Dana Vespoli: Performing a Pathway to Directing

XBIZ recently sat down with veteran porn star and director Dana Vespoli, who just released her feature film debut last month for Evil Angel.

Vespoli’s erotic feature “Forsaken” stars Ash Hollywood and Manuel Ferrara.

I always say that at heart I am a gonzo director. Gonzo is what brought me into this industry. -Dana Vespoli, Director

Vespoli, a San Francisco native, broke into adult as a performer in 2003. She picked up the camera three years later, shooting fetish, POV and vignette features for a number of studios.

Her niche is mostly vignette movies with darker storylines, as well as POV-type scenarios.

XBIZ: How did you get your start in the adult business?

Dana Vespoli: I had been a fan of porn for a long time, and it continued through college, where I would rent movies. I had been a huge fan of John Leslie, Joey Silvera and John Stagliano and was also a fan of all the old Caballero movies. I entered the industry after doing production work on softcore movies, and talking to some hardcore performers who were on set.

XBIZ: You were a performer before becoming a director. What prompted the transition?

Vespoli: I began performing with the intention of becoming a director. One day, at the end of 2005, I heard that Digital Sin was looking for a director. I had bought a camera and had been practicing shooting, and felt confident enough to contact them and ask for a directing deal.

XBIZ: How did you become the director for Mile High Media’s Sweetheart Video?

Vespoli: Nica Noelle introduced me to the owner of Mile High just before she began working with AEBN. I had performed a few times for Sweetheart, and had been directing lesbian movies through Filly Films. Mile High gave me a shot with “Lesbian Adventures: Older Women/Younger Girls” and it has continued from there.

XBIZ: We saw that you also became an Evil Angel director. Are you still going to continue to direct for Mile High?

Vespoli: Yes. I’ll direct for them as long as they’ll have me!

XBIZ: In your decade-long career, what are the most important things you’ve learned as an adult performer and director?

Vespoli: I actually haven’t worked steadily for 10 straight years — there were one and two year long breaks in there. Nevertheless, I’ve certainly learned quite a bit. As a performer it’s important to have boundaries. There is nothing wrong with looking at a director and saying “That scares me” or “I just can’t do that. I don’t feel right about it.” A lot of performers, women and girls especially, come into this industry and think having hard limits means they’re a pain in the ass and no one will want to shoot them. I’ve been the girl who acquiesces and then feels like shit after, and it isn’t worth it. No amount of money is worth it. I became the woman who can say “I’m sorry, that’s not what we agreed upon. I can’t do that, we will have to do something else instead.” Too often I have seen girls go along with things of which they are clearly conflicted. In the end, if you do it enough times, it ruins your health both mentally and physically. It’s important to understand exactly what is expected of you before agreeing to a shoot, so you don’t waste your time or the director’s time.

As a director I have learned how to be efficient with time, with money, with communication.

It is helpful when everyone is working harmoniously, and it keeps the energy up as well as being mindful that lounging around on set all day costs everyone money.

The industry has taken a hit in this economy, so money is something we all have to think about. That said, an efficient set keeps everyone happy. As a director I’ve also learned to be bold, take risks and break some rules with regard to how I shoot.

XBIZ: You shoot a mélange of scenes that comprises of girl/girl, boy/girl but what is your favorite genre to shoot?

Vespoli: I don’t have a favorite genre per se. I always say that at heart I am a gonzo director. Gonzo is what brought me into this industry — movies from Stagliano, Joey Silvera and John Leslie.

At heart I am a voyeur — my kink is watching. I’m a better director than performer by virtue of the fact that I like to watch. I like to document and revisit the memory later.

As long as it’s authentic, and as long as it is intense then I’m happy.

When I’m shooting camera and I’m happy with a scene there are obvious signs: I’m chewing on my lip and I barely blink. I’ve done this with both boy/girl and girl/girl.

XBIZ: What are you next projects for Sweetheart Video and Evil Angel, if any?

Vespoli: I shot a lesbian anal POV for Evil that releases in March, and I’m just finishing my second feature for them as well. For Sweetheart we are getting ready to shoot a movie around Dani Daniels, which I’m excited about. She’s lovely and the real deal.

XBIZ: Are there other performers you dream of directing/performing with?

Vespoli: Rocco Siffredi.