New Horizons

Erik Jay
Director Will Rider gets a kick out of being a leading-edge kind of guy in a "hands on" way, the sort who keeps up on all the latest filmmaking gear and other new technology by actually using it — not by being a tech-talking geek. Along with plenty of other folks, geeks and otherwise, Rider waved goodbye to the "analog" past: Hustler Video's creative director Drew Rosenfeld said that the "Britney Rears 3," a Rider-directed flick, was the "very last Hustler movie on VHS."

"VHS is toast," Rider commented. "We're thrilled that [Hustler Video] chose 'Britney Rears 3' to be the final nail in the coffin."

Rider won't miss VHS, and he absolutely loves DVD "because we can cram so much extra footage on it," a total of eight hours in the "Britney Rears 3" package that includes two discs with extra features and a full-length copy of "Britney Rears 1." Rider admits he shudders at what all that material would look like "crammed onto a single VHS tape." Drawing on his state-of-the-art high-tech vocabulary, he remarks, "It would look like shit."

Rider came to the porn business after 15 years in the music industry, first as a musician and "later working in the management end of the game," he recalls. A proficient keyboard player, Rider worked in the studio and toured with such pop and R&B artists as Alexander O'Neal, MC Hammer and the Backstreet Boys. He still considers himself a musician, of course, but today he marches to the beat of different drummers as he follows the tempo of his media relations and production firms, All Media Play and X-Play, respectively.

XBIZ caught up with the notoriously hard-to-pin-down Rider.

XBIZ: What was your particular path into the adult business world and, following that, your learning curve?

WILL RIDER: When the music business went to hell in the late 1990s, I decided to take a break and get into some other line of work — and the only two things that I could truly enjoy as a profession were music and naked women. Now, I had no idea how to make money from women short of being a pimp, which I probably wouldn't be any good at. A very good friend hooked me up with New Sensations/Digital Sin and I had a marvelous run with Scott Taylor, the owner, and learned the business from a guy who is one of the great minds and great people in the adult industry.

XBIZ: What is you camera of choice, and why?

RIDER: We have been shooting all of our content with the Panasonic DVX100A, which is the 24P standard definition camera. We love its softer look and brilliant colors, and after shooting dozens of movies I feel as if the camera is a part of my body. I just feel very comfortable being on set with the Panasonic.

XBIZ: How do you get the look you want? What makes an X-Play film special?

RIDER: First off, we take lighting very seriously. I see all kinds of directors who barely light their sets, but that doesn't work for us. We put a lot of money in each budget to get the lighting up to our standards. We own a number of lights but always get a grip truck so that we have everything we need. One pet peeve of mine is directors who shoot sex where the pussy and crotch areas are dark. I know that shadows are a natural part of life, but my rule is "no shadows in our movies," period. I don't want a shadow covering a beautiful girl's pussy. I'm not a lighting expert, but I know what I like to see. When you are shooting a "Barely Legal," the important thing is to be able to have it bright and cheery, with pussy in all its full-lit glory.

XBIZ: Are you a "Hollywood" or "Valley" director? Do you hand the camera off, point and say, "Action!" or frame and shoot scenes yourself?

RIDER: I have never handed off the camera to a shooter, ever. We really felt it was important to establish a look and style, and I shoot sex scenes the way I would like to watch them. We have really grown as a production company, and I can only shoot a certain number of scenes per day, so we hired a second cameraman. I know what I want to see and I don't compromise to get it — and our second cameraman has watched our library of movies so it's his job to match me in style and composition.

XBIZ: What do you make of the "standard DV vs. high-def" debate in filmmaking?

RIDER: I don't have to be a big-time tech guy to know what I like to see, and so far I am not falling in love with HD. We are buying a couple of Panasonic HD cameras but I am really not sure where we'll be when the HD trail is eventually blazed.

XBIZ: What is your relationship to the studios and the distributors?

RIDER: We have been with Larry Flynt for three years and are the No.1 producer of adult movies for him. That is something I am very proud of, considering that Larry Flynt is one of the single most important individuals in the adult business. I am also excited about our new deal with Adam & Eve, a joint-release arrangement that will allow us to shoot our signature product and put titles into their incredible distribution system. I owe a great deal of our success to our relationships with Drew Rosenfeld and Jeff Hawkins at Hustler, and with Peter Reynolds and Bob Christian at Adam & Eve. Although X-Play does not yet produce for Bo Kenney and Sex Z Pictures, our other company, All Media Play, handles their media and marketing, and X-Play may be shooting titles for them in the future. Sex Z Pictures really hit the big time this year when "Corruption" won big at the [AVN] awards. It's yet another great company that we are very proud to be a part of.

XBIZ: What about the future? DVD sales are down, down, down and downloading is up, up, up. How will the business model change?

RIDER: Luckily, we are the top-selling producing/directing team for Hustler/VCA Pictures, and our co-shared titles sell insane amounts of DVDs, so we still have a lot of gas left in the tank. We understand where the future is, but until payouts from broadcast and Internet are better for the quality product that we and others produce, there will still be two business models in the adult world. Soon, of course, there will be just one.

XBIZ: Are you part of the movement to mainstream porn or are you happy with the counterculture nature of it? And what's in the future for you?

RIDER: There will always be barriers to the mainstreaming of porn even though everybody thinks it is going that way. I don't. Americans jerk off all over their houses and autos, yet they really don't want to admit it. As far as the future, well, the truth is that not many people can or will spend the time it takes to create and market something like "Britney Rears" or our other specialty lines. Maybe we're not so smart to spend such long hours on our material, and it wouldn't be cost effective for others to emulate our way. But we are quite nuts, and that has turned out to be a very good thing for us, actually.