Golden Boys: Gay Winners React to XBIZ Awards

LOS ANGELES — As the minutes ticked away late into the night on Feb. 9, Spencer Reed had a few butterflies floating in his stomach. Trying to relax at home in Washington, D.C., he still kept his eye on Twitter in hopes of some good news from across the country as the 2011 XBIZ Awards unfolded in Hollywood. It was 4 a.m. before he finally gave up and hit the sack. The next thing his boyfriend Phillip Aubrey remembers is a loud noise: “I was still asleep,” he says before laughing, “then he jumped out of bed at 8 o’clock in the morning going, ‘Woo!’”

After a busy year that saw Reed work with virtually every major studio under the sun, his win for Gay Performer of the Year may have seemed like a no-brainer to some. But the humble hunk never thought so: “A lot of times you see some of these award nominations, and sometimes they just don’t make sense. But all the other names on that list were very well-deserving names. I was like, ‘If I win this, I would be beyond myself.’ But I told myself not to get too excited because I didn’t want to be let down. You never want to take it too seriously.”

Reed was recently nominated for newcomer and performer-of-the-year accolades that went to other performers, but now he has some hardware all his own. “Everybody has been really positive toward me and everybody has told me ‘Congratulations!’ and that I deserved it, which is awesome to hear. Sometimes there’s a lot of bitterness or cattiness about these awards, but everybody’s been like, ‘That’s awesome, you worked your ass off, you deserve it, you really put your all into everything you do.’ That just feels really good…it’s great to be recognized for the amount of effort I’ve put into this business this year.”

It’s of little surprise that Reed has his hand (and other ample parts) in the productions of his fellow big winners. Raging Stallion won Movie of the Year for the two-part "Brutal," the boxing-themed blockbuster bursting with aggression. “I’m very proud,” notes writer/director Tony Dimarco. “Everyone involved worked very hard on that production and it’s a great reward to be recognized for that. It makes it all seem worth the enormous effort. Also being my first solely written/directed large-scale production, it’s very gratifying on a personal level to win Best Picture.”

The win marked Raging Stallion’s third consecutive in the category, cementing its dedication to “event” movies. “Since an abundance of one-off scenes flood the market, I think bigger films have a chance of standing out from the pack,” Dimarco says. “This has been true more these days than in the past. With the state of the porn industry and with the internet, not many studios are producing big films at all. I’ve gotten feedback from many people saying that they like story-based porn because they like having sex with a context.”

Titan also knows a thing or two about streaks, picking up its fourth consecutive trophy for Studio of the Year. Vice President Keith Webb praises director Brian Mills (“Brian is one of the best and most consistent directors in the industry and does not get the credit he deserves”) and the entire Titan team, sayng the citation means more than any individual award. “Winning four years in a row is incredible. As the XBIZ Awards are voted on by industry business people, it means even more to us. People in this industry are tough and can see through bullshit. Knowing that for four years in a row these people recognized that we were the highest quality and most consistent gay films says a lot.”

Titan was also aided by Joe Gage, who picked up Best Director honors. The icon contributed "Coyote Point" and "Mojave Run" in 2010, while also releasing "Joe Gage Sex Files 5" and "Jock Park" through Dragon/Gage Media (released late in 2009, "Dad Takes a Fishing Trip" also hit huge in 2010, as did Titan’s "Battle Creek Breakdown"). “To quote Ruth Gordon on accepting an Oscar for 'Rosemary's Baby:' ‘I can't tell you how encouraging a thing like this is,’” says the legend. “(My films) seem to have branched off in two different directions: For Titan, I use their considerable resources to give my movies some sweep and detail. For my independent work, I get somewhat more gritty and low-down.”

Gage credits life experience for shaping his vision. “You can't walk down a city street or country road and turn a corner without eventually confronting someone or a situation that demands to be dramatized (or experienced) in a sexual manner.” He adds that the digital revolution made all the difference for him: “In the past, I was always chomping at the bit to get a scene I poured my heart into properly lighted for film. The waiting was agony. The advent of this revolutionary technology has calmed me down a bit and made my work somewhat more reflective.”

The influential director has won shockingly few trophies over the years — a fact that is puzzling to many. “Joe is one of the best directors this industry has ever seen,” says Webb. “But he’s not a big player in the industry and doesn’t work the politics needed to win awards. Joe is confident enough in his own work that he doesn’t need awards to validate himself, unlike a lot of other directors. What makes Joe different is that he gets into the mood and the mind of the sexual encounter, he’s not overtly sexual in his approach. He can tell a story without a lot of words and can build sexual tension like no other. While Joe has always been recognized as one of the best directors in the gay industry, it’s nice to finally see him get some awards to go along with the talk.”

Mills adds that they invited Gage to Titan in 2004 because of the quality of his work in classics like "Kansas City Trucking Company" and "L.A. Tool and Die." “Joe’s movies aren’t just about sex—they’re about the men, the place, the motivations that drive them to do what they do. I’ve learned a lot from Joe. Probably the most valuable thing is how important it is to take pride in my work. You’ll sometimes hear someone on the set say, ‘It’s just porn…’ usually followed with some excuse to except a shot as ‘good enough’. If Joe ever hears anyone say this, he’s been known to say, ‘But it’s my movie, let’s shoot that again.’ I love his determination to get the right flavor from the guys. He loves filmmaking. He’s helped me love filmmaking more as well.”