The Defiant Ones
"Kenny Guarino taught me so much," O'Connor told XBiz of his former boss, the owner of Metro Interactive, "But there's a reason we started our own studio."
Simone added: "Metro just got too big, and that's why we're comfortable being small. The reason we chose Defiance as a name has a lot to do with where we came from."
Simone and O'Connor, both originally from New England, worked for Metro until February when they, along with Matrix Content co-owner Bentley, a Southern California native, leased the first floor of a building in the West Valley for office and warehouse use.
In that time they have built a reputation for being a true performers' studio, offering real directing jobs to Taylor Rain, Shy Love and Lauren Phoenix.
"These are not figurehead jobs," O'Connor said. "These are movies they actually direct themselves and, when they're in a scene, are directed by someone else. Nobody's Clint Eastwood yet. We don't push people to star in the movies they direct."
Along those same lines, each member of the Defiance staff wears a few, if not many, hats.
Simone manages sales. Bentley, a director, oversees graphic design and filming. O'Connor handles everything else.
"I'm the receptionist," O'Connor joked.
"The three of us sit down and decide what we're going to do," Bentley said. "We decide which director to bring in and then build a movie."
New Take On Tradition
Bentley began Matrix Content in 1999 and says the company can now be run on his BlackBerry, leaving more time to devote to Defiance's refreshing new take on an industry tradition of filmmaking.
In many ways the company is similar to any other in that it releases certain lines that appeal to target demographics — big-breasted, Latin, interracial, handjobs — and each film within that line has the requisite amount of positions and pairings that industry wisdom dictates is necessary.
But beyond that, Defiance is shaking things up.
On its website, Defiance is soliciting letters from fans that will then be selected and worked into movies. "Justine's Red Letters," directed by Shy Love and featuring Justine Joli, was released in July, a month after the company's release of its first gonzo film "Pleasure," directed by Vincent Voss.
Upcoming in the "Letters" series will be offerings from Paola Rey, Lauren Phoenix and Taylor Rain. Rain also has signed on as Defiance's first exclusive contract performer.
Defiance also has inked deals to provide content for European mobile phones. Bentley's experience with Matrix smoothed the way for these contracts and he said that the market can only get bigger for U.S. mobile content because cell technology in the states is so far behind that of Europe.
"Before the issue of technology will be the issue of reigning in the content," he said.
The atmosphere around Defiance is casual. Oversized, framed prints of movies like "Fight Club" and "The Godfather" line the walls.
Lacking a pool table, the offices are still reminiscent of a frat house with clean carpets.
"We're getting a guy from Florida to come up and design our own Defiance chopper," O'Connor said with glee. "Taylor Rain and Lauren Phoenix love bikes."
Despite the boys' club accoutrements, Defiance is quickly earning a reputation as a female-friendly studio.
"[Performer] Gia Jordan walked in here last week with a briefcase and a business plan," O'Connor said. "Directors are getting in line to work for us. We want people to know that this is a place they can come as they're thinking about making the transition from performer to director/producer."
And while Defiance has made only gonzos so far, this summer it will begin shooting its first feature, "Runway," about the world of fashion modeling.
"We're getting genuine designer clothing, shooting with four cameras, a soft [cable] crew and a hard crew," Bentley said.
The viral marketing as evidenced by the "Letters" Internet campaign also is in effect with the choice of local designers for "Runway" fashions, as well as the trio's solid understanding that most business is based on personal relationships, which is why Bentley and Simone attended the Adult Novelty Expo even though Defiance doesn't deal with toys.
The Defiance partners alternate between wishing they were a much bigger company and being glad they have stayed strategically small. O'Connor and Simone both acknowledge that their dissatisfaction at Metro stemmed from "too many extra people around Kenny," but the idea of bringing the studio and editing bays in-house also is appealing.
On the other hand, the three partners are no strangers to growing pains. The company released its press person after only a month in business (O'Connor now handles press, too), and they are now looking for a full-time PR representative again. They also signed Rain to a contract a week after saying they didn't have room for a contract performer.
One thing Defiance doesn't want to do is get smaller. "If it was just me," O'Connor said, "I would fail. Each of us brings a lot of skill to the table."
Despite the company's adult pedigree, Simone recalls making "six or seven" calls to distributors in the beginning, trying to convince them that his company was producing a worthwhile product.
"We've been around a long time between the three of us," Simone said, "so we know everybody."
"The X factor in all this is that we own the company," O'Connor said. "This is our baby so we give it 200 percent. We wouldn't be comfortable with any drop off."
That is why O'Connor also is the one-man warehouse staff.
"Keith tapes all the boxes with love," Bentley said.
You can learn more about the company by visiting www.defiancefilms.com.