The Journey of Nica Noelle

Nica Noelle, like many of the directors you meet in this column, is a fascinating and multidimensional figure. Growing up in Manhattan, she fell in love with Times Square, the bustle and the burlesque, and the whole sexy, alluring world she first found there.

At 18 she began working in a “psychodrama” house in New York City, acting out men’s fantasies so successfully that the no-sex-allowed businesses became known as “blue ball houses.”

From there it was on to stripping, which she “had fun with,” but as it was not particularly “intellectually stimulating” she felt burned out by 28. She left the business to pursue such mainstream occupations as paralegal and journalist. Missing the excitement, and the unvarnished honesty of the adult industry, she kept connected to it by editing and writing for Private Dancer and Exotic Dancer magazines.

After writing a story on the making of a fetish video for Spread magazine — doing the research by appearing in a “tantrum trainer” flick — Noelle began getting calls from agents and casting directors.

She got her start with Girlfriends Films and then met Jon Blitt from Mile High Media, with whom she founded her baby, Sweetheart Video. They have since added Sweet Sinner to the imprints at Mile High.

Noelle, like many auteurs, took a circuitous route to the director’s chair. She is at home now, though, and feeling fine. XBIZ discussed that process with her, and much more, at the end of October.

XBIZ: As always, our readers like to know how you got to the director’s chair.
NICA NOELLE: I loved Times Square. I loved looking at the prostitutes and the posters hanging outside the adult theaters, which they still had back then. I decided pretty early that I wanted to be one of these glittery, sexy women. I do believe some of us are predisposed to work in the adult industry. Some of us are born courtesans, born entertainers, and sex is the area we feel compelled to explore. I don’t know why anyone with an interest in sex or sex work is immediately assumed to be a victim, or it’s assumed that they were abused. I think that’s just another way to stigmatize us.

XBIZ: You’re big on reality. The slogan at Sweetheart Video’s website is, “Real sex, real passion, real orgasms.” Is this why it has quickly grown into a monster girl/girl company?
NOELLE: I don’t think I could shoot something I have no interest in viewing myself. I’m a writer first and foremost — a storyteller. The story is important to me. I don’t get turned on watching a couple that seems to have no connection, no dynamic, suddenly appearing on screen, having sex. I like to know why they’re together, I want to know what they mean to each other, I want the build-up. And taking it a step further, let’s say theirs is a forbidden love, or there’s been some obstacle keeping them apart. I want to know about that, I want to feel the tension. That’s going to play into my fantasy and the sex scene will be far more exciting to watch.

XBIZ: Does that make you the “anti-gonzo” gal, perhaps?
NOELLE: I find it difficult to watch gonzo where the woman is being overtly objectified and physically harmed. But then you have gonzo like Manuel Ferrara’s movies, and they’re pretty much masterpieces. I watch his movies and within five minutes I can see that the girls want to be there, they want to have sex and they’re truly turned on. You can see it in their body language, their facial expressions. There’s a spring in their step, so to speak. And he’s one of the gonzo directors that gives a great deal of thought to how the scene will be presented. There’s a psychological element, and he makes every woman he works with feel very special and desired.

Gonzo can be done extremely well and be very hot, but it depends on the director and his skill level. State of mind and level of artistry is crucial in porn, just as in every other form of entertainment.

XBIZ: Let’s cut to the chase. The adult biz is hurting. DVD sales are tanking, downloads are pirated, the whole packaging and distribution phase is changing. What’s your take?
NOELLE: I think DVDs are dying a much slower death than CDs because not everyone is having a great experience with VOD and downloading. There’s also the added psychological factor of buying something and really feeling you own it. We’re obviously seeing a decline in DVD sales as other options become more convenient, particularly if people just want a quick scene to jerk off at their computer. But that’s not what the fans of our movies are generally doing. For them, it’s much more of an event, like sitting down to watch a mainstream movie or read a book.

XBIZ: The book example is right on target, what with the new e-books. Your thoughts?
NOELLE: Personally, I would never stop buying books in favor of downloading them to read on one of those Kindles. It’s like, “Give me my book! I want to hold it, I want to look at it!” I want the whole ritual, because there’s an emotional investment there. Lots of people still feel that way about movies. They want the box covers, something tangible.

We’re all disappearing into the ether now — our music and videos are online, our social lives are online. There has to be an equilibrium reached at some point since we’re still human. We can’t be reduced to a “cyber entity” that does only “cyber things.” So DVDs will probably be around for a while yet. Technology is evolving much faster than the human spirit.

XBIZ: Indeed. Speaking of human spirit, how do you manage talent on the set? Those are some particularly spirited humans, right?
NOELLE: Creating the right environment on set is crucial. If your performers don’t feel appreciated, respected and loved, they’re not going to let their guard down and that will come across on film with a performance that’s cold and guarded. I’m trying to get them to do the opposite, to be passionate and intimate and vulnerable. So I consider myself a director even when I’m just offering talent a soda or sandwich, or giving them a hug. Every interaction I have with them, and the overall vibe they feel on set, will affect their state of mind and ultimately will affect the scene. So a warm, loving, fun set is extremely important to me.

XBIZ: Do you think there’s a “female” kind of porn, or a “female” style of directing?
NOELLE: I don’t think so, no. My best friend loves bukkake and she’s a woman. Some of the stuff she’s into. I think, “Whoa, Nelly! Worse than a guy!” So women are capable of being turned on by all kinds of things. There are female directors like Kylie Ireland who prefer directing very hardcore, super dirty, kinky scenes. That’s truly her thing and she’s a woman. And just look at Belladonna. Likewise, I know plenty of guys who just want to jerk off to two girls in bed in their underwear, making out and saying, “I love you.” It’s a big misconception that you can attribute porn sensibilities to gender.

Still, women do bring a more nurturing and creative sensibility to porn overall, I think. Porn needs women. The men need for us to be involved. It creates the type of balance that porn has historically lacked. It’s empowering for women to have a say in how we’re portrayed in adult films, and to be involved in the creative process, as well as the business side.

XBIZ: Surely the men and women have some gender-oriented differences in behavior, though. What are they?
NOELLE: I do feel male performers let down their guard a bit more with a female director, that’s true. It’s definitely important to me to make male talent feel nurtured and safe. After all, if a man doesn’t feel right, he may not be able to perform. I have never had one male performer fail in a scene in one of my movies — not once. But male directors I know complain all the time about this guy or that guy “losing wood,” and I always say, “That’s weird, because he’s always great when he works with me.” I think that says something.

XBIZ: What are your personal goals? Professional goals? Or are they the same now?
NOELLE: I want to continue to build a body of work I can be proud of. That’s personal and professional, certainly. I want to give all the amazing, beautiful, underrated artists of the adult industry work that makes them feel good, and help create a new paradigm for what it means to be an adult entertainer. If by the end of my life adult performers are no longer battling the terrible stigma society places on them, if they no longer feel they have to hide what they do from their families and friends, and if I can feel I had anything at all to do with that — hey, my life will have been well spent.

XBIZ: It’s right around the corner, so what are you working on for 2010?
NOELLE: I’m concentrating on the Sweet Sinner line and just getting the films out there, all to a consistent high standard. A lot of people still don’t know we exist. I want us to keep striving to improve the films, from the production values to the sex.

This next year is critically important and now is not the time to get complacent. I’ve already increased production values and fine-tuned the post-production process, so we’re starting to hit our stride now.

But with every step in the right direction, you see how much there still is to do.


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