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Women in Charge

Erik Jay
So, honestly now, who was the first female adult film director? The question is of absolutely no interest to industry professionals. In fact, it doesn't seem to be of much interest to anyone, judging from the fact that "first female porn director" yields less than 200 hits at all when plugged into Google.

Change the terms of the question to "directors," however, and the names start popping up: Candida Royalle, Toni English, Annie Sprinkle, Britain's Anna Span. Still, the overwhelming majority of adult films today are helmed by men. It's not surprising, given the male dominance in ownership of adult entertainment companies.

Isn't the freewheeling, Bohemian, post-hipster world of adult film supposed to be egalitarian?

"I've been directing for six years, but for the first three years my name wasn't even on the box," says Diana DeVoe, one of the acknowledged veterans in the latest wave of lady directors. Her exclusive deal with The Candy Shop, the semi-autonomous "ethnic division" of Red Light District Video, keeps DeVoe very busy these days, leaving scant time to polish the awards she's won for her films.

Like almost every other adult film director with XX chromosomes, DeVoe started out acting but paid close attention to the entire process unfolding on the set.

"Now I do everything," she says. "I take the stills, set design, lighting, camera work, everything."

And that includes scripting, too. Having a communications degree from the University of Hawaii doesn't hurt in that department. DeVoe, smart and ambitious, wanted to climb the ladder in this profession, but there are other motivations that lead women to the adult film director's chair. A common refrain is that they want to bring a woman's perspective to the genre, something that pioneer Candida Royalle discussed not long ago with an Australian interviewer.

"When I direct my movies," Royalle says, "my main aim is to try to create [a] realistic scenario with real people, real stories, and also to give it a context. Why are these people here? Why are they going to make love together?"

Female directors commonly have this mind-set, born of their innate knowledge of what women want to see and experience in an adult film. Yet, some women make a purely artistic decision to pick up the camera.

"As a kid," recalls Holly Randall, "I loved fashion magazines and images of sexy women. I would paste their pictures all over my walls and try to draw them in my sketch journals. When I was 12, I took my first photography class, and boom! I was hooked for life. I knew instantly [that] this was what I wanted to do."

It may be no accident that Randall chose the adult medium. Her mother is Suze Randall, whom Wikipedia calls "one of the world's leading erotic photographers for more than 25 years."

But Randall is no underling or hanger-on with her mother's firm. At Suze.net, the portal that opens into the diverse online universe of the randy Randalls, the welcome message reads, "Suze Randall and Holly Randall bring you the world's best adult entertainment site." Their partnership extends from business and websites to producing and co-directing movies together. They're going to need a few new shelves in the family awards cabinet before long.

"I started working for my parents when I realized I wasn't happy at Brooks Institute [of Photography, in Santa Barbara]," Randall recounts. "They needed my help with the website, which was booming in the first few years."

She learned the ropes in all facets of the adult entertainment industry, but didn't work as an actress. She was too busy working toward a degree in world literature, which she received from UCLA in 2003.

Take-Charge Women
Having some famous friends in the business — strong, capable, entrepreneurial women — helped Randall, and she watched as a wave of take-charge females transformed the adult industry starting in the late 1990s.

"I didn't know Jenna Jameson very well," Randall says. "She was off doing her own thing when I started with my mom, but Danni [Ashe] was a close friend and someone I looked up to a lot."

The studious, methodical career advancements of DeVoe and Randall were not the only way to join the director's club. Hillary Scott, the latest incarnation of "Britney Rears" and famously unwitting target of MySpace censors (she's been bounced off the site three times, with no explanation), just started in the business in 2004. In those few short years she's racked up more than 200 film credits and, like DeVoe and Randall, more than a few awards.

"I've been putting my body to good use," Scott admits, "so I thought I'd put my brain to use, too."

The wispy blond is "structuring a new deal" right now to direct with an unnamed studio, the terms of which will have her helming at least one film a month.

"The cool thing about this business," says Scott, "is that the smaller budgets mean you have to learn the entire package. Girls come out of nowhere and say, 'Hey, I'm a director,' and they're not doing the work."

Scott is definitely "doing the work, selecting the talent, structuring the scenes, working with the shots," and she's serious about the business side, too. Like DeVoe and Randall, she felt that the outlook from the industry was skeptical at first, but that most companies are accepting the role of women directors."

Of course, that may not be anything but a cold, hard economic calculation. The women are bringing in the bucks pretty well.

"Women have that attention to detail," Scott opines, "and I know how to focus on the girls, pick the outfits that accentuate their beauty."

Learning Curve
She admits that she is still learning the technical aspects of the cameras but sees herself solidly in the classic Hollywood director's role, setting up the shots, setting up the talent, and communicating what she wants to the crew and the cameraman.

"I have a few reliable people I work with," Scott says, adding that she will continue to rely on them until she becomes "one with the camera."

With her work ethic, that day may not be far off. All three of these budding auteurs spoke of the joy, even the rush, of being in control.

"I like being able to shoot who I want, how I want to," states The Candy Shop's DeVoe. "I like being in control." Randall quickly cops to "being a bit of a control freak," too, but adds that she's "better at charming people, especially men, into getting what I want, whereas my mom often fights to get what she wants."

Things have changed significantly in the adult film industry, although Scott believes "we women still have to prove ourselves." To the trained eye, however, no member of this power trio has to prove that she has talent. Each one, interestingly, evinces a love for still photography.

Randall, of course, already is renowned in the field. DeVoe makes a point of taking "all the stills" for storyboards and on-set promotional use, and Scott vows she will ride off into the sunset at the end of her adult film acting and directing career to pursue her "love for still photography."

All of these talented women love the business, love what they do and love the camera. It only seems fair, doesn't it?

After all, the camera loves them, too.

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