I‘m Joey Ally, the writer and director of CHIPPED, a short film selected for the American Film Institute Directing Workshop for Women. The story of CHIPPED came to me after reading a series of articles about the nail salon industry published last fall, including the Pulitzer Prize nominated NY Times expose ―Unvarnished. The coverage detailed rampant human rights abuses in an industry that thrives largely on the powerlessness of undocumented workers, many of whom are housed in tenements throughout five boroughs and taken in vans to remote suburban locations. I was horrified to discover racial caste systems and indentured labor in salons just like the ones I frequented when growing up in Connecticut, and living in Manhattan as an adult. Horrified to realize that it‘s happening somewhere, right now.
Their treatment in the entertainment industry would have us believe all that concerns the women who staff these salons is mocking the clients at their pedicure chairs, but these are human beings with spouses, parents, children...they have better things to talk about than a regular‘s cellulite. CHIPPED was written to explore the interiors of these women‘s lives, through the lens of a uniquely female story. I told what is essentially a twisted take on the classic story of popular girl versus unpopular girl, but in the salon setting - the familiar highlighting the universality of the events through a day in the life of Korean, front-of-house manager SARAH, and Chinese, manicurist-in-training MIA.
Despite the neo-realist tone and the darker themes at play, as with the bleakest moments of life, this film will balance tragedy with comedy. In CHIPPED, I‘ll be asking the audience to sit where these women sit, eat where they eat, and sleep where they sleep...or, many nights, where they lie sleepless, worried, and waiting for chances and changes that never come. I think if you laugh, cry, and cringe with someone your story becomes bound with theirs.
Funded by Awesome Without Borders (September 2016)