LOS ANGELES — Adult filmmakers from around the world gathered on Friday at the Sofitel Hotel on the edge of Beverly Hills, Calif., for the second and final day of the XBIZ 360 Adult Entertainment Film Conference at the Sofitel Hotel. The star-studded panels came early and often as the conference came to a close.
“Most people will tell you that it's different from mainstream. They could have been mainstream but they chose to be here," Gram Ponante said in his opening thesis as moderator of “On the Set: Behind the Scenes of the Other Hollywood" panel, adding, "the same way people in prison are always innocent. But without disparaging porn there is a skill set and there is a lot of on-the-job understanding that comes from making porn. You can’t just pick up a camera and shoot it.”
Ponante's raucous and wry tone established the raucous and wry tone of a panel dedicated to stories of adult filmmakers who take the attendees behind the box cover and into their world.
Featuring Dan Leal of Immoral Productions, Lee Roy Myers of DreamZone Entertainment, Ivan of Porn Star Empire, impresario actor and filmmaker James Bartholet, “On the Set: Behind the Scenes” was as much of a meditation on why some people choose to make porn as it was a behind-the-studio-door look into the process of adult filmmaking.
“One thing people don’t understand about the industry is that it actually makes you a more tolerant person,” Ivan began in response to a question about what are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about porn. “Before I got into the industry I was very homophobic. I got into the industry and you meet so many people from so many different lives, you learn how to tolerate people and be just a better person. I have become a more tolerable and less judgmental person. If you’re homophobic and the first thing you shoot is a blow-bang with dudes jerking off around you ... you stop judging people.”
Then as the 11 o'clock hour rolled around, the XBIZ 360 Adult Film conference transitioned from life in porn to death -- the much rumored demise of the DVD market for adult films. “Anybody in the DVD business,” Christian Mann, general manager of Evil Angel, joked, stepping up to the podium, “there will be complimentary hemlock on your way out.”
“Death of the Adult DVD: Facts & Fiction” -- moderated by Mann, featuring a panel comprised of Spike Goldberg from Homegrown Video, Bob Christian from Adam & Eve, Lewis Adams from Pulse Distribution, Mike Kulich from Monarchy Distribution, and Moose from Girlfriend Films -- was convened as a debate about the death of the DVD market that quickly reached a consensus: the DVD market is in decline but still alive. Or as Christian Mann said, quoting “Monty Python and the Holy Grail," “I’m not quite dead yet!”
“I definitely think the demise and death of the DVD is slightly exaggerated," Lewis Adams said when asked about the state of DVDs. "We still do move a lot of DVDs. I have a bunch of stores in the Northeast in Puritan towns ... and they are still serving the customer who wants to get a DVD and pay cash and walk out and not let anyone know what they are going to do."
Bob Christian from Adam & Eve added, “We don’t find the adult DVD dead. Have sales declined, absolutely. Do they continue to decline some? Yes. But last year we sold about ten million dollars of DVDs.”
Spike Goldberg sounded a more cautionary and forward-looking point of view, “This industry isn’t going anywhere. I’m not planning on getting rid of any DVD sales this year. But you have to realize and embrace change. Evolution. With evolution, people’s habits change... Inevitably, all of us up here will stop printing DVDs. It will happen. That is evolution.”
The noon panel, “Mainstreaming of Erotica: Adult Entertainment in Media," was a roving discussion of adult entertainment’s continued acceptance into mainstream pop culture, moderated by Jeff Mullen from X-Play and featuring Mike Moz from Digital Playground, Arthur Sando from LFP, Jacky St. James from New Sensations, Kevin Blatt from KB Productions, and Daniel Metcalf from Wicked Pictures.
Unsurprisingly, “50 Shades of Grey” dominated a large segment of the discussion when it came to toys. The popular novel has paved way this year for a marriage between the mainstream and adult toys. Daniel Metcalf observed, “Your enhancers, your lubricants, your novelties will go a million places your DVDs will never go. Your DVDs are pornography. Your enhancers are not... For example we’re talking to Walgreens.com for our enhancers and our novelties. They are not interested in our DVDs. They will never carry a Wicked DVD, but they will carry a Wicked lube or enhancer.”
"Final Cut: Adult Filmmaking Goes Cutting Edge" featured humorous nuts and bolts discussion of the mechanics of adult filmmaking. The panel, moderated by Colin Rowntree from Wasteland, featured award-winning filmmakers Axel Braun, Eddie Powell, Dan O’Connell, Kevin Moore and James Avalon discussing the trade craft of adult film, from cameras to lighting, to humorous anecdotes about the perils of production.
When asked what advice they would give aspiring adult filmmakers, Axel Braun responded, “Luck." Eddie Powell advised, “Back light. Back light makes everything more cinematic.” Dan O’Connell, “Just do something original.” Kevin Moore added, “Learn how to edit. If you learn how to edit you will be a better filmmaker.”
The Film and Content conference closed with a look forward into the future of adult entertainment in a seminar aptly titled, “The Future of Adult Film," moderated by Kelly Holland from Penthouse, with Drew Rosenfeld from Hustler Video, Jules Jordan, Bob Christian, Steven Scarborough from Hot House Video, Douglas Richter from LiveJasmin, and Colin Rowntree from Wasteland.
This panel served to encapsulate a sort of uncertainty that hangs around adult film as it exits 2012 into 2013. “Revenue has drastically dropped for DVD,” stated Drew Rosenfeld, “so our focus is online and broadcast TV.” A sentiment echoed by Bob Christian who bluntly said, “We (Adam & Eve) have no increased DVD sales.”
“What about adapting to the new broadcast mediums,” Kelly Holland queried the panel, “Like Roku and Hulu. Colin Rowntree responded, “I was one of the early adopters of Roku. It's a revenue stream coming from one specific device and they (the consumers) went to Best Buy and bought this one specific device. They got it home and said, Where’s the damn porn? They go to Google, type Roku Porn, they found me and joined my site.” Holland added, “It's incumbent on this industry to educate the consumer on how to get their technology. Luckily, our demographic tends to be more geeky and more tech-oriented.” Bob Christian added that for Adam & Eve doing something like IPTV was, “High on his list for 2013.”
Monetizing new technology seemed to be the direction that everyone pointed to as the way forward for adult film. Whether that’s 3D, mobile platforms, or IPTV boxes. Rowntree ended the seminar and conference on a high note with his closing statement, “Whatever you do, do it with love. Whatever you love, make porn out of it.”