It doesn’t require a blind leap of faith to understand how an adult studio that employs handsome young men could draw fans from the opposite sex. But Keith Miller of Helix Studios couldn’t help but notice the female fans of such young studs on his roster as Blake Mitchell, Joey Mills, Max Carter and others had grown particularly fervent in recent years.
Miller says they never set out to appeal specifically to women. “We’ve never really targeted anybody like that,” he tells XBIZ. “The productions that we do, the type of movie I want to see, and the models that we have, if anything I would think we are expanding our audience base by having individuals that more people are attracted to. I’ve spoken to some ladies who have said they’re attracted to males and when there’s two of them in the picture, that’s even better than one.”
When I tell people what I do for a living, they’re shocked. It’s out of the ordinary that a former high school teacher turned stay-at-home mother and author would somehow find herself drawn to the business of (gay) porn, but that’s exactly what happened and I couldn’t be happier.
Miller feels women have been neglected in promotions and marketing efforts.
“How much of that is the gay industry not wanting to think that anyone outside of a gay person is going to find what a gay guy does interesting? It’s a little bit short-sighted on our part,” he says. “We’ve got really hot guys and the audience likes them. Just because they’re gay doesn’t mean they can’t have all kinds of fans.”
The rise of social media platforms, particularly Twitter, has changed that game.
“Too often, I think, the industry we’re in hasn’t recognized how many female fans we do have (who) have been ignored in the past by other companies,” Miller explains. “They’re a little bit more prominent these days because of the ways they can reach out and interact with the stars.”
Miller doesn’t think mass numbers of women have come to the sudden realization that they like gay porn.
“I think the gay industry is just now waking up to the fact that their work can be appreciated by someone who is of the opposite sex,” he says. “I think it’s a matter of society changing and suddenly we realize we have a bigger base and that we appeal to a wider audience than we realized.”
Miller has been quizzing select female fans to better understand their mindset. “One of the quotes from one of the ladies I spoke to over the last couple weeks said very simply, ‘A membership to Helix is half the equation; the other half is social media.’ Not just Twitter, but all aspects of social media, from Snapchat to Facebook to Instagram, anywhere that the models post, fans are in those areas receiving it, just like they do for the Kardashians.
“Within minutes of being Snapchatted, [content] will be on Twitter and every other platform because a fan will see it and rebroadcast it,” he adds.
“We don’t sit down and ask, ‘What does the female want to see?’ That’s not what it is. We film what we want to see, but we try to go at it from the romance perspective and the perspective of love, the daydreams of everyone throughout the world. We’ve always done that. ‘Helix Academy,’ ‘Lifeguard,’ all our big movies are love stories. The beauty of sex, the glory of sex, the wonder of sex.”
Helix, however, takes their efforts “one step further.”
“We encourage our stars, our cast members, to become active on social media and build that fan base. Once they have that fan base, they’ll be members and supporters for years and years to come.”
Miller is working now to broaden the reach of the Helix Studios brand beyond adult content, such as the launch of a young adult series of novels beginning with “His Own Way Out,” based on the onscreen persona and real-life experiences of Blake Mitchell and written with his input.
“Our guys have reached the level that fans reach out to them everywhere they go. So we’re more selling celebrity these days than just the porn stuff,” Miller notes.
“Porn brought the celebrity, but like with our book launch … it’s an actual novel that appeals to the [segment] of the fan base that doesn’t necessarily want the adult stuff, but they do want interaction with the stars, with celebrities, with our cast.”
Taylor Saracen, who is female, and has also scripted hardcore scenarios for Helix, penned “His Own Way Out.”
Miller notes her scripts “are incredibly popular. Fans love it. They’re eating it up.”
“When I tell people what I do for a living, they’re shocked,” Saracen tells XBIZ. “It’s out of the ordinary that a former high school teacher turned stay-at-home mother and author would somehow find herself drawn to the business of (gay) porn, but that’s exactly what happened and I couldn’t be happier.”
Prior to approaching Miller via Twitter, Saracen had been frustrated by how to market herself as an author. “Though I had a publisher, the reach wasn’t what I was hoping it would be,” she says. “I felt like I had important things to say, and I needed to be heard.”
A friend clued her into Helix Studios and the “family vibe” the studio cultivates. “After doing my research, and reading about how Helix was focused on making their models personality stars rather than strictly porn stars, I was inspired. What community has been made more seedy and uncouth in the public’s eyes than the adult film industry? I wanted to tell the stories of people who often are cast aside and shunned by polite society.”
She notes Miller “loved the idea of the novel series” and proposed she take a more active role with Helix by writing scenarios for movies.
“I don’t see the fact that the models are men as any different than I would if I was writing flirty scenes about hetero college kids who end up banging,” she says. “Sex is sex, and as long as it’s consensual and all participants are of age, it doesn’t matter to me who’s having it.”
Miller said the themes stay within the road-tested Helix wheelhouse with a focus on the ups-and-downs of romance, falling in love and coming-of-age.
Part of what makes Helix unique, Miller believes, is that his exclusives, whom he calls the label’s “cast of characters,” share their personal journeys on social media.
“Part of it is lived out through the scenes you do and the interactions you have on camera and part of it plays out on social media in the parties and pictures and the hangouts,” he said. “It’s a whole different reality, what we’re doing, than anyone else is doing in the gay world.”
“And our female fans are just more vocal in those areas.”
As she became “immersed in the community,” Saracen became aware of the studio’s female fan base and wanted to study their obsessions. “I realized that Helix creates a culture around their models and is discerning about the caliber of model they hire,” she observes. “If you research fandom culture, and the psychology behind building a strong and fervent base, you’ll find that Helix has hit every mark, and they’ve done so in a natural and genuine way.”
Naturally, Helix has drawn its share of fervent male fans over the fifteen years since the label was founded, but Miller observed they tend to “come-and-go.” The female fans, however, stick around. “It’s absolutely incredible. It’s like a universe, a Helix universe, they’re following.”
“They’re interacting with the same Blake Mitchell that their parents would not be happy to see them talk about in porn scenes. But they are more than happy to have his book, which has no sexual references, in their house.”
In the meantime, he has no shortage of ideas to expand the Helix brand, describing a whiteboard in his office scribbled with proposals. “That whiteboard is full,” he says, laughing. “I have to buy a new one.”