LOS ANGELES — XBIZ, the adult entertainment industry’s leading news media organization, is pleased to announce that Girlfriends Films founder Dan O’Connell has been named its 2012 XBIZ “Man of the Year.”
O’Connell will receive the honor on stage this Tuesday night, Jan. 10 at the 10th annual XBIZ Awards Show at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. O’Connell is accepting the honor as his production company celebrates its own 10th anniversary this month as one of the top lesbian studios in adult entertainment today.
The humble president enters the year with the momentum of an eventful 2011 in which Girlfriends Films released its 300th original title, launched its first official membership site, published its first book and enjoyed record sales.
But while O’Connell remains hands-on in driving the creative side of Girlfriends Films, he also devotes a remarkable amount of time and effort to industry activism and charitable causes.
Girlfriends Films reformatted its already robust charity program in 2011 to include monthly donations to various organizations on behalf of performers and industry members. The move to monthly contributions allowed for more performers and charities to be involved.
“I have always admired Dan for the way that he has built up Girlfriend Films to be a prominent adult studio and certainly one of the leaders, if not the leader, for lesbian adult studios,” said Hustler president Michael Klein. “But beyond that Dan is always on the forefront in getting involved in causes that are important to the industry and ready to battle to protect the interests of the adult community.
“And I also have tremendous respect for the work that Dan does through Girlfriend Films and on his own to support numerous charitable organizations with constant donations each year. Clearly, he is a worthwhile recipient of the ‘Man of the Year’ award.”
Paul Fishbein, the founder of AVN Media Network, echoed Klein’s sentiments.
“Dan O’Connell is one of those rare successful people who gives back to the community and cares about the world at large,” Fishbein told XBIZ. “The fact that he actually has an outreach program to various charities he cares about makes him a very unique individual in the adult community.”
The 2012 XBIZ “Woman of the Year,” Diane Duke, agreed. Duke, the executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, pointed to O’Connell’s passionate efforts to help the industry overcome the biggest challenges it faces today.
“Dan is a brilliant businessman. But what makes Dan so extraordinary is his knowledge about, and work on, the issues that impact the adult entertainment industry,” Duke said. “Dan not only makes sure he stays informed about issues, but also rolls up his sleeves and gets involved.
“Whether attending and speaking at a Cal-OSHA meeting or protesting against .XXX, I can always count on Dan to be on the front line of fighting for the rights of the people in our industry.”
Duke continued, “Finally, Dan is a great philanthropist. He has been successful in business and seems to go above and beyond to give back to the community. Excellent choice XBIZ, I can't think of a more deserving person for the award.”
Alec Helmy, president and founder of XBIZ, said, “Dan O’Connell possesses that rare combination of humility, strength and vision.
“In addition to running a growing enterprise built on ethics and integrity, Dan has shown great selflessness through his charitable endeavors and unwavering commitment to improving the well-being of the industry at large. He embodies the very spirit of our ‘Man of the Year,’ and we are very pleased to honor Dan with this award.”
O’Connell discussed the Man of the Year honor, his inspiration and his motivation in this exclusive interview:
XBIZ: What does the Man of the Year award mean to you?
DO: When Girlfriends Films won the FSC Leadership Award in 2010, we found ourselves suddenly getting even more involved because we wanted to set an even better example. I wouldn’t have anticipated such an effect. I’m sure that this award will do the same. It is the biggest award I will ever receive. It’s great to get such attention, especially when it comes attached to being a positive role model. But at the moment I am just feeling flattered and elated beyond words.
What compels you to try to affect positive change within our industry?
We’ve all heard of the old adage that laughter is the best medicine. You can add orgasms to laughter as benefitting the soul and body. Pornography serves a very useful purpose for a lot of people, including those without partners as well as couples whose relationship excitement has waned or are looking for the best possible sex life. With an improved public image, there would be a lot more pornography consumption, which would benefit not just the public but also the adult industry in terms of greater profits, which would lead to better products. After all, there are more sex fans than there are NFL fans or NASCAR fans. But we continue to be an industry whose sales continue to be repressed by poor public image. It’s quite an uphill battle and I will probably never see porn gain the kind of mainstream acceptance we deserve, but building a positive public image for pornography plays an important consideration in everything Girlfriends Films does. This includes our products, marketing, and especially how we treat folks we deal with. This is probably the last industry to be so affected by outdated ideology that goes back to the Dark Ages. Oddly, the industry has shown very little attention to correcting these perceptions.
What has inspired your strong commitment to charitable causes through Girlfriends Films?
My older sister is a retired teacher and — even on her limited income — makes significant contributions to good causes. She’s set a great example. I had a brother and sister die from cancer, and their deaths showed me how badly we need to fund research for curing that disease. I’ve visited poor countries and seen how bad living conditions can be. Because they are the ones who support us, I like to steer money to charities that will ultimately benefit our customers. Our performers tend to favor animal-related causes. In addition, I always make sure we give to Cancer Research Institute, The Conservation Fund, Fallen Heroes Fund, Boys and Girls Clubs, and Compassion & Choices. A few months ago we gave $1,000 to a mid-size charity that focuses on helping young girls get ahead. They sent the money back to us because of the industry we are in. How sad is that!
I want to mention that we are giving the Free Speech Coalition extra funding each month because the adult video industry is in danger of being legislated out of existence. People either don’t know or just don’t seem to care about such things as the Cal/OSHA proposals and the huge threat they pose to businesses, not to mention our national freedoms. Any other industry faced with such threats would have already circled their wagons.
What have you learned about giving back to the community?
I’m very impressed with the quality of people I’ve met through service work. In our industry, Free Speech Coalition continues to amaze me with what they are able to do with minimal resources. I always think that Diane Duke could successfully lead just about any company.
What’s the most rewarding part of running Girlfriends Films?
We have a multi-faceted business and each day brings lots of challenges and frustrations. However, each day I’m reminded numerous times how fortunate I am. I own a movie studio. I get to make movies and hang out with a lot of fun girls. I make a good living at something countless people would pay to experience. I’m not a religious person but, given the number of people who would pay dearly to be in my shoes, I feel almost as though I’ve been anointed by a higher power to do this. It just doesn’t make sense. But I’ll take it.
It’s been lots of fun to lead the lesbian video genre for the past 10 years. Staying ahead means producing a great product, giving great service and continually refining our marketing strategy. It’s like a board game but better.
Also, there is also something to be said about growing Girlfriends Films from a part-time business to the point where we have a group of employees who can take on the jobs I either dislike or do poorly, such as electronics and accounting. In our case, we have a great, well-rounded group that gets along well together and — as I like to say — could probably take control and improve nearly any of the companies in the business park where we are located. I don’t know how I could amass such a fine group of friends if it weren’t for bringing them together through work. I get a big kick out of working with them and seeing them flourish. We’ve never had anyone quit or retire from Girlfriends Films. I’m very thankful for being a part of this.
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