The roots go back to the early days of gonzo, with Jamie Gillis exiting the controlled confines of a porn set and stepping out into the real world to shoot “On the Prowl.” In that series he would take a girl into an adult bookstore or out in a limo and they would find a guy and see what happened.
“There was nothing fake,” Gillis told XBIZ. “To me, that was the fun of it, to see what would happen. I was playing with people’s minds and bodies and seeing what would happen instead of prearranging it.”
The Gillis series, along with John Stagliano’s Buttman character and Ed Powers’ “Bus Stop Tales,” ushered in a movement that became known as gonzo, borrowing from the name given to Hunter S. Thompson’s subjective journalism — a style that places the writer as part of the first person narrative. Similarly, in gonzo porn, the performers acknowledge the camera.
The style pioneered by Gillis and company was soon watered down to scenes that discarded the original premise — one that sought to bring reality, or the allusion of it, into an unreal genre — for one decidedly less adventurous: cheap porn starring any combination of women, men and usually a couch.
While the result hasn’t always been as grim as that, gonzo in recent years largely came to represent cost-cutting more than cutting edge. The gonzo umbrella became dominated by slapped-together productions that flooded retail and helped cannibalize the DVD market.
That’s an abbreviated rundown of how things went down in Porn Valley, but the past few years on the Internet have been quite different. Companies such as Bang Bros,Reality Kings, Brazzers and several others quietly inserted a little reality back into porn.
“The difference is we’re doing genuine raw porn compared to the fishnets and super glam makeup and two guys on one girl with a couch against the wall,” said Greg Lansky, Reality Kings producer. “The people at Reality Kings came up with concepts like MILF Hunter, which is very genuine. This guy cruises the streets of Miami trying to pick up really hot MILFs and they were really convincing. It’s the buildup that’s really sexual and a turn-on for a lot of people because it’s genuine and it takes time, instead of having a girl on the couch and a minute later she is getting fucked by three guys.”
Most DVD producers have been convinced that their audience doesn’t have the attention span for lengthy, detailed intros. While most companies have cut back on feature production, Internet-based companies have revived features on a smaller scale, taking single scenes and turning them into mini-movies.
“It originally spawned from the reality TV craze and as it continued to get popular we continued to make reality porn,” said Kim Kysar, brand and product manager for Pink Visual. “It’s inexpensive to make, it’s a happy medium between your big feature with the long story buildup to the sex scenes and gonzo, where you get a little bit of a storyline and then you’re into the sex and then you’re out and you’re on to the next one.”
The reality in Internet porn doesn’t have the same effect as it did a few years ago. To an audience raised on mega-hootered girls dressed to the nines and ready to get fucked by every pool boy, plumber or pirate, suddenly seeing a character like a MILF hunter out prowling the streets of Miami trying to pick up women was incredibly convincing. Suddenly companies began shooting girls from outside the pool of “mainstream” porn performers. These girls left the pumps and latex at home, instead dressing like typical coeds or hot moms.
“A lot of these girls look like the girl next door, they look like girls you see on a college campus or at a PTA meeting, they’re very easy to fantasize about and you can believe it can really happen to you, that you can be driving down road and see a hot 40-year-old chick, strike up a conversation and she’ll jump into bed and fuck you,” Kysar said. “That’s a little bit more believable than some of the other setups that have been out there since the beginning of porn. And the players being more believable are what I think people can relate to. They’re not all Tera Patrick and Jenna, these are girls that you can actually talk to or run into out at a club.”
If Bang Bros and Naughty America blurred the line between porn and reality, people like Dirty D have destroyed it. The man who brought the world “Crack Whore Confessions” and “Glory Hole Girlz” was simply looking to weed out folks who weren’t serious about the swinger parties he was putting on in the mid-’90s and launched a paysite. He quickly realized that there were a lot of voyeurs willing to shell out to see real people having sex. The self-described “pervert pornographer” eventually began producing sex that shocks even today.
For his “Crack Whore Confessions,” nothing but authentic Florida crack addicts will do. The girls who appear in “Glory Hole Girlz” really don’t know who owns the cock in her mouth (and, sometimes, other holes). “It is extremely real,” Dirty D said. “We shoot in adult bookstores with sticky floors and I don’t really use sets or lighting and sound guys or crew like that. It’s as real as it gets. ‘Crack Whore Confessions’ is hookers straight off the street to tell their stories, it doesn’t get any more real than that.”
He said that the very fact that it’s real is the appeal. In fact, he said he receives emails at a rate of 10-to-1 from guys looking to hook up with one of the crack whores than are seeking time with one of the hot girls on his other sites.
“I think it’s the approachability factor,” he said. “The common porn aficionado may not think that a porn star is approachable, but a girl who openly sells herself on the street clearly is approachable.”
Getting talent can be extremely tricky for content like Dirty D’s, but it’s also different, if not difficult, for the less-real reality sites. To maintain some semblance of a fantasy (and credibility), they can’t just shoot Jenna Haze as a random girl on the street that some guy talks into having sex. The consumer is savvier than that.
Kysar said that some girls do come from the same agencies that feed the mainstream pool, but many contact the company directly.
“They love what we do and they want to be in our movies,” she said. “I get so many pictures — of guys, too — and I forward them on to our studio and they get started.”
The past couple years have seen a huge increase in companies that used to be exclusively online putting out DVDs, many with terrific success. At the same time, traditional producers — the DVD crowd — struggle mightily to find a business model that works online. Companies that saw putting out DVDs as little more than advertisements for their websites have found an additional revenue stream in what was already an overstretched marketplace.
“Putting it out on DVD has really given us a face to the consumer,” Kysar said. “It’s given us a way to brand all of our content to consumers and has opened up a whole other market to us. Where a lot of studios went from strictly DVDs to online, we were online for years and decided to try DVDs, and it took off like crazy. A lot of people thought we would be cannibalizing our Internet sales, but we haven’t.”
Another advantage for the online companies specializing in reality porn is a ton of content. Since most didn’t start putting out DVDs until recently, they have thousands of scenes that have yet to be unleashed to the DVD crowd.
“TopBucks [Pink Visual’s parent company] has been shooting for going on 12 years now,” Kysar said. “There was a point where they were shooting 50, 60, 70 scenes a month for 10 years. That’s a huge library of content that’s not being fully utilized. We went through and picked the best scenes for the DVD lines. Like everyone, we’ve cut down on production in the past six months, but we still have thousands of scenes to choose from.”
In a market filled with shrinking budgets and apprehension, it doesn’t get any more real than that.