Foreign Affairs

Peter Smith
On one hand, it seems so exotic, so easy, so, well... je ne sais quoi, this idea of directing pornography in a foreign country. France, Spain, Hungary, the Czech Republic, or perhaps alluring lands like Japan or Thailand, locales far from the right wing red state ideals so pervasive in the U.S.

Places where one would think customs are either so advanced as to be open to a harmless thing like porn, or so corrupt that easy arrangements could be made to overlook such activities.

Countries overseas offer an abundance of stunning, talented ladies well schooled in the fine art of unbridled boffing, plus they have those seductive native tongues with which to mumble whatever it is they say while engaged in on-camera fantasy sex. And there are all those castles and forests to shoot in; it's all so bloody good, right?

Well, not exactly. Despite certain advantages, negatives do exist. As a smart man once remarked, nothin's easy, a phrase that translates into any language. So let's take a partly pleasure cruise to the aforementioned lands guided by those who are well-acquainted with the path — the directors who ply their triple-X trade far from the shores of Porn Valley, U.S.A.

Though Steve Scott, president of Third World Media, is an American, he calls Japan his second home. He's fluent in the language, and has lived there on and off for years. He reps Ninn Worx, Vivid Entertainment, Playboy Home Video and many others there, in addition to his own company that contracts local directors mainly in Japan, Thailand and Brazil.

"Everything in Japan is very well regimented," he explains. "Certainly when they go out to shoot it's almost overkill, they have a lot more people than you'd need to do a job, and it's a lot more timely. When they say 8 o'clock people are on time, and vehicles and food are well organized. It costs a lot of money, from talent and locations on down. Everything is in Japanese, for the most part it's an all Japanese cast, there's no English speaking and models wouldn't respond well to English."

The "mosaic" factor is an imperative in Japan; showing actual penetration or fellatio is forbidden and must be covered with pixilation, hence "mosaic."

"A feature comes into my office, and we have people 24 hours a day who pixilate frame by frame every bit of penis, vagina and any penetration, and any girls sucking cock," he says. "You can show pubic hair, and that's about it. It takes weeks to pixilate these movies, but that's another challenge to shooting in Japan. In fact, the mosaic creates a comfort level for the girls there; if they ever got caught they could say they weren't doing anything, just pretending. But unmosaiced footage has come over here, which created a problem in the Japanese market because a lot of the girls are pissed, and they wouldn't want to work for somebody who pissed them off. That's a big problem in understanding the local market there."

Another bugaboo in the inscrutable Asian world is the dreaded ID situation, a well-documented issue here in the States. Though it's not that the gals aren't of age in Japan and Thailand, it's proving it that's a challenge.

"Japanese companies aren't required to hold on file copies of IDs after they confirm the girl's over 18," Scott states. "So guys try and sell Japanese product here, but you have to question, are the IDs there? Not to mention that Japanese years aren't counted like western years, they count by year of the emperor. On lots of important documents it's different. It's year 20 over there."

One thing Scott does for the benefit of the export audience is add some flavor.

"I try and always give a little feel of something cultural in the movies," he says. "We did 'Chopstick Chowdown,' so we had sushi eaten off the girl's body. And Japanese girls tend to be a little more hairy downstairs than they are in the U.S., so we did one called 'Banzai Bushwhackers.' A lot of guys like our movies because the girls are natural."

The key element for Scott and anyone shooting in Asia is authenticity. The consumers want to see women they specifically haven't seen before, a marked contrast to the star machine-driven ethos in America.

"Our girls are authentic to whatever country they're from, Thailand or Japan or wherever," he stresses. "They don't speak English, we subtitle everything and it's real. That's huge."

It's a fact echoed by porn vet Don Fernando, who made his virgin directorial trip to Japan and Thailand last year shooting for, among others.

"You're going to get what customers of Asian porn want," he says. "They want to see new and different girls, and girls no one else will shoot." His foreign jaunts have not been smooth sailing, as he explains of his landing in Tokyo.

"I was there for 10 days and shot 18 scenes. They do things differently there, and there's a distrust of foreign directors. To put it mildly, it was nightmarish at times and a dream come true at times. I picked out the talent in advance through a Japanese agency, and I found they did a lot of airbrushing — when I got there some of the girls didn't even look like their pictures. They'd gained weight or they'd broken out. One girl's face was full of acne. So I was very upset, I felt duped, and none of the stuff has been released."

But what of Thailand? Porn shooting paradise, one might think. One would be wrong.

"I was hesitant because it was illegal to shoot there," Fernando says, "but I'm a low-profile type of guy. It actually shocked me. You can buy girls for so cheap, and they're beautiful girls. It brought me back to Vietnam." Fernando did two tours there during the war. "I was so apprehensive about leaving the country with the porn tapes I carried them on the plane, but they never challenged me. I was lucky."

"It's a whole bunch of problems," moans Scott. "There's plenty of girls, plenty of talent, but you can't be very open about what you're doing there, and the girls are not very enthusiastic about their work. They're Buddhists. They want the money — which probably goes back to the family in the country — and they don't care if they gave a good performance."

Yes, yet another issue — and one that's common to Europe as well — is the fact that many of the overseas ladies are not in it for the long haul, apparently lacking the classic, Rosie the Riveter, all-American work ethic that keeps our gals taking season after season of viscous chin loads and coming back for more.

"That's another problem," declares Scott. "A lot of these girls come and go. They have short-time goals of buying a nice bag or something, so they disappear and you may never see them again."

"European girls are more normal than American girls," offers Austrian Mick Blue, who directs in Europe for Zero Tolerance and Third Degree. "In America, I would say they are more freaky and more excited about what the are doing. In Europe, the girls are pretty, but they see the industry like a job."

Longtime Euro helmer Christoph Clark, a Frenchman who has shot throughout Europe since 1993 and currently works for Evil Angel, has his own take on overseas talent versus the "love American style" sweeties.

"The Euro girls very different," he reveals. "Here, if a girl really has an orgasm, on her face it is real. If they act, you can see that. In America, girls are more clever, they have to be because they shoot every day. I have to admit that in America, there is some unique talent. Belladonna, I'm sure she enjoys every moment, every scene, but she is rare. I love the European girls, just because they are so beautiful and natural." The multitude of languages in Europe is not a significant problem, sex and money, of course, being the universal tongues.

"I always try and get a few local words in before I go to a country where I'm not familiar with the language," says Italy's Jazz Duro, who — like many Europeans — is multilingual, counting Italian, English, Portuguese, Spanish and French among his communication skills. He's been directing for John Stagliano since 2005.

"All else failing, hand gestures usually work," he said.

While all the directors interviewed were reluctant to get into specific work permit issues, most offered that it is not a problem for talent to travel and work throughout Europe.

And, despite the differences between Europe, Asia and the States, some things are universal: Most talent comes from agencies, and shooting locations are easy enough to find and use when money is involved. The favored country?

"It's much easier to shoot in America than Europe," states Blue. "You have a much bigger selection of great locations, and if girls cancel at the last moment, for example, it's easy to find replacements. And the weather you have in Southern California makes shooting nearly perfect almost all the time. In Europe, you have the winter months where it's very cold outside and the lighting is not great, so it's tougher there. The reason I shoot in Europe is because I live there most of the time. I need to get my work done somehow."

"I find countries with an established porn base always the easiest to work in," echoes Duro. "In my opinion, L.A. has a great day-to-day industry, and it's pretty easy to organize shoots there. People work together so well."