"I always feel the need to top myself in every way, shape and form in every area. Otherwise, it's not fun," Stagliano said from a cellphone while driving to Las Vegas to oversee the dance revue based on the monster-hit adult movie, "The Fashionistas."
Stagliano is nothing if not ambitious. The 54-year-old started Evil Angel in 1989 after shooting a few traditional adult features. But he soon grew tired of the limits of large-scale filmmaking and all but single-handedly invented a new way of shooting adult films.
"It's different when you're dealing with a big crew on a big set," Stagliano said. "I didn't always want to have such a situation on a sex movie because when you have a lot of people around it really gets in the way of shooting good sex."
Stagliano shot intimate sexual vignettes, often starring himself, in which the camera (and by extension the viewer) becomes a character. In Buttman's world, intimacy and sexual friction took the place of the arbitrary storylines, and a new genre was born: gonzo.
1989's "The Adventures of Buttman," Evil Angel's first gonzo video, was perfectly suited to the newly ubiquitous technology of VCRs, and the porn world responded with cheers and high sales numbers.
Almost 16 years and countless imitators later, serious porn aficionados consider Evil Angel synonymous with quality and "piping-hot" adult material. The company continues to push the porn envelope. Not content with having redefined what adult videos look like and how they are produced, Evil Angel also is changing the relationship between production companies and directors in adult.
Tricia Devereaux, Evil Angel's public relations head (and Stagliano's wife) said: "We have a distributor arrangement with our directors, where the director is his own producer and he finances his movie completely. Basically, we help him manufacture the DVD and sell it to distributors. Evil Angel gets a commission fee, and the director keeps the rest of the profits."
According to Devereaux, EA's new deal benefits its growing stable of directors in that each retains ownership of their own product and profits directly from sales, encouraging quality work.
"The more a movie sells, the more money the director makes," Devereaux said. "With a flat fee, the director is paid the same no matter how many copies the movie sells. With us, directors make money based on sales. It gives incentive to make better movies."
Evil Angel's stable of directors is a who's who of some of the most notable names in adult: John Leslie, Rocco Siffredi, Joey Silvera, Christoph Clark, Jules Jordan, Stanlay Miranda, Nacho Vidal, Belladonna, Justin Slayer, Jonni Darkko and Harmony all work along with Stagliano under the Evil Angel umbrella.
Stagliano said he's careful to choose directors who will ensure that the company only releases the best porn. "The sex has to be real; it has to look like the people are getting off," Stagliano said of how he chooses his directors. "It also has to be shot well. Some people are just throwing stuff together to make money, but I don't want to work with people like that. I want to work with people who love the porn genre. You have to care about what you're doing. You have to care about porn as an art form."
"John gives [Evil Angel's other directors] advice, but they all have their own look," Devereaux said. "A Jules Jordan movie doesn't look like a Rocco movie, and a John Leslie movie doesn't look like a Justin Slayer movie. He'll give them hints on the thing that he thinks work better in a scene, but he won't try to change the core thing about what makes that director good."
Stagliano does more than just head up the business side of Evil Angel. He's the writer/director/ producer of his own films, perhaps most notably, 2003's "The Fashionistas," a huge budget (by adult standards), four-hour fetish-heavy feature. "The Fashionistas" was another stylistic turn for Stagliano, who abandoned the skeleton crew, gonzo style in favor of a heavily plotted film that tries to maintain the intimacies of his earlier videos. According to critics and fans, it worked — "The Fashionistas" all but swept the 2003 AVN awards, taking home 10 trophies for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress — Film and Best Editing, among others. It also picked up two awards in 2004 including Best DVD.
And then there's the Vegas revue. Stagliano, a longtime dancer who was in the original cast of Chippendales, took his boundless ambition and moved it to the Vegas Strip. Far from the debacle that some expected when they heard a Porn Valley mogul was directing and producing a dance revue, John Stagliano's "The Fashionistas" has been playing to steady crowds for nearly a year at Krave night club Las Vegas, garnering positive reviews and even winning a best choreography award from The Las Vegas Review-Journal, as well as being named as one of top 10 shows of the year by same publication.
"I'd always wanted to do a dance show, even before I started doing porn movies," Stagliano said. "It's something that I love. I love working with dancers."
Along with the stage show, Evil Angel also boasts a magazine (Buttman, of course) and full plate of upcoming videos, including a sequel to "The Fashionistas," that promises to be as ambitious as the original.
As for the future of Evil Angel, Stagliano promises to keep pushing the adult filmmaking envelope in the mainstream and adult industries, both in terms of sexuality and quality.
"I'm probably going to be adding a couple directors," he said. "And I'd like to do more features, but they would have to be done really well. There just aren't that many people in the business that can do really hard, good sex and are willing to put the time and effort into creating a good story that goes along with it."