Finding Direction

Becoming a mainstream film director is a process that usually involves a fascination with cinema and experimentation with the family video camera, using siblings and pets as the subjects of your first forays into filmmaking.

Then, when you're old enough to go to film school, it's about perfecting your craft, producing noteworthy projects and networking with the right people until you get your shot. You join the Director's Guild and suddenly, you're in show business — that's Hollywood magic.

But the San Fernando Valley has its own magic; in the Do-It-Yourself School of Independent Adult Cinema, you can skip the whole going-to-film-school and "perfecting your craft" process. In fact, you can go straight from borrowing the family digicam to being in business in about a week, with enough luck and borrowed funding.

That's sort of what happened to Mike Quasar, a director for Zero Tolerance. Having helmed such series as "2 Young to Fall in Love," "Ass Cleavage" and "Double Decker Sandwich," to name a few, Quasar explained that he got into the industry the old-fashioned way — by accident.

At the ripe age of 20, Quasar moved to Los Angeles. from Canada with his rock 'n roll band and a friend named Alex Ladd, now co-owner of DVSX Productions.

After six weeks of living in the band's van, the pair realized the only contact they knew in L.A. was a stripper Ladd had met in Canada.

"Alex was working at the club and she told him, 'If you ever come to California, give me a call,' so thank God, he had her number with him and we called her from a pay phone booth on Hollywood Boulevard," Quasar said. "It was Trinity Loren."

Loren, a popular adult star of the late '80s and her videographer husband Barry Woods extended their hospitality, no questions asked.

"We were really thankful because we wanted to take a shower and eat something," Quasar said. "And we met her husband who, at the time, was Barry Woods. He was one of the most immediately trusting and friendly people I ever met."

Not long after, Quasar was tagging along to movie sets with Loren and Woods, and one thing led to another. From being a gofer, to a production assistant, to a production manager and on, up the line, until he was on a set one day and the regular cameraman never showed up.

"I basically asked, 'Can I try it?'" Quasar said. "That's the great thing about porn; they were like, 'Oh, OK.' So then all of a sudden I was a cameraman. When you're working as a [production assistant] for $75 a day and you realize as a camera guy, you can make $400 a day and you're 21 or 22 years old, that's amazing."

In fact, working in the adult industry is the only grown-up job Quasar has ever had. His first movie, he said, was "horrendous."

"It was called 'Cheating Hearts' and it was entrusted to me to make this movie by a man named Joe Spallone," he said. "I made a movie for about $6,000 and it was horrible."

Stints at companies like Gourmet Video and Las Vegas Video and working with the likes of Roy Karch and the legendary Anthony Spinelli eventually led to gigs with Elegant Angel and Metro Interactive until, finally, Quasar and Greg Alves opened Zero Tolerance in 2003.

Quasar's a practical guy who makes meat-and-potatoes porn and leaves the features to other directors.

"People have asked me, 'What's your style?' and I say, 'Well, let me see. My style is to make sure that the genitals are well-lit, that you can see everything, and that the participants look like they're enjoying themselves to some degree,'" Quasar said. "If I can get that, then that's a productive day.

"But you'd be amazed how many directors believe that unless a scene has 1,700 positions of anal in it, it's just not a good scene."

Then, you have directors like Jason Green, who is on the verge of releasing his first feature-length title, "The Make Up" for his Las Vegas-based company Paradise Visuals. Green is living proof that mainstream Hollywood has similarities to the adult industry after all.

Originally a writer, Green started his show biz career as a P.A. on TV shows like "Geraldo." Then, he found himself working at legendary B-movie producers Troma Studios, makers of such classics as "Bloodsucking Freaks," "Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town" and 'Surf Nazis Must Die!"

Working on MTV's "The Real World" led to an alliance with former "Real World" used-to-be celebrity Puck, and Green thought he'd landed a million-dollar contract for a spin-off reality show. But as the Hollywood Gods would have it, all Green got was a bad taste in his mouth after the deal went sour. While others would succeed with dumb luck and the smart connections, Green got tired of playing the mainstream game.

Leaving Hollywood behind, Green found himself in Las Vegas with a business partner and a partial interest in Paradise Visuals, the onetime home of classic stars like Christy Canyon and Ron Jeremy, with rights to titles like (by then, HIV-positive) John Holmes' last movie "The Devil in Mr. Holmes" and even winning an AVN Classic Release award for "Ginger Lynn: The Movie."

Re-releasing those vintage titles on DVD have become the bread and butter behind Green's adult directorial debut, "The Make Up." Taking a little bit of Troma style and mixing it with starlet Felix Vicious' last onscreen performance, as well as performances from Sunny Lane, Kimberly Kane, Leah Luv and Bill Margold, the movie is set to release in September.

So after all this, does Green still have faith in the entertainment establishment, adult or mainstream?

"I don't want to make a bullshit Hollywood movie," Green said. "Any movie with Tom Cruise, I don't go see. I don't care for "Mission Impossible" — I don't see these movies, I don't care about them. They're very one-dimensional and I don't really care about that stuff.

"If I go to Tom Cruise, he probably won't agree with my pornography because he's got his Scientology or whatever. I would much rather make a movie with a guy like Vincent Gallo, who is a true rebel and actually put a blowjob in one of his movies, with an Oscar-nominated mainstream actress [Chloe Sevigny in "Brown Bunny"]. Whether you liked the movie or not, that was a bold statement. And he proved: I don't really care; I make these movies myself. I will create my own interest and I'll do what I want."

And before you think that a lot of triple-X directors ended up in the industry because it was the last stop on the Tinseltown Turnpike, most adult auteurs wouldn't want to be anywhere else than in the throbbing heart of Porn Valley.

Directors like New Sensations' Greg Lansky, who is living out his youthful dreams.

Originally from France, Lansky started watching adult movies on European cable TV when he was only 8 years old. That set the compass for a journey that would take him to Chatsworth, Calif., via Paris, Barcelona and Berlin.

"I was always obsessed by it. I remember when I had my first Playboy in my hands," Lansky said. "I was 12 and I thought to myself, 'Someone actually got paid to take pictures of those hot, naked girls! I want to be that guy — I have to be!'"

He left the Film Institute of Paris in his senior year after being offered some mainstream work for the French version of the reality show "Big Brother" as well as a few music videos.

But it's about 5,660 miles from Paris to L.A., so whereas most young men in his position would have spent their money on a car or a plane ticket, Lansky decided to finance his own adult film.

"It's a hard industry to get into and you can't just go to school for it or answer an ad," Lansky said. "I met a guy who directed adult movies in France and he knew Manuel Ferrara. I asked for Manuel's number and called him, and said, 'Hey, I'm going to shoot my first porn in Spain with my own money with a couple of hot girls. Do you wanna fly and have fun with us?'

"He really wanted to, but had other obligations so he gave me Steve Holmes' number. I called Steve [who was living in Berlin] and one week later, he was in Spain," Lansky said. "He's the Lord of Porn."

He took his film to the 2004 Berlin Venus Fair, where Holmes introduced him to a German distributor who watched the film and then bought it 15 minutes later. Lansky had made his $16,000 back, but more importantly, he made a connection with Scott Taylor, owner of New Sensations, who looked at the film and offered him a one-picture deal, if he could make it to L.A.

Three years later, Lansky is prolific by any standards. With titles like "Fresh Outta High School 1-6," "Naughty College School Girls 41-42," "Sex With Young Girls 11" and "Prying Open My Third Eye 1-2," the lucky Frenchman works weeks at a time, shooting two or more scenes a day for New Sensations, as well as online producer

Not an easy job by any means, though people on the mainstream side might perceive it as the easy way out. Lansky said a good director has to have passion for his work, know how to deal with personalities, as well as be super-organized and professional.

"Everyday is a new adventure," Lansky said. "I think I got really lucky, to be honest with you. I think I got really fucking lucky. You know you're at the right time, at the right place."