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Executive Seat: Smashing Through Walls

George Hanson
Most people would get a major headache. A big one!

But Smash Pictures Vice President Stuart Wall seems to thrive on the pressures of being in charge of that same company’s sales and production departments. Wall meticulously oversees everything from a movie’s inception, to its distribution on a worldwide basis. A unique position, especially considering the fact that his boss, Dan Quinn — the owner/CEO of Smash — is located 3,000 miles away in Connecticut.

Smash has a streamlined approach to business releasing only one expertly tailored, lushly budgeted, moltenhot title per month. Some recent titles include “Cheating Housewives #7, “The Divorcee” “Naughty Nanny,” “Registered Nurse,” “Taboo”, and “Friends and Family.”

In our exclusive interview with Wall in his Chatsworth, Calif. offices, the 40-year-old vice president spoke about his own provocative sales history (in and out of adult), as well as the what it takes to successfully operate an outfit like Smash.

XBIZ: Smash Pictures definitely has a streamlined staff, Stuart. Exactly how many people currently work at your West Coast headquarters?
STUART WALL: Aside from myself, we have 12 people. But my boss Dan Quinn, the owner/CEO of Smash, also has 100 employees altogether at his 12 adult retail stores in Connecticut, which is where he lives. Dan also owns a strip-bar chain in Connecticut called “Kahoots.”

XBIZ: So, since your boss resides in Connecticut, how often do you two communicate with one another?
WALL: Dan and I communicate weekly by texts and every few weeks by phone. He visits California every six months, and we have dinners with our directors and talk things over. Dan and I think about what our next niches are going to be, and he also likes to come up with titles for the various series.

XBIZ: What is it about you — and your work — that makes Quinn have such great faith in you?
WALL: My loyalty and treating his studio respectfully, as if it were my own.

XBIZ: And how exactly did you get involved in the adult business?
WALL: I came to California from Minneapolis back in 1989 to become a rock star. I’d played in various alternative groups; you know, goth and punk bands. Then I answered a telemarketing ad to sell B movies, horror films and even video games for David DeCoteau, who’s best known for his productions at Full Moon. Then the people with whom I worked kept telling me, “Hey, if you really want to make more money, join the dark side.” (laughs) What they meant was: join the adult movie industry.

XBIZ: And you obviously took their advice.
WALL: Absolutely! (laughs) Soon thereafter, in 1990, my first job in adult was for VCX, when they were still located in North Hollywood. I worked for Dave Sutton’s father, Rudy. Just a bit of trivia: My VCX office was apparently John Holmes’ office when he was with Penguin Video — and he had penguins all over the walls. (laughs) Anyhow, while at VCX, I was on the phone selling classic VHS titles like “Taboo” and “Devil in Miss Jones” to mom-and-pop shops across the U.S. I was there for a couple of years before moving on to KBeech for a few years, where I also did sales. From there, I hooked up with Sin City/GVA who were the big boys at the time. This is like from 1994 to 1996. Again, I was selling product to brick-and-mortar stores. But when I worked for GVA, I was also selling novelties; that’s also around the time that the general viewing format of movies started to shift from VHS to DVD.

XBIZ: How did you eventually connect with Smash?
WALL: While I was working for Sin City, Dan Quinn came to our offices one morning to place an order. Since his Sin City rep was running late, Dan took a casual tour of the building, popped his head into my office and saw how hard I was working. It must have impressed him because he handed me his card and said, “Hey, if you ever want to work for me, here’s my card.”

Anyhow, after being at Sin City for about four years, I then went to work for Elegant Angel and became their distributor salesman. See, if you want to climb the ladder in sales and really begin making more money, you sell to distributors. So what happens is, you sell to the distributors and then they sell to the mom-and-pop stores. So after working at Elegant Angel for a year and a half in that capacity, I decided to take Dan up on his offer, which he’d always left on the table. This was in 2003.

XBIZ: And upon arriving at Smash, you immediately became their sales manager.
WALL: Exactly. When I came on board I handled all of the sales. Still do. Two years later, the head of production at Smash decided to leave, and Dan said to me, “I’d like to move you up; give you the opportunity of doing sales and production.” So in my mind I’m thinking, ‘Wow! Can I handle all of this?’ See, at the time, we were doing one movie a week … four movies a month. Then I figured in my head, ‘I can definitely do this. Besides, it’ll be an amazing learning experience.’ So I accepted the additional position, got a raise, a company car and lots of other perks. And since then, under the umbrella title of Vice President, I’ve become Vice President of Sales and Production.

XBIZ: So what makes Stuart Wall a good salesman?
WALL: That’s a tough question to answer — without sounding vain. (laughs) Let’s see… Well, I suppose I view myself as a good salesman for: 1) my years of knowledge and 2) my customer base, which has learned to trust me over the years. For instance, whenever we have a new title, I never tell our customers that it’s the best thing since apple pie. Is that how the saying goes?

XBIZ: And some of the directors at Smash over the years have included?…
WALL: Mike Metropolis, David Lord, Kevin Moore, Skeeter and now we have Jim Powers.

Production is an interesting thing because some studios simply give the director the budget and let them go wild. But I’ve learned that by taking that route, directors typically have ways of pocketing more money. For instance, they might cast their friends who’ll work cheaper; they might do this and/or they might do that to cut corners and, again, pocket more money. So, to avoid that sort of thing, I do all of the casting for our movies and I make sure our directors shoot both hard and soft footage.

XBIZ: Because?…
WALL: Because our biggest profits are through broadcast and Cable sales. Smash is known for our niche themes and vignettes, and both Dan and I like to keep a small storyline in all of them.

XBIZ: Why’s that?
WALL: Because The Playboy Channel buys all of our titles. And the titles that Playboy passes on are quickly scooped up by In Demand or Time Warner — and that’s just in the U.S.

XBIZ: How do the directors feel about your relatively handson involvement with Smash productions?
WALL: Once everything’s in place, I let them go crazy. Jim (Powers) usually shows me a script, but I don’t ask for one. And I’m also not on the set of the movies, so the directors have plenty of freedom.

XBIZ: What’s the recipe for a successful porn movie in this somewhat transitional period in our industry?
WALL: Glad you raised that question because there really is a recipe to making a successful adult movie. I mean, fans are going to get bored if you constantly show boy-girl scenes. So, with each Smash movie, I like to include at least one anal scene, one cream pie, one boy-boy-girl or girl-girl-boy and then maybe two boy-girl scenes, or I may also mix in an interracial scene. And no condoms.

XBIZ: You used to shoot four movies a month, now you’re down to one per month. Why the drastic reduction?
WALL: We could do four a week, but then two of them would be compilations, which is what a lot of other studios are doing — and we don’t want to do that. By only putting out one release a month, we make sure that it’s going to be a great movie, and I’m going to hit everybody with it. That way the fans stay hungry for the next installment of their favorite Smash series.

XBIZ: When did the onemovie-per-month policy go into effect?
WALL: About a year and a half ago.

XBIZ: How about describing a typical day in the business life of Stuart Wall for us?
WALL: Let’s see… I get here at 7:30 a.m. and stay until 4:30 p.m. or whenever UPS leaves. I get about 300 emails each day, so I immediately go through the most important emails, print all of the orders and, since we handle a lot of orders from overseas, I first talk to our customers in Africa, Australia, Japan, France, Scandinavia, Netherlands and Germany.

I’m also a multi-tasker. I mean, while I’m on the phone, most people hear me typing and checking my email simultaneously. Now, to incorporate production with that… Well, let me put it this way: What I like most about my job is when a salesman sells a product, he typically sells whatever he’s stuck with. And a lot of studios out there are cheating customers to save money: They’re doing four scenes instead of five; buying cheap European footage and splicing it in with their American footage… Here’s where I’m going with this… The movies at Smash become my babies. Since I’m the producer of these movies, my involvement makes me believe all the more in the product when I sell it — because I’ve assembled the whole thing.

XBIZ: So you hang it up at 5 p.m. each day?
WALL: Right. But, even though I work from 7:30 to 4:30 or 5 , it doesn’t stop there: I have my Outlook connected to home, so after dinner I’m back on the computer. And my customers in the U.K. tell me, “Aren’t you supposed to be off work right now?” (laughs) But I’m a workaholic.

XBIZ: But you have to recharge your batteries some time, right?
WALL: True. I shut it down by 9 p.m., and from then up until 11 p.m. I reserve for myself: I just relax, watch TV and crash.

XBIZ: What do you do to wind down?
WALL: Almost every other weekend, you’re bound to see me at The Nuart Theater. I love foreign films. I also frequent many concerts. Or, to relax on Friday and Saturday nights, I go to a lot of art openings. Sometimes I just kick back at home: have a few drinks and watch a good foreign movie.

XBIZ: So, Stuart, what Smash projects are coming up which you’d like to discuss?
WALL: Well, we just launched our mobile site, which we’re really proud of: smashpictures.mobi. Also in terms of our website, SmashPictures.com, when patrons gets a Smash Pass, they get access to SmashPictures.com, ShanesWorld.com, MichaelStefano.com and Hush-HushEntertainment.com. They get videos, photo galleries … everything! It’s a great deal.

Now, in terms of our upcoming movies, “Cheating Housewives 7” is going to be our June release. We’re also currently in production with “Secretary’s Day 4” starring Tanner Mayes; Jennifer White, who does an anal scene; Ally Haze and Andy San Dimas, who do a three-way with Evan Stone; Asa Akira who goes one-on-one with Otto Bauer; and a cream pie sequence with Katie Kox.

XBIZ: Sounds awesome. Anything else?
WALL: We’re in talks about starting a new volume of our “Camel Toe” series. I mean, our themes typically involve older women and/or younger women — and, of course, story lines. I like to cast girls who look like they shouldn’t be doing porn. Girls who look like glamour models gone bad. Melanie Rios, for instance, is unreal; she’s currently in “Teen Idol 7.”

XBIZ: What have been the critical successes of Smash in 2009? — and thus far in 2010?
WALL: Our biggest critical success thus far in 2010 actually happened just this past week with “Friends and Family” hitting No. 1 on the top-selling DVD charts for DVDEmpire.com. Another big success was during the relatively recent Venus Berlin Show in Europe where we had a gigantic banner of Sasha Grey from our Smash title “Secretary’s Day 3” as promoted by Hot Movies. I mean, the banner nearly covered the entire side of a large building. The thing was enormous, and it wonderfully branded our studio name.

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