Aside from the requisite biography on him we kicked off our equally extensive interview by discussing his personal business philosophy, the challenge of tackling the complex frontier of the Internet, working harder (and smarter) in the face of the recession, and taking his most personal of websites, Buttman.com, to the next erotic level.
Our chat with John was conducted in his comfortable, unassuming office, located at company headquarters in Van Nuys, Calif. — the many piles of paper and sundry other forms of business paraphernalia covering his desk all clearly indicative of the fact that here is, indeed, one busy exec.
XBIZ: You’re well known for letting directors at Evil Angel maintain ownership of their movies.
JOHN STAGLIANO: That’s correct.
XBIZ: I can understand that from their perspective. But, if I might be allowed to play the devil’s advocate for just a moment here, you’re obviously making less money off a deal like that.
STAGLIANO: I could never have established this company if I was going to own all of the movies that came out of here. The whole point of a director owning a movie is that it’s their product, it’s their baby. They can build their reputation. And I’m only taking on guys that have already started to develop a reputation. Jules Jordan was just getting recognition when I took him on, and he exploded when he got here, because he could now be promoted, whereas when he was with other companies, they didn’t want to promote him because they owned the movies, and they wanted to promote the name of the thing; and just in case the movies sold well, then somebody else could direct it with that same name. That’s the m.o. of most video-company owners: They promote a line, and if that line is successful, they’ll still promote it even if someone else is directing it.
Whereas, being a director myself, and knowing what it takes to create a porn movie, I wanted to create the best situation for a director to do his best work possible. [At Evil Angel] he’s in control of every aspect of it: he’s supervising the editing, the box cover creation, all of the things that make his movie a good product, instead of him just being a hired hand who directs a movie, gives it to some company editor, and he’s gone.
However, if he’s going to be involved all the way through the process and knows that he’s going to make more money, depending on how much it sells, it creates a whole different atmosphere.
XBIZ: And the other directors give you a percentage for advertising, marketing and distribution of their movies, right?
STAGLIANO: Right. I keep a percentage of the gross sales — but they own the movie. When Jules Jordan wanted to leave Evil Angel, he took his movies; the same with Justin Slayer. The movies belong to them. If I had to worry about budgets and financing and directing, my company would be one-third of the size it is now — and I wouldn’t be happy. Whereas this way, I’m able to be a much bigger company, because they’re taking care of all of that stuff, and I’m just taking a percentage of the gross.
XBIZ: I guess it’s hard to describe a typical business day in the life of John Stagliano, seeing as you do so many different things.
STAGLIANO: Well, I have a very good general manager named Christian Mann — and I don’t want to be here on a day-to-day basis. The whole purpose of my having my own company was never so that I could just be a businessman and an executive who owns a porn company. The purpose was to have more freedom to make the kind of movies I wanted to and make more money because I was selling my own movies; in other words, so that I could be more creative and be able to have the power to control my own destiny in terms of what movies I wanted to make and what creative projects I wanted to work on.
XBIZ: Bill Margold told me — that he told you, actually — very early on in your career: “Kid, do everything you can.” Would you say that you’ve adhered to those words? Why or why not?
STAGLIANO: I do remember him saying that. But I don’t know if that was relevant because … what do you mean by “everything you can?”
XBIZ: Where are we going as far as an industry, John? Big question, I know, but an important one, especially from the perspective of a major industry entrepreneur like you.
STAGLIANO: I’m putting a bit of emphasis on live stuff. I did a live feed from my website last month that went really well. I’d like to do another one. We had Dana DeArmond and Adrianna Nicole in the scene, and Aiden Starr just showed up out of the blue. I just did it as a lark, as a surprise, because I think its fun to do surprise stuff, and I think I have the ability to adjust on the fly. And because I’m in the movie as both the cameraman and [the character of] Buttman, I’m improvising and acting with the talent, so I’m in control of the scene, the eroticism, and whatever else is going on.
XBIZ: So you think live stuff is where we’re headed.
STAGLIANO: Live stuff, because it can’t be stolen and, also, I have some talent in that area. I’m going to go to Las Vegas again and possibly do another project there — that’s just for me. As far as the future of Evil Angel as a DVD company, we’re doing a lot better with VOD through all of the partners that we have and our own “Evil On Demand,” which is a VOD company for our own product that is growing very quickly. VOD is a good way in the future to deliver the product; people don’t have to go to a video store, instead they can just go and buy minutes on a VOD site and look at whatever they want. That’s successful, and we’re putting money into it.
Adjusting to different kinds of streams of income on the Internet is also what we’re doing; not just membership sites, but VOD, as well. We currently have a partnership with Video Box, which has over 100,000 members and has proven to be very profitable. So there are different ways to make money on the Internet.
What’s happening beyond that? — whether or not hard goods (DVDs) are going to disappear altogether? I don’t know.
XBIZ: How’s Buttman Magazine doing these days?
STAGLIANO: The magazine is doing okay. It’s fun to do, but it’s only just about breaking even. Every two months we put it out, and I hardly get any money from that. I pick all of the pictures for it, and I probably could do a movie every two months for all of the time I spend on that magazine, but I really like it, and it gives me a chance to be a pornographer on a regular basis in terms of what I choose to put in the publication.
XBIZ: What do you love most about this business?
STAGLIANO: You can do art on a low budget, be creative and do lots of different, fun things without worrying about asking somebody else for money to do it. I can do it on my own.
XBIZ: And what do you like least about the porn industry?
STAGLIANO: There do seem to be a fair number of people in this business who are unscrupulous and don’t have integrity when it comes to business relationships … people who have gotten in the business who just think they can make a quick buck and are totally willing to rip others off, especially Internet entrepreneurs.
XBIZ: What’s going on with the indictment? (Note: In April 2008, Evil Angel Productions and John Stagliano Inc. were charged with seven federal counts of operating “an obscenity distribution business and related offenses”; the charges stem from the mail and Internet distribution of two movies in the Washington, D.C., area: “Milk Nymphos,” directed by Jay Sin; “Storm Squirters 2,” directed by Joey Silvera, as well as a trailer from Belladonna’s “Fetish Fanatic 5”; since then, attorneys for Stagliano and his company have filed motions claiming that all charges should be dropped because contemporary community standards are outdated and that the Miller requirement’s “as a whole” rule cannot be met for online content.)
STAGLIANO: The case is on hold because the judge is not going to throw it out — probably because he doesn’t have a precedent to throw it out. The Justice Department is maybe thinking about offering me a deal like they did to Rob Black. I will not ever take any deal at all. They’re going to have to drop the charges, or we’re going to have a trial in Washington, D.C., where I’ll bring in the Storm Squirters dressed up in storm trooper outfits and squirt guns doing battle with the Milk Nymphos, who’ll be dressed up in milk-maid outfits with enema bottles filled with milk, and they’re going to squirt at each other right there in front of the courthouse.
XBIZ: How do you wind down?
STAGLIANO: I have a wonderful daughter, and she and my wife and I travel a lot. We went to Australia earlier this year, partly for business, partly just for a vacation. It’s a great country. So we travel, and I love spending time with my family. They get priority.
I still take ballet classes … I’m also working on another show concept/idea/performance for Las Vegas. I don’t golf because it takes way too much time. Tennis I love, because it’s good exercise and fast, and it helps me get out my physical aggressions (laughs). My only real hobby these days is just being a sports fan — I’m a big Chicago Cubs fan. Other than all of that and my family, I don’t have time for anything else.