LOS ANGELES — With the Valentine’s Day movie premiere of “Fifty Shades of Grey” only a few months away, the anticipation is mounting from both adult and mainstream as to how successful the film adaptation will be, and if it will once again vault the BDSM phenom to the top of pop culture.
No stranger to following the lead of Hollywood blockbusters, adult has often — and successfully — parodied the big films, sometimes dramatically, sometimes comically and always erotically.
Since the book's debut, a healthy number of “Fifty Shades” adult movies have been announced along with complimentary novelties and even educational products.
Veteran adult production company Zero Tolerance, itself a creator of BDSM toys, is one of the first major studios to release a homage to “Fifty Shades” called “Shades of Scarlet” that not only captures the feel of the book, but includes clever marketing by tieing in its own brand of Scarlet novelties and includes packaging with a bonus 2-disc DVD set — “Dr. Ava's Guide to Sensual BDSM for Couples.”
The studio has also released a compelling SFW YouTube teaser trailer [above] to help stoke the fires.
ZT's director of sales and marketing Marcus West, has graciously allowed XBIZ to pick his brain about the film and future plans for similar titles.
XBIZ: What was the impetus behind creating “Shades of Scarlet”?
Marcus West: We created a line of bondage toys for Adam & Eve called Scarlet, which was inspired by the E.L. James ‘Shades of Grey’ books. Then we thought it would be visually interesting to see the toys in action in a movie, so we asked Mike Quasar to come up with a script that would fit the bill.
XBIZ: Is it part of a series of big-budget features to come from ZT?
West: Yes, we continue to build our library with exciting new releases where we push interesting new concepts. For example, in our recent ‘King James’ release — Porn's most notorious stud James Deen handpicks his five favorite luscious ladies in a hot ‘reverse gangbang.’ Zero Tolerance will continue to look for unique takes and produce great product for our consumer.
XBIZ: Was it director/writer Mike Quasar’s idea or collaboration?
West: Creating a film around the Scarlet line came from ZT, but the script is all Mike. He wanted to create something that was very moody, with a thriller tone, which he definitely accomplished. The plot twists between the erotic writer in the movie, and his biggest fan — so that by the end of it you’re not sure whether she will ever be able to get back to her ‘normal’ life. It’s very intriguing.
XBIZ: How does ZT’s “Fifty Shades” homage differ from the other parodies and copies of the book’s premise set to debut?
West: ZT’s version is completely original — and captures the viewer as they follow Karlie Montana down the rabbit hole of BDSM. Mike Quasar found a way to deliver a film that has its own twists and turns and uses a ‘Svengali’ type relationship in a unique, almost magical way. You’ll have to see it.
XBIZ: The couples’ instructional Dr. Ava DVD was a clever addition. What’s the reasoning behind it?
West: Well, ‘Shades of Scarlet’ is a great film for couples to watch together, but after they watch it and they’re ready to experiment, what’s next? We thought, hey, let’s give them the tools to keep going and make a whole experience out of it. ‘Dr. Ava’s Guide to Sensual BDSM for Couples’ is perfect because it has a beginner section, and then gets wilder — it goes all the way from feather dusters to the Violet Wand.
XBIZ: Who is Dr. Ava?
West: Dr. Ava Cadell is an author and media therapist who also helps a lot of Hollywood stars with their relationship issues in her private practice. She’s got a doctorate in human behavior and one in human sexuality. We’ve worked with Dr. Ava in collaboration with many how-to titles because she brings an authority and knowledge base that customers really appreciate. The lady knows what she’s talking about. And her soothing voice and great style really work for our brand because we’re aiming at couples with these instructional videos. So far we’ve done Oral Sex, Anal Sex, Prostate, How to please a Woman and the Sensual BDSM.
XBIZ: Is the special pricing something new for ZT? Will it continue for future titles?
West: Well, we really wanted to make ‘Shades of Scarlet’ special and a real value at retail, so this special pricing is truly unique. But who knows — with the release of the theatrical ‘Fifty Shades’ in February, Zero Tolerance may yet have something up its sleeve.
XBIZ: Why a release date in September when the “Fifty Shades” film is due in February?
West: We wanted this movie in stores now, to be apart of the build of ‘Fifty Shades.’ The theatrical trailer debuted on the Today Show over a month ago. I think the entire market is building to that release and we wanted ‘Shades of Scarlet’ to be a part of that unique momentum.
XBIZ: It appears as though there’s a lot of group sex involved. Do you think the mix will resonate more with women than simply a one-on-one relationship?
West: Listen, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this business, it’s that it’s impossible to make any gender generalizations when it comes to sex. I think men and women find group sex erotic, probably for a variety of different reasons. But I think what is definitely appealing to women about this film is that it has an intriguing story, and the sex is put into context. Men are okay with just sex for no reason [laughs] but women like to know why they’re doing it, and have their minds in the game, which is something this movie brings in spades.
XBIZ: What’s the relationship with Scarlet Couture Bondage products? Is it a tie-in with your novelty line?
West: The Scarlet products are a core part of the play in the movie and really give the consumer a chance to explore at their own pace. The tie-in is purposeful and will help retailers to co-promote the movie with the Scarlet line. Given our unique position as a manufacturer of movies and of bondage — we can allow retailers to cross merchandise both sections with the product and build basket size in their stores. It’s a neat idea going into the busy season for adult stores to increase revenue.
XBIZ: Is there a sequel in the works? If so, any details?
West: Sequel? Well, Mike [Quasar] is dying to continue the storyline so just like the ‘Fifty Shades’ books, we need to see where the characters can grow and develop. Quasar has a few ideas in the works of story development — so we will keep you posted.
XBIZ: Will there be more couples/sexual health titles and tie-ins forthcoming?
West: Why not? BDSM was the first — but you can easily see how we can take our library of Dr. Ava instructionals and pair them with great, character-driven movies to give the consumer a full range of exploration.