel gets a private lap dance from an alleged 19-year-old named McKenna (played by Juno Temple), her priorities shift and she becomes obsessed with saving McKenna from a life of sex work. Soloway remembers being blown away by the raunchy, rowdy atmosphere when she went to watch her then-stripper friends dance at Sam's Hofbrau about ten years ago.
“The best thing about Sam's for me is they have this pink and yellow sign that seems like it belongs to an ice cream parlor, which makes no sense to me. Like, why is it a hofbrau? So I just was really into Sam's for the sign,” Soloway says.
Because she wasn't allowed to film inside Sam's, Soloway ended up shooting the interior strip club scenes at Cheetah's in Los Feliz and paid several visits to Jumbo's Clown Room in East Hollywood and The Playpen downtown, for further research.
“There was a dancer at Jumbo's who was just really kind of young and open and conversational about how she found her way there,” she adds. “She sort of found her way into McKenna's [character]. Then there was an image that I saw at The Playpen — and it went directly into the movie — of this really, really large black man and he had this really tiny Japanese stripper crawling on his lap. I saw it in the corner of my eye in this moment and put it into the movie.”
See also: Top 10 Strip Clubs in Los Angeles
Although this French cocktail bar at the cusp of Sunset Junction didn't land an on-screen role in Afternoon Delight, it was home base for the cast and crew during production, Soloway says. “In real life, when Kathryn Hahn and Juno Temple met for the first time and I got to really see their connection, they snuck out of our table at Café Stella and went to smoke a cigarette on the corner of Sunset and Sanborn, and that eventually became a scene in the movie.”
“We go to Sqirl all the time in real life,” Soloway says of the Virgil Avenue café and jam store where Rachel retreats to at the end of the movie. “She's like, 'I'm going to the café to work on my blog'” — referring to one of the movie's many lines that poke fun of the stereotypical trying-too-hard mom who follows food trucks on Twitter and posts compulsively on Facebook about her kids and her volunteer projects.
1. Gustavo Gubel's House on Elevado Street, Silver Lake
Soloway's crew had nearly given up on finding a house to film in when she decided to take matters into her own hands — “as an incredibly nosy, bossy-boots director” — and drive around the neighborhood passing out fliers. “Hi my name is Jill Soloway and I'm making my first feature film and I live in Silver Lake,” she'd tell local homeowners, then ask if she could rent out their house for a month of filming.
Her no-nonsense attitude of “I'll find a mother-fucking house” eventually paid off when she landed Rachel and Jeff's ultra-modern hilltop house designed and owned by quintessential Silver Lake architect Gustavo Gubel. “Gubel has little kids and then he has a daughter that was like 22 or 23 and she's not a stripper but she definitely has a very McKenna quality,” says Soloway, who opted to leave the décor of the daughter's room intact as the set dressing for McKenna's room.
Jill Soloway and Josh Radnor will answer questions after Afternoon Delight's 7:20 p.m. showing and introduce the 9:55 p.m. showing tonight at The Landmark.
See also: Top 10 Strip Clubs in Los Angeles
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