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The Powers That Be

Erik Jay
Jim Powers, closing in on two decades in the porn business, has not seen anything quite like the last two or three years.

“We are in this weird period,” he says,“where porn people don’t know where to go, what to shoot, how to act. Everybody is realizing that the websites are failing, the delivery model is defunct and the golden goose is gone.”

Never fear, though. Powers has a solution: Be passionate about what you do. Strive for authenticity. Have fun. Take chances. Act natural. And be nasty.

That about sums it up. Oh, and add a lot of hard work and the requisite amount of “right place, right time” (aka, “luck”). If all goes well and you connect with the viewers, you’ll succeed. The connection is what they crave.

Powers plays to that craving, and does it a lot. Truth be told, he has few equals in sheer productivity. He started in the business in 1990, and is just shy of 800 directing credits. For some perspective, the legendary Paul Thomas, with some 600 career acting performances, started directing in 1974 and has about 300 directing credits. “I stay busy and I like what I do,” explains Powers, who has done everything from clips to costume dramas.

No matter how you look at it, one movie every ten days since 1990 is a pretty impressive feat. Powers’ achievement is hall of fame caliber. His shows come out primarily under the JM Productions label these days and his Powersville Inc. imprint, but he has produced content for Video Team, K-Beech and Sin City, to name a few. And “even though I lose money on some of them,” Powers says, he is having a great time with his own Powersville line of products.

He knows the business, knows how to make movies that sell and has a reputation for both bombast and candor. XBIZ spoke with the candidly bombastic Powers in late July.

XBIZ: How did you come to be working in this business? Give us everything from your “growing up” story to your inauguration into the world of porn.
POWERS: I spent my formative years growing up in two states, another child of another broken home. So I grew up in New Mexico and spent summers out here in California. By 11th grade I’d had it with New Mexico and hopped on a plane. It was 1980. I moved here to become a skateboarder and punk rocker, so I fucked around in college, joined a punk band, got a business degree, was a stockbroker for a while, lots of stuff. Then I fell into porn in 1990.

XBIZ: Sometimes that sounds like a long time ago, sometimes like “only yesterday.”
POWERS: I remember shoots I did back then better than some from two weeks ago. A lot of those memories are real vivid, because you always remember the new things, like getting laid for the first time.

XBIZ: Who are some of the people who helped you along the way?
POWERS: So many, honestly. But I’ll say this about Jeff at JM Productions, he’s the only guy who has given me the freedom to do what I want. And that’s because Jeff is not a follower, not a copier. He knows that I tend to take an idea and run with it, take it to the extremes, and he lets me do that.

XBIZ: I know you’re a hands-on director, so what’s your camera of choice?
POWERS: I am using a couple of Z’s (Sony HVR-Z1) and love them. I’ve always been a Sony shooter, although recently I tried out that Canon hi-def model that everyone said I had to check out. But it wasn’t even close. The Sony is just the absolute best for low light, and focusing, too. The Z is a very porno friendly camera, frankly.

XBIZ: Sounds like a great new ad campaign for Sony. You work with minimal crew, so how does the work go down on a Powers set?
POWERS: I always shoot two or three scenes in a day. Why just one? I’d just as soon do more since you’re going to book four girls and lose two before the shoot anyway. You lose half the day just dealing with all that nonsense. I do it all with just a makeup artist, production assistant and a still shooter. I do the sets, the lighting, handle the camera, all of it, except on features, of course.

XBIZ: What then?
POWERS: On a feature, once you start dealing with scenes of 15-20 people, you have the grips, gaffers — all those people. I love doing all that stuff on the big shoots, but with what is happening right now there’s not a lot of them being done. We are in this weird period where people don’t know quite what to do. Right now everybody is realizing that things will never be the same again. What really bugs me on the creative end is that you don’t get the budgets to do anything now.

XBIZ: Sounds like you’re ready to give us your “State of the Porn World, 2008.” Please proceed.
POWERS: Ever since the Internet came on super strong, in 2004 and 2005, what is bad for porn is the same-old, same-old approach. We all start out wanting to make things different, but now 95 percent of all the porno is the same. Lots of porn is just garbage nowadays, not necessarily the competency of what is shot, but the boring stuff that’s there. Porn has lost its flair, and has turned into a perverted law library, for God’s sake.

XBIZ: You’ll have to break that one down a bit for us.
POWERS: I mean the way that porn sites break up scenes and deal in little clips, like little law library citations. When we used to watch movies — real movies, like “Talk Dirty to Me, Part 3” — we’d always remember how and why Tom Byron got laid. We’d be in the room watching, in college, cheering with a group of friends. And the whole thing, the sex and the setting, all worked together.

XBIZ: All the people who’ve worked so hard to “mainstream” porn should offer their apologies to everyone now. It’s mainstream today, all right — and, by your measure, it’s boring, plus the buyers are staying away in droves. Is the thrill gone?
POWERS: A lot of it. It’s no longer frightening, no longer taboo. When you start seeing porn star T-shirts in the mall, you’ve taken the “dirty-ness” out of it. It’s been sanitized in a way. And the whole “star” thing is horrible, too.

XBIZ: And then you have the latest crap from Big Brother in Sacramento, with the “sin tax” stuff, and Bigger Brother in Washington, D.C., trying to put Max Hardcore in the slammer. Your take?
POWERS: Max is the Freddy Krueger of porn, so he’s an easy target. But forget the government, porn is going to destroy itself. We’re our own worst enemies. When I first came in it was different. The old guys with the New York accents, you know, the guys around in 1990, they’re all dead now. It just felt different, and it’s much more corporate today, especially the Internet companies. I can see the other side, and I know that money matters — hey, I have a degree in business, not film. But I’ll tell anyone who wants to know exactly who is destroying porn. I’ll name names, just call me up.

XBIZ: Certainly there are some bright spots, right?
POWERS: You know, I appreciate Jules Jordan, I like Evil Angel, I like any stuff that is still taking chances. But when you’re breaking scenes down by position for “net feeds” you’re turning this stuff into baseball stats, taking the soul out of it. Porno is not only in a recession as far as any creative juices, it has evolved into niche-driven, genre-driven, whatever-driven stuff. What can possibly seem new or daring? The “crazy” thing is over, the gangbang genre is over, the young thing is way over, and we are in that strange period where people don’t know what to do. I hope I can hold a light at the end of the tunnel.

XBIZ: Is DVD dead?
POWERS: VHS gets displaced by DVD, DVD gets displaced by downloads and so on. Short-term, though, Bluray will give everything a little burst. The quality bump will help, but for how long, I don’t know. Of course, there are always going to be people who want to hold a tangible product in their hands, too. And people still buy VHS tapes.

XBIZ: Anything new and exciting in the works?
POWERS: Right now, I have some things going on at JerkoffZone.com and MrFilth.com, and have been dealing with a few people, but I am looking for some web guru to come in and partner with me. I have a ton of content. That’s going to be one hell of a project, and it will be pretty amazing. I just need to meet the right people.

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