In the Director's Chair: Eddie Powell
Powell more than appears interested in people; he's a bona fide people person. Working for New Sensations, which lives up to its name by introducing lots of new talent to this sensational business, his people skills come in very handy.
"We work with a lot of new girls, and many show up nervous," Powell observes, "so the first thing I do is make them feel at home." He's good at that, too. "Within 30 minutes, usually, they're into it," he says. A patient, almost genteel manner is what gets him good performances from "newbies" and veterans alike.
Writing for XCritic.com, reviewer Don Houston remarks that Powell "is involved in a lot of projects [in] various capacities such as director, editor, general production worker, menu expert and a whole lot more."
About 10 years ago Powell left the Art Institute of Phoenix at the urging of his brother, who was starting an adult website in L.A. Now nine years into his career at New Sensations, Powell came up the Hollywood Golden Era way, learning about every facet of the business under the tutelage of industry stalwart Scott Taylor. He's down to earth, intelligent and completely humble, and proved all of that when he spoke with XBIZ.
XBIZ: You said you've read this column a few times, so you know the first order of business. How did you end up shooting porn?
POWELL: I was at the Art Institute of Phoenix while my brother was out here creating an adult website. He asked if I wanted to work at web design, and I came out. Eventually the company went under and I toyed with the idea of going back to Arizona. I figured I could always be a waiter or whatever. Anyway, my brother was buying DVDs from Scott Taylor, who offered me a job, so I decided to stay. That's over nine years ago now.
XBIZ: You really have "done it all" in this business, haven't you?
POWELL: I started out in the web department doing the New Sensations site. Then Scott had me editing the interactive DVDs after that. From there I began editing straight-up gonzo movies, and was a full-time editor after a year and a half on the job. Eventually, two or three years in, Scott spun off a reality line, Greedy Video, and asked me to head it up. I put together some ideas, he liked them and it just snowballed after that.
XBIZ: What is you camera of choice?
POWELL: Right now I am using a Sony V1U. I don't think there's any disrespect in just saying it's a good, basic camera. It does do the job and it's high-def. If I had my choice, I'd go with the [Sony] EX3 or the Panasonic HDX-900. Of course, that Red 4K unit's pretty nice.
XBIZ: Pretty pricey, too. Now, you do all your own shoots, right?
POWELL: Correct. Call it "double duty," maybe even triple, come to think of it. The way our production pipeline goes, I'm doing the creative, managing the whole set, making sure everyone's happy, all of it. I could hand the camera off to my production assistant, an up-and-coming director named Paul Woodcrest. Watch out for this guy, he's going to break big one day. But directing, handling the camera, getting the shots? Yeah, I love it.
XBIZ: Are you still doing your own editing? What platform and what software?
POWELL: I used to edit all of my own scenes. I would take work home, and labor over it endlessly at times. But now, unless it's a specific sort of thing I want or something I can't describe to others, I hand the editing work to off one of the guys here, and they are all just super. For me, it's Mac and FCP [Final Cut Pro] all the way.
XBIZ: In that XCritic.com review from a while back, the writer mentioned your quick cuts and special effects. What's your rationale for the extra helping of visual bling?
POWELL: I like to throw in some visual effects, both to drive the story and to add some humor at times. In one of the "Boy Meets MILF" blind date flicks, the "hot mom" was saying how "being with a young man brings the monster out," so I had her turn into one. I think we all learn that less is more as we mature, and I never stick in effects just because I can.
XBIZ: Do you think of yourself as a "gonzo" director?
POWELL: Just "a director." Gonzo is still a straight-ahead genre, but it's not like it used to be, where you just park a girl by a window and rotate in the male performers — one by one, all at once, whatever. Our titles are much more dialog-driven now, sort of a respectful throwback to the Peter North era. Now there's a guy who understood entertainment.
XBIZ: You've been around long enough — nine years in the business, more than three behind the camera now — to see the trends, the ebb and flow of the industry. Your diagnosis?
POWELL: First of all, the "new" and "right" thing changes every two years. When I started it was dialogue-driven, couple-friendly stuff, then it was hardass à la John Stagliano, now it's back to the feature. And, of course, everyone's doing the parodies now.
XBIZ: There's a parody right there, too: "Back to the Feature," starring Michael F. Jox, with Christopher Load as "The Dirty Old Man." When you're competing with "free," you have to try everything, right?
POWELL: There's always going to be those free sites, and certainly there's a place for amateur. But there is also shooting dialog well, and doing the whole gonzo thing the right way, the pro way. Quality counts, and marketing- wise, giving stuff away works sometimes, giving buyers good extras. If you remember that it's all about entertainment, and that humor is a big part of it, you're in way better shape. Tech will push us forward, but sometimes biz will kind of go by the wayside as people get their bearings and figure out what they're doing.
XBIZ: Are we still heading toward all VOD, all the time?
POWELL: Maybe "mostly DVD, most of the time." Having a physical DVD and package is important to some people. Music is that way for me. I like having my Pearl Jam records because they have great artwork, good liner notes, with info I'm interested in. In this business, it's a tough call knowing how much of that to do, because not every guy is going to go the store and pick up the DVD. Many will simply download it.
However, if the consumers are really into their porno, they will buy the DVD, at least of their favorite stuff. Some people take pride in certain things, and some collect adult movies. I have a little collection myself, with both "Pirates" flicks, for example.
XBIZ: Before we sign off here, what's it like working on an Eddie Powell set?
POWELL: Directing is not a big ego boost for me. I'm just some guy doing what he loves to do. I'm no big deal. We shoot a lot of new girls, so they show up nervous, whether they are on their 2nd or 4th or 10th scene, and maybe they had some bad experiences. The on-set vibe owes a lot to my exceptional crew, which is just a stills cameraman, makeup person and production assistant. We have good chemistry and some new talent might find our camaraderie overbearing. By 30 minutes in they're usually into it, feeling capable as well as casual. I make it a point to be that way, as long as they understand, like my crew does, that it's business and we're professionals.
XBIZ: Who do you see becoming the next Michael Ninns or Andrew Blakes of the business?
POWELL: You know, I'm working so much that I don't do my research. I don't see who's new or whose star is rising. Occasionally I will see new hype about something and check it out, but a lot of stuff is blending together and looking the same to me. Jonni Darkko is a favorite, but he's coming up on six or seven years of doing his thing. As far as new directors, the only one I know of is Paul Woodcrest.
XBIZ: What's up for you and New Sensations this summer?
POWELL: Well, I can't tell you much about it, but I am going to be DP [Director of Photography] on a nice, big feature. Very cool. We have some great sellers, and "The Great American Squirtoff 2" is out [this month]. We're here, working hard, every day.
XBIZ: Any last words?
POWELL: To make a living, much less "make it" in this industry, you need to love what you do. And one other thing: You might be able to be a paper pusher or a mechanic with no sense of humor, but you won't go far in this business without one. If you don't keep your ego in check, life has a way of doing that for you, and not so gently all the time.