Club Inferno: Fire in the Hole
Fresh off a long and successful career in front of the camera, Christian Owen will never forget how excited he was some four years ago when he joined Hot House to start the next phase of his career. He quickly received an education he would never forget.
“I had never known what fisting really was all about until I came to Hot House. My very first movie [behind the scenes] when I started here was ‘Paging Dr. Finger,’ which was a ‘regular’ all-sex movie. I think it was my second month here when I had been on my first Club Inferno set,” recalls the producer/director. “And I must say, I was pretty nervous when I first saw the things I that saw, because I was still very young, and I had never seen that in my entire adult career — nor had I come across it online or anything.”
But from that moment on, Owen honed his craft to continue the company’s proud tradition — which started in 1993 when Hot House launched not only its mainstream line, but also its Plain Wrapped label dedicated to heavy ass play. Club Inferno joined years later, the two lines co-existing briefly before it took over — resulting in a combined 20-plus years of extreme ass action.
“I had taken a real liking to it because I feel like when I direct, I prefer more of the darker, dirtier kind of stuff, more raunchy, more fetishy. And it feels like when you go down the road of fetish and extreme fetish, every scene can be very different than just vanilla sex in a bed or outside on a street,” Owen says. “The performers — it’s very amazing, their talents and what they can do. And the models in that genre of triple X, they don’t complain at all.”
Owen felt the pressure to uphold the studio’s reputation. In an age where more lines than ever are tapping into extreme play, Club Inferno is the one that has been doing it for decades — and doing it with a professionalism and quality that gave the niche respect.
“There’s tons of fisting out there, but I think the quality of our work is outstanding and it looks far beyond the other studios that do it. Some do it a lot raunchier, they’ll just let cameras roll and let the guys go at it, but the viewers aren’t able to see it because it’s not lit, the models aren’t cheated in the right position for the viewer to see the best of it,” he says. “Steven Scarborough created this line to be the best in the industry, and I’m proud to be able to uphold his vision. He’s influential in so many ways, and this line is one of the greatest contributions he gave to the community.”
Owen taps into his design degree to make sure that all of the films are visually striking — and that the models are properly situated.
“I shoot all the Club Inferno movies myself on camera, and I give the viewer the best possible angles,” he says. “I’ll hold the camera in a way that it can make the guy at home feel like that’s actually him in the scene. A lot of times, I’ll put the camera right over the top’s hand, so the guy that’s at home can visually think that’s his hand.”
Owen is proud of his two-part “Fisting Playground” from three years ago, a shoot that enabled him to get creative. “Visually it was really beautiful, it was completely crazy and out there, but it was also a great movie,” he recalls. “I had designed the Lucite swing, and it made for an amazing scene with Rick Van Sant, and Even Matthews also did a scene on the swing.”
Matthews was one of the studio’s many fisting stars, to this day one of Owen’s prized finds. Other A-listers include Trent Bloom, Drew Sebastian and Van Sant, continuing the studio’s tradition of making stars out of “alternative” performers.
“A lot of the models that we hire, they’re all into it. With the Club Inferno models, they’re fisting performers at home, so when they come to shoot a movie, they love it. It’s their passion. So it’s really fun when we get to do really exciting sets,” Owen says.
“It’s a very tough line to cast for; it’s very hard to find the models that will do fisting. When I’m casting for the line, I have to make sure it’s part of a model’s lifestyle, because you want the model that’s being fisted to feel completely comfortable and know that his partner has done it several times and knows what he’s doing and has good experience at it. There’s no way you can bring someone in fresh off the streets and say, ‘Okay, now you’re the top!’”
The studio has also found success with crossover contributions (usually as a fisting top) from big stars in more mainstream porn, a trend that has also opened the door to a bigger audience. When the likes of Trenton Ducati, Josh West, Jimmy Durano and Tyler Saint lend their muscular arms, their fans follow — including a younger generation that is diversifying customer demographics.
“It’s all the way from the younger gay guy up to the older gentleman, and I don’t think that’s ever going to change. I think though that as we evolve in the Club Inferno line and we bring in more of a sports fetish like with our Gym Dudes line, you attract that younger crowd,” Owen says. “That’s kind of where the young crowd is going — it’s less leather and more into sports fetish. So with Club Inferno, we’ll still do leather, sporty stuff and medical. We try to appeal to a broad spectrum of people who like it.”
They help their cause with colorful and smart marketing, including box covers with carefully constructed stills that aim to catch the eyes of potential new fans. The packaging for the recent “Long Arm of the Law” two-parter is a prime example — the cover of Part 1 will catch the attention of consumers who might not consider themselves fisting fans, but might suddenly find themselves a little closer to checking it out.
“Even if you’re not really into fisting, if you’re into the role play then the Club Inferno line has a lot of that. Like with ‘Long Arm of the Law,’ it’s all about cops and prisoners, and people get into that,” Owen says. “When we shoot a film, every model basically has a two-and-a-half hour photo shoot. We stage all the photos in our scenes to give the best angle possible. A lot of studios will just shoot during the scene, and models — instead of being open up to camera to get the best angle — they’re really tight together. We make sure we have the best photos possible for the viewers to see.”
Following recent release “Xperts” (one of six to seven titles the line releases a year), Club Inferno has an upcoming film featuring Dolan Wolf (tentatively titled “Big Bad Wolf”). After the Grabby Awards in late May, Owen and company were headed back to Palm Springs for Fist Fest West. In addition to an outdoor shoot that week, they will also host the weekend event in June.
“I definitely don’t think this type of content is as ‘shocking’ as it used to be, because also it seems in the last couple years that I’ve been directing the line, we’ve had a lot of younger guys apply — and we’ve shot a lot of them for the line. It does seem like it’s more a norm; more people get into it at home, and now are willing to come and do scenes for us,” Owen says. “It’s all about fresh models, new sets and trying to get the best possible angles that make it look different from any other stuff we’ve shot.”