Executive Seat: Graham Travis - Making Movies
Through what sometimes appears at time to be superhuman abilities, Travis runs nearly every aspect of the company from movie concepts to making broadcast deals.
The British expatriate landed in adult after meeting director Mason in 2003. His friendship with Mason opened the door for him to begin studying the adult business, especially the branding strategies of big companies like Vivid, DVSX, VCA and Wicked and absorbing how gonzo was ushering in a new era through companies like Red Light District and Zero Tolerance.
“Back then gossip sites, and Internet drama seemed to play a much larger role in what was going on. The industry was full of so many colorful characters and legends. The identity of different company brands fascinated me. Evil Angel with their director-driven approach, DVSX with their focus on DVD extras, and a distinctive box-cover style, etc.
“All the Anabolic guys were joining Red Light District. It seemed like a new era where niche-driven gonzo, with the emphasis on marketing and single-girl covers, was dominant. I edited with Mason on a few of her movies, and went on to edit with William H., Jake Malone, and a few others,” Travis said.
In 2004, Travis met up with Elegant Angel’s Patrick Collins who offered him a spot to run the company’s PR, but Travis declined and instead wrote Collins a letter outlining what he felt would improve the company including consistent box cover graphics and better DVD authoring.
“Their movies were hit and miss, but there was a core developing with Patrick’s movies like ‘Cytherea is Squirtwoman,’” and Thomas Zupko’s ‘Big Wet Asses’ series. I had edited with William H. and seen him shoot some very special scenes. I just felt that he needed to find his own identity. The company had also alienated a lot of customers with bad DVD’s and a lack of interaction with the fans,” Travis said.
But despite his interest in Collins’ company Travis still balked at joining Elegant Angel. It took some time for him after developing a strong friendship with Collins, Zupko and William H. to accept the challenge and start rebuilding the company.
Everything crystallized between 2006 and 2007. The popularity of squirting movies, Mason signing on to direct, L.T.’s ethnic shows and Collins’ psychological vignette movies set the stage for Travis’ new order and the new productions started to resonate with fans.
Fast forward to today when Travis’ revitalized Elegant Angel has become a leader in the industry due largely to the result of him having a close working relationship with each department. The exec stays involved.
“My main focus is strategizing our productions, branding, and working with directors. We create a product as a business, and our success will always be primarily reliant on the quality and presentation of that product. That will always be our priority. So I work with our directors closely and try and bring out the best in them,” the executive says.
His duties also include sales, post-production, designing and budgeting – mundane but necessary details that are the hallmarks of most successful companies. Travis also works with Elegant Angel’s partners for foreign sales, Internet, broadcast and mobile deals in an effort to grow new revenue streams. “I try and stay engaged with everyone in the office and involved in the respective departments they operate, he says.
But the day-to-day hasn’t kept Travis from keeping his eye on the state of the industry. He believes the adult industry – like the media in general – is in a state of flux, pointing to how technology (and unfortunately tube site piracy and copyright infringement) is changing everything.
“The new established media distribution outlets, YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, etc., believe that adult content undermines their mainstream and family friendly identities. The Internet is essentially a marketplace, as much as it’s referred to as a community. But, it’s a completely de-regulated marketplace where copyrights and consumers have very little protection. Therefore the future for the monetization of adult media does not look as exciting as it did two or three years ago,” Travis says.
He adds that the proliferation of free hardcore on tube sites – accessible to everyone including children – is being ignored by society’s watchdogs and profiting the abusers at the expense of legitimate adult companies. And copyright infringement is crippling traditional media.
But Travis sees hope. He says, “What’s happening in adult is, in my opinion, part of a larger transformation in media that is probably going to continue at an even faster pace as technology evolves. While recognizing that reality, I think there are a lot of positives we should all focus on. We all have to be the best we can be. Consumers will settle for nothing less. While there are less studios producing right now, the quality of porn is extremely high. This kind of market re-adjustment weeds out a lot of the crap and creates the possibility for studios growing their market share even in a marketplace that has shrunk over the past few years.”
And embracing mobile applications, creating new Internet apps and working with companies like Mikandi to target new consumers could also bear fruit for studios over time, Travis says.
Though the death knell has been rung over and over, Travis does not believe DVDs are dead. In fact, the honcho believes that companies like Red Box and NetFlix have demonstrated there is a lot of life left in hard products and consumers still want DVDs as long as they’re reasonably priced and accessible.
His plan is simple. Studios must get creative, Travis says, and support their distributors and retailers with outstanding value.
And from all indications Travis’ company “walks the walk.” He notes that for the last four years Elegant Angel sales have remained consistent and that 2008 was a “big year.”
“We’ve done well to sustain interest in our DVD sales by delivering commercial movies consistently month in and month out. We’ve also done well to grow our additional revenue streams. 2010 has been sluggish at times, but overall we’re doing well and I’m satisfied and proud of the position we’re in. I think the main challenge, like for most of the bigger companies, is the uncertainty that lies ahead and making the right choices for the future,” he maintains.
Travis feels like he’s realized the vision he’s had for the company since the beginning. The challenge now is to continue the momentum.
Elegant Angel is “one big collaboration” in Travis’ mind. He says that if he always keeps that in mind and pools as much wisdom and information as he can, he can then make the best judgments.
“I have to be ultimately decisive and take responsibility. At the end of the day we are a producer. Therefore, I make sure the ultimate focus and priority of everyone here is on making the best movies we can. If you have movies that people want to see, then there will always be possibilities to develop your business.”