And so it is I encountered Ivan, older brother of industry veteran Ricky D. Arriving in the U.S. from Russia in 1979, when it was still part of the Soviet Union, Ivan initially thought pizza was raw meat, but the past quarter-century has completely Americanized him. He loves pizza now — and he gets his recommended daily allowance of raw meat from working in both the horror and adult genres.
With a degree in cinematography from the Brooks Institute of Photography, Ivan began partnering with other horror-film lovers and made a number of indie films in the late 1990s. With his chops honed and doors of opportunity opening up, he then made the move to adult.
Although Ivan continues working in the indie horror genre, he now is happily ensconced at Anabolic, with enough artistic freedom to do satisfying, personally fulfilling work. Better yet, he's developed a keen eye for hip, new and commercially viable approaches to adult entertainment, including some well-received horror spoofs.
Personal fulfillment is great — as long as the films make money, of course. Ivan seems to have found the balance.
XBIZ spoke with the busy director in mid-January.
XBIZ: What came first for you, the love for filmmaking or the desire to make adult movies?
IVAN: My love for filmmaking came as I attended my first college. My career goals were in cartooning and graphic design until I took a TV production course. I instantly fell in love with it so I attended a junior college where I took two years of film history and theory courses. After that I attended Brooks Institute of Photography where I got my degree in motion pictures and cinematography.
XBIZ: After school you didn't waste any time, did you?
IVAN: Since 1997 my filmmaker partners and I have been making independent films, mostly concentrating on horror. We've had worldwide success with festivals and awards. I moved on to adult a few years back but am still doing the indie horror films. I just finished up another one, as a matter of fact.
XBIZ: So, when and why did you get into porn?
IVAN: I got into porn almost five years ago. It's funny, as I was working in television and my brother, Ricky D, was in adult. The company he was working for at the time, Evolution Erotica and Extreme Associates, needed a BTS camera guy so they asked me. The same day I got a call from them, I got a call from the show, "The Bachelor." I went with the steady check of porn.
XBIZ: There is a pretty solid tradition of mentoring in this business, of more experienced people helping talented newcomers. What was your experience as a newbie?
IVAN: There were certainly a few helpful people in the business. Of course, I still learn from my little brother, but there were a few others along the way who helped me tremendously. Charley Crow was the first director I worked under, and he and I had similar backgrounds so he made me feel real comfortable on my first few shoots. Guy Capo is a guy I respect for his dedication and creative mind, and he and I were good friends back in the day. The biggest impact and break for me came from Rob Black and Tom Byron. The creative freedom they gave me was priceless, and the knowledge about the industry that Tommy dropped on me? I still use it today.
XBIZ: And how is "today" for you?
IVAN: Today is good. I really appreciate my current position at Anabolic and am very grateful for all the opportunities, as well as the confidence that Chris [Alexander (Anabolic owner)] has in me.
XBIZ: "Director" can mean a lot of things in this business. Do you do your own camera work? What camera?
IVAN: I do all my own camera work, and I recently purchased the Canon XH A1 HD. I do all my own editing, too. Doing your own camera makes you a better editor and doing your own editing makes you that much better as a cameraman.
XBIZ: What's your take on the high-def debate?
IVAN: HD is nice and sharp, but do we need things sharper all the time? It's a nice pretty picture, but it can be a hassle in post, since everything is bigger and slower in post when it comes to HD, with its resolution and all. But it's the future, so I guess we all need to move on.
XBIZ: You grew up in the computer age, so you're comfortable with the hardware and software in use today, right? And you're comfortable moving into the future?
IVAN: Well, I initially learned how to edit on VHS, then spent a few years editing on film, which by the way is a nightmare. Now I love my Final Cut Pro. I'm ready for whatever's next, too.
XBIZ: OK, let's talk business: Just where is the adult market headed? All downloads all the time? Some of everything — DVDs, VOD, amateur tapes, streaming webcams?
IVAN: The business is definitely heading towards the Internet but DVD still has a huge place in the market. I believe that we all need to change with the times. Maybe there is less room now for simple DVDs with just compiled scenes, since all that can be downloaded. But I firmly believe that if you make good and creative movies, people will still buy them.
XBIZ: But aren't there certain genres, like the compilations you mentioned, that are simply passé, with little demand for new material?
IVAN: Maybe you just have to be more creative with it, so the fans want to purchase it. It has to be more then just a few sex scenes strung together. Companies or directors who either won't or can't put together interesting movies won't keep their DVD fans, and will eventually disappear. My approach is straightforward, and focused on the viewer; with every movie, I try to put something together that the viewer will find different or entertaining. That's so in the future, they will look for my work in anticipation of finding more of that unique feel that I try to provide to the audience.
XBIZ: Now for the big picture. What do you think about the political and cultural forces that oppose porn?
IVAN: I think that people who oppose porn and believe it's harmful need to open their eyes. If it's about the children, then look at MTV or movies or music, because those are the ways messages are really getting to the kids, not through porn. Porn is by adults for adults, unlike the other entertainment outlets. I think much of it comes down to the Religious Right trying to impose their beliefs and moral code on others.
XBIZ: How do we, as individuals and porn professionals, respond to that?
IVAN: Tell 'em something like, "Once you solve your altar boy issues then maybe you can judge others, OK?"
XBIZ: Then tell us what good porn is, Ivan. And is there room for everyone — gonzo, features, amateur, ethnic, fetish, etc.?
IVAN: To me good porn is when people on screen are enjoying themselves, having fun, because sex should be fun, and attractive, too. That's why my sets are always laid back and fun. It just shouldn't be that serious. And there is definitely room for all kinds of porn as long as it's not the same old thing everyday. Anyone can start at the feet, tilt up to the face, have the girl introduce herself then film her getting screwed. My advice? Move on as a moviemaker and get creative — please!
XBIZ: What is your plan? Your dream? What do you want to accomplish?
IVAN: I enjoy my job immensely, and every single day is a new adventure. I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. My plan is to have fun and make the most entertaining movies for the fans that I possibly can. Having control from camera to editing is the ultimate for me, and my dream is to continue doing this.
XBIZ: You've paid a lot of dues in a short amount of time, and have seen a lot. What have you observed about the downside of the business?
IVAN: Anyone who gets into this business needs to take some sort of maturity test. And maturity is not necessarily an age thing, since there are 30-year-olds who are clueless and 18-year-olds that can mentally run circles around them. Plus, I strongly believe that we all should treat each other with respect. I have seen so many girls in this industry being mistreated by their agents and other guys. I for one will not use those agents or performers, and if more people in the industry did the same we could really weed out the crap. As a director, I enforce my own "no" list.
XBIZ: It really does come down to respect — self-respect and respect for others — doesn't it?
IVAN: On my sets we don't disrespect anyone, especially the ladies. To me, each girl is someone's daughter, sister, mother, loved one, etc., and who am I to play mind games with them? At the end of the day most people go home to someone, and I know I wouldn't want my loved ones coming home upset. So I make sure that everyone on my shoots has fun and goes home with a smile and a stuffed toy. Yep, I really do give girls stuffed toys after the shoots. Corny, but they like it.
XBIZ: What do you do for fun, besides the fun work, of course?
IVAN: If your readers go to IamIvan.com, they will find a lot of fun stuff there, including a daily blog, pictures, info and trailers. Shooting flicks and doing the site is fun, but I also have too many hobbies — like collecting 100,000 football cards, 150 team jerseys, 50 pairs of shoes, 1,000 action figures, 600 DVDs and a kitchen that's filled with Legos building blocks. I'm a big kid and I spend all my time either shooting adult material or making horror movies. Like I said, life is good.