Lady Parts: A Dramedy Film about Vaginal and Vulvar Health
By Bonnie Gross (Writer, Producer, Vulvodynia & Vaginismus Warrior)
& Nancy Boyd (Director, Vaginismus Warrior)
For Bonnie Gross & Nancy Boyd, a trip to the gynaecologist was like a horror movie, so they teamed together to make a story about vaginal pain with a “happy ending.” Lady Parts is a dramedy feature film where a young woman’s sex life becomes a family affair when she has to undergo a vulvar vestibulectomy. Her loving, but overbearing parents help her through recovery (despite her cringing) and learn that saying “vagina” loud and proud is the first step to advocating for herself in all aspects of her life.
This story is inspired by my true life journey with vulvodynia and vaginismus. In 2016, I moved back in with my parents to undergo a vulvar vestibulectomy and a year of pelvic floor and dilator therapy. During my recovery, I began writing Lady Parts, in hopes of spreading awareness of this condition with others. It was not long before I realized I was not alone, but just living in a world lacking media about it.
While putting together my team, I understood the value of having a director who could pull from her own experience with vaginal pain to tell an authentic and raw female story. Nancy, the director of the film, struggled with vaginismus since trying and failing to put a tampon in between class periods, was so excited to make this movie for the girl in the bathroom stall in middle school wondering “What’s wrong with me?”
This movie doesn’t just pass the bechdel test. It breaks it. Not only does it touch on the intricacies of mother-daughter relationships, it explores girlhood and the comical horror of being a daughter. The film fights the aloof dad troupe, and shows how a man can be an ally (even if he’s a cringy dad). Most importantly, the film is about reclaiming your sexuality and sense of self after trauma, learning that you are in charge of your own body.
Almost every department on set was run by a woman: producers Bonnie Gross and Meghan Griesbeck, director Nancy Boyd, director of photography Olaa Olabi, editor Edith Belmont, composer Hollie Buhagiar, costume designer Jessica Campbell, colorist Katie Jordan. The Lady Parts team proudly displayed their stash of pads and tampons for any cast and crew who needed it, because it’s not dirty, it’s human. Questions about dilators, sitz baths, and vaginal issues were asked without fear and answered with dignity.
The film features a lot of sensitive and intimate scenes. We wanted to do them safely and do them well so we partnered with intimacy coordinator Allison Bibicoff to achieve this. As Allison says, she’s not “the sex police”. She was there not to tell people what to do or not do, but to hear the actors’ boundaries and needs and help uphold them so they could focus on what they were there for: acting. Nancy so enjoyed having Allison to guide her through this process and make her realize how different sex positions tell different stories.
Olaa and Nancy created a visual rule for the film that nudity would only be present during medical situations, not during sexual situations. Many times in movies, a woman is shown being sexual, but is being objectified in how she is portrayed. They wanted to allow the main character Paige to embrace her sexuality for herself, not for an audience. Another rule they made for themselves was to only show Paige’s face during intercourse and masturbation, never the man’s, to center female pleasure in the narrative.
Lady Parts wouldn’t be able to capture this story without its amazing leading actress, Valentina Tammaro, who was masterfully able to capture the horror and comedy of vaginal trauma. Nancy said that Valentina is one of her favorite artists to collaborate with. She brings such honesty to each performance and her playful curiosity brings life to her character and the film. The team was beyond lucky to work with Valentina and hopes her raw and relatable character can connect with anyone going through a tough period in life.
The team believes that women are funny because if comedy is pain plus time, women have it in spades. I wrote this as a comedy because I found that joking about the embarrassing moments was the best way to cope. Like all human beings, we face moments of discomfort and humiliation, and strive to find a way to exist with it. This movie is a way for everyone who has felt shame or pain to heal through laughter.
Lady Parts has a mission to get us all feeling comfortable talking about our bodies. It aims to erase the cultural shame many people with vaginas feel when discussing issues with their doctor. I wrote the film because it was the film I wished I could watch while recovering from my vulvar vestibulectomy surgery and know I wasn’t the only one. The team has been overwhelmed by the flood of instagram messages and texts of people with vaginas who realized they were not alone and excited to see such a buzz around these so called taboo topics.
The Lady Parts team has just wrapped post production and will soon be going through the festival circuit! You can follow us on Instagram to see where we will be screening in the coming year. In the meantime, you can watch and share the trailer and show your support on our social media pages.
Nancy Boyd, the director of Lady Parts, is from a small town in Michigan, where you can’t walk into a grocery store without running into your elementary school teacher or a friend’s mom every time. She started making short films in fifth grade, but in undergrad at Madonna University, she started her own freelance photography and video business. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue an MFA in Film and Television Production at USC. Before the age of 30, she will have directed three indie feature films. In the past few years, she was diagnosed with vaginismus and hopes that Lady Parts makes people feel less awkward getting help and talking about their bodies.
Bonnie Gross is an award winning comedy writer and producer with a passion for telling stories around female health care and sexuality. Originally from Philadelphia but now a New York transplant, she earned her Bachelor’s in Media Production from the University of Alabama and completed the UCLA Professional Program for TV Comedy Writing in 2018. Bonnie was named one of ISA’s Top 25 Screenwriters to Watch in 2020. She has worked in post-production for several years on numerous television shows at Encore Hollywood and Light Iron. She has also written, produced, and edited comedy videos for the media brand, “It’s a Southern Thing,” as well as her own comedy videos on TikTok. She aspires to leverage her extensive production background to create “Lady Parts,” with the aim of raising awareness about the numerous vaginal health issues individuals encounter.