Just like every other sector in adult this most strange of years, CockyBoys was forced to tear up its long-established business plan in the wake of the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. But for CockyBoys owner and director Jake Jaxson, the novel coronavirus, and the concurrent social justice protests over the summer, prompted an existential reflection.
CockyBoys, the reigning XBIZ winner for Gay Movie of the Year for “All Saints: Chapter One,” is known for its handcrafted titles that draw inspiration from Jaxson’s own life with his partner RJ Sebastian, who also co-directs much of the company’s work, and their adventures with a close-knit band of exclusives and regulars. Their aesthetic can be described by a pair of notably effective marketing slogans: last year’s “Porn With a Purpose” and 2020’s “CockyBoys Makes You Feel Good.” Both convey Jaxson’s attempt to do more with his platform than simply churn out widgets.
At least the way we shoot, we [try to] create something where there’s a sense of intimacy and self-reflection and feels good and there’s honesty to it.
But what happens when the real world is locked down and when intimate touch — a CockyBoys hallmark — carries a potentially deadly charge? How does a studio like CockyBoys adapt? XBIZ spoke to Jaxson about that challenge as the industry at large began to slowly return to filming within a new paradigm of health and safety concerns.
The company recently signed a new exclusive – the fan-favorite stud Sharok – and Jaxson revealed that the long-awaited conclusion to the yearningly romantic, time-twisting “All Saints” saga will soon conclude with one final episode featuring Carter Dane and Blake Mitchell. And with such recent projects as “Lips Together – Six Feet Apart,” co-headlining Sean Ford with new exclusive Angel Rivera, the pandemic is front-and-center as Jaxson and his creative team strive to find the balance between responsibly acknowledging present-day reality and offering a much-needed opportunity for fantasy and escape.
XBIZ: How are you doing in New York? That’s a loaded question.
Jaxson: It’s a crazy time. I guess everyone is tired of hearing that.
XBIZ: It’s because everyone is asking the same question, “What do we do now?”
Jaxson: When it first started, we had to get creative and figure out how to do things virtually. And I think there came a point where, I guess, it was after the protests and people started re-engaging [with each other] that we began to think, “Okay, what is a way that we can do this in the safest way possible?” We do shoot up here [in upstate New York] and go through a quarantine process with everyone that comes up here with multiple testing — before they leave and when they get here and then they wait here for a period of time and then we shoot. Now it takes 10 to 15 days to shoot a scene!
XBIZ: This summer you began a program that involved shooting and editing content the performers could use in their clip stores. How is that panning out?
Jaxson: There was a point where no one was shooting and we did feel an obligation to our performers to help them make a living as much as possible because a lot of the programs the government was offering, besides the stimulus check, were forbidden to you if you were in the sex industry. We had to come up with some sort of strategy. So we started editing behind-the-scenes [clips] and stuff shot on iPhones and giving it to performers to use. A lot of them are now shooting on their own again. But that was a way to help them get by in the early stages.
XBIZ: Ongoing, are you going to incorporate that program into what you do?
Jaxson: Yeah, for those who want it. Part of what we were doing is that we had editors who needed the work. One of the things I tried to do was not lay anybody off, no matter what. But since then, for a series of performers who were willing to travel and test and quarantine, we’ve been able to resume working but not as full-on as we were.
XBIZ: How are you shifting your process? We were laughing about it, but 15 days for one scene is not unusual now.
Jaxson: At least the way we shoot, we [try to] create something where there’s a sense of intimacy and self-reflection and feels good and there’s honesty to it. But at the same time, you know, that will never, ever come across if anyone’s in a situation where they feel like they’re not safe. So now we go through a more extended period [of quarantine] and we try to not shoot scenes just for the sake of shooting scenes, but try to create something that brings some emotion, some joy, some levity, some self-reflection in the work that we’re doing. I feel like, if we’re going to do this, we need to deliver a little more than just sex.
XBIZ: How has the pandemic changed the type of content you film?
Jaxson: Over the summer – and we’ve had a warm fall – we shot as much stuff outside as we could. We tried to make the situations sensual and interesting and different in a way people haven’t seen. You know, in the films that I make that are feature-oriented, it’s strange because I’m a pretty emotional, heart-on-my-sleeve kind of person, so I was going through a period where there was nothing [creative] I could find.
XBIZ: I noticed you mentioned that unease in some of your press releases. It might have been in the press materials for “Lips Together — Six Feet Apart.”
Jaxson: Yeah, sex is a joyful experience. And a lot of suffering was happening in the world, you know? Sometimes pornography can be a “me, me, me — look at me” form of entertainment. I just was not in that space or that mood and I just couldn’t get my head wrapped around it. And then we came out with a marketing push called “CockyBoys Makes You Feel Good.” And that was a way to [say], “Look, this can be an escape. This can be a place to get away from it all if you need it.” And then we went through the #BlackLivesMatter protests and a really strong self-reflection in terms of social justice. And that became a voice within our work. A lot of our performers wanted to use their platform — and our platform, as a result — to carry through that message. I finally landed on that “Six Feet Apart” project, which is how I was feeling. Luckily, I have a partner; I’ve been married 20 years. We’ve become closer now as a result of this, closer than ever. And it was in that process that I started thinking, “What are people doing that don’t get to have that [closeness]? They can’t get out, they can’t touch.” And it really started tripping me out. That’s why I wanted to make something that felt like it was relevant, there was some sort of [recognition] of going through a shared experience. And I created this project about someone who met a boy just as lockdown happened and they’re apart for so long [with] one guy camping outside the other’s house.
XBIZ: You had the right actors for it.
Jaxson: That’s usually how it comes together. I usually create projects around performers and build it from there. I was so happy with how it turned out and I was grateful to be able to work in a way that I like to work. And, at the same time, we literally had a group up here, quarantined, so we were also having a shared experience while we were making it.
XBIZ: Angel Rivera was also in a Fire Island scene with Max Konnor recently. Was that during the lockdown?
Jaxson: Yes, that was shot before we did the “Six Feet Apart” project, it just took a little bit longer to piece it together. That was shot at the beginning of summer as some of the quarantine measures were lifted.
XBIZ: One of the reasons I ask is because there has been a lot of porn shot on Fire Island. Not lately anymore, but a lot. And now the perspective has shifted so much from, “Okay, Fire Island again” to “Wow, Fire Island!”
XBIZ: Nobody goes anywhere! It’s changed the way I look at where porn is filmed now, when it’s on a location like Fire Island or your estate tucked away in the woods and not an apartment or hotel room.
Jaxson: Even watching TV, I see a bunch of people together and I think, “What is that crowd doing all together?” And then I realize, “Oh, that was shot two, three years ago.” It is interesting how you process it. We don’t really shoot niche product, so year after year, we ebb and flow based on the performers and their energy and vibe. And for us, seasons and locations have always been a part of what we do. I’m about to start a project that’s a Christmas release. We’ve never really done a Christmas theme. Thematically, it’s about memories and holding onto the best memories and not the worst ones. And even though we’ve been going through a crazy year, and it’s hard, and so much is changing, that’s the nature of life. That’s our country, our world. We’ve been through worse things as a country. I hope there’s always something positive that comes out of every situation. That’s what I’m trying to zero-in on thematically.
XBIZ: That dovetails with your “Porn With a Purpose” campaign — using porn for something other than just release.
Jaxson: You’re right. Everyone talks about their platform and their audience and the people they speak to. Everyone has their own approach. Some people are just making money or doing other things. For me, the audience is sometimes bigger than what we [realize] and I just want to put across my point-of-view and my vision that porn and sex is part of a life well-lived and it’s not all-or-nothing. That is probably the one thing I’ve come away with this year. I was always kind of a little bit of a hermit already, so being locked down was not necessarily the worst thing. But I do have a lot of empathy for our guys who are younger and who need the energy [of crowds] and being out-and-about and seeing each other and living their young, fabulous lives. I can see how hard it is on them. Everything’s just been taken from them through no fault of their own. And I think we are all part of a collective consciousness. Even for me, I feel like I want to make sure with our platform that we’re putting work out there in a way that’s mindful and not tone-deaf to what’s happening in the world today.
XBIZ: I’ve talked to others lately who have said, “Absolutely not, we’re not mentioning anything. People want an escape from this.” And that’s valid and legit. But it sounds like you’ve found a way to incorporate what’s happening on a deeper level.
Jaxson: Look, a lot of those people are right. Customers don’t necessarily want to hear about what’s happening in the world. They definitely want porn to be an escape. You have to find that balance. We have performers that wanted to [talk] about social injustice and so we found a way to weave that into some of the scenes that we’re doing. And “Six Feet Apart” was about COVID. But I think people were surprised by [how] it made you be more mindful of how valuable that touch and that hug with someone is. Don’t take that for granted. You remember that Calgon commercial? “Calgon, take me away.” With what we’re shooting now, we’re [thinking about] “CockyBoys Makes You Feel Good.” You can settle in and go away somewhere for a little bit. I think we’ve found the balance. And folks who don’t like what we’re doing will let us know.
At the end of the day, what makes me excited about what we do? There has to be some personal connection to it, at least for me. I’ve taken this year to create and promote mindfully. And do everything I can, in the meantime, to stay sane. We’re all trying to do that.
Image: Jake Jaxson (RJ Sebastian, CockyBoys.com)