Falcon Studios Reflects on Merger
They heard the rumblings from some Falcon diehards in late 2010, when AEBN acquired the legendary studio and merged it with Raging Stallion to form a super duo. The two properties had loyal fan bases — many of them overlapping — but decidedly different aesthetics, the merge causing panic in some that Falcon’s identity might get lost in the shuffle. But nearly three years since the move, both brands are still flying high — side by side, but in different shades of the same sexy sky.
“Things have been going pretty smoothly since the merge,” says Senior Director Tony Dimarco, who has helmed projects for both studios. “It was a bit daunting in the beginning; we were concerned that the merger would be perceived as a merge in style, and that’s something we didn’t want to happen. We were very careful and made a concerted effort in keeping the brands different, and inherently they are very different. The goal has always been to work with top-caliber models and to film the best sex possible, and I think we’re succeeding in doing that.”
Director and editor Bruno Bond was also concerned with keeping the tradition thriving: “We knew that it was very important to acknowledge the history of the iconic Falcon brand. We also wanted to gently nurture new ideas that represent our current time in history. Technology is changing, content delivery is changing and the customer base is evolving. It is important that this genre of porn evolve with the times and current tastes.”
And with the recent release of the two-part “Bucks County” (with “Into the Wild” and “Road to Temptation”), Falcon’s tradition of big multi-part features has continued — keeping things comfortably familiar while also evolving.
“It’s been an exciting three years, and I think we have successfully restored the luster of the Falcon brand,” says President Chris Ward. “Today, Falcon is a very profitable company with one of the world’s top membership sites. And taking Falcon and Raging Stallion together, we produce just over 50 percent of all high-quality porn being shot in the United States today.”
Ward notes that although the production team is the same for both studios, the big difference between the brands comes with casting. “We rigorously enforce our casting rules and make only very rare exceptions to have actors in both brands — Landon Conrad being one of those exceptions. Falcon guys are mainly smooth, younger men — the boy-next-door type — whereas Raging Stallion guys are muscular, hairy and often sport amazing tattoos. The energy in the RSS features is a bit rougher than in Falcon, but both brands are well known for having very high-quality fucking. My motto for both studios is: ‘It’s all about the penetration!’”
Ward notes that he may someday direct another entry in Falcon’s iconic series “The Other Side of Aspen” (he helmed Part VI shortly after the merge). Earlier this year, the studio released the big “Tahoe” two-parter (“Snow Packed” and “Snow Plowed”), which is the successor to the “Aspen” line.
“Falcon is iconic, and it has such a rich history, but it is important to focus on continuing the legacy and keeping the name top of mind,” says Marketing Director Toby Morris. “The first release I marketed was ‘The Other Side of Aspen VI.’ I think it was brilliant of Chris to make that the first movie released after the merger. He took the epic movie series that put Falcon on the map and showed the audience the modern version of the most memorable set of Falcon movies.
“We always say that Falcon is White Collar, and that is a great way to sum it up. Falcon is mostly defined by the men: young men who are clean cut, strikingly handsome and have well-defined bodies. The sex is passionate and has a tinge of romantic. I think to keep the name thriving, you have to continue to deliver the top-quality product that the fans expect and continue to let the brand evolve with the times. Falcon has always been current and modern, while having the traits I mentioned before. You can see this in the new blockbuster release, ‘Bucks County.’ This movie is rich with Americana, the essence of Falcon — that innocent guy next door who is energetic and enjoys the company of his hot buddies.”
Morris, who came from the travel trade publishing industry, came into the company as the only new hire post-merger. In the beginning, he primarily focused on learning all the different marketing channels. His strategy was to learn as much about each channel (affiliate, direct mail, online retail, wholesale, email, etc), assess the status, figure out a way to merge two different ways of doing business and make it more efficient and develop tactics to improve on each area — plus find new creative ways to grow and develop the audience. Part of that effort was the debut of HUNT eZine, a bi-weekly source for gay porn news.
“I think that merging the marketing efforts and really focusing on refining both companies’ email marketing programs has been a major key. One way I accomplished that was with creating HUNT and merging the email lists as that audience. Plus, HUNT was a way to highlight everything from both companies at once, so it naturally became a merged marketing tool. I also expanded the audience through a vigorous social media strategy that keeps the brands distinct but crosses over when necessary,” he says.
“HUNT really gives us a forum and lets us keep fans engaged with our products and all the different ways they can consume it. At this time in the history of gay erotica the industry at large has such a varied audience … some people love their DVDs, some love the streaming membership solution, some want to download and own the scenes, so HUNT gives us a way to speak to the entire audience and give them all the options available. And it is continually growing and evolving into more of an industry news source and a media outlet all on its own.”
Morris notes they have a few major things coming in the last three months of the year — including a new live solution where fans will have more access to models through a live product; a new DVD and scene shopping experience for fans; and new content and media opportunities. In the meantime, Ward has focused his energies on keeping the product top notch by surrounding himself with an accomplished stable of directors.
“I give my directors a huge deal of independence in selecting their projects. Each director comes up with his own ideas and casting. Once upon a time I was a control freak, but now I just offer general guidance and give final approval to ideas,” he says.
“Tony is a master director, and his ideas are uniquely his. He is also one of our best editors. Every film he makes is a home run. I think Steve Cruz comes closest to my own directing in terms of the kind of sex he films. He and I think a lot alike in that regard, and because he was my cameraman for so many years, his style naturally is an offshoot of my own. He is my protégé, and I always enjoy the scenes he films. Bruno has been directing for a shorter period than Steve, but his stuff is also amazing. I find that Bruno’s scenes are some of my favorite. Each of these three guys are among the best directors in the industry, and our company’s success is built on the powerful films that they produce.”
Falcon’s long-running Jocks line was replaced earlier this year with the studio’s new Guys Like Us label, which debuted with “Just Like Us.” It was the first new line since the merge, with a planned six to eight titles a year marked by “pure sex with young men, no plot buildup or other distractions.” The line is headed by accomplished director Andrew Rosen (like Cruz and Bond, a former performer).
“He does a great job and brings his unique perspective to his shoots. He is also the best video editor in the industry,” says Ward, adding that another popular Falcon brand has been discontinued. “We felt that the Mustang line was really just a repeat of the Raging Stallion line, so we decided to fold all of the Mustang energy into the Raging Stallion line of films. Ironically, before the merger when Falcon was trying to figure out what to do with the faltering Mustang line, they consciously decided to make it as close to Raging Stallion as possible!”
Dimarco notes that when shooting a Falcon movie, they tend to be more realistic and natural for the setting and the models. “The look and feel for a Falcon movie is much lighter in tone. The scenes are more organic and there’s a sense of reality to it. The sex can be hot, intense and sweaty, but usually in a more fun and flirtatious nature. The models tend to be more clean-cut and not as hairy or tattooed as a Raging Stallion model.”
Bond describes the Falcon guy as usually “an idealized all-American boy next door. It is typically a more playful, bright and happy depiction of hot sex. A Raging Stallion man is sometimes a bit older, and can be hairy or inked. Sometimes the sex is more dark and subversive. This is not a definitive separation. Models in the porn industry represent how the men of 2013 look in general.”
Dimarco adds that on a Falcon film, they use many real locations, whether it’s a house in the city or the country: “A place where it is realistic, where the story or scenario could possibly happen. We tend to shoot more outdoor sex as well, and rarely do we shoot a Falcon movie in the studio. With Raging Stallion, the movies are primarily filmed in the studio with the occasional outdoor shoot for high-concept movies like ‘Cowboys’ or ‘Arab Heat.’ Raging Stallion movies tend to be darker in tone and more fantasy and concept driven; the sex tends to be a little more dirty and rough. So with all those factors, it’s not hard to keep the brands separate and unique.”
After helming many Falcon projects in 2012, Dimarco spend most of his time on Raging Stallion features before “Bucks County” came calling. He has three more Falcon movies to direct before the end of the year — including a twopart film that takes place in Palm Springs, Calif.
“It’s actually great to be able to switch between both studios and do different styles of productions. With Raging Stallion movies, I get to come up with more ‘out there,’ creative concepts that are a lot of fun to work on. With Falcon, I get to film hot guys out of the studio in beautiful locations. So it’s really the best of both worlds — they are both equally rewarding creatively.”
The “Bucks County” experience proved to be a rewarding one for the director, who co-helmed the project with Bond and noted that it all came together quickly — and had a very strong vision from the beginning.
“The location — which has a very rich porn history — became available, so that initially drove the direction. Big iconic films like the Falcon’s “Spokes” series as well as Colt’s “BuckleRoos” were all shot in the same place, so we wanted to make sure that it had a distinct look and feel. Bruno and I sat down and we came up with the direction, which was to keep it rural but make it seem like it could be out of a contemporary fashion spread. The whole look and feel lent itself to being very homoerotic from the outset, but keeping it contemporary and not ‘historical’ I think set it apart from the other films. It was a project that everyone was excited about from the beginning.”
Bond, whose next feature “Plays Together” arrives in November, wanted the project to celebrate an American feeling of playful, uninhibited sex. “We selected many of the guys for their personalities as well as their good looks. I was impressed with how great the guys were in all of the fun in-between bits that we filmed. … I think the fans will really enjoy getting to know the guys better.”