Discovering the Magic of the Orient

Peter Frost rode a wave into the Asian DVD market. Literally. The avid surfer from Hawaii was doing webcams in the 1990s and in 1999 decided to give it a try in Bali. It wasn't all business — Frost said the country has the best waves and he looks for "anything for an excuse so I can go surf."

Since he was already developing a stable of girls for the cams, Frost decided to try putting together some videos. It wasn't like Los Angeles where one could walk into World Modeling and select potential models from a book or even meet them in person. In fact, the obstacles were and are many.

"When I talk to girls in Bali about filming, they're Hindu, so they think I'm devil boy from the Western world, but then I pull out a $100 bill and you see them go from shaking their heads 'no' to them nodding 'yes.' Their eyes are fixated on that bill and they have to have it and then we'll go film."

Soon he put together websites for girls from the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. It's a popular subgenre of the Asian niche, sometimes casually referred to as "authentic Asian" content. Today his company, Asia Bootleg, boasts lines including "Teen Philippine!," "Babes in Thailand" and "Bali Boom Boom," releasing two to four titles monthly.

"The market is so saturated with American-Asian girls that shoot an Asian line at every studio in the valley as opposed to seeing real Asian girls," Frost said. "I try to capture a little more reality of it, like the experience, the street, girls talking and shopping, letting their personality come through."

Few if any of these types of titles breed new stars since many of the performers are in front of the camera for the first and only time, so it's the format itself that is the draw.

"The authentic Asian customer is a content-driven customer," Castle Megastore owner Mark Franks said. "There are fewer known starlets coming out of the Japanese product. In the U.S., people tend to try to promote starlets. I think that people that are looking at the authentic Japanese are more driven by general content. It's the type they're attracted to."

Third World Media produces niche-within-a-niche content ranging from Brazilian teens to Italian transsexuals to Thai creampies. Company president Steve Scott said that producing such specific product makes marketing easy.

"We're just the authentic, original niche company," Scott said. "Our Asian stuff is a niche in the sense of being Asian, but it's always authentic. Other people seem to shoot a lot of the same Asian girls from here over and over again; our girls, you don't see them, they're true amateurs in a lot of cases, or they're true first-timers.

Their first time in many cases is the last time they're going to be on video. There's also a lot of bareback and a lot of creampies and a lot of fetishy-type things that you wouldn't normally see done here."

The company has roughly 360 DVDs in its catalog and only recently shot in this country, a new title called "Fresh off the Boat," which asks girls new in the U.S. what they would do to get their green cards.

"They still need to have the authenticity," Scott said. "I'll let the American guys deal with the other ones."

The "other ones" are Asian girls (and sometimes not even that) by heritage who fill most of the more mainstream Asian titles. Many have had terrific careers over the years, with Asia Carrera, Kaylani Lei, Nautica Thorn and many others becoming major stars in the adult industry. Rather than viewing these stars and the many titles they appear in as competition, Scott thinks they help attract attention to the Asian section.

"It makes me stand out," Scott said. "I use authentic girls, meaning they are in their country. The guys who are shooting here, a lot of times it's the same girls over and over, and that's great, there are a lot of hot Asian girls here, it's just not what my mission was when I started this company 10 years ago. I've always wanted to bring the authentic girl, in her country, on her home turf, to people."

On the retail level, chains tend to throw all Asian content into the same section and let the consumers have their pick.

"The boxcovers and the way the production companies differentiate themselves," Debra Peterson, director of marketing for Fairvilla, said, "they've got to speak to the audience and tell them what makes them stand apart and what makes their product great. We'll do what we can to highlight it and try to separate it on our shelves, but then it's up to them."

She said the Fairvilla stores have a multicultural section that includes Asian, Latin, black and interracial sections. Frost was confident that his audience would be able to find his product.

"I kind of have a cult following," he said. "If any Tom, Dick or Harry walked into the DVD store looking to pick up an Asian, they probably just pick up a typical Asian title. The Asian connoisseur, it's a deeper niche, they know this is the real stuff."

So far both Third World and Asia Bootleg have reported being less affected by the sales slump than many of their Porn Valley counterparts. Still, while sales may be hanging on, the limping economy is still being felt.

"The hit is coming in a lot of ways," Scott said. "There's budget tightening and money is getting harder to collect from a lot of traditional distributors and people who are not paying like they have in the past, but I have found there is a demand for our product and it's not like you can find something just like mine right next to it on the shelf. I think that because there is a need for our stuff, we're lucky enough for right now to be riding out the bad economy and still doing pretty well with our releases."

Frost has taken to shooting more in Hawaii, but he's not about to give up the travel. The sales are still there, as is the surf.

"Philippines has the best looking girls," he said. "There's 9,000 islands, so you'll have different areas where the girls are stunning, and then some areas not so much. Bali is really good, but it's hit or miss there. Sometimes the girls are there, sometimes not. But the waves are the best there."