Deborah Anderson's 'Aroused' Documentary Delivers

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Deborah Anderson debuted her adult film star documentary “Aroused: The Lost Sensuality of a Woman” on Wednesday at a private screening at William Morris Endeavor.

The documentary, which was shot like a feature film, chronicles the making of her upcoming fine-art coffee-table book of the same name in which she photographed 16 top porn performers lying on a bed wearing nothing more than a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes.

The London native is an accomplished high-fashion and celebrity photographer whose images have appeared in magazines such as Cosmopolitan, GQ, Vanity Fair and Playboy. Anderson collaborated with her friend Mike Moz, the 12-year adult industry marketing pro that is executive producer of “Aroused” along with Trina Venit, a Hollywood veteran and longtime supporter of Anderson’s work.

“Deborah’s amazing,” said Moz, who hand-picked the “Aroused” girls. “She’s electric when you’re around her. I haven’t been this excited about a project in a long time, and watching this come to fruition, I’m proud of it.”

The project features a mix of well-established and rising stars, including Lisa Ann, Belladonna, Lexi Belle, Allie Haze, Ash Hollywood, Jesse Jane, Katsuni, Kayden Kross, Francesca Le, Brooklyn Lee, Asphyxia Noir, April O’Neil, Teagan Presley, Misty Stone, Tanya Tate and Alexis Texas.

What Anderson & Co. have created with “Aroused” undoubtedly is one of the most definitive documentaries ever produced about adult film stars. Through a series of intimate, revealing conversations, Anderson succeeds in capturing the humanity of the performers she’s photographing, giving viewers a rare window into the minds and souls of the women behind the stage names.

Three of the performers — Francesca Le, Tanya Tate and Misty Stone — attended the screening at WME’s plush private theatre.

“After a while you forgot that it was an interview, you forgot that the cameras were there because we were just chatting away,” Tate told XBIZ. “I can say it’s probably one of the most open interviews I’ve ever done.”

Anderson introduced the film to the group of about 60 guests, some of which were Hollywood executives.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Anderson told the audience. “This is my first time seeing the movie finished. It’s an honor to have all of you here.”

She narrates much of the documentary, explaining what her inspiration was and how her vision evolved into something she didn’t previously imagine. And ultimately, Anderson reaches a new understanding about the challenges that performing in adult movies presents for women as well as porn’s place in society.

“I wanted to take the most sexualized women on the planet and portray them in a totally different light,” Anderson says during the opening sequence. “Strip away the porn star mask. Allow for their true essence to shine through, as the exaggerated image of a porn star has stuck with us for so long.

“As an artist, I felt we needed to change the way we view these women visually, yet I was unaware of the bigger picture that would unfold.”

In the film, much of which is shown in black and white, Anderson asks the girls to “let go,” to “soften” their eyes and to allow for the “dance” between photographer and model to happen. She also poses thoughtful questions about the performers’ sexuality, their upbringing and their religious views. Many of the exchanges happen in the makeup chair, while others are on the bed post-shoot.

The level of candor Anderson received was remarkable, as a few of the performers shared personal revelations for the first time on camera. A couple even shed a few tears.

The French-Vietnamese star Katsuni said that her fantasy porn persona is almost like being “a superhero.”

“It allows you to have a second life,” she said in her native French language.

Allie Haze married a preacher when she was 18 and taught Vacation Bible School years before starting her adult film career. Brooklyn Lee moved 55 times while growing up and then finally stopped counting, while Lisa Ann went 23 years without speaking to her father.

Those were just a few of the anecdotes that were juxtaposed with the tasteful video footage by “Aroused” cinematographer Christopher Gallo and edited by David Schenk.

Kayden Kross and Anderson engage in a fascinating talk about performers’ relationships with their fathers and “barriers” to entry into porn.

“I mean it’s one thing to disappoint your mom like that, it’s another to disappoint your dad,” Kross reasons. “And if you don’t have a dad to disappoint, that barrier is not there.”

Kross continues, “Lots of people, especially now, are children of divorce or one-parent homes. I find with adult that it’s always just a matter of how many barriers were there. There are barriers. It’s a social no-no. It’s taboo.” 

Anderson also spoke to Francine Amidor, the accountant and unofficial life coach at LA Direct Models, in an effort to find a different perspective on how the girls handle the adversity that comes with being porn talent.

“People who don’t know our industry will say, ‘Well surely they wanted to be a Hollywood actress.’ No, they didn’t,” Amidor tells Anderson. “They’re not failed actresses, they’ve been promiscuous all their lives and when they reach 18, they say, ‘You know, I’m giving it away for free, I might as well do it on camera.’

“They don’t think that in the future it might a hinder a relationship or it will be difficult to raise children knowing that one day that’s going to come up.”

Wednesday evening marked just the first step of the “Aroused” rollout as plans call for the documentary to be submitted to major film festivals in the coming months. The first test printing of the coffee-table book had just arrived from Italy prior to the screening. The finished book is expected to be released this summer. Anderson said that art gallery shows in LA and Europe are also in the works.