Director's Chair: B Skow
"I shot every single box cover for a long time," says Skow, "and did every promo campaign, the branding, helped pick the Vivid Girls, all of it." He used to keep a little buffer zone between the adult work and the so-called mainstream gigs, but at this point Skow feels well-enough established on both sides of the tracks not to care too much about being outed. "If a client figures out I'm a porn director," he says, "it's no big deal."
What is a big deal is Skow's progress to the top of the heap, which is a tough enough feat anywhere. But at a first-tier company like Vivid, in a hypercompetitive industry like adult films, it makes it all more tough. Interestingly, Skow resisted the idea of directing for some time, but after five years of prodding, "the business changed, and if I wanted to keep [working for Vivid] I would have to do some different things."
Those "different things" now include such fan favorites as "59 Seconds" and "Off the Hook," as well as the BrandNewFaces.com website (with accompanying DVD series) that guarantees a parade of girls in their first adult scenes. "That's the future right there," he asserts. "The unending supply of beautiful women. It's not like the supply will run out."
For this director, that unending supply is an unending source of inspiration. XBIZ spoke with the busy B Skow earlier this year.
XBIZ: Our readers always like to hear how directors got started in this business. Your story?
B SKOW: I've been shooting girls since I was 19 years old. I shot for Penthouse, Playboy, all of them, and for Vivid I shot everything for a dozen years or more. It became the same thing over and over. Steve Hirsch is usually ahead of what's happening and he saw that the box covers weren't as important as they once were.
XBIZ: So one thing led to another, basically.
B SKOW: Directing just happened. I always knew that the change was coming, because for five years they were asking me to direct, but I was busy and was really into still photography with a lot of mainstream work. In fact, the only adult I'd ever done was for Vivid, as my main focus was advertising and celebrity photography.
XBIZ: Was the transition from still to video difficult for you?
B SKOW: It's all about planning. My crew is small, it's the same three guys all the time, and it's a comfortable situation because I can trust what they're doing while I have a good time with the talent and set up that vibe I need to get good shots.
XBIZ: The "Skow Team" is in place, apparently.
B SKOW: I depend on that. I need to stay in my "mode" to shoot the scenes, so I need everything set up "just so," and with a veteran crew I get what I need.
XBIZ: You're known to be pretty picky about lighting. Why is that?
B SKOW: I've been a photographer for so long that when I tried to work with lighting guys, I couldn't, so now I just handle it myself, with an assistant. Ultimately, good lighting is when the girl's body looks real and pretty and approachable, not lit up like a runway with light blasting in there for microscopic viewing and all.
XBIZ: Lighting, set design, camera placement, personalities – there are a million things to stress over, certainly.
B SKOW: Except I never stress over the mechanics, the work part. I stress over coming up with the ideas, finding out who works well together, all that. In fact, I watch tons of scenes just to be able to put the right girls with the right guys doing the right thing in the right setting. That's key. It all works when the talent is happy, prepared, relaxed, feeling secure.
XBIZ: You have used all the best still cameras in the world, and can use whatever video unit you want. But "image capture" isn't the big deal, you say. Setting up the look and the action is.
B SKOW: Whatever camera I am using, and I use a few, I have the moves down enough to where I can just let the scenes flow and capture the magic stuff when it happens. You have to be prepared because you just don't know when the moment will hit, and if you're not ready, you could miss it.
XBIZ: You do a lot of different things. Have you considered a big "soap opera" or an outer space costume drama?
B SKOW: There's a place for that stuff, the big epics, the costume dramas. It just isn't my place. You have to take what you like and just go do it. I love the style I am shooting in, and I think I can be artistic with comedy, because you're able to turn the lights on. And if you do five really good sex scenes, you've got it.
XBIZ: Is there room for "art" in there, too?
B SKOW: I just don't know how much art you can put into porn and have it be what it's supposed to be. I had my artsy phase, and did this movie called "Roughed Up," with Lacie Hart, that was self-consciously artsy. At the end of the day, though, I didn't think it was a good movie. "Good porn" isn't that hard to define. It's good sex with good performances, with the camera in the right places at the right times.
XBIZ: And it's your job to keep serving it up, right?
B SKOW: Well, yeah. My place is to make consistently good movies, so that whoever buys one knows there will be a certain quality to it. I try to evolve as a director and storyteller, too. I just finished the "Nikki Jayne Experiment" with Nikki, a real natural. She talks a lot to camera, and I mix it up for her, putting her with a girl, then a POV blowjob, followed by a DP, an anal and so forth. Definitely my favorite movie of any I've done so far.
XBIZ: So you're growing and experimenting. But are you also looking for that "crossover hit," that first "mainstream porn movie" acceptable to theater chains and cable TV?
B SKOW: For a company like Vivid, mainstream means being able to run a tasteful ad in "Esquire." Some others seem to think that porno going mainstream means we merge with Hollywood or something. Be careful what you wish for, because then you're not competing with the slightly cute party chick from King City, but with Salma Hayek and Heidi Klum, with real actors and real directors.
XBIZ: Time to play fortuneteller. Porn as a digital download: Is that how it's going to be?
B SKOW: Hey, that's already is the way it is. And content-wise, it's going back to what it used to be, which is putting the right girls in the right movies, producing them right, getting distribution to web, DVD, cable, hotels, all that. And you have to be in all of those channels. No one, and I mean nobody, can just sell DVDs and expect to stay in business. You have to have all it going on.
XBIZ: How long will this "shakeout period" last?
B SKOW: It's cyclic, like so much else in life. Everyone is working feverishly to figure out what we need to do. I think it's just a transition period, and everyone has a different idea about where we're at, where we're going and how to get there. There is no consensus.
XBIZ: Your plans?
B SKOW: Right now, my favorite thing is a website called BrandNewFaces.com, and we have DVD volume 10 just out. It's real girls, with a 100 percent guarantee that you've never seen them before. Working with new girls keeps my mind fresh and perverted.
XBIZ: Where do these aspiring babes come from?
B SKOW: Everywhere. There are bank tellers, girls from grocery stores, even a princess from the Disney parade, and that's what is so cool about it, it's all kinds. Of course, the Vivid connection is great. With some girls, the husbands drop 'em off, they do it the one time and you never see them again. Then there's Phoenix Marie, Ally Foster – I shot their first scenes, and now that they are in the system they're doing great.
XBIZ: Bottom line, we all know that the end-user wants to feel connected, involved. How do you make that happen?
B SKOW: The whole structure of BrandNewFaces.com makes that happen. There's such a "real-ness" to this. I just turn on the camera and start talking to them, interviewing them and then clothes start coming off. It's totally natural, unforced, and I put them with veteran guys, so you really get to see these girls in their prime. We're going to start separating it out to first anals, first MILFs, first this and that. This really is fresh and interesting stuff.
XBIZ: And, once again, you do it all, right?
B SKOW: I find the girls, shoot the stills, record the interviews, set up the scenes, edit them, do the site, everything. It's "B Skow Presents," pretty much.
XBIZ: Last words?
B SKOW: Everything I've said here is the truth. These are the facts. I just report them. I don't invent them.