Working the Asian Market: 2

John Scura
In part one, we looked at cultural differences and the Asian market. In this conclusion, we'll look at legal problems over shooting in Asia as well as the issue of age verification:

Adult Producers Jailed
"In Japan," Goldfisher says, "a couple of people have been jailed for very long periods of time because the Japanese government takes this very seriously. There have been a couple of arrests in Thailand, too. And for people like T.T. Boy, there are certain territories that said he'd be arrested if he ever came back. Each country poses a different dynamic, and we've been lucky to find very helpful and dependable contacts. But there are always legal issues in Asia, and usually it's about dealing with the government's views on what we're doing. In Thailand, if you're caught shooting without proper authorization, it's a very hefty punishment. Japan has its own difficulties, but our company does it right, so rather than sneaking around, we spend more money to do it the right way. In those countries, these expenses are considered just 'fees' and are acceptable, but to Americans, it would seem like bribery. It's just what they charge to protect our representatives while they're in those countries."

Not all the Asian countries are as expensive as Japan for production. Third World Media shot much of its "Asian Eyes" series in Thailand, which is not too expensive but not extremely cheap, either. It plans to shoot in the Philippines soon, which Goldfisher says will be cheaper than Thailand but logistically more difficult.

"The only real bargain for shooting overseas today is South America," he adds.

So with all the headaches, dangers and additional expenses, why do companies continue to shoot in Asia?

Easy: They're still making a nice profit. Witness Third World Media, whose top-selling movies are those shot in Japan. It has adopted a philosophy of spending more to make more, simply because the demand for "authentic" Asian product is so solid. And "authentic" is the key word here.

"True Japanese girls are very different from Japanese girls who live in America," Goldfisher points out. "The Americanized girls have a more aggressive nature. Authentic Asian girls are very submissive, very shy, appearing as though they're embarrassed on camera. Our customer base knows the difference. It's truly the basis of the appeal for buyers. It's a niche product, and it makes us a king in the niche market."

Chang agrees, saying that the "authentic" Japanese "look" is very different from the Asian-American "look."

"They look very innocent and naïve," he adds. "The Asian-American models look like they've done this for a while. The Japanese girls don't look professional. I'm always surprised to learn they've been doing movies for up to three years already."

Pure Media Play CEO Richard Arnold believes there's an additional aspect to Asian-produced movies that makes them especially attractive to buyers — exotic locations. In keeping with the popular new trend in adult entertainment of mixing sexual content with a travelogue motif, his company's popular releases such as "Asian Bootleg," "Teen Philippines" and "Babes in Thailand" all take advantage of the beautiful local scenery.

"We don't just shoot in a hotel room," Arnold says. "Our product gives you the flavor of the different lands. So we market it as an authentic Asian product in our ads and press releases. There's quite a strong following now for Asian females, and we're offering totally new faces, which is always a key point."

Pure Media Play recently cut a deal with Mr. X Productions to distribute that company's product shot in Asia under a split-revenue arrangement. The man behind Mr. X is Peter Frost, a former surfer who traveled the world in search of that perfect wave and found a new career along the way as a producer-director.

"During the down time from his surfing exploits, he spent some time with the local women and started shooting them," Arnold says. "Now he is completely and totally in charge of production overseas. We try to handle the sales and marketing end of it over here, and we let our producer produce. We make our decisions based on what he's produced and do things like make sure the models' 2257s are in proper order."

Age Verification
The issue of 2257s and of proper age verification is another potential pitfall in Asia. Aside from the fact that many of the Asian girls look underage, the systems of identification in Asian nations vary widely from the very strict to the very … well, undependable. U.S.-based production companies have to be extremely proactive in this area because the risks are enormous.

"We're acutely aware that some Asian countries are not as stringent about age verification and underage girls," Arnold says, "so we're very careful. Not only is the producer checking identification, Pure Play is also checking. And one thing we will not put up with is any kind of dressing-down where the models are made to look younger. Even if they just appear too young, we won't handle it. Unfortunately, it's a bit of a judgment call at times, but we don't want to stretch any boundaries in this area."

Third World Media and Amorz Entertainment are equally energetic about verifying age. In Japan, this is handled by those same model agencies that control the industry, so producers are getting at least something for their additional fees.

In places such as Thailand, where passports are rare, alternate documents such as birth certificates or government-issued ID cards must be used. The bottom line is that the producers of Asian content have made age verification a vital part of their program because they've already gone through too many hoops of fire in getting at that pot of gold in this niche.

"Because it's so difficult and expensive to get these models, it's worth all the trouble and the money," Chang says. "It's something new and fresh for the American market. Sure, our job would be much easier if we could shoot here in the United States, but the models won't come here. But if it wasn't paying off, believe me, we wouldn't do it."

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