Each month, industry news media organization XBIZ spotlights the career accomplishments and outstanding contributions of Women in Adult. WIA profiles offer an intimate look at the professional lives of the industry's most influential female executives.
Jacky St. James parlayed her background in marketing and passion for writing into a full-time position at New Sensations this year. Now the relative newcomer to the adult industry plays a key role in bringing the critically acclaimed Romance Series to life. She wrote the screenplays for two 2012 XBIZ Award-nominated titles, “Dear Abby” and “Love is a Dangerous Game,” and she has other scripts in development.
I always build my story around the characters and not the characters around the story. To me, the characters always make or break the story.
St. James, a former aspiring mainstream actress, has also become the point person in New Sensations’ marketing and PR department in addition to now starting to direct a soon-to-debut vignette series.
In this exclusive interview, St. James reveals how XBIZ Award-nominated director Eddie Powell helped guide her entry into porn, the complexities of writing and the contest that changed her life.
XBIZ: Where are you originally from — born and raised?
JSJ: I was raised in northern Virginia, in the political outskirts of Washington, D.C. It was white, it was conservative, and an insane amount of value was put on personal image. It felt like I was being molded for a career in politics from the day I was born. I went to church every week, attended theatrical performances at the Kennedy Center, and never got less than a B on my report card.
I can remember talking about the S.A.T.s when I was in 4th grade and being prepped for them in 7th grade. Life was about being accepted into a great college, getting a job my folks could be proud of, and eventually marrying a doctor or a lawyer. I went to a great college, but the rest just wasn’t meant to be. My parents never dreamed that their by-the-book, rule-following daughter would wind up working in pornography. It’s been an ongoing struggle for them to accept my lifestyle, but I can’t blame them. They value things that I don’t. They color between the lines…and I’m not a “color between the lines” kinda girl.
XBIZ: What is your professional background?
JSJ: I’ve done it all from working as an actress (a stupid dream I’m glad I woke from) to online advertising (in which I have over 13 years of experience). I love marketing and it can really make or break the success of nearly everything. You’ll seldom see a successful company or a successful person without a great marketing team or strategy behind them… and that’s why I’m so passionate about it. Marketing is strategy… and I love strategizing!
When I reflect on my background and my life, it’s uncanny how the things I’ve had a hand in (marketing, writing, acting even) have helped to shape my porn career. I love knowing that life really does work out just as it should. I suppose there is comfort in knowing that every decision we make, every choice… is ultimately preparing us to live our best life. Wow… I sound like a really bad episode of ‘Oprah’ … but it’s true.
XBIZ: How did you get your start in adult?
JSJ: I’ve been an avid viewer of pornography since I was in college (back in the 90’s when it actually required EFFORT to watch it). As I got older, and porn was more accessible, my male friends and I would exchange links to porn clips we found interesting, amusing, disgusting, hilarious, or impressive. Back in May 2010, my friend (a Director of Photography in mainstream television) sent me a clip from The Romance Series called, “The Wedding Day.”
He had been blown away by the all-around quality of the scene and was shocked that there were adult films on the market that were produced to such a high standard. As a lover of gonzo nearly my entire adult life, I began discovering what was so wonderful about couple’s porn and I started researching everything I could about The Romance Series. Months later I realized that the company (New Sensations) was doing a writing contest for the series.
Writing had always been a huge passion of mine, but like acting, was something I didn’t feel I could make a living doing. Regardless, I knew I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t submit a script for the contest. So, I reached out to Eddie Powell, who at the time I didn’t know. Because he had directed films for New Sensations (including my favorite film of The Romance Series “Almost Heaven”). I was confident he’d be the most appropriate person to give me some pointers. Fortunately, he was both incredibly receptive and helpful to me and I can safely say without his guidance I’m not sure I’d have the career I do today.
After a few conversations with Eddie, I sat down and wrote “Dear Abby” in about three days. I sent off the script to New Sensations and a few weeks later got a phone call saying the script had been green lit and would be produced within the month. I still get chills remembering that day. That was one of the happiest days of my life.
XBIZ: What are your job duties at New Sensations/Digital Sin?
JSJ: I do a little bit of everything for New Sensations from writing to directing to marketing to public relations. You could say I'm a floater, but most of my emphasis is in marketing.
XBIZ: When did you start writing professionally and how did it come about?
JSJ: I have been writing nearly my entire life, everything from smut to blogs to poetry to fan fiction. Writing has always come easy to me… and it is something I’ve loved from a young age. My first professional writing gig was for an online publication for gay men about six years ago. It was a creative challenge… because I was writing outside of my own personal demographic. Regardless, it was incredibly fun!
However, nothing is nearly as rewarding as the work I’ve done for New Sensations. Writing for The Romance Series has given me the opportunity to explore my softer, more romantic side… and as a woman who has so often kept my emotions at an arm’s length, writing romance features really has changed me (for the better).
XBIZ: How would you describe your writing process?
JSJ: My process is somewhat similar each time around, although I do tend to be pretty flexible within that process. It begins with finding music that inspires me. I do this by listening to Pandora, going onto message boards, Googling song lyrics I heard in a favorite TV show — whatever speaks to me. Then, after downloading the songs to my Ipod, I’ll then go for a long walk (sometimes up to 6 miles) and just let my mind run free. I walk everywhere — through the hills, down busy streets, in my neighborhood, even in shopping malls. During these walks the inception of my lead characters happens and the story builds from there.
I always build my story around the characters and not the characters around the story. To me, the characters always make or break the story. How the characters react, respond, feel, emote… that’s far more interesting than the situation they find themselves in. Once I have the characters and the story loosely flushed out in my mind… I then sit down and begin to write. If my brainstorming has been thorough enough, then I can write the first draft of a script in about eight hours.
XBIZ: How long does it usually take you to write a screenplay?
JSJ: Some take anywhere from several hours (for a first draft) to weeks on end. It really depends on how passionate I am about the story. The less passionate I am, the longer it takes. I’ve labored over scripts for months even. In fact, one of my most recent scripts I had over 11 different drafts for. Finally I said to myself, ‘This just isn’t working. I don’t feel compelled enough to tell this story,’ and I scrapped the idea. Maybe one day, I’ll come back to it. Or, it will just sit in a pile of all my unfinished stories…waiting to be told.
XBIZ: What have you learned about creating interesting characters?
JSJ: My characters are always loosely based on people I have known during my life. It’s always better to write what you know and about who you’ve known. I love to listen to people talk, to ask them questions, to hear their story. I’ve realized that if you take the time to get to know someone, you’ll realize that there is absolutely no such thing as a ‘boring person.’ There also is no such thing as a one-dimensional person. Nobody in this world is all good or all bad. Nobody. This is what makes people interesting to me.
I have hundreds and thousands of stories and characters in my head of people I’ve met and talked to during my life. What makes people interesting is their inner conflicts, their challenges, their dichotomies. When you create a character, I’ve learned to never write a caricature. At the end of the day, an individual is more than the person they choose to show the world… they are filled with a wealth of complexity that most will never even see. This complexity is what informs every decision and choice they make… and THAT is what I find interesting. That is what MAKES them interesting.
XBIZ: Which Romance movies have you written so far and do you have any favorites?
JSJ: To date, my films include “Dear Abby,” “Love is a Dangerous Game,” and the soon-to-be released, “The Friend Zone.” I've written far more Romance scripts than I've had produced (most are waiting to be filmed at this point). Without question my favorite script to date is, “The Friend Zone.” The leading man in the story, played by Anthony Rosano, is a bit of an underdog… and I have always been an absolute sucker for the underdog. I like rooting for whoever has the most odds against them… it makes for a more exciting ending if they happen to prevail.
“The Friend Zone” is about a nice guy who can’t get past the “friend zone” with his best female friend. He’s the ultimate good guy. In a world where so many scripts center around assholes with hearts of gold, I wanted to write a script where the NICE GUY isn’t the sidekick or supporting character. Nice guys really can be the romantic ideal. Perpetuating this idea that bad guys are more appealing as romantic heroes is absolutely ridiculous to me and I’m going to explore more of that in my writing. Besides, in real life, bad guys are insanely predictable… it’s the good ones that can really surprise you.
XBIZ: What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
JSJ: I’m not a fan of putting more worth on one accomplishment than another because I’m honestly proud of all my accomplishments. I suppose I could say that penning “Dear Abby” and getting it produced was a major accomplishment. That script and experience changed my entire life. It put me onto a new career path and ultimately allowed me to know what it feels like to absolutely love my job and the people I work with.
I also consider my XBIZ and AVN nominations major accomplishments as well. Obviously, everything is subjective and there were talented people who weren’t recognized at this year’s nominations, but knowing that my writing spoke to enough people to warrant a nomination has been so meaningful to me. I want to reach people… to touch people… to make them think… to provide something new and different... and the nominations help validate that. Recognition is not a necessity in my personal happiness, but it certainly is an added bonus. So thank you to both XBIZ and AVN for that… I was beyond thrilled to learn of my nominations.
XBIZ: What’s next for you, what projects are coming up in 2012?
JSJ: New Sensations has given me so many opportunities and I couldn’t be more grateful or appreciative. Currently, I’m directing a vignette series for New Sensations that I also had the luxury of writing (Scott Taylor came up with the concept and then let me fly with it). Directing my own project has been a dream come true and I’m excited for its release in January 2012. I’m also currently in the creative stages for writing another major feature for New Sensations and will continue to write for The Romance Series. Anything is within the realm of possibility… and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
It’s kind of surreal talking about all this. It is like living a dream…