Adult Content: East to West

Stephen Ochs
Unlike the Cold War and the gangster rap battles of the 1990s, the East vs. West debate in porn has never turned violent, but the difference in the product coming from both coasts in terms of performers, budgets and overall style is as huge as the difference between Reagan and Andropov or Tupac and Biggie.

According to industry insiders on both coasts, California's San Fernando Valley scene represents the "establishment" of porn, with almost the entire video industry located in Southern California. The East Coast, on the other hand, is a more do-it-yourself scene of renegade auteurs making porn with a personal feel — think Internet porn versus DVDs or Hollywood movies vs. indie films.

"When you're in a different place, you have very specific expectations to be met," said Andy Fair, an East Coaster who many in the industry feel represents the inventiveness of non-establishment porn. Fair's website features heterosexual couples shot for the enjoyment of gay men. "There's more opportunity to express a range of interests and ideas than I think comes out of L.A."

In a contrasting sentiment, writer/producer/director DCypher, who has shot video for Hustler, VCA, Digital Playground, Sin City, Pleasure and just about every other large, San Fernando Valley production company in his eight years in the industry, believes Southern California is the epicenter of porn.

"It's Porn Valley," he said. "Most of the girls are here, it's cheaper and easier to shoot here, and what we do here influences everyone else's style."

Wicked Pictures' Publicity Director Daniel Metcalf agreed. "In the Valley, there's a whole industry and a structure in place that you don't have anywhere else in the country."

Amenities available for West Coast shooters include highly trained crews (with behind-the-line players often moonlighting from Hollywood), press outlets and talent agencies to provide performers. But, according to adult business insiders, it's not just the logistics of production that separates East from West: The visual and artistic feel of porn varies widely as well.

"By setting my movies in New York City, I not only have really hot, kinky sex but a fascinating energy based on the visuals," Joe Gallant, a New York City director and owner of Black Mirror Productions, said. Gallant earned an industry award for Best Pro-Am or Amateur Tape for "NYC Underground: Times Square Trash Vol. 2," as well as a gig directing edgy, New York-based features for Hustler Video.

"The superstar of my productions is Manhattan Island," he said. "I use the city as my palette, my tapestry. It's a darker city. It's got more shadows. Every time you turn a corner there's a magnificent little vista that looks like an independent film shot."

In Gallant's recently released feature "Contract Star," the director mixes documentary footage of the protests surrounding the 2004 Republican National Convention with hardcore porn — an innovation that seems unlikely to come from L.A. porn studios.

Darker Attitude
"There's definitely a darker attitude on the East Coast," Fair continued. "L.A. porn is bleach blonde, poolside, big tits. East Coast porn is a little more inventive. Because we don't have such a long history of mainstream porn production, being largely Internet based, the East Coast is less constrained by what expectation there might be out there."

However, regardless of the differences, the two different factions have one thing in common: the need for talent. But how performers are procured on each coast also is interestingly different.

According to DCypher and Metcalf, most West Coast porn talent comes from agencies like Direct Models. Wannabe Jenna Jamesons constantly funnel into the Valley looking for porn work. But, like Yakov Smirnoff might say, in New York City, the porn work looks for you.

"We get talent anywhere we can, from newspaper ads to taping fliers to street posts," Fair said. "My biggest problem is finding actresses, because if you're a model in New York who wants to do hardcore, you move to L.A. That's where the work is. It's not a career path in New York the way it is for some people in L.A."

Gallant agreed, citing ads and personal relationships as the main way he books performers.

Grabbing talent from nontraditional sources can be a migraine inducer, according to DCypher. "If a girl is new, I don't know if she's going to come with her boyfriend and, halfway through the scene, freak out on me," he said. "That would be an element I'd be highly concerned about if I was shooting girls who answered ads. I don't want to shoot a girl's first scene."

Still, many porn shooters from the East Coast regard the nonprofessional aspects of their performers as the very thing that makes East Coast porn unique, preferring to avoid "career porn" girls as much as possible.

"People here aren't the hardened professionals they are in the Valley, so the women respond to the sex differently," Gallant said. "They tend to internalize it. They enjoy it more because they don't do it 24/7 as a regular job. In a lot of the porn from the valley, the girls make the right faces, they roll their eyes at the right time, but you never see a clitoris that's really swollen because a girl is really turned on. You never see sweat in L.A. porn."

For the performers, achieving porn stardom on the East Coast can be a difficult task at best. DCypher uses porn star Keiko as an example. According to DCypher, the gothy starlet worked on the East Coast but didn't gain much in the way of attention until she made her way to the Valley. "She moved out here and got in the loop," he said. "That's another thing: most of the press is out here, and so more attention is paid to people who live here."

Valley's Bland Look
But casting isn't the only thing that differentiates porn on the opposite coasts. According to many, the overall look of a porn title can be influenced by the environment in which it was shot. For Gallant, the L.A. porn scene has a distinctive, bland look.

"Location is where they have the advantage," DCypher said. "Everyone out here shoots the same eight houses in the Valley. I've seen houses that have been going the eight years I've been in porn."

Gay video shot in the East differs from gay video shot in the West as well. "In New York we're indoors a lot more," Fair said. "There's a lot less sunshine going on. A lot of stuff coming from the L.A. producers takes place in these wonderful Palm Springs resorts with a lot of outdoor beach stuff. You just don't see poolside porn coming out of New York. No one has a pool. The closest we get is Fire Island."