Candida Royalle Documentary Forges Ahead Sans Kickstarter Funds

Lila Gray

TORONTO — “While You Were Gone: The Untold Story of Candida Royalle,” a fledgling documentary spearheaded by Canadian filmmaker Sheona McDonald and adult icon Candida Royalle, did not reach its Kickstarter goal — but the show will go on.

“While we were unable to make our Kickstarter goal to raise full funding for a feature-length documentary, Sheona and I have decided to keep going and work towards collaborating on a film that tells the story in a way we can both be proud of,” Royalle wrote in an October update concerning the film and other happenings in her life.

McDonald tells XBIZ that they have retained some of the financing from the fundraiser, with some contributors recommitting their donations through their website and Paypal, while others sent checks.

The reimagined film will likely be shorter, but will still focus on the duo’s original impetus — Royalle’s search for her mother, who abandoned her at a young age more than 60 years ago.

“My life took place in her absence,” Royalle said when she first announced the film. “I would like to know what happened to her in her life. Where did she go? Why did she leave? Did she ever talk about us? Did she miss us?”

Royalle, who is best known for her pioneering work in the adult industry, says that she has always wanted to tell the story of her mother in her own words. She writes, "It has not been an easy process. It’s been stressful, unpredictable and disappointing at times; but, in the same breath, healing and rewarding."

“I'd like our short film to be powerful and include some dramatic, documentary and experimental elements, to step outside the box a little,” McDonald told XBIZ. “We have a lot to work with … but I do feel like freeing ourselves from the need to create a festival-opening feature film or something that we can sell and monetize will allow us the freedom to tell a really personal and relatable story.”

Later this month McDonald and Royalle will travel to St. Louis, where Royalle will visit her half-brother, who she hasn’t seen in six decades, and an uncle she has never met.

Then they will begin the journey of retracing the steps Royalle’s mother took after she left her children, “piecing together what we can of her life during that time,” Royalle writes.

Galvanizing the project is the unfortunate return of Royalle’s cancer. “We are feeling like time is of the essence,” McDonald says.

After just three months of remission, Royalle is now facing her fourth bout with cancer. She reports that this is not unusual: “In fact, it’s been the pattern all along: the chemo efficiently knocks the cancer out of my system, but it’s unable to provide me with a lengthy remission.”

She and her doctor remain optimistic, and evinced by her full-steam-ahead approach to her documentary project, Royalle is continuing to live an active life. 

Meanwhile, the initial project that hatched “While You Were Gone” — McDonald’s documentary “Inside Her Sex” for CBC’s digital documentary channel in Canada — will be debuting Dec. 14.

“While You Were Gone” evolved by happenstance when McDonald interviewed Royalle for “Inside Her Sex,” a film that began as an exploration of women and porn, but eventually encompassed the broader spectrum of the relationship between female sexuality and shame.  

Finding that many of themes present in the doc were present in Royalle’s personal story, she reached out to her again in January of this year in hopes of setting up future interviews for “Inside Her Sex.”

After corresponding via email and phone, the two were mutually inspired by each other to pursue an entirely separate project — the story, more or less, of Royalle’s life.

McDonald told XBIZ that one the team’s obstacles in pursuing “While You Were Gone” is the fact that Royalle hasn’t yet seen “Inside Her Sex” in its entirety.

“I'm feeling like I've told much of her story and that's why I want to focus on the story of her looking for her mother, but she doesn't know how I've told it,” Royalle explained last week. “I will finish it next week (just sound mix to go) and then she can watch it properly. That will be really helpful.”

Those interested in contributing to the production of “While You Were Gone” can send funds through Paypal here.

For more details about the film, click here