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Ilana Rothman: A Fetish for Filmmaking

Bob Johnson
Most woman directors in the adult industry come up in the ranks from the talent pool. They’ve performed in scenes; know the technical aspects of production and in some cases feel that it’s time to make their mark behind the camera to make way for younger stars.

But as porn for women grows – and over the last few years the market has increased substantially (see XBIZ, April 2010, pg. 52) — women who describe themselves as filmmakers first and pornographers second are making their mark.

Add the proliferation of digital-only content (movies made first for the web and then as DVD product) and you have a fertile environment for a host of new creative people who see porn as an exciting medium to further women’s’ sexuality and acceptance of adult films as another source of pleasure. It’s not about breaking into the traditional male stronghold of adult movies — it’s about making female-centric porn. Some call it “third wave feminism” — the belief that women should push past equality and do (in career or personally) whatever they choose — much like men have been doing all along.

Just because a movie has a “couples” script, pretty production value and few girl/girl scenes, a femalecentric porn it does not make. It’s high time that women who have the talent and creative insight, coupled with their own sexual proclivities and interests, bring these unique albeit different perspectives from the formulated porn we’re used to seeing to new, fresh films. And as we all know, the industry always needs new blood.

One such filmmaker who has come up in the ranks from the digital side of the business is Ilana Rothman, an articulate Wellesley College graduate who heads up a production arm among other duties as director of communications of one of the most successful online adult communities in the last few years — Kink.com.

Rothman recently completed her first feature film project in conjunction with Private Media Group called "An Open Invitation: A Real Swingers Party in San Francisco", a unique movie that looks at the world of swinging, shot on location in the “Upper Floor” of Kink.com’s incredible studios housed in a San Francisco army armory that’s also the company’s corporate headquarters.

Rothman agrees with the definition of third wave feminism, but is more concerned with pleasure and pushing the boundaries of social acceptability. “Let’s just play,” is her mantra.

XBIZ: So how did you enter the adult industry?
ROTHMAN: I started as an online editor for Kink.com’s “BehindKink.com back in 2006. The content show just what goes on in our company and it’s a very compelling part of our whole BDSM community. It’s what I’m still doing today. Producing this material helps to dispel a lot of the misconceptions about alternate sexuality.

XBIZ: Was the BDSM lifestyle of particular interest to you. Is that why you sought at Kink?
ROTHMAN: BDSM is a very misunderstood form of sexual expression. I was always interested in the power dynamics of BDSM from a psychological perspective. You know, the pleasure/pain interaction. The intricacies fascinated me – giving up control to your partner, surrender, etc. So much of this aspect of sexuality is more deeply intellectual than just plain old fucking.

XBIZ: And that translates to how you create your content?
ROTHMAN: Yes, and particularly in BehindKink because the community really cares about the details — the artistic creation of the ‘perfect rope tie’ for example. I am a perfectionist so I’m able to impart these things through the materials I create for kink.

XBIZ: So your college training was in filmmaking. Did you always want to make movies?
ROTHMAN: My target was always to write and direct. Telling stories as an art form. Stories that inspire or ask questions interests me most.

XBIZ: Unlike most directors in adult, you cut your teeth on creating web content and in a narrow niche at that. How do you feel about that?
ROTHMAN: The filmmaking part, because of the technical aspects is the same. Cameras, lighting, etc. We use Sony EX 1, HD, and tried the Red camera but the tech stuff’s not what I focused on.

XBIZ: Your focus then?
ROTHMAN: The sex was key. Directing the sex is a matter of the director’s own style. I haven’t worked with many of the known directors in the business, as most of Kink’s directors are company employees who have expertise in their particular alternate sexuality niche. So I was a bit insulated in that sense. But again, it’s the story that I was most interested in so that transcends the experience curve and makes what I feel is good content.

XBIZ: You made a huge leap — from web content to directing a feature for a major production company like Private Media Group. How did that transpire?
ROTHMAN: My goal is to make movies and Kink wanted to make a movie that told an honest story about the swinging community. “An Open Invitation: A Real Swingers Party in San Francisco” is not a typical ‘couples’ movie although the emotional responses that result from the swinger’s experience is what we were trying to capture. That’s visceral response from the viewer that asks,” what would I do/feel in that circumstance.”

XBIZ: The movie included actual swingers having sex along with porn stars. How did you feel abut directing that action?
ROTHMAN: Well I kept the story in mind. It centered on a couple’s first swinging experience. I’d directed sex in the past but I was a bit intimidated by the professional performers. I basically let the action flow. The pros got into their rhythms and as I got more comfortable I added the positions, etc. that the stars were excited about.

XBIZ: So this film was a real swingers party?
ROTHMAN: Yes, we had 127 real swingers in attendance and some of them took part in the sex as it was being filmed so there was a lot going on.

XBIZ: Was it difficult to film so many people in this unique setting?
ROTHMAN: The low lighting, good music, etc., that are essential to a any party had to be taken into consideration and presented some hurdles but we did our best to come up with creative solutions.

XBIZ: What about the amateur sex?
ROTHMAN: Our goal was to make them feel safe and we did in a pressure-free environment. If people feel tense about sex they won’t perform right – even if they fuck like animals – it just won’t look good on camera. The cameras were there but not in their faces.

XBIZ: AND the adult stars? Who did you enjoy working with?
ROTHMAN: Lorelei Lee and India Summer stand out because of their intensity and professionalism. The hardest part was getting naturally uninhibited performers to act as though they were inhibited swingers.

XBIZ: The standard question among women in porn centers around how your peers view your chosen profession. Does it pose a problem for you as a creator of adult material?
ROTHMAN: I enjoy working in an industry that promotes sexual awareness and freedom. But I also understand that some women have a problem with it and I can understand how they feel. I’ve had the opportunity to see how it really works and how as a filmmaker I can control the action and deliver a relevant story for women and couples.

XBIZ: What’s in the future for Rothman the director?
ROTHMAN: Making films that are not sexually gratuitous but are somewhere between porn and drama. That’s Kink’s vision and I’d like to continue along that path.

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