Despite his training at the staunchly conservative school, Avalon has over the past 20 years amassed an impressive resume of screen credits, directing for VCA, Cal Vista, New Sensations, Metro, Sin City and, most recently, Red Light District Films.
When Red Light District decided to launch its feature film division, owner David Joseph asked industry veterans, including Tim Connelly, to give him a short list of the best directors in the business. The move into feature films was a bold departure for the company, which had made its name as a dominating force in the gonzo arena, so Joseph said he needed a seasoned pro: Someone whose films would stand apart; someone capable of combining hardcore sex with stunning visuals and compelling storylines.
Naturally, James Avalon's name was on the list.
"I was very fortunate that everyone David talked to in the industry spoke very highly of me," Avalon told XBiz. After a few meetings, Joseph gave Avalon the green light to begin production on RLD Films' first-ever feature-length title, "Darkside." The rest, as they say, is history. RLD was so pleased with Avalon's work on "Darkside" that the company has handed him the creative reins for each of its subsequent releases, including "Sex Pix," "Bustful of Dollars," "Babes in Black," "She Bang!" and, most recently, "The State 'Ho."
XBiz had the opportunity to speak with Avalon after a long day of scouting locations for an upcoming RLD Films production.
XBIZ: There's a certain quality to the camera work in the movies you've done for RLD Films. Do you work with the same crew on all your movies in order to achieve that?
James Avalon: It's not always the same crew, but there are people I like to work with. Ernesto, who was director of photography on "Darkside," is a good example. He has a great eye and understands how film is composed. Richard Banks, the cameraman on "Bustful of Dollars" is another person I enjoy working with. I had discussed with him in detail the style I wanted, and he was able to capture it perfectly.
XBIZ: Is everything mapped out ahead of time, or do you give your cameramen free rein on the set?
JA: A little of both. All of the shots are blocked out, but someone like Richard gets into a rhythm, and you have to let that happen. I have a monitor on the set, and I'll sometimes whisper ideas to include certain angles, but I try not to talk too much while the cameras are rolling because [if I do] my voice will be all over the audio.
XBIZ: How about casting — what do you look for in performers?
JA: It depends on the project, really. Sometimes the acting outweighs the sexual performance, sometimes not. I had shot Penny Flame in a gonzo for Adam & Eve, and I had wanted to use her in a feature ever since. She's just fun to be around — she gets into all these voices and she has a sarcastic wit. I thought she would be perfect for "Darkside," and when I approached her, she jumped at it because she had never had the opportunity to do a feature before. I also like to use people like Manuel Ferrera — performers who can direct. During one scene in "Bustful of Dollars," I handed him a camera and told him to just go for it. When he got preoccupied, he handed me back the second camera and I picked up his POV.
XBIZ: Do you film different versions for DVD and cable?
JA: We don't shoot two different versions, no. The cable show is basically the same as the hardcore version, but it is, of course, edited differently. I like to keep about a third of a scene — about 15-20 minutes of film — as "set up and tease" anyway, so we should have some softcore footage to work with. Then again, the actors usually don't listen; they just get into the sex.
XBIZ: What can we expect from RLD Films this year?
JA: When I came to town after film school, I worked as an editor for the company that owns Adam Film World, and I learned you can't finish one issue than just start another. You have to plan months in advance. We just finished a movie, "She Bang!" starring Sunny Lane about an undercover cop, then we're filming one "The State 'Ho," about the mistress of a governor who decides to go public about the affair. I want to give fans a different look with each film. That's why I started with movies like "Darkside" and "Bustful of Dollars" — I like to move from sci-fi to comedy to something bizarre.