Forward Progress: Directors Say Technology Shaping Future
The greatest constant in life really is change. The pendulum always swings back and forth. Trends come and go. Everything is in a state of flux. You can view the cyclical nature of things in fashion, politics and, yes, porn. Adult features are popular, then out of style. Gonzo is the rage, then beaten into the ground. Actresses peak and fade. And directors once popular sometimes, sadly, become has-beens.
But it’s still the directors who, more than anyone else in adult, have their finger on the pulse of the industry, keeping close track of the changes, positive and/or negative, since it all means money in their company’s coffers — and, more importantly, in their own pockets! They need to know, or devise, what’s popular; be aware of what’s new and different; and, especially, keep abreast of what sells.
Directors are always the most savvy of those individuals in the industry because they’re the puppet masters pulling the strings, so to speak, as well as the golden children, the bread makers. Sure, they might be shooting people porking on camera, but they also bring home the bacon. Or bring it to their respective studios.
That stated, there really is nothing if not a difference of opinions among today’s porn auteurs, be it discussion of content, technology, talent, and — the very bottom line — profitable properties and lucrative approaches to the industry.
The End — Or No End — To Parodies?
Director B. Skow, who helms such popular series as “Sexually Explicit,” “Auditions,” and “Beautiful Faces” and is currently working on a new feature, “Mother’s Little Helper” — is particularly optimistic about what he sees as a lull in the production of porn parodies.
“I see that the parody has disappeared, which I’m happy about. People have had enough of it. That’s really the one thing I hate about this industry: people are awarded for doing the same shit over and over again — like parodies. There’s nothing to push people to do something new and original and interesting and move the industry forward. Parodies have saturated the market, and now it seems that people are making good, interesting quality features, which is great.”
But with the recent release of his couples-friendly satire on the first two “Magic Mike” movies, Wicked director/performer Brad Armstrong disagrees with Skow about XXX parodies and sees a continuing future for them.
“It’s about recognition,” Armstrong points out. “I can put out a bunch of features that look great, but you don’t have any visual recognition connected to those titles, nothing to draw your eye to that wall of DVDs. And then all of a sudden when the (consumers) see something that they know. For example, if you’re a Superman or a Batman fan, and you see a parody of Superman versus Batman, you’re going to pick that fucking thing up just because you’re like, ‘Oh wow, they did a parody of this!’ Whether you buy it or not, you pick it up and read it to see what they’ve done to it.” Yet while Armstrong sees the parodies as on an upward trend, he has a different perspective of the industry as a whole.
“As far as directors go, the landscape of the industry has changed drastically, and certainly not for the better. Certain guys are still making a ton of money and are very comfortable. But it’s definitely changed a lot. I’ve seen some guys who were getting $20,000 checks at the end of the month who are now scrounging to make their rent.
“And it’s because the Internet has killed pornography. Let me rephrase that: The Internet has killed adult entertainment. (Today) it’s all about locking onto a porn hub, clicking on any kind of sex, at which point 20 or 30 scenes come up, and they’re all for free. And I’m not saying it’s for better or worse. But for what I do as far as features go, it’s definitely made a striking division between my clients — people who watch Wicked Pictures — and the folks who are Internet-scene watchers.”
Technology, Talent & The Fans
Evil Angel director Kevin Moore, putting out such visually exciting titles as “Stunning Curves” and the “Tongue in Cheek” series, sees both the down and upsides of technology, ultimately pointing towards the need to accept rather than resist change.
“I know this doesn’t come off positive, but I believe companies and producers that don’t have a strong Internet/VOD/On Demand presence will find the future much harder. The industry is going to eventually have to fully embrace digital distribution. DVD or physical media as a whole just doesn’t fit most consumers needs today. Those consumers who prefer it are a smaller and smaller minority.”
Moore is particularly excited about virtual reality (VR) porn.
“I think VR offers an amazing amount of possibilities. The problem is that it’s going to take serious funding to create a truly immersive VR adult experience. But, being something of a hardcore gamer and self-professed computer nerd, I’m still deeply interested in it.”
Both the general manager and key director at ArchAngel Productions, MimeFreak sees eye-to-eye with Moore about the fast-moving technological advances in adult.
“We’re witnessing a change in how porn is shot,” he notes. “Whether on a 4K camera, a smartphone, or even a drone flying 20 feet in the air, I find it amazing how technology is used in the industry today. I love to see how directors are getting super creative with shooting. I recently challenged myself by shooting an underwater blowjob scene (in the hybrid gonzo “Karma’s a Bitch!”) and loved the response I got from the fans. When technology expands opportunity, growth happens, and different forms of pornography erupt. I love it!”
Brad Armstrong also see some silver linings on the darker clouds of XXX.
“The only thing that is going to get better,” he notes, “is possibly for the talent, because there’s just so much work out there. And that’s especially true for the guys, some of whom are doing two to three scenes a day because, even with the male enhancement drugs, there are still only a number of guys who are in demand who can do scene after scene no matter who the girl is and pull it all off to the specifications that the directors need.” James Avalon — shooting largely for Mile High’s Sweet Sinner and Sweetheart Video and having directed over 150 titles with a good number of them being features, the likes of “Darkside” and “Les Vampyres 1 & 2” — still sees the female rather than male talent as a major force in adult.
“Actually,” cites Avalon, “porn today seems to be where nude modeling was in the ’70s and ’80s: We’re seeing a lot more variety and really gorgeous new girls coming in, with surprisingly great attitudes. And more of them are wanting to get into features, with characters, acting, et cetera. Sure, some have short-lived careers, but in a way, it’s also a fantasy thing for a lot of them — you know, to actually aspire to be a porn star. But I think the attitudes (towards porn) are becoming much more favorable in society as a whole. Anytime you see more porn stars in the tabloid, that’s pretty much an indication of mainstream acceptance.”
Mike Quasar, helming viable gonzos and feature titles (including last year’s “Shades of Scarlet”) for Zero Tolerance, as well as for Third Degree and Diabolic, sees the industry ultimately being financially bolstered by an intimate mixture of talent, technology, and the consumers themselves.
“Social media has dramatically changed the landscape of the business and the girls themselves have become much more important than whoever is holding the camera for the most part,” Quasar points out. “A girl like Kendra Lust is far more important than whatever director she shoots for. I tweet out a box cover or a trailer to my 15K followers, and a girl like Kendra retweets it to 300K. Suffice to say, the starlets are reaching more people than I or any PR person ever will.
“Also, the direct interaction with fans is something that didn’t exist when I started in the early ’90s. Every now and again you’d get an actual hand-written letter saying that your movie was great or that you suck and should die of cancer. But today you immediately know if you’re great or horrible. Also, I think that when true fans feel involved in the process they’re more likely to support their favorite girl-guy-studio-director by actually paying for their work.”
Wildly Industrious Directors — A Good, Bad, Or Inevitable Position?
Sounding a great deal like what Brad Armstrong described as the more productive side of talent these days, Jacky St. James, a key director at New Sensations and Digital Sin, is happily inundated with projects, despite some of the more dire views of adult entertainment as ex- pressed by her peers.
“There’s so much diversity in content,” asserts St. James, “that I can be working on a wide variety of projects at any one time — from a Hot Wife vignette, to a faux-cest scene, to a feature film — so it’s hard to get burnt out or jaded when no two days are ever the same!
“But the struggle to continue making content that sells is very real. I don’t see this ever going away. It’s always about trying to find the next big thing and hoping that it turns a profit.”
Augmenting St. James’ opinion, B. Skow notes that being more hands-on as a director is simply unavoidable in today’s market.
“When you own your own company and make and sell your own movies like I’m doing,” Skow states, “you have to know how to do everything. So what’s challenging is not only knowing how to direct, but also knowing how to write, produce, shoot camera, and edit. It comes down to even making sure your box covers look better than everyone else’s. You really have to know how to do everything these days in order to make money.”
Yet Kevin Moore sees the state of directors more necessarily invested in their product as a highly tenuous one, where the director finds himself frequently walking a tightrope.
“The industry has certainly shrunk in the 15 years that I’ve been involved in it, and it’s more competitive now then ever,” he matter-of-factly states. “Even 10 years ago if a scene didn’t work out as planned or ended up just not being what you’d wanted, you didn’t take as much of a hit as a producer/director. But today, every scene has to be good. Also, the cost of production has also gone up. So if one keeps all of that in mind, the stress involved in today’s market is very high.
“I look back to when I started shooting and there were many times early on when I thought I got it — I was wrong, but I was able to learn from those mistakes. Today there’s such little room for growing pains. There’s no room for someone to learn as they go and evolve. So I think it’s particularly hard on new producers and directors. You put out a release, hoping it strikes a chord — and sometimes it does well and other times it can fall short. (Golden Age of Porn director) Alex DeRenzy once said you’re only as good as your last scene, and I believe that holds more weight today then ever before.”
A Happy Ending To Our Porn?
In closing, Brad Armstrong definitely doesn’t view the future landscape of adult entertainment with rose-colored glasses.
“I think we’re on a downward decline,” he says point blank. “In my view, this business has become girl-2 with boy-4 on couch-3. I’m lucky in that at Wicked Pictures I still get a nice chunk of budget. But today it’s an overall thing where the directors are asked to do more for less… I can’t imagine anything in porn is going to get better.”
Yet B. Skow thinks things may be getting better for directors — in a way similar to a phoenix rising up from its own ashes.
“The industry is moving in a good direction, and I do think we’re going to figure out the piracy real soon. When that happens, the companies that have good, quality product will prevail and it’ll be good times again. Our industry — just like the mainstream music and film businesses — is close to figuring out how to make money and have good sales, but that’s how things go: We figure it out, it’ll be good for 10 or 15 years, something new comes along, destroys it all, and then we just have to struggle and figure out a new way to make things happen again.”
Having the final word, Derek Dozer — delivering impressive gonzo for Airerose Entertainment such as the “Gym Cuties,” “Pure,” and “Sorority Car Wash” series — sees both the darker and brighter side of things in, like most directors working in the trenches, a very to-the-point manner.
“The technology surrounding porn has both positive and negative impacts on us, the producers. More technology means more channels for delivery, which sometimes means less money to be had, but more high quality content to share. What a time to be alive. There’s so much out there nowadays, that garnering recognition and public attention for content that remains true to one’s sensibilities is the real challenge. Yes, it’s impossible to reinvent the wheel when it comes to adult, but you can forge the wheel to the terrain, and add your own flair to the ride.
“Porn is really like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.”