opinion

Postcard from Porn Week

Gram Ponante
Porn Week Vacations was established in 2000 to offset the cost of filming porn movies, and has become an international brand with several revenue streams.

"We knew that fans wanted to see porn being shot, and that they'd probably pay for it, but we didn't want 30 guys hanging around," said founder Dave West, a Chicago native who began his career in direct marketing before capitalizing on Internet porn. "So we kept the guest list small and invited the right girls."

Porn Week will attach itself to one or several movies being shot in a given area and open the doors to fans, each of whom has paid upwards of $2150 for the privilege. Since the company's first outing in the Dominican Republic in 2000 (with a stable of willing porn stars that included Belladonna), Porn Week has traveled to the U.K., Prague, the Czech Republic, and has regular stops in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

"We tell the guests what's expected of them so that everyone knows the rules," said director Gazzman, production manager of London's Harmony Films, who partnered with West in 2004. "But the environment is light enough so that lines don't get crossed."

That is not to say that guests only watch. If the right guest has been tested and if he (or she) is willing to step in front of the camera, he might be part of the action on film. But most guests are happy watching.

"People ask if we're being laid all the time, but it's not like that," said former Porn Week guest and current production assistant Big Bad Dave. Big Bad Dave (not to be confused with West) was learning how to white balance a camera he had trained on Nikki Jayne, a stunning Manchester native in the United States on her first porn jaunt. "But we definitely try to find the women who are not only comfortable in front of the camera but also with a party full of fans."

Guests must fend for themselves with hotels and transportation, but they attend parties with the performers, which are then filmed for XXX Porn Parties, a regular pay per view event. In addition, the guests are encouraged to bring cameras themselves.

As an executive at Harmony and a partner in Porn Week, Gazzman has a built-in party destination. Born in Scotland, Gazzman worked for several years directing television in the U.K. and then began what he calls his "porn apprenticeship" filming BBC documentaries about porn.

"I followed porn directors around for four years, thinking I knew what to do and what not to do in a porn film," he said. "But I ended up making some of the same mistakes."

Gazzman praises writing partner Victoria Stuart, herself a documentarian, who writes porn scripts keeping in mind "that you've got to write them like interchangeable dolly heads, because some of the dollies don't show up."

Still, Gazzman's first porn film was the big-budget ($100k) The Scottish Loveknot for Private, which won AVN's Best Foreign Feature award. He has since become known for what in the United States are called "high-end gonzos" but what he refers to as "professional low budget features." This translates to porn with good lighting design, attractive international locations, and leggy Euro models.

What is low budget for Gazzman is actually about twice as expensive as a standard U.S. gonzo, but Gazzman tends to shoot at rental castles by the banks of Loch Ness rather than Encino.

I always feel a little awkward when attending a porn shoot if the cast is unprepared for guests not involved with the production. I asked West if there was a learning curve since 2000 with regard to fostering a good dynamic between the cast and Porn Week guests.

"All of our performers tend to be very friendly," he said, pointing out that Porn Week regular Poppy Morgan has become a face of the show, "but we definitely have to get the right mix of people. In the early days we did get a lot of the performers saying 'What are these guys doing here?'"

At a recent party in downtown L.A. at Eli Cross' and Kylie Ireland's Fallout Shelter studios, it seemed the blend of vacation revelry and porn filming had reached a balance. Guests (who asked not to be filmed) milled around an open bar or just outside as a group of women including Poppy Morgan, newcomer Katie K., Nikki Jayne, Gwen Diamond, and others cavorted in hanging cages, on prop beds, or "Star 80"-style bondage chairs for a scene from Gazzman's "Slam It In" series.

The big event of the evening was the U.S. debut of Nikki Jayne who, after disrobing spectacularly, delivered a blowjob to performer Oliver Sanchez, who was posing as a photographer and pretended, at least for a few seconds, that the stunt wasn't staged.

Jayne walked into Harmony's booth at Birmingham's ETO adult trade show on July 22 saying she wanted to do porn. "We had her on a plane to (a Czech Republic Porn Week event in) Brno the next Wednesday," Gazzman said.

Jayne is tall and blonde and looks like a California girl save for her charming accent. Porn Week does not have contract girls (though Poppy Morgan has come to be associated with the company) but a special effort was made to introduce Jayne through Porn Week, and it has been successful; Jayne has already met with Digital Playground and Vivid, she said.

Digital Playground's Samantha Lewis reminded Jayne that the company already had a "Jane", so a possible contract would require her to change her name. Prior to her trip to the states, Jayne was intent on a Vivid contract, but Digital Playground has already wined and dined her and had the good luck of meeting her before her meeting at Vivid. We'll see what happens; this might be the last time you see "Nikki Jayne".

Across Porn Valley in Poltergeist Hills, an area so named because it resembles the rolling housing development built over a graveyard in the movie Poltergeist, the Porn Week guests have gone home but the Harmony crew is still there, filming scenes between Jayne and San Jose's Bobbi Starr. Just before her anal scene with Sanchez, I took a picture of Jayne on the carpeted stairs.

"I don't want a pattern on me bum," she said.

"That's the least of your worries," I said.

Gazzman and West explained Porn Week's marketing forks, starting with Bravo UK's midnight broadcast of the company's exploits.

"We are fortunate to have a deal with them in which we retain ownership of the material, they just broadcast it on the telly," Gazzman said. To that end, Gazzman and West may make DVDs, sign pay per view deals for XXXPornParties, and continue to add Porn Week publicity to productions by other companies. Ownership of the product is great.

It seems like this week witnessed the crossed paths of two exciting commodities, Porn Week and Nikki Jayne, who appears poised to be very big.

I asked Gazzman what advice he might give to Jayne in the American porn market, and he replied with a Scottish brogue, "Ach, she won't listen to an old man."

See a gallery here.

Previously: Wayne doesn't know why he's being interviewed, either; Czechs for cash; 2007 AVN wrap-up

See also: Porn Week

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