Free the Nipple's director shares her fears about going topless

Dec 11, 2014 at 12:46 p.m. ET
Image: IFC Films

Free the Nipple redefines girl power for a whole new generation: Feminism can be fun, empowering and sexy. We sat down the indie film's director and lead actress, Lina Esco, to find out what it was really like to film topless women in New York City.

In this fun and sexy new film, a gang of feisty young women launch a revolution to "free the nipple" and decriminalize the female body. Based on a real social movement, Free the Nipple inspires young women not to put up with society's double standard, where the law treats men's bodies differently than women's.

For directing her very first feature film, Lina Esco was hesitant to act in the movie, despite her strong acting background. She admits she was nervous taking on the dual role, especially since she had to go topless, but says she didn't have a choice.

"There were so many actresses that did not want to be topless. I had to step up to the plate. I never told anyone how afraid I was. I was like, holy shit, I can't believe I'm doing this! But somehow, this movie just wanted to get made."

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Women walking around with their breasts exposed has been legal in New York since 1992 and Esco had permits from the city to shoot her film on Wall Street. Of course, there was a police officer on-site, as is usual during film shoots, but things didn't go according to plan, said Esco.

"When I called action, the cop comes over to me and says, 'You cannot be topless.' And I said, 'What are you talking about? It's been legal since 1992.' He said, 'Not when you're shooting, because it could appear that you're shooting porn to passers-by.' I thought, No way, you've got to be kidding. I'm making a movie called Free the Nipple and I can't even go topless in my own movie," Esco told us.

Free the Nipple

Image: IFC Films

To add even more pressure to the shoot, Hurricane Sandy was headed to New York at the same time.

"That's when I gathered my team and I didn't care who was supporting me or not, but I told them that every single exterior shot from now on, every single one of them, we're going to steal and do it guerrilla style. We're going to go to the location, rehearse, then get it in one shot, just one take," said Esco. This didn't make the cast and crew too happy, however.

"A lot of people on my team were freaking out. They didn't want to get in trouble. And I didn't care. We're doing it with or without you, guys; sorry. A lot of them ended up changing their minds and doing it with us."

Another surprise for the filmmaker was learning that her investors couldn't shell out enough money for her to shoot the final scenes in Washington, DC. While her goal was to film thousands of women protesting in front of Congress, she had to change plans.

"When these things happen, you think you're in hell. You think, oh my God, I don't have an ending, I don't have a movie. Also, we were rewriting pages without any electricity and our trucks, during Sandy, waited in line for gasoline for 15, 16 hours."

But Esco says it ended up working out for the better. "I was able to think of an ending while I was editing, which ended up being real stuff happening around the globe and us campaigning in New York and making it all real."

We're just glad it all worked out.

Free the Nipple opens Friday, Dec. 12 and is available on VOD.

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