This past year, TitanMen, a legacy brand in gay adult, pulled off the rare feat of earning three XBIZ Awards nominations for Best Gay Movie in a year of heady competition. All three — the stylish all-sex epic “Icons,” presidential satire “Cauke for President” and a tale of a closeted baseball player, “Out!” — were helmed by Jasun Mark. An industry vet with a workhorse reputation as a one-man-band — Mark writes, photographs, produces, shoots, edits and directs his own films — he has come into his own as a creative force. Garrulous and animated, with bright blue, flashing eyes that set off his handsomely rugged features, Mark is a familiar presence in behind-the-scenes vignettes and blog posts, but nevertheless rarely gives interviews. However, he agreed to speak to XBIZ about his career in adult and his recent creative breakthrough.
A native Canadian, Mark started his career with Bedfellow in Toronto and moved on to Fratmen in 2005 and then Jake Cruise from 2008-2011 before landing what he still describes as his dream job as lead director for TitanMen. “I feel like my first real job in the industry was with Fratmen. I started out as a video editor doing the motion menus on DVDs, because that was actually a job at one point,” he laughs.
The first day on the job, one of the many things I had to do was smear mud all over Francois. That was my first day on the job with Titan. -Jasun Mark, TitanMen Director
“I had worked at Bedfellow as a video editor and I got sick and tired of the Canadian winters, really. I could only drive my motorcycle five or six months out of the year. I remember, it was December. I was riding my motorcycle through the streets of Toronto, which is kind of dangerous because it was already starting to freeze over, and it started to snow on the way home. And I thought, ‘Fuck this. I don’t want to have to wait five months to get back on my bike.’ I had always wanted to live in L.A. and I was never much of a fan of winter.” Mark notes that he relied on the industry contacts he’d already cultivated and posted online that he was looking for work in Southern California. “I had the (new) job within days,” he marvels.
He promptly sold his possessions and moved to America. Mark slept on a friend’s floor for five months until he was settled and he was sure the job would last (Carlo, his longtime partner, and now husband, soon followed. He notes with wry humor that a recent TitanMen applicant was born on the day Mark had his first date with his husband in 1992).
When he arrived at Fratmen, Mark immediately realized there was an opportunity to involve himself in day-to-day activities beyond simply clocking hours at an editing bay. “There was so much that needed to be done,” he recalls. “On my second day, I ended up rewiring the building because the phone lines didn’t match the phone system that we had. I didn’t really (know how) but I figured it out and I did it,” he laughs. “That’s kind of been my secret. When a job needs to be done, I’ll do it. I’ll figure out how to do it.”
He quickly moved into production with Fratmen and spinoff site Fratpad. “We sort of invented the cam-house. Fratpad was the best one, by far. All these guys living together and half the fun of it was not sexual — it was like hanging out with the cool guys in college.” Mark filmed many of Fratpad’s wholesomely erotic shenanigans. “I shot all those jerk-off races and the pumpkin-fucking and naked Twister,” he says. “Strip spelling bees, all of that stuff. We had a blast and people loved it. It was great. But I was never going to be a director. In the back of my head, I always wanted to direct for Titan. Since the ‘90s, that was my goal.”
A fortuitously timed lunch with performer-mogul Jake Cruise landed Mark a job to help create and manage the newly launched CocksureMen. “He brought me on to help market (the new site) with the understanding that I would be learning how to direct. And it was amazing. I got to spend four years learning on the job. Jake allowed me so much leeway; we were on this ranch location in Sun Valley. It was like living in a gay porn Willy Wonka factory. Everywhere you turned was another (location).”
When Cruise elected to scale back production, Mark knew it was time to move on. At the time, he’d managed to leverage his experience in adult into a successful blog that allowed him the financial leeway to freelance as a director every couple of months. He directed for a number of smaller labels and again, a bit of fortuitous timing led him to cross paths with Dominic Ford at a gay resort in Key West. “He was shooting one of the ‘So You Think You Can Fuck?’ episodes,”Mark says. “I wound up doing some stuff with him.” Word circulated about how he was helping out on that shoot and the opportunity Mark had been working towards finally arrived: An executive from TitanMen called about hiring him as a cameraman for a top-secret project scheduled for the following week. “I showed up in Palm Springs and walked through the front door and the first person I see is Francois Sagat,” he says. The film was “Incubus,” the adult legend’s highly publicized erotic art film that won the 2013 XBIZ Awards for Gay Movie of the Year.
“The first day on the job, one of the many things I had to do was smear mud all over Francois,” Mark recalls with another hearty laugh. “That was my first day on the job with Titan. This really is the most surreal life you can imagine. When I first started with (Titan), I was literally just a production assistant, moving boxes and uncoiling wires and walking around with a camera shooting all the behind-the-scenes stuff so I could blog about it,” he notes. “Now I’m lead director. Joe Gage comes in once a year and directs a movie. But I do the rest of it.”
He cites the recent sexpic “Silverlake,” starring David Benjamin, as one of his first adult projects that felt truly personal and a culmination of his creative growth. It was primarily filmed in and around his own neighborhood. And he had a lead actor in Benjamin who could honestly deliver a variety of emotions, from aggressively sexual to tenderly romantic, to fulfill Mark’s vision of depicting out-and-proud gay men exploring a full range of sexual adventures with unabashed pleasure and a genuine sense of connection.
His enthusiasm for his work is still potent. “Silverlake” opens with an overhead shot of costar Liam Knox diving into a pool and then cuts to underwater footage for a reverse angle as Knox swims the bright blue waters. “I learned how to fly a drone so I could get drone (footage),” he laughs. “And then I was at the bottom of a pool. Every so often, I just stop and (think), I can’t believe I actually get paid to do this. It’s a blast.”
Find Jasun Mark on Twitter as well as his new blog, DickHarden.com.