Studio Execs Discuss State of Fetish Video
Fetish video has had a good year, according to several of its major producers. And they agree that it’s due in no small part to the phenomenal international success of the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Ropes, cuffs and blindfolds have never garnered so much mainstream attention — and sales.
Fetish purveyors, both on DVD and online, have long been aware of the genre’s commercial potential, but even some of them are happily surprised at the increasingly overt interest in depictions of BDSM (both hard and mild) and myriad other sexual kinks.
Evil Angel Video has been at the forefront of fetish almost since its inception. Owner and founder John Stagliano told XBIZ that he plans to keep it that way.
“I have always taken on directors who are free (within the law) to make whatever fetish they think they are good at creating, while being aware of what the consumer is asking for more of. So Dana Vespoli I am sure will be doing more faux-incest type stuff. She is great at psychological drama. It is always interesting keeping Jay Sin’s love of kinky fetish from getting me thrown in jail, but I am sure he will come up with something brilliant this year that will be acceptable. I trust many of Evil Angel’s producer-directors will deliver the best of what consumers want.”
For Stagliano, it’s primarily the nature of the Internet that has propelled fetish fever. “The success of ‘Fifty Shades’ exposes the inherent lust of the American people — and particularly of women who long for kinky play. Our society appears to be moving into a more free and tolerant direction. The Internet, with low startup costs and a huge market to sell in, allows people to explore more and more fetishes. New media stuff, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter gives people more and more places to discuss these previously hidden desires. I’m just trying to hold on riding in the roller coaster of accelerating progress.”
As for his own recent fetish venture, the mini-series “Voracious,” he’s not sure if there will be any more episodes. “I have yet to hear from anyone who saw it,” he said somewhat ruefully. “I think my time would be better spent on other projects.”
Aiden Riley, a longtime Evil Angel producer-director (originally in partnership with Belladonna), is prepping two new fetish vids for release: “Fetish Fanatic 17” and “Foot Soldiers 4.” He told XBIZ, “Fetish movies are the gist of what I shoot. I tend to watch a lot of fem-dom movies, but I choose the amateur stuff since it’s a lot easier to masturbate to for me ... If the amateur market holds any clue, I’d say the fetish market is growing and quickly, there’s never a shortage of new material out there ...”
Evil Angel stalwart Jay Sin said, “I am not so much a director of fetish as in latex and domination as to just the anal gape fetish with a few rosebuds here and there with a side of spit, cream and a she-male. In May I am releasing ‘Pretty Sloppy 6’ which is my spit fetish ... I think the fetish market is growing — just look at the Japanese fetishes and their expanding fetish market. I think the U.S. is on the right track to do whatever pleases you and gets you off. ”
Dana Vespoli recently released “Fluid 3” through Evil Angel. It explores “water/fluid based fetishes (dunking, spit play, full submersion), and also touches on light bondage. I plan to do another volume later in the year. The market is definitely growing. You look at clips4sale.com, which is almost entirely fetish based, and how successful it is. Also movies like ‘The Submission of Emma Marx’ from Jacky St. James. It did so well they made a sequel. I certainly think that ‘Fifty Shades’ had a big influence.”
Scott Taylor set New Sensations/Digital Sin on a new course when he gave St. James a chance to direct, culminating in the Emma Marx movies. He said, flatly, “I believe that the fetish market is the last remaining frontier for video. The term ‘fetish’ is rather broad though. Which fetish is most viable? We are basing our current and future productions on a variety of fetishes.
“We spent a lot of time in the ‘step’ market, but I feel it is time to expand into a variety of themes and see where our success lies. We plan to explore themes such as light bondage, sensory deprivation, fem-dom as well as hotwifing and swinging. There is also a plan to mix fetishes. But what is fetish? In the end, one person’s kink is another person’s norm.”
The most recent Digital Sin fetish release is the BDSM-themed “Bound for Sex,” directed by Paul Woodcrest, a member of the Jacky St. James-Eddie Powell production team as well as a director in his own right.
According to St. James, her “Emma Marx” sequel “is doing exceptionally well... BDSM has become very popular and mainstream since ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ We can’t discount the power of that book, regardless of how polarizing it’s been.
“‘Emma Marx 2’ definitely enjoyed the success that ‘Fifty Shades’ paved the way for and I can’t speak to whether it would have enjoyed the same success without it. However, Scott Taylor and I felt it was important to depict BDSM in a healthy way and that’s what inspired the story of Emma Marx.”
She said she’s been directing a lot of fetish titles recently, including “Restraint” and “a few hotwifing titles... I love that more and more fetish films are gaining popularity and people are becoming more comfortable embracing their desires. Fetish movies may be niche-y, but when the right ones hit, they sell.”
Girlfriends Films owner Moose knows how well fetish product sells. Although none of his many lesbian titles are fetish-oriented, he does distribute fetish product from two studios, James Deen and Homegrown Video. The sales potential, as he sees it, is “huge, both online and DVD. You can see it growing. People don’t realize how strong it is.”
He had a hit with Deen’s “Black and Blue” (described approvingly by one reviewer as “a romanticized version of ‘Fifty Shades,’”), and he looks to Homegrown for exploration of such fetishes as foot-fetish, face-sitting and balloon-popping.
Deen, for his part, credits the “humongous success” of “Fifty Shades” for the fetish boomlet. He said it “opened up doors” for XXX filmmakers like himself. “It’s great to see people pushing their boundaries.”
Following up on “Black and Blue,” he’s wrapping post-production on “Diary of a Sex Slave,” and planning to shoot a new feature along the same lines. “People are capitalizing on the craze, and they won’t change when the craze is over,” he said, calling it “a sensible business move to venture into BDSM now.”
Echoing Deen is Homegrown Video CEO Spike Goldberg. “At this point in the industry’s economic evolution, fetish-related content is one of the few places you can make money still with some amount of predictability. It further is a market that is continually evolving to include new fetishes.
“As we all know, fetishes tend to be things that drive people to spend money on porn. The amateur market is dominated by this phenomenon... For fetishes, it’s all about finding one that has enough appeal to attract a fan base big enough to monetize it. One thing I’ll note is that with tube saturation, the concept of doing production that does not drive people on a emotional/physical level to want to see what’s next is getting harder to monetize. That said, if you have content of girls getting beans poured on them, my guess is if you understand that fetish and can deliver it to the fans, you will be able to still make a good ROI.”
“Fetish product is doing well in the market, at least in our market,” said Adam & Eve General Manager Bob Christian. “Mostly, we are talking about lighter BDSM for Adam & Eve customers, but some of our lingerie and stockings releases have done well too. We are producing two movies right now, one by Nick Orleans, ‘Master Bedroom,’ and one by Luc Wylder, ‘Shades of Desire.’”
He said the “Fifty Shades” movie “moved the needle only a little bit. It was nothing like the overall wave of impact that the books generated. While this is disappointing, we are not too surprised.” But he added, “Despite the movie not giving a great lift, we still find the effect of the ‘Fifty Shades Phenomenon’ to be a great boost to business for movies and products and a boost for a healthy increased sexual exploration of individuals and couples.”
Director Wylder, whose Fallen Angel TV is celebrating its 21st year in business, told XBIZ, “Despite starting my career as a male dominant, I feel it is important that fetish not be compartmentalized to be exclusively focused on BDSM. ‘Shades of Desire’ includes a rainbow of sexual titillations, such as 42 DDD breasts, double penetration, extra-large sex toys, female ejaculation and yes, we did not forget, spanking.”
“Master Bedroom” is described as “a story that follows a couple’s intimate journey into BDSM.” Orleans, whose “Perfect Secretary” is a kink classic, told XBIZ that “Adam & Eve and I are putting together a ‘Fetish Delights: A Nick Orleans Compilation.’ “We went through over 30 of my feature titles, nearly 200 scenes... to find my most ‘fetishy’ work from the past 15 years.
On the East Coast, Pure Play Media Vice President Adam H. is well aware of what's stirring the pot. “‘Fifty Shades’ has given a major boost to XXX fetish videos. It really opened everyone’s eyes to a whole other side of adult videos that they would’ve never thought to check out.
According to a Pure Play spokesman, there’s quite a bit of fetish material on their roster. “Check titles from Lakeview, Roman Media, Julie Simone. There are also many subsets within the other studios. SCORE, of course, has big boob; MySexyKittens.com has young, DesperatePleasures.com does Taboo titles. A visit to PurePlayMedia.com and a browse of the studios linked on the left side of the page will reveal lots of niche titles. Overall this specialization has definitely proven successful for us and our constituent studios.
Veteran director James Avalon has been shooting the “Shades of Kink” series (three volumes and counting) for Sweet Sinner/Mile High Media. “They aren't bondage films per se,” he said, “but about characters who participate in BDSM role-playing. As BDSM goes they're pretty light. It's more of the mind game as opposed to serious bondage scenes. And we still can't mix bondage and hardcore at the same time, so the bondage play is all foreplay for the Sweet Sinner line.
“The fetish market seems to me to be really growing and a lot because of the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ novel/movie. As bondage goes, most of the comments about the movie is that it’s pretty light, but I think it’s important in that it introduces that kind of sex play into the mainstream. I can't see how it doesn’t bring new people into the BDSM world.
On the Internet, of course, BDSM can get as hard as it wants. The king of all fetish sites is Kink.com, and under CEO Peter Acworth, it remains synonymous with the genre.
“Depends on how you look at it,” he said about the current state of fetish. “While the recorded content market itself is softening, we’re seeing strong growth in our live products: our KinkLive cams, our educational BDSM workshops, and custom-produced content. There’s always going to be a market for high-quality, authentic BDSM content. But we can no longer just depend on launching more and more sites. You have to be creative and innovative and meet the audience in a way that is more interactive.
“We’ve recently re-launched our entire site in a way that allows visitors to better segment and find specific content. Previously, we created sites that would serve a specific audience, such as female submission, male submission, gangbangs or feet. But of course with kink and fetish, there are so many variations and combinations — say, latex, medical, dirty talk, enemas — that it makes more sense to let consumers design their own packages based on highly specific elements.
“Regardless of what you shoot, I think it’s hard to be only a video production company and expect to survive in this market. You have to have multiple revenue streams, to find economies of scale with your consumers, and leverage multiple segments of the same market. Kink is lucky that it’s the standard-bearer for fetish and BDSM video, but we can’t rest on that. So in addition to the live content, and the workshops, we’re designing our own BDSM and fetish equipment, and launching a store. We’re building sites that speak to the community in a broader way. There’s no doubt that this has been a trying time for the adult industry, but there’s tremendous opportunity for those who chose to take that leap and become a true cultural touchstone.”
Asked about his distribution deal with Jules Jordan Video, he said, “I think that DVDs are an odd segment. They’re never going to be the revenue stream they were 10 years ago, but the consumers who watch them are dedicated.”
Lance Hart is CEO of Pervout.com, a much-accessed network of adult sites. As he sees it, “From a customer’s point of view, finding and buying fetish videos has never been better. No matter how niche a person’s kink is, they before. They can find previews on tube sites, reviews on blogs and forums, and narrow them down to select what they want to buy easily on sites like Pervout.com and Clips4Sale.com. This is something that seems to be getting better by the week. As more producers come to the scene every day, customers have more options to either find specific videos they are looking for, or order custom videos directly from the new producers. Services like Customs4U help this process.
“From a producer’s point of view, I’d certainly say things are better than ever. That’s easy for me to say, my business is growing. Competition is growing fast ... The market is growing as well. The thing to consider is that some of these fetishes were really only being filmed by a handful of producers a few years ago. Of course they all made great money, they were the only game in town. I think the competition is really healthy for the landscape. Better porn will be made. Customers will be taken care of better as well.”