Fingernails and Smooth Skin

Institute History


Imagine a love triangle between two people. Imagine an affair between a male librarian and a phone sex woman. Now, imagine a twenty-two year old high school senior named Chicken Scratch, who was raised by two lesbians. Add an eccentric octogenarian, a cynical vegetarian, and a few barnyard animals after a drinking binge and you get FINGERNAILS AND SMOOTH SKIN.

Martin leads a strange, ordinary life. He works in a library. He takes care of his aging mother. He writes poems in a journal that no one else sees. His only acquaintance is Chicken Scratch.

Violet leads an ordinary, strange life. She works as a phone sex operator. She takes care of herself after a bitter divorce. She reads books from a collection that no one else sees. Her only acquaintance is her sister Alexandra.

One day, Martin finds himself with no one to talk to about how sad he feels, so he makes an anonymous call to a phone sex service. Enter Violet, who is more than happy to talk about anything other than sex. One month of calling leads to a great friendship and a $2,500 phone bill. So, Martin begins moonlighting as Chicken Scratch's karaoke D.J. partner at a local gay bar.

When Violet hears that Martin got a second job just to continue their friendship, she decides to meet him in person. Upon seeing him, she knows that it's time to move their relationship beyond the phone and platonic friendship. Her only obstacle is Martin's fear of intimacy (and her own issues of trust).

So, Violet uses every secret and fantasy she ever spoke about women and romance to create a different person named Sara. After an anonymous dance, Martin and Sara begin a passionate affair as Martin and Violet continue their friendship.

The result is a relationship that explores the idea of intimacy between men and women: the moment when Martin realizes that his lover is actually his best friend, the moment when Violet realizes that she was a different person for each role, and the moment when they both decide what it means.


As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]