While it may have been a challenge to get funding to create lesbian-oriented productions back in the early years, the current atmosphere is one of interest and even eagerness. Taking a page from acclaimed award-winning director Michael Ninn, who bases his philosophy on "artcore," some directors and producers in the lesbian adult entertainment community are embracing a product that is more art-centric than act-centric.
One such filmmaker who is committed to quality product is Dana Dane, founder of award-winning Dana Dane Productions. Since 2002, this highly respected film company has been delivering quality lesbian erotica under the name Erocktavision.
Dane began her career in music videos, moved into film and received numerous film festival awards for mainstream entertainment, but never got past the assistant director level. She believed that if she could catch the eye of people, she could make a name for herself — and did she ever.
Her latest accomplishment: winning the Independent Porn Pioneering Award for Lesbian Erotica in 2006 from the EMMA Awards. This award comes on the heels of other accolades, including Playboy's praise in 2004 that "Dane is the best new director/producer of sexual material this century" and Pulse Distribution's acclaim that "no one has ever captured the chemistry of women together as she has."
Dane attributes her success to the belief that the lesbian community needs and responds best to a voice that is neither political nor partisan.
"When I got to L.A. with my first adult movie, doors opened left and right because I was a woman making movies for women, and I took the politics out of it," Dane says. "At that time, men were making films from their point of view, and films being produced by women were a little too political in some ways. I am a lesbian, but without every single politic up my ass. I don't get trapped in a forum that thinks every film needs a butch and a femme. Sometimes it's nice to drop the politics and get into a fantasy. I understand there is politics in everything you do, but this is adult entertainment, and it's supposed to take you somewhere."
Julie DeRoot knows the politics of lesbian porn all too well. DeRoot hosts a weekly online column under the name Dutchy Van Dyke and is part of the creative team at HotMoviesForHer.com, a subsidiary of HotMovies.com.
"For a long time, there was an anti-pornography component in the lesbian community being driven by feminists," DeRoot says. "Now, we're getting away from that, especially with the younger audience who have access to better information about sex, gender as well as more freedom about not having to fit into one category."
In Dane's view, it's all about the erotic atmosphere in her films. She strives to show what lesbians together do in bed from a non-political sense. She focuses on showcasing beautiful women who have sex in a real, authentic lesbian way, as evidenced by her main star, Niki Clover. Here is an adult entertainment actor who has a sense of who she is and wears it well. She's not overexposed and doesn't do anything that is not right for her. Women respond to performances like that, Dane believes. And for this market, that is imperative.
"All the women we use in our pairings have been in female relationships off-screen," Dane says. "That comes across on-screen. When we do our castings, we have intense conversations and interviews. If the candidates are putting it out for gay for pay, they don't come close to what we want."
While Dane has seen an increase in more sophisticated and artistic content in lesbian porn, she would like to see much more. She would like to see more people stepping up to the plate to support this niche market.
"I've been frustrated along the way in my career," Dane says. "This is a new generation of adult entertainment, and it demands a new look at porn, not just the same old formula. Yes, we're in a billion-dollar industry, but how about the art of it? How about the need for exciting and pioneering product?"
Dane believes excitement and art can be found in adding music, showcasing intimacy and making it real.
"The chemistry has to be there, but realism is very important," Dane says. "I think crap is driving the marketplace, and I want to change that. Movies can be elevated to another level, especially in the lesbian community, because they demand better content.
Erocktavision strives for excellence through choice of locations, storyline and talent. Its movies offer fantastical stories and target not just the lesbian market but couples, and a very cool, hip young male market. Like its film offerings, the company's marketing strategy focuses on the art and not the ad.
"I won't splash women spread eagle on my covers," Dane says. "Our box covers have to look like a piece of art. Our marketing strategy is all about reaching out and touching. It tells a bit about the story and not just that there's sucking and fucking."
Dane believes success can be achieved by professionals who stay true to their vision and heart, not just those who try to pump out product. Does that mean that this needs to be a female-dominated sector, or can quality product be produced by men?
"Ours is not necessarily a female-dominated market," Dane says.
"Michael Ninn is a perfect example. I look at his work and others like him. I enjoy it but take my own style and add to it. I bring something extra to the lesbian side that they don't have, but I have nothing but respect for them."
In part two, we'll look at changes in profession, the younger segment and beyond.