LOS ANGELES — On the official first day of XBIZ 2018, XBIZ Award-winning directors, and unofficial jokesters, Aiden Starr, Mike Quasar and Holly Randall took center stage to discuss the art of mastering content production.
“This is actually a comedy show,” Starr addressed the incoming attendees, who shuffled to find a seat in the already packed room. Quasar and Randall both nodded in agreement, offering bright smiles and infectious laughter. The room, which was flooded with eager listeners, echoed the trio’s giggling.
“I’ve got a whole bit ready to go,” Randall replied, before taking her seat. Dressed in an elegant blue dress, she was located to the right of Starr, who rocked the sleek grunge look by donning a skeleton onesie. To the left of both girls was Quasar, cool and collected in his blue jeans and grey v-neck sweater.
As the room settled, and some final stragglers trickled in to witness the enlightening panel, Randall got things started by formally introducing herself.
“I’m Holly Randall,” she waved, “I shoot for a bunch of different companies … I shoot for Playboy Plus, Twistys, my own company and several other companies here and there.”
Starr was next: “Hi, I’m Aiden Starr and I’m a contracted director for Evil Angel, and I shoot camera and produce for other companies, mostly niche content and some fetish content as well.”
Quasar’s introduction was a little less formal, “I’m Mike Quasar … that’s not my real name. Well, Mike is. I’ve been doing this for 27 years … I don’t know if I should be proud of that or ashamed! I shoot primarily for Zero Tolerance and their subsidiary, but I also shoot for Wicked Pictures and anybody who calls me on my day off and says, ‘Hey! You wanna make some extra money?!’”
Randall, Starr and those seated in attendance sniggered, and someone even whistled in response. As silence fell over the room, the trio each delved into their particular adult niche — with Aiden mentioning her fetish work, Randall her glamor-esque work and Quasar’s boy/girl specialty.
“For fetish content, casting is the first step for me,” Starr began. “So, I will find out what the particular fetish is and then I find the right performers to do that specific fetish. I need at least one person in the shoot to be experienced. So if I have a two people shoot versus a shoot with many people … I still try to have, at the very least, have one person who is experienced. And, if I can’t have one person who is experienced, then I try to meet with them beforehand for training in said fetish. Once I have the casting done, then I look for location.
“So, location … for example, if I’m doing something that requires an overhead suspension system, I look for someone who has experience with such fetishes, and have an overhead suspension rig,” she added. “And it’s great when you find these locations, because moving forward, I can always return to these locations because they’ve been verified by an expert. Then, I organize the day … figure out if I’m going to have a production manager or if I’m going to be the production manager, as well as the director.
“Some people choose to parcel that out to their crew … I’m a smaller company, so sometimes I end up doing more than one role,” Starr continued, using her hands to convey emotion. “Then paperwork gets done. There’s PASS Verification System on all my shoots, be they hard or soft. Whenever there’s a possibility of a penis going into a hole, or other sexual content, I make sure there’s a verified test. I don’t want any problems!”
The other two panelists nodded in agreement.
“For that, I signed up as a producer through the PASS system, and I use the screen cap of the green check mark … I’m sure you’re all familiar with this!” Starr addressed the attendees. “I film said scene, then I conclude said scene and offer aftercare to the models, especially in fetish content. Then, I typically wait for them to finish with the aftercare process and talk to them to see if they have questions — or if they’re mad at me, because someone slapped them too hard! There’s a lot of communication with my talent, I think that’s important.”
Randall followed after Starr by saying, “So, Playboy is one of my main clients. They’ve actually gone through quite a few changes this year, so it’s been interesting adjusting my style for them. Originally, they were run by MindGeek, that’s kind of how I got started with them, and then in May … the magazine took the website back. So, now Hugh Hefner’s son is running things. They went, kind of, from high-end glamour that I was shooting for Playboy Plus before, to a very natural look. It’s very much like what you see from top Instagram models, or the American Apparel aesthetic, you know? Natural makeup, softer eyelashes and hair. Natural environment.
“They want what I call ‘casual open leg,’” Randall laughed. “Before, MindGeek was kind of pushing it a little bit where we were shooting some pretty ‘open leg’ stuff. When I first started, there was full-frontal nudity and there was like a little bit of open leg, but then the agenda kept getting pushed! Now, the new management is trying to rein it back a little bit. For example, I’m no longer allowed to doggie style shots, and I can’t show butthole!”
Randall over enunciated the word butthole, which made the room erupt into yet another flurry of giggles.
“It’s kind of interesting shooting for Playboy now,” Randall explained. “There’s a lot less dialogue now between me and the model on a Playboy shoot than on another company's set. For example, when I’m shooting with Twistys, I’m usually shooting with girls who are already in the adult industry so they know what’s expected of them. They understand that they’re showing their butthole, and that things have the possibility of going up their butthole. Now, with Playboy, they actually got rid of their casting department too, so I have to do all the casting. I find the models, sometimes I fly them out, get them situated, too.
“A lot of times,” Randall continued, “these girls have never been shot nude before. Ever. They go in to it not really knowing what they are showing, so I actually have to have very specific conversations with them about what they’re willing to show. Full frontal nudity is, like, the bare minimum. But, some girls are willing to show the top half of their vagina, and not the bottom half! It can get extremely specific! So, I have to sit there and be like, ‘What percent vagina are you willing to show?’
“It can get pretty awkward, you know,” Randall spoke with her hands, waving them around in her enthusiasm. “So, what I do is I send them examples from the website, and since every girl has a different posing level, I send them a few girls, all at different levels. I want them to let me know, going into the shoot, what they are comfortable with. I try to be as explicit as possible, but then some girls still don’t understand the dynamics. Shooting for Playboy is a lot more difficult shooting than my other clients, because of the girls, who most of the time just don’t work in adult.
“Now, shooting for my site … I’d say my style is more glamour,” Randall contemplated the topic for a second, “That’s my origin. But, what I love the most about my website is that it has allowed me a lot of freedom, since I am my own boss. I do what I want. So sometimes, I will shoot really all natural stuff. I’ve been trying to give myself a challenge recently, where I use more natural light than I ever did … unless I’m shooting in a studio, for obvious reasons. That’s not possible.”
Again, Randall added to her story by using her hands. She drew out a circle in the air, indicating a sun, and made a square shape with her fingers to create a window.
“So, if I’m shooting in an area that has natural light, I’ll look for the closest window to get patterns of leaves on the wall,” she explained to an awestruck crowd. “I want the sun filtering through trees. All that kind of stuff. What I actually really like shooting for different clients — I’ve actually been offered contracts for other companies before, but I’ve denied them — is that everybody wants to be different. It really helps me grow as a director and a photographer. You never know everything. You are never in a position where you cannot learn new things. You can always improve yourself. So, working with other clients helps me learn new styles and really get out of my comfort zone.”
Then, it was Quasar’s turn to discuss his craft. Randall swayed the conversation to him by indicating that the packed-to-capacity studio was here to specifically see him. He laughed, and leaned over to her before sitting back on his seat and addressing the crowd.
“Well, I’m someone who has seen the industry change, a lot,” he started. “I, essentially, have to put my personal preferences aside. I have to put aside anything that resembles artistic integrity.”
That caused the listeners to erupt into laughter.
“I have to put all of that on shelf, and pretend I don’t care about that … except when I work for Wicked Pictures!” Quasar chuckled as he spoke. “Well, that’s because you serve many masters. Nowadays because content is so devalued, you have to be able to spread it to as many platforms as you can. You have broadcast to consider … stills … DVDs that somebody in rural Oklahoma is yelling, ‘God dammit! I got a new Zero Tolerance DVD, I can’t wait to whack off to it!’ As a result, you have to be able to cater to everybody. And, there’s these mandates that are like, ‘Hey this is what we’re looking for. Do it.’
“For example, faux-incest is really popular this month, and I just gotta be like … ‘Okay.’ Next month it can be MILFs and young girls, and they have to squirt on each other, but are also related,” everyone laughed, before he continued, “Last year, I added it up … I shot 557 scenes, which nobody should ever have to do that, but I did. That’s how it is now, and it’s because I understand the process. I have my own process that allows me to get these scenes done in a timely and efficient manner. But as far as me approaching this as something I enjoy, that does not really happen to me anymore. I’m just a cynical person by nature, but I want everyone to know I’m still grateful to have a job!”
Randall, to that confession, interjected.
“I have to argue that you are a better producer and director than at least I know I am … and I would love to come watch you on set,” she said. “You sometimes shoot five scenes a day, right? That blows my mind! Two scenes a day takes me 12 hours at least. You’re incredible."
Quasar defended himself … kind of.
“I’m not saying I do this well!”
Then, the conversation shifted to the trio’s editing habits, behind-the-scenes interactions with performers and what cameras/angles they preferred.
“What Mike also does … sorry, I shouldn’t speak for Mike!” Randall said, Quasar leaned over to laugh with her.
“You should!” He chuckled.
“Mike, you edit all your own content, which I don’t do,” Randall explained. “You know exactly what you need, and you know exactly what angles you want. You have this whole idea, and it helps you shoot things in an efficient manner. You don’t shoot more than what you need, and I feel like I shoot a lot of crap that I’m not going to need, because I’m not editing. I don’t understand that process.”
Quasar cleared his throat, before nodding and bouncing off Randall’s statement.
“I couldn’t do it any other way,” he said. “I know that a scene has to be roughly 25 minutes when it’s edited, so I’ll shoot roughly 27 minutes. I’d call it more of an assembly process than an editing process!”
Starr, who had been listening to the two banter, perked up to explain her own tactics.
“When I first started shooting, I used to do all my editing,” she began. “It was out of financial necessity, but it showed me how to be more conscious of the way I shoot. Like, something would look fucking amazing on set, and then when you got back home to edit, it would look like shit.”
Quasar, the self proclaimed cynic, interjected to say that when it came to his editing, everything “is done on autopilot.”
Starr immediately rose to his defense. “As someone who has modeled for Mike before … it doesn’t seem like he’s on autopilot. He communicates very well with the performers. He is super sympathetic towards them. I’ve seen you handle girls who act like complete jerks really nicely. It lends to your efficiency, and not just technical, but personally. You’re cynical, but you have an awesome sense of humor … I like it.”
Quasar smiled the entire time Starr spoke about him. Going back to content production, the trio bounced off one another and discussed handling difficult models. Communication is key, all three said. Discuss what the scene is like beforehand, deliver a lot of emails and consistently talk to your talent.
“You have to remind yourself that a lot of these girls, especially the young ones, don’t have a lot of real world experience … let alone adult!” Quasar said. “And, not to sound like the creep … I should word this better, but you really look at this as a parental figure, you know? You want to make the girls comfortable, you want to get the scene to look right … and the only way that can be done is through making sure everyone on set is comfortable.”
As the clock ticked closer to the end of the seminar, the trio told on-set stories of inexperienced performers and how they got out of sticky situations with hard-to-handle talent. The trio also explained the back-end of editing, like using the program Elevated X. They, then, offered their filming methods, with Randall preferring two cameras (a wide shot camera and a camera with a long lense); Quasar preferring one camera, but trying to stimulate both the wide and long lense effects); and Starr preferring a lower model DSLR lense for her gonzo-like scenes.
To close the panel, Randall stressed the important of being professional, both the performers and the directors.
“I like to shoot outside of the ‘traditional’ porn houses,” she said. “And even though I sometimes use the ‘Playboy card,’ I’ve built enough of an honorable reputation that these extravagant and beautiful locations allow me to come back, time and time again. To be able to get that level of trust, I bring all my own duvets, covers … rugs. I leave everything just as I found out. I take the trash out … I sweep the floor if I have to! To get these locations, I go on PeerSpace.com. They don’t have a pro/con adult listing, and while most people will say no … just go on there and give it a shot!”
If there was ever a funnier, and more intelligent trio, than Starr, Quasar and Randall … XBIZ would be hard pressed to find them!
XBIZ 2018 is capped by the star-studded XBIZ Awards, presented by MyFreeCams.com, and hosted by adult superstar Jessica Drake, which honor the very best in the business of sex with an elegant red-carpet gala at one of Los Angeles’ top venues, the JW Marriott at L.A. Live, on Thursday.
To view the full schedule, click here.