James Avalon brings almost 25 years of adult industry experience into his newest endeavor as the head of Mile High Media’s feature studios Sweet Sinner and Sweet Sinema.
The accomplished director, cinematographer, writer and editor began shooting “Exchange Student Vol. 3,” his first title for Sweet Sinner, at press time in late November with a second movie — “Naughty Neighbors Vol. 3” — set to wrap in early December.
I think you’ve got to know your audience and how you’re going to market it before you even go into it. I think just as many people are still watching. It’s just how they’re watching and how they’re getting it has changed.
Avalon became the obvious choice to lead the studios when producer/director Nica Noelle announced in October she was leaving her post to pursue a new venture. He had already been working closely with Noelle as a videographer and editor on several recent Sweet Sinner and Sweet Sinema titles, some of which have yet to be released.
“Now that I’ve taken over we’re going to start putting a distinct look on them and we’re going to start shooting them with the [Canon 5D video camera],” Avalon told XBIZ. “And also the stories are going to open up a little more too. I’m going to open them up so that things happen in different places.”
Avalon said he intends to bring an element of unpredictability to his storylines.
“I want to flip it instead of just using stock characters,” he explained. “If the student comes in after class and the teacher is chewing her out for a bad grade, you know a sex scene is going to happen. So I don’t want that. I want things to be set up where you don’t know if a sex scene is imminent.”
Avalon pointed to “Naughty Neighbors 3” as a prime example of his vision.
“That’s the one where I’ve really changed up the story. It’s still in the same vein but what I’m trying to do is bring in characters that already have baggage from the past,” he said. “So it’s not just the stock character, the family moving in next door and then there’s the wife swapping. That’s what it’s about, but it’s more than that. There’s a deeper layer. There’s a dark past.
“That’s part of television melodrama, which is what I want. The other thing is trying to create characters instead of creating self-contained features. But it’s like the characters live in a larger space so at the end of the movie people have changes throughout that we see. And then in the sequel those changes will go into effect.”
Avalon continued, “If someone has an affair and the wife finds out, there are repercussions to it. They don’t just kiss and make up at the end of the movie, so maybe in Part 2, the husband and wife are now having a divorce fight, for example, and the lawyer comes in and messes things up — something like that. That’s what’s intriguing about shooting series to me, and that’s developing characters and continuing with them.”
While Avalon wrote “Naughty Neighbors 3” and “Exchange Student 3,” he said he’ll be working with Mile High’s in-house writer on other lines while he edits and returns to the set.
In a time in the porn business when steady gigs are hard to come by, Avalon’s versatility has kept him in demand. He has numerous directing credits in the past two years for studios such as New Sensations, Penthouse and Adam & Eve, which will release his most recent effort this month, “Tango to Romance.”
That movie stars Andy San Dimas, Marco Rivera, Alexis Ford, Jessie Andrews and Vicki Chase — a diverse cast that he praised for its acting. For “Exchange Student 3,” he hired Lily LaBeau, Evan Stone , Xander Corvus and Julia Ann.
“A lot of the people we use, I’ve known them for a long time — they’re my friends,” Avalon said. “… I booked Julia Ann, and she’s always fun to hang out with. So a lot of is…you do a good job, you shoot a scene where the sex comes out well, you just feel good about it. And then the same thing with writing.”
Earlier this year Avalon helmed “A Little Part of Me” for New Sensations’ Romance imprint, a film in which he earned a nomination for Director of the Year – Individual Project as well as Feature Movie of the Year for the 2012 XBIZ Awards on Jan. 10 in L.A.
“I like writing. And I like making the movies,” he said. “I think the ideal scenario for me is to write, shoot, direct and edit because I still like editing.”
Avalon, whose first directorial credit was “The Lust Detector” in 1986, learned how to edit while attending film school at Brigham Young University. Born in Utah and raised in the Mormon community of Laie, Hawaii, near the North Shore, Avalon also spent some teenage years in southern Oregon, where he graduated from high school.
“Then I went on a Mormon mission and I lived a couple years in France and when I got back I went to BYU film school and studied there,” Avalon recalled. “And then I decided that making religious propaganda was not my route. That’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to make Mormon movies, there were a few guys out there doing it at the time. You’d be surprised — the ‘Twilight’ series was written by a Mormon girl. It’s all subtle Mormon stuff that she worked into it.”
His reputation for creating compelling characters and the polished look to his productions has helped him achieve the type of longevity that only a select group of shooters have enjoyed. Avalon has also shown the ability to smoothly switch gears with his filmmaking, with credits ranging from dozens of romantic comedies to thrillers such as “Les Vampyres 1 & 2” (Metro, 2000–01) and his sports-inspired “Roller Dollz” for Zero Tolerance/Adam & Eve in 2008. He has directed more than 80 movies during his career and handled the cinematography and editing for scores of others.
“There was the Golden Age where you could shoot just about anything and make money off it,” Avalon said. “Now you have to know where you’re going to market it. I think in some ways the business grew up and that’s what weeded out a lot people that weren’t doing it right.
“I think you’ve got to know your audience and how you’re going to market it before you even go into it. I think just as many people are still watching. It’s just how they’re watching and how they’re getting it has changed.”
In addition to continuing some of the most popular Sweet Sinner series, Avalon also said Mile High Media is considering doing “one big movie a year as kind of a showcase movie.”
Avalon is also considering adapting some cinematic classics for the blue screen as he enters the next stage of his stellar adult film career.