LOS ANGELES — Bree Mills shattered the status quo at the 2018 XBIZ Awards on Jan. 18, seizing the Director of the Year crown amidst thunderous applause and cries of delight, as she swept countless categories before the packed-to-capacity grand ballroom at the JW Marriott in L.A. Live. Enthroned by the most hard-won and prestigious symbol of success in adult entertainment, she is ushering in a new era of artistic brilliance, rising skyward on a tide of storytelling panache that transcends mere aesthetics.
From Girlsway to Pure Taboo, Mills wields unrivaled cinematic flair, with camerawork that defies tradition, standing toe-to-toe against mainstream auteurs and obliterating superficial rinse-and-repeat modalities. She does not recycle the same tired scenarios, in the same familiar settings, with the same static shots, ad infinitum, with all the imagination of a robotic 4K machine going through the motions for the sake of fashionable mimicry. Instead, she infuses her painterly works with enough depth, acting and sprawling lore to pierce through shallow spectacle and forgotten-by-next-week stunts like a serrated dagger.
She dares the very souls of her viewers to engage with pornography in a way that is revolutionary, yet each scene burns with as much addictive fire as the most sex-crazed gonzo, vignette and all-sex titles. Even her humblest efforts brim with operatic suspense, engraving gravitas and raconteur wit into every flowing bout of balletic fucking. And most awe-inspiring of all, is the acting prowess she inspires in adult stars, turning them into multi-faceted artists with an unprecedented degree of range. To her, talent is best served bold, lest it devolve into glorified visual virtuosity.
And while such iconoclastic directing may seem excessive to the casual purveyor of smut … overkill bordering on dangerously obsessive, for what many would deem a means to a masturbatory end … it is absolutely essential to thrive and survive in today’s ridiculously competitive ecosystem. Because, no matter the wealth and influence amassed by reigning kingpins and empresses, the high-stakes game of XXX thrones can reverse fortunes in a fortnight. Like the bloodstained “touchable” splashed across the elevator walls in Brian De Palma’s “The Untouchables” reminds all bona fide cinephiles, even the likes of Eliot Ness and Al Capone can be taken down a notch … if not flicked off the chessboard completely.
After all, this is not checkers. And any gambler expecting a big payout from betting excessively on red squares is exposed to the whims of dusty roulette wheels and mob rule, before they get trounced beneath the boot heels of imperial superiority. Any allegiance to dying legacies and everybody-gets-a-trophy ceremonies renders sparkling shelves hollow, like catacombs filled with gilded lovers petrified mid-embrace by volcanic cataclysm. Such Pompeii cryptkeepers risk the wrath of Vesuvius. That is why Mills pushes originality to the limit, running leagues further and fathoms more abyssal than anyone else, cementing her godly status unequivocally and legitimately commanding the respect of an entire industry.
And rather than finding haters in every flickering shadow, she focuses on the flames that cast all darkness away, courting fans on her forums and worthy critics alike. She does not shelter herself from critiques by blocking out detractors, fleeing from harsh reality into an echo chamber of sycophantic adulation. Instead, Mills is a fucking gladiator, leaping into the arena and throwing down gauntlets left and right. Neither does she favor the acclaim of yesterday’s news, cleaving instead to the futuristic weaponry of digital media’s true gatekeepers, at the hallowed cathedral of X-business. For in the modern age, profits are gleaned from cyberspace campaigns, not swarms of selfie-taking freeloaders shambling past unseen billboards. And to the victor who embodies Mills’ ideals, go the spoils of conquest.
Thus crowned and laser-focused like never before, Mills told XBIZ, “It was a complete honor and I am humbled to be recognized amongst such talented directors in our industry. I am a passionate advocate for the power of acting in adult and, if anything, I hope my win helps pave the way for even greater recognition of this art form.”
That devotion to her oft tweeted #PowerOfActing is precisely what elevated the Girlsway and PureTaboo brands to such positions of supremacy in the Gamma pantheon, not to mention Mills’ richly cinematic flair and prolific output. And as she reflected on the plentiful harvest reaped from yet another landmark year, Mills felt especially proud of Girlsway’s “Faces of Alice” and “Vampires,” as well as the meteoric rise of PureTaboo.com.
“We submitted several high-profile productions this year for Girlsway, including our two features: ‘The Faces of Alice’ and ‘Vampires,’” Mills said. “I wrote, produced and directed ‘Faces’ alongside my creative partner, Stills by Alan.” In fact, three-time XBIZ Award-nominated “The Faces of Alice” was a rare departure from her preferred palette of darkly imaginative drama, representing Mills’ bushwhacking foray into the unforgiving frontier of comedic hijinks.
“It was a break from my usual style (one that favors dark, dramatic tones) and my first-ever comedy— telling the story of a closeted woman who is possessed by lesbian stereotypes,” she elucidated. “It was a challenge to tackle a new genre of filmmaking, both from a production and post-production perspective. But I’ve always tried to weave a social message into my work and this was no exception. I was very proud of the result, especially the performances by our actresses.”
As for the fang-filled “Vampires,” which won the 2018 XBIZ Award for All-Girl Feature Release of the Year, Mills noted, “It was the first Girlsway feature I stepped back from, to allow Alan to write and direct a big project for the studio on his own. I remained, of course, the producer and was very impressed by both Alan’s rich storytelling skills and his ambitious use of special effects. It was our most challenging and biggest production to date and the whole cast and crew were passionate in their execution, even during the all-night shooting sessions.”
Mills’ most impressive feat of the year, however, was her breakout PureTaboo.com, which ascended to the porno firmament with a 2018 XBIZ Best New Studio victory.
Delving into the method behind her norms-warping madness, which goes way beyond “fauxcest,” Mills mischievously divulged, “My phone is filled with very strange notes which, if taken out of context, would probably get me locked up. In all seriousness, the word ‘taboo’ is very broad and extends to many different niches. I didn’t just want PT to be a family-themed series, even though we do produce those storylines. I wanted it to tackle the definition of taboo in all aspects, from the different psychological tropes and paraphilias we explore, to even the way we shoot the content itself. I wanted that term to govern all our actions."
Given the sheer magnificence of her wickedly seductive Pure Taboo productions, it was no surprise to learn that most of Mills’ past year was invested in building up the brand. Alongside her creative partner Craven Moorehead, Mills helmed their debut release for the studio, “Half His Age: A Teenage Tragedy,” which she noted “ended up winning the best feature title and a host of other awards.”
Of her flagship movie’s 2018 XBIZ Awards sweep, Mills said, “I am so incredibly proud. It has been my bestselling and most critically acclaimed adult film to date … and really helped put our little studio on the map. It was also the film that allowed our crew to really hone our signature style … from the cinematography to the way we work with actors. So, it was both a great challenge and one that yielded great rewards.”
As for what whirlpool of twisted depravity Mills draws upon to splash such perverse shades of sinister sexuality across each viewer’s highly-aroused gaze, she underlined, “I am very inspired by real-life experiences, both those I’ve read about and what others have shared with me. I am also personally inspired by the psychology of sexuality and desire because it is so fundamental in driving all of us and is often what makes and breaks us. For a storyteller, that’s an endless subject to explore.”
Yet no tale is truly tested until it survives the crucible of criticism, which is why Mills likes to “take these seeds and develop them into outlines, which I will usually vet with a few key people within my inner circle before producing them.” In fact, that active pursuit of contrary opinions is instrumental to her longevity and nigh-impeccable record. “Once I have chewed on their feedback, I’ll finalize my episode treatments and be ready for set. Since I direct what I write, I typically write each treatment as a visual summary of what I plan to bring to life with our actors and cinematographers.
“I want my team to challenge me and make sure my writing respects our brand principles,” she emphasized. “They can push for things they believe in, even when I disagree. They can feel confident to challenge me at times, which I always welcome and is often what makes the final decision stronger. But, in the end, it comes down to a mutual passion for what we are doing and a respect for what we’ve created together.”
Such a commitment to assembling an elite unit filled with nothing but the best, in all their motley and maverick splendor, yields potent results. “I work with an amazing creative collective that includes producers, directors, cinematographers, editors, photographers, designers and experienced crew members,” Mills said with her trademark humility and reverence for collaboration. “As the leader of this talented team, I simply let my imagination run wild and see what we can come up with.”
In that lawless paradise, anything goes, and yet her Gamma posse still manages to manifest an instantly recognizable mosaic, no matter the patchwork fabric of their natures. “Throughout the years, we’ve developed a core style and approach to filmmaking that we’ve been able to apply in different styles to different audiences,” she disclosed. “We’re all cut from the same cloth … but I do have my own style: I love stories and a little bit of melodrama and our actors are always the driving force behind any one of my productions.”
They are indeed cut from the same cloth, for once the stage is set, this marvelous crack team of skillful slayers executes Mills’ vision with the deadliness of SEAL Team Six and the symphonic soul of theatrical maestros. And no two composers are more indispensable, than Alan and Moorehead, who are her right and left hands.
She has forged very different relationships with each of them that are nonetheless both “rooted in the same basic principles of respect, creative collaboration and friendship.” And, even though Mills ultimately drives the direction for Gamma Films “both Craven and Alan are very involved with me in how to get where we want to go.”
With a behind-the-scenes foundation nailed in place, the main attraction — adult stars — can rise to the occasion with unprecedented majesty in front of the camera. On this topic “those who are surprised by the quality of performances my actors have been able to accomplish” often ask how she conjures such profoundly memorable characters from the performers under her purview. Yet, Mills shies away from brandishing platitudes or self-congratulatory praise, instead reflecting that the “talent has always been there.”
She acknowledges those acting chops have never been “fully explored or given the right amount of attention” despite having “always been present.” Rather than utilizing adult stars as nothing more than pro fuckers, or narrowly defining them as visual artwork fit for digitally streamed galleries, she digs beneath the surface for metaphysical oil.
“All I did this year was take these actors seriously, by bringing them onto my set and directing them as if we were doing a theater production,” Mills determined. “Never once did I question whether they had the chops to tell my story or not. I simply treated them like the professional actors they are. What may have been the key to success in this respect is not what I did but what they felt empowered to do as a result. Never have I seen performers give so much of themselves before — the raw emotion, method acting, high intensity of their roles — has blown me away continuously.”
One such individual is the 2018 XBIZ Awards winner for Best Actor in a Feature Release, Charles Dera, who transformed into an incandescent black swan when given a real shot. Describing him as “a perfect example,” she mused, “He took his role for ‘Half His Age’ and ran with it, no matter where I dragged his character. He allowed himself to be driven to every emotional limit in this film … and he did so with passion and enthusiasm. In the end, I am so happy his performance got recognized because it was truly deserved. He was one of the most fearless lead actors this year!”
With so peerless a tribe in front of the camera and behind, Mills knocks it out of the park time and time again. Yet, no matter a product’s ingenious iconoclasm, company coffers will suffer without business-minded power moves and slick marketing. Fortunately for Gamma, Mills has a real knack for disseminating her ideas, artistry and merchandise to a massive audience.
“I am a marketer at heart … having worked in marketing and business for many years before transitioning into production and directing,” Mills stated. “So, marketing is a core part of how I approach everything I do — from the moment I first have an idea to when I walk on set and meet my actors.”
Most pivotal of all, is recognizing the value of incorporating input from customers, while still adhering to ironclad principles.
“I believe in the power of knowing your audience and working alongside them to drive your creative decisions,” she confided. “That is why we oversee so many active forums in our member areas and why I am so active on social media, our website and even our tube channel profiles. I constantly want to talk to my audience and gain insights from them. This dialogue is a big part of my marketing push, both how I present my brands to customers and within the industry itself.”
Even with a fine-tuned promotional campaign backing so many brilliant releases, eagle-eyed Mills nonetheless sinks her talons deeply into every aspect of the Gamma machinery, lest any neglected cog slow down the golden hydra.
“I am a big believer in vertical integration, a.k.a. I am a control freak!” she confessed. “I am heavily involved in pre-production, production and editing … but I am also very involved in how our episodes are released, the artwork, the synopsis, every single message that goes out to our member base. Having that A-Z integration allows you to really ensure your brand is being marketed correctly.”
Armed with such artistic command and chief executive instincts, Mills is already setting her visionary sights on half-glimpsed horizons, brimming with excitement for the future of her movie-making empire.
“I have many ideas in the works for Gamma Films in 2018 — for Pure Taboo, Girlsway and other new projects I am developing,” she teased. “2018 will be a great year for us — we will be shifting formally into 4K production; we are growing and grooming a stable of directors; and I already have solid outlines for the features I’ll be producing and directing. I hope to explore other genres of storytelling as well.”
That winsome attitude certainly portends continued greatness, because Mills has witnessed first-hand how contagious boundless enthusiasm can be.
“If you are passionate and open about what you are working on, others will jump on the bandwagon and want to join you,” she concluded. “That’s why I am always sharing my trade secrets — I want people to know what I am up to and what I am advocating for in this business.”