"Back when I started Femme Productions in 1984," says Royalle, who directs, produces and edits her own films, "I was thinking that I wanted to do something different. I didn't know how I wanted to do it, but I didn't want the same old plot with the same old formulaic sex."
The end result, Femme's "erotic movies from a woman's point of view" (now produced and distributed in partnership with Adam & Eve), was a revolutionary concept at the time and many in the industry didn't believe there was actually a market for women.
"The fat cats sitting behind their desks pretty much patted me on the head and told me that porn was a boy's club and that women weren't going to buy it," Royalle says. "But I sensed that women were interested, I felt there was a rumbling, a vibe."
Sixteen movies later, Royalle, who is one of only a handful of female directors, has proven that women of all ages and classes are viable consumers of adult entertainment, and she makes it a priority to cater to their desires. For example, from the very beginning, she chose not to use the traditional "money shot" in her movies because he knew that the majority of her viewers found it unappealing. In addition, her films, which have garnered numerous awards, do not include double penetration and only one — "Eyes of Desire Part 2" (Femme Productions, 1999) — features an explicit anal scene.
This, however, is not to imply that Royalle's movies are softcore, far from it; her films are full of graphic, X-rated sex. But they also are sensual and romantic and feature exquisite lighting and original soundtracks. Designed to showcase positive sexuality, they are often used by educators and counselors in their work with couples. "Three Daughters" (Femme Productions, 1986,) a lusty coming- of-age film, was chosen by the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists for presentation at its 1988 conference.
Vision, Hard Work
Royalle credits the success of her line — all of her movies are still best sellers in Adam & Eve's wholesale division — to forward-thinking vision, quality products and plenty of hard work.
"The movies were so ahead of their time that they've become classics and have managed to hold up under the scrutiny of time," she says. "Even if the fashions are a little out of date from the eighties, the work still endures. And I'm constantly out there talking about my work; I often speak at universities and conferences, I give numerous interviews, and I also sell my products via my website."
Although she regularly uses top names such as Nina Hartley, Missy, Mickey G. and Tom Byron in her movies, Royalle likes to mix it up by working with unknown actors. "In Stud Hunters" (Femme Productions, 2003,), a spoof on the adult industry, she cast newcomer Leila Swan. The young actress quickly became a viewer favorite.
Royalle also works hard to provide a positive on-set experience for both cast and crew, which adds credibility to her films. Given her experience in the late seventies on the other side of the camera (she starred in "October Silk" and "Fascinations," among others, and has worked with Ron Jeremy, Veronica Hart and John Holmes), she has great respect for her actors and actresses. In order to foster good working relationships, she often lets her stars pick their own co-stars, although she is very choosy about whom she works.
"People know that I really take my work seriously, that I'm looking to do something a little different, something I care about," she says. "To that end, I only hire people I like, and who are professional. That goes for both crew and talent, and we end up with great people on set. I so respect those who are willing to work on these movies and there's always a sense of camaraderie and compassion. We have a fantastic time."
That sense of respect translates to Royalle's customer base; over the years she has stayed true to her niche, and fans, in turn, have stayed true to her.
"I hear great things from the women who buy my movies;" she says. "They thank me for finally creating something that they can watch and enjoy, something with class."
In keeping up with the growth of the women's erotica market, Royalle partnered in 1995 with an industrial designer from Holland and developed her unique sex toys. The Natural Contours line features "personal massagers" that are sleek and sophisticated and designed specifically to fit the curves of a woman's body. More discreet and stylish than their traditional toy store counterparts, the vibrators are also consistent sellers and Royalle keeps the line alive by continually adding new designs.
She also became an author with the 2004 release of "How to Tell a Naked Man What To Do" (Simon & Schuster/Fireside), a candid and personable book filled with sex advice gleaned from her many years in the adult field. The book's release has helped Royalle expand into more mainstream venues, and has increased both her customer base and her media exposure.
Although Royalle knew virtually nothing about the business end of the adult industry when she launched Femme Productions, she credits family and friends for the entrepreneurial knowledge she's gained in the process.
Pride Of Ownership
"I learned early to hold onto ownership," she says, "to not sell out and go for the big bucks. It's important to own your product and collect the money over years to come. I either own outright all of my work, or I own percentages in perpetuity."
Her plans for the future include a line of movies for young black women and couples, plus a line directed at women in their twenties and thirties. She also has several products in development for the Natural Contours line and wants to continue to nurture her niche market by mentoring up and coming directors.
"I feel that my next step will be producing the work of young, female directors," she says. "I believe there's a whole next generation of women who have a new vision; it's very exciting."