How ‘Working Girls’ Filmmakers Gained Access to a Brothel to Research Their Film (Video)

“I said… I won’t write this story if I didn’t meet these women,” filmmaker Anne Paulicevich tells TheWrap’s Steve Pond

Last Updated: January 10, 2021 @ 10:48 AM

Anne Paulicevich was determined to tell a story of female heroism after the birth of her daughter and found her script’s inspiration after reading an article about women who work as prostitutes along the Belgian border. The result was the script for her drama “Working Girls,” Belgium’s official selection for the 2021 Golden Globes and the 93rd Academy Awards.

However, she had a small problem. She needed to get access to a brothel to do proper research.

“I was never in a brothel before and so I said to Freìdeìric (co-director) and to the producer, I won’t write this story if I didn’t meet these women,” Paulicevich tells TheWrap’s Steve Pond. “So I spent a lot of time in brothels, like around nine months for the writing.”

“Working Girls” centers on Axelle, Dominique and Conso who leads a double life. Every morning they meet up in their public-housing parking lot to commute to work together on the other side of the border. There, in a brothel, they become Athena, Circe and Hera. Ladies of pleasure, everyday heroes, each woman fights for her family and to keep her dignity. When one of the women’s lives is in danger, they must join forces to overcome adversity.

However, at first, Paulicevich was stuck and adds that she “wanted to meet these women and I didn’t know how to do this.”

Paulicevich ran into a friend at the theater one night and was venting about how she couldn’t get access to a brothel. Unbeknownst to Paulicevich, her girlfriend had a relative with ties to the sex trade.

“My cousin is the nephew of one of the biggest pimps in France and Belgium, he’s here tonight and I’m going to introduce you to him,” a surprised Paulicevich said. The girlfriend introduced Paulicevich to the nephew and he agreed to introduce Paulicevich to his uncle.

The uncle met Paulicevich for lunch and took her to a few brothels but it was on the third one which was run by a young woman, that Paulicevich hit paydirt. She went into “the sitting room” with all the girls and the uncle introduced Paulicevich as a screenwriter and not a journalist, giving the women a sense of comfort and trust around Paulicevich.

“It was an incredible meeting and in fact, after I was with them a few days during the week, it was really easy,” says Paulicevich.

Paulicevich’s partner and co-director Freìdeìric Fonteyne found it strange at first. “She came back home, she had to tell me a lot of stories and I have to say that sometimes it was it was too much for me,” says Fonteyne.

“She made me go there, and I met these women also and then I understood because when I came back I had to talk to her a lot and it was a very strong experience to meet them but all the process was quite very intense,” added Fonteyne.

Check out TheWrap’s full interview and Q&A with Freìdeìric Fonteyne and Anne Paulicevich, the directors of “Working Girls” here and above.