MONEYGAME is an unscripted documentary series that goes behind-the-scenes into the worlds of sex workers and strippers. Developed by photographer and director Elizabeth Waterman, the project originated as a book in 2022, MONEYGAME — which sold-out and is moving into a second edition.
With the project’s unique reach into the multi-billion dollar worldwide sex work industry, plus Waterman’s rapport with dancers from her book, MONEYGAME, along with porn star, cam model and escort subjects from her ongoing work, the TV show will explore this evolving sub-culture for domestic and international audiences.
ABOUT THE WORLD OF MONEYGAME BY ELIZABETH WATERMAN
I feel like a professional voyeur — as I’ve dabbled in and orbited many subcultures: drag, club, carnival. Lots of nightlife. I’ve developed my photo style in the field, skating along the periphery of other people’s moments.
After about a decade in the business, though, I felt a growing need to be somehow, more personally involved in the process — to take emotions risks, to face my own unopened doors. For years I was hesitant to document the world of strippers and other sex workers but mesmerized by it all the same. I needed to find a way in.
I scoured the city for a strip club where I could shoot. I tried for months with no luck, but in July 2016 I finally discovered a place in Queens where the manager gave me the go.
It took me a while to find my footing. Black walls and sticky floors. Groping eyes. Clawing sexuality. The girls stepping out to smoke blunts in the alley. I felt the cold ripples of their suspicion; and no one could quite understood what I was doing there.
But I did comeback, week-after-week. I helped to collect the dollar bills littering the stage. And the dancers began to warm to me. I showed them my work, and they liked how I saw them. Soon they were volunteering to pose on the pole. Breakthrough.
I struck up conversations with the girls in the changing room and invited them to come sit for portraits at my Bushwick studio. Sunshine, from Queens, in her thirties, was supporting three kids. Nylah fairly sparkled with youth; she was chipping away at her college loans and fighting her way up.
I have encountered much to admire in the girls, much to be inspired by these women. And in ways I’m still sorting out, I know I’ve been changed by the experience. I know I’ve taken on some of their audacity.
I am offering this body of work for your consideration in the hopes that you will partner with me in presenting it to the public. I look forward to discussing the possibilities with you.
— Elizabeth Waterman, photographer/DIRECTOR