LOS ANGELES — Jacky St. James told XBIZ that filmmaking could be likened to a football game with the director as the quarterback.
“I’m a huge football fan and I know you can have a really solid quarterback but if you don’t have a solid team behind you, you’re not going anywhere,” St. James said.
The team behind her is the staff at New Sensations/Digital Sin, the studio that has been her home since she got into the porn business less than five years ago. She said she could not have won her first Director of the Year – Body of Work trophy on Jan. 15 at the 2015 XBIZ Awards without their support.
The native of northern Virginia directed almost two-dozen movies last year, including the 2015 XBIZ Award-winning titles “The Sexual Liberation of Anna Lee” and “Second Chances,” in her most prolific year as a director.
“I was genuinely not expecting that,” St. James said this week.
Now that she’s had time to reflect, she admitted she was “so angry” after watching a video of her acceptance speech on stage at the J.W. Marriott.
“I was fumbling and stumbling and so inarticulate,” St. James said with a laugh. “I wish I had said something more clever. I didn’t even thank the people that I owe so much of my success to.”
She pointed to New Sensations president Scott Taylor, who has been “like a great coach” from the beginning, adding that her significant other, Eddie Powell, the 2013 XBIZ Director of the Year, “has been my mentor.”
“He’s taught me so much. I owe everything to him, I really do,” St. James continued. “Then there’s Paul Woodcrest, and our editor Gabrielle Anex and everyone at New Sensations. Not just the people in the public eye, also the people behind the desk. The post-production staff… I’m so thankful that New Sensations holds itself to such a high standard.”
A former aspiring mainstream actress with more than 13 years experience in online advertising before porn, St. James got her big break in adult when she entered a scriptwriting contest for the New Sensations Romance Series.
The script, which took her about three days to write, became the movie “Dear Abby.” It was directed by Powell and released by New Sensations in June of 2011, signaling St. James' arrival and laying the groundwork for bigger things to come.
During her first couple years St. James devoted much of her time to marketing and public relations for New Sensations, but she also did a lot more screenwriting and some directing.
Now St. James is one of New Sensations' most dynamic directors, shooting two-to-three movies per month while also writing and producing.
“It has been a wild ride and what’s so exciting about it is I feel like I never reach the pinnacle of success. There’s always room to be better and to do more,” said St. James, who won back-to-back XBIZ Best Screenplay Awards in 2013-14 for “Torn” and “Temptation of Eve,” respectively.
“Torn,” which St. James co-directed with Powell, also received the 2013 XBIZ Award for Couples-Themed Release of the Year as well as Best Actor awards for its stars Remy LaCroix and Steven St. Croix.
“‘Torn’ was so successful but there’s always new things and you have to continually up the ante,” St. James said. “For me it’s never, ‘Oh yeah, ‘Torn’ won. I’m so excited and now I can just coast because I won a big award. It’s how can I make something even better than ‘Torn’?”
St. James picked up another XBIZ Couples-Themed Release of the Year award on Jan. 15 with “The Sexual Liberation of Anna Lee,” which starred Maddy O’Reilly as a sexually repressed young woman who seeks unconventional therapy to help her explore her sexual limits. O’Reilly won the 2015 XBIZ Award for Best Actress – Couples-Themed Release for her role and male lead Xander Corvus captured the Best Actor honor.
“‘The Sexual Liberation of Anna Lee’ was deeply personal to me. I was telling a story that was coming from the heart and casting people that can also relate,” said St. James, who grew up conservative in the political outskirts of Washington, D.C.
“I wrote it with Maddy in mind. I also know a little about Maddy. Similar to my background, a lot of people think she’s reserved, but she also has a very deviant side and it wasn’t until she got into porn that she got to show off that side of herself.
“Living in this box is such an emotionally painful place to exist and I wanted to write something about what would happen in a perfect world if this woman had an opportunity to free herself of those inhibitions."
Meanwhile, St. James' “Second Chances” came away with its own share of honors at the 2015 XBIZ Awards as its star Carter Cruise received the Best Actress – Feature statue and co-stars Jessa Rhodes and Chad White earned Best Supporting acting nods. St. James, who again co-directed with Powell, even grabbed a Best Non-Sex Performance award for her role as a TV news reporter.
The story followed a college student played by Cruise who faces the prospect of the guy who broke her heart during her freshman year coming back into her life when she’s a senior.
“Every single person in that moment, all the performers wanted to do an amazing job and they gave their guts to that movie,” St. James said. “Carter was getting into character hours before we had to shoot. She’d sit by herself listening to her headphones.
“... It meant a lot to me that it meant that much to her. It was literally one of the smoothest sets we’ve ever been on. I couldn’t have asked for a better cast. Everyone wanted to be there and I was so proud of all of them.”
St. James stayed sharp in between the major features, directing a wide variety of titles in 2014 including “Family That Lays Together,” “Rekindling the Flame,” “Our Father,” “Happy Anniversary” and “All in the Family.”
On Feb. 16, St. James will be unveiling the first sequel of her directing career, “The Submission of Emma Marx 2: Boundaries,” starring Penny Pax and Richie Calhoun as a couple in an intense BDSM relationship. It’s the follow-up to her 2013 original, which kicked off New Sensations’ "Erotic Stories" line of hard-edged, story-driven features. The film earned co-star Riley Reid a Best Supporting Actress win at the 2014 XBIZ Awards.
St. James said that in addition to shooting her vignette movies in genres such as hot-wife and fem-dom, she’d also direct two additional big features this year that have yet to be determined.
Now that she is directing full-time, she said being efficient and organized is more important than ever.
“It’s a positive adjustment,” St. James said. “I’m fully focused on being creative and thinking of new ideas. Before I was torn between two vastly different responsibilities. Now I’m so much happier.
“I’m getting paid for what I love to do. So many people are slaves to the desk and hate their jobs. I feel so very blessed to wake up in the morning and be so happy that I get to do what I’m doing.”
Photo by Jeff Koga.