What would motivate a savvy adult pro to start a new video production company in the middle of a declining market; tough economic times and millions of free porn scenes just waiting to be downloaded?
Well, for Mike Kulich, owner and CEO of Assence Films, it was a simple decision — bridge the gap between Internet producers and DVD studios.
In terms of the DVD market, I don’t see technology really changing that section of the industry. I think there will always be a DVD market in adult.
Add the market reach of Monarchy Distribution — Assence’s parent company — and partnering with hot distributor Exile Distribution — and what you have is a troika of experience that spells likely success.
Kulich is a veteran who has held positions in a variety of adult disciplines, which affords him the ability to know how each segment of the business works and how to best apply effective strategies.
“I started my career in adult doing sales for IVD/ECN under the guidance of Mike Savage. After three years I decided to try my hand at the novelty industry and took the sales manager position for Manufacture Direct, which is the parent company of Cockstar Male Enhancement. I stayed with Cockstar for about a year and then decided I wanted to go back and do something with video,” Kulich recalls.
What he decided to do was help start DVD Makers, one of the premier DVD replication companies in the adult industry. And his time at the replication firm was well spent. The day-to-day experience in all areas of the company made Kulich realize that there was more opportunity in the field.
Two years ago, Monarchy Distribution was founded, and Kulich began his journey into the world of video.
While at Monarchy, Kulich was able to develop and massage the contacts that are so critical in the small, sometimes incestuous adult DVD industry. The executive says that the day-to-day interaction with both Internet studios and content providers provided the opportunity to build successful DVD lines for his clients.
Fast forward to 2012, when Kulich decided to join forces with another porn veteran, Howard Levine, and his burgeoning distribution company, Exile Distribution. “I’d decided to go with Howard because he is without a doubt the best salesperson in the business with more than 25 years of experience. Much of that time he helped build one company [Vivid Entertainment] into the biggest sales machine on the planet. I like the way he treats his vendors, he is very particular about what companies he takes on, so he can maximize the sales for each one,” Kulich says.
And the feeling is mutual. Levine recently told XBIZ, “Exile is very particular on who we sign with, and when we saw their product, we knew it would be a perfect fit.”
Armed with solid leadership and a mantra that puts forth its goal to connect Internet product with traditional DVD distribution, Kulich’s new Assence Films knows it needs more to allow it to play — and succeed — in a market with long-time players who have exhausted nearly every niche and marketing strategy imaginable.
Kulich maintains that what makes his company different from other producers is its extensive library — and its ability to react quickly to market demands.
“Because we are contracted with so many producers, we receive more than 100 new scenes every week, and we can release titles from genres that are in demand. For instance, if a distributor came to me and says ‘I need a Cuckold Line,’ I could put out a DVD within a week for them and brand it however the distributor wants, and fill that need for a specific type of product,” he says.
Right now, Assence’s release schedule includes four titles per month that are distributed exclusively by Levine’s Exile. The studio’s debut film, “Anal Artists,” billed as featuring one of Sasha Grey’s final scenes, hit the streets in February. Although Kulich admits that Grey has been out of the spotlight for a couple of years, he felt her popularity continues to be strong, and he says the demand for the title was “overwhelming.”
Other titles due are “The Office Assistant” starring Mya Diamond and Claudia Rossi, “Double Teamed Double Creamed” starring Sabrina Rose and Sasha Knox, and “The Fuck-Book Diaries” starring Amber Rayne and Ashley Jordan.
The Grey film was also helped with some clever mainstream marketing by Assence after Grey’s flap last November when she caused a public outrage after reading to Los Angeles grade school kids in their classroom.
In support of Grey’s efforts to expose children to the world of literature, Assence said it would be donating a portion of the film’s proceeds to the National Education Association’s “Read Across America” program.
But early in February, the teachers’ organization refused the donation, and denied any association with Grey. But despite the re-buff, Assence made its mark along with a controversial publicity firestorm.
Assence issued a statement of its own the following day saying, “We are extremely disappointed in the National Education Association’s decision to reject much-needed donations from a legitimate taxpaying company, especially in a time where funding for education has been cut by almost $1 billion in California alone.
“We here at Assence Films are very proud of our product, but we don’t want kids exposed to it. We do, however, want them exposed to literature.
It is not our place to figure out how to fix education, but why can’t we help?”
The buzz continued with comments from Grey herself, and responses from Assence that kept the PR machine rolling on a number of mainstream media outlets.
Once again, Kulich’s plan to have his company be quick on its feet was put into action and it paid off in industry and mainstream recognition for the new studio — a move right in line with Kulich’s plan to bolster the company’s branding.
Kulich’s goal is to make Assence “a household name” for consumers, and he says the importance of proper branding cannot be overemphasized. Branding is very important for us. “We want Monarchy to be a go-to company for adult producers. We have hired Galaxy Publicity and James Bartholet to help us get our name out there,” he says.
A big part of that strategy will be to live up to the reputation the company is setting for itself. Kulich maintains that as the company progresses from title to title, it needs to always set the bar higher.
And in today’s competitive market that usually means staying ahead of the curve with new technology, but Kulich has a different approach and instead is focusing on better content.
He says, “I have seen a few technology trends come and go. I remember when HD first came out a lot of the studios were excited and eventually Blu-ray beat out HD. Blu-ray has become a norm for the mainstream but it never really took off in adult. In terms of the DVD market, I don’t see technology really changing that section of the industry. I think there will always be a DVD market in adult. It is up to the companies though to shoot product that is in demand.”
Although most new studios look at their immediate competition as benchmarks for their plans, Assence is instead concentrating on how to grab more retail shelf space. He wants customers to be satisfied when laying down their $20–30 for an Assence film.
Kulich believes that there are a lot of great companies in the market and there’s only one way to compete: “We have to make sure we produce a product that will stand out.”