Q&A: Kayden Kross Directs Darkly Radiant TrenchcoatX Renaissance

Q&A: Kayden Kross Directs Darkly Radiant TrenchcoatX Renaissance

LOS ANGELES — Darkness. And light. Dominance. And surrender. Only those whose softness rivals their harshness, whose spirits transcend the shallow allure of kindred reflections to embrace alchemical paradox, can attain wholeness.

Locksmiths, after all, cannot truly penetrate the chaos of a dancing star.

And when that terrible mystery claws its way free from the amniotic sac of rabid infatuation, as inevitably as lunar cycles spawn gibbous horrors, not even the most perfectly cast magic can withstand Lovecraftian fury. For without eldritch sophistication, arcane depths swallow such amorous glittering. And the simpleton heart, so easily sated, is doomed by the mind's eclipsing madness, whose appetite is far more ravenously refined.

Kayden Kross knows this truth. 

So does her audience, for they are a rarefied breed, supping on nothing less than divine delights and philosophical musings, from Unkrossed.com to ClubKayden.com. They do not covet the acclaim of a preacher’s choir, for theirs is a niche community comprised of truly distinct identities, not an assembly line of deviant caricatures and archetypes. They yearn for excellence, for supreme ascension, straddling multi-dimensional spectrums.

You see, Kross not only directs … she channels her very soul into the narrative and sexual threads of TrenchcoatX.com artistry. Rather than chasing after golden-hued phantoms, passing through unfamiliar shades to merge with like-minded simulacrums, she finds strength in incongruity, in the power of mainstream sensibility fused with pornographic wildness, in the enduring magnetism of oppositional forces.

She transcends feminism and patriarchy, kinky fucking and straight sex. Neither erotica nor gonzo defines her. And only this tortured genius can shatter old patterns, nailing ironclad personas to the crucifying scriptures of Kross, forgiving trespasses and welcoming the dead into a gloriously orgasmic afterlife.

Never would she sacrifice the poetry of a modern Romantic for the commonplace masochism of a scarlet popinjay, lest she spurn intellectual stimulation for glorified dungeon fuckery. And when a woman of her caliber cuts open the ribcage of a godly muse, the most lustrous ichors pour forth, like a tide of igneous jewels telling twelve stories … in the span of several hundred words … in the time-stitched moments of painterly cinema.

From fulsome ashes, past the fleeting sparks that rebound, to the genuine rebirth of soulmates, setting fire to grasses far less green once trod upon, marrow-deep chemistry is fueled by the clash of polarities, by the incandescence of negative and positive charges battling one another, compromising stagnant purity with curative toxins and mutagenic elixirs. Elsewise, what burns too hotly familiar, melts so quickly through wax, that wicks are buried in smoking ruin.

It is this holistic symphony, this sublime understanding of universal realities and cosmic dynamics, that echoes throughout TrenchcoatX.com. Co-founded with Stoya in early 2015, Kross began helming it exclusively this year, and in the steady grip of her visionary renaissance, shadows become “Sacrosanct” and flames are “Sun-Lit,” marking a season change in the direction of the site — whose movies are now distributed by Jules Jordan Video.

To be pierced by lightning, with as much electrical apotheosis as the midnight sky, XBIZ drank deeply from the darkly radiant Kross, for this exclusive interview.

XBIZ: After more than 10 years in the biz, and numerous performing contracts with top-notch studios, not to mention countless awards, you’ve had a very storied career … compared to your earliest days, from where do you derive the most personal and professional fulfillment now?

Kayden Kross: General overview … I started doing just solo photos when I was 20. I did my first scene under contract for Vivid when I was 21, and at 22 I went into a contract with Adam & Eve. At 24, I went into contract with Digital Playground, then I stayed there for the rest of my “regular” performing years. Then, when I was 27, I began dating Manuel Ferrara, at which point I pulled back from performing under contract. When I was 29, we launched TrenchcoatX and now, I direct and perform here and there. The stuff that is fun, and I care about, I put myself into.

XBIZ: Before we explore your adult movies, let’s delve into your more mainstream projects. How do these “traditional” productions differ from adult? Have they influenced your tradecraft in the biz at all, and are you interested in doing a full-blown indie movie at some point?

Kross: I would be so thrilled to do an indie movie, and honestly, at this point it’s just kind of a fantasy … but I toy with the idea. Adult taught me patience. I’ve done the 23-hour set days. I’ve definitely shown up to do a feature movie where the script is not written, and they gave me an 8 a.m. call time with a location two hours away. I’ve done the scenes where one of the performers is having an issue and everyone gets put on hold. I’ve seen the failures, and one of the things adult has to deal with, unfortunately, because of the stigma in the industry … we often get a lot of people kind of learning on the fly, myself included, doing the technical stuff.

In Hollywood, you’re only getting work because you know what you’re doing and it’s on you to learn, prior to that, because no one is going to pay for your screwups. In porn, we kind of take you as you are, and hopefully you grow, or try to, and you know if you’re not perfect in the technical department, you’re not out of work, because we need you still. For that reason, adult has taught me a lot of patience.

So, when I ended up on some of these sets ... the one I was most shocked by was the “Breaking Bad” one, because they’re so regimented down to the minute. When they said, “We’ll pick you up at 5:45 a.m. at your hotel.” They were there. And when they said, “You’ll be out of makeup at 7:06.” I was. And then, they shot for 16 hours, but still down to the minute … everything they were gonna shoot, every shot they were gonna get, it happened on the minute they said it would happen. And I wrapped when they said I would wrap, and then I went home. And I was exhausted, but there was an orderliness that I had never seen in adult that I don’t think adult could ever really achieve, because that requires a budget much greater than even the biggest budgets in this industry.

And I’ve also seen the other side of it, where I’ve been on sets that are less organized than the least organized adult things I’ve been on. I don’t know, it’s kind of funny. It just gives me this general idea of how adult does run, and how it should run. And then. I see both extremes on the mainstream side. Of course, the ones that are really run efficiently are the ones that sell well, and end up being shown in a lot of places. And the ones that weren’t done like that … well, I’ve got one movie that hasn’t released yet! I have two!

There’s one called “School’s Out.” I shot it two years ago. Very unorganized. Then, I did one called “Stadium Anthems.” That one … they did all the things right in terms of hiring the right people, but the problem was that it was the director’s first movie. He took some hard lessons in the editing that he’s still working on. Really cool movie, though. I hope it does come out at some point. It was an independent guy, and he put his life savings into this movie. I play this HR representative. It was one of the few roles where I didn’t play some form of someone in the sex industry.

One of the things I really do appreciate about porn, is that you have to be kind of ingenious with the money you have … mainstream could never create what they create with a porn budget, whereas we create wonders. I’m proud of us for that, for sure.

XBIZ: Absolutely. Now, in addition to porn, you’ve got quite a few different revenue streams and side ventures, including ClubKayden.com and Unkrossed.com. On a month-to-month basis, are there certain top priorities you consistently hit, or do they shift in terms of what you devote time and resources to? Like, how do you divvy yourself up?

Kross: Right now, we’re working on a redesign for ClubKayden.com. I’m going to be relaunching it. It’s well overdue. I mean, that site went live in 2008. It’s still the same page. It’s dated, and it will become a bigger priority now with putting fresh content, and having this new design. I kind of regret letting it slide. It is what it is.

Unkrossed.com is a passion project. It really doesn’t do much for me other than give me a place to put writing, and writing is what I care about. In terms of priority, it’s not a huge revenue priority. I mean, the way Unkrossed.com does revenue is by either sending traffic to TrenchcoatX or ClubKayden, or getting me Fleshlight affiliate sales. That’s really all it’s going to do. But, I care so much about writing, that it remains a priority even though it shouldn’t.

Then, I guess my biggest priority in terms of revenue streams that aren’t TrenchcoatX or directing, is just Fleshlight. I try to make it a point to do what I can to hold my end of the deal … promotion and little things like that, because they’re a gem. There’s no other deal out there like Fleshlight.

XBIZ: Speaking of ClubKayden.com, going back to November of last year … you did a live performance. Will you keep that up?

Kross: I did one live show! I used to do live performances pretty regularly, once a week. They were fun. We actually made it a whole show and even caught the studio on fire once!

Life just gets in the way. I started traveling so much with Digital Playground. They had me in a new country every week, one year. And so, that kind of fell off. You get those fans that are amazing, and then you get the trolls. I got tired of putting myself out there. Since then, camming’s come up, but I was never really good as a performer in that way. That’s not my thing. I like to create fantasy worlds, I don’t like to be real. I don’t know what to say to the screen! Pretty girls do. I don’t. So, it ended quickly.

I get excited for setting up stuff for photo shoots, putting together scripts and ideas. Fixing the lighting! I get excited about creation. And for me, camming and live shows aren’t really that creative. They’re just kind of masturbatory in a sense.

XBIZ: Even non-revenue endeavors, like Unkrossed.com, can get your creative juices going, yeah? In a way, it’s indirectly vital.

Kross: The best thing that Unkrossed has always done for me, invariably when I’m doing some other project, whether it’s an interview for a mainstream place or like when the “Breaking Bad” people called me, everyone always says, “Oh, well we read your blogs on Unkrossed!” So, what it does, if nothing else, is it’s the face that mainstream sees when they start looking for me.

It’s helpful. I like Unkrossed a lot. I wish someone was like, “Hey, here’s a bunch of money! Will you just blog all the time?” But because it’s not a big moneymaker, I do have to put it lower on my priority list than I’d like.

XBIZ: And what are your favorite things to write about?

Kross: I really enjoy doing the performer profiles I’ve been doing. I just did one on Angela White. It’s so interesting what you end up learning. Because, even in the industry …  we don’t have the biases that the outside industry has. You get this idea that there’s a constant stream of interchangeable people just kind of flowing through this industry, but when you stop and actually talk to them … there’s a lot of really dynamic and interesting individuals. You know, it’s adult and there’s stigma, but it’s still a very creative place. It’s fun to get a snapshot of different performers who are doing well in the industry at the time.

XBIZ: Tell us about the genesis of TrenchcoatX.com and how it’s transformed since inception in April 2015. What was it like co-creating with Stoya. Has the vision/execution changed after her departure?

Kross: When I look back, Stoya and I used to go to Starbucks, have coffee and talk about porn for three hours. It was just this kind of conversation that turned into an “ought to” conversation. At one point, we were like, “Let’s just do it. Let’s see if it works.” And I remember we were sitting — I lived in a different house at the time, in the office and I was like — “Let’s just buy a URL.” So, we started throwing names back and forth. We threw back 50 names, and at one point one of us says Trenchcoat and the other says X and we both just kind of … “Dinged!”

I’m really in love with the old stories about the raincoaters. Those real fans, you know, on the dark rainy nights and their little coats, and they go in to the theater and it’s seedy! It’s also the glory days. So, I’m really in love with that kind of dirty glamor. I think Stoya was too. I can’t speak for her, but we definitely both love this certain nostalgia that exists even though we weren’t there for it.

We knew that we basically wanted to handpick scenes that we thought were cool, because we felt that porn is lumped into a big vanilla ball. All porn’s the same — all porn looks the same, and all porn behaves the same, it treats people the same. It’s mostly a negative stigma, and if it’s not negative, it’s at least considered cheesy or cheaply produced, and pandering … all sorts of things. There’s no real reason it has to be, you know? Given what we can do with technology, with really poor budgets you can turn something out. Also, creativity doesn’t really have much to do with budget. If you’re just telling a good home story, obviously we’re not going to be Michael Bay, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a French film.

I don’t know if we were really clear on what was going to come out of it. We just knew what wasn’t going to happen to it, and we thought without those things happening, what would come out of it would be nice. And that’s what we did. So we launched it, we had a few licensers and Stoya had a couple projects that she had made, and I had a couple of scenes that I had made with Manuel. I had the two “Wide Open” movies I made: “Carter Cruise: Wide Open” and “Misha Cross: Wide Open.” Both were really close to what I wanted to end up making. And then we just kind of threw it at the wall, to see if it stuck.

I think I was always more negative about how well it might do than Stoya was. I think she really believed in the idea a lot more, and I was a lot more kind of looking at the numbers like, “No one pays for porn!” Which, neither of us were really wrong. It’s really hard to get someone to pay for porn, and it’s also true that people will pay for something that they think has more value, even if they’re used to not paying for it. So, that’s how it launched.

Then, January 1 of this year, I took it over and it became solely my project. At that time, I knew it was going to be solely my project for a couple months leading up to that, and I’d kinda taken over the social media. We’d been working on how to figure out that contract, so I had kind of taken over that social media and I just couldn’t figure out who we were talking to … who our audience was. We had those women who were there, because they liked that we had this way to filter their content, because they were triggered by what porn represented. We had definitely the two fanbases that Stoya and I brought; they were there for whatever we put up there, good or bad. We had some other people who were definitely the hipsters and underground. There were a lot of different people, and they weren’t a unified audience. I couldn’t figure out who was there because of what I brought, and who were there because of what Stoya brought.

They were already so scattered, and then I remember I posted this one tweet. I was just posting pictures and I wasn’t getting too much traffic. I posted this one tweet … it was an oil painting of this woman reading a book, and some dude’s staring over her shoulder, pointing at something like he’s teaching her something. And, I made some comment about that guy who always has to stop and ask what you’re reading, because I think every woman who reads has dealt with that thing, where you’re reading a book and a guy uses it as an excuse to talk to you. But the thing is, when you’re reading your book, where is your title facing? It’s facing out to the person who’s trying to talk to you. And he says, “What are you reading?” I made this joke and it got more retweets than anything I put up at all.

I couldn’t believe it … I was like, “Okay! I got this audience that definitely gets the feminism thing.” You have to be a woman to get that, or you have to be a dude who’s paying attention. And so I was like, “There’s something here! It doesn’t have to be gaping assholes, because gaping assholes are not getting me retweets.”

Then I just started building on that. This group of people, that kind of open their eyes to these experiences women go through and sees humor in it, but also definitely agrees that something should change … and then I started posting screenshots, that were just prettier than the set shots and photography. Cause the photography can be beautiful, but it was very set, very contrived. Whereas the screencaps are just motion, because you’re catching something in motion. And that also did well. At that point, I kind of started building this look. It was a look that just kind of resonated the most with the people who were already looking at Trenchcoat. I was like, “Okay! Here we are. We’ve got our voice and our look. Now we just need more people to know it’s here!”

And that was the same month I started filming “Sacrosanct” and went live with Katrina Jade’s scene. It’s just kind of been building ever since. There’s a lot of me kind of tapping in and trying to see who likes what, and who taps on what. I literally just watch Google Analytics like it’s Netflix. I watch people pop onto the site, and I see what they’re looking for, what they come for.

It’s funny, cause the other day I had someone on there and he types, “anal pounding” in the search thing, and I was like … “Oh, he’s gonna leave!” And sure enough, he left. It’s been fun. I’ve kind of got this little thing, and it’s this feedback loop. I’m putting things out there and seeing what gets responses. But, at the same time, I’m not going to make something I don’t want to make. At that point, someone better fucking pay me. If you want me to make something I’m not excited about, I’m at least going to put money in the bank, rather than put my money back into it. So, that’s how we got here. It’s just this, kind of, watching and learning. It’s both finding the audience, and learning from the audience. And find my voice!

XBIZ: It did seem like a cool place for artistic stuff when I first came across the site, and now, this year, it’s really moving forward. You get a sense that there’s now a very specific vision, with “Sacrosanct” and “Sun-Lit.”

Kross: Yeah, that’s like Yin and Yang for me. I’ve got my super dark, intense, slightly taboo thing and then I’ve got my light, Sunday afternoon, sex in the white sheets thing. Those are my two extremes. Personally, I like the afternoon stuff, where it’s just lazy and you can take four hours, and I like the dark, nasty stuff, where you’re shoving me in an alleyway somewhere. And the intensity is really about the psychological play between myself and the other person.

XBIZ: What led you to tap Jules Jordan as the exclusive distributor of TrenchcoatX and does that change the equation as far as video production?

Kross: I wanted to be with Jules’ distribution from day one. The reason is, he still sells his pieces for a higher amount of money than anyone else. You look at the other studios that have gone to him, and that speaks for itself. He’s distributing Blacked, Tushy, Vixen and Kink — all these successful companies. And I know all these companies have more computing power than I do. They’re making the best decisions. So, if they’re there, I wanna be there!

XBIZ: How does Jules impact your overall business strategy?

Kross: Jules is good, because he sees — with all of the studios he produces for — a vision, and that they need to stay on brand. He gives me feedback on things like box covers, but in terms of the actual content … as long as I’m compliant with the §2257, and legal stuff in general, he seems pretty happy with the content I’m turning in. I’m not changing what I’m making. If there’s any changes, it’s just box cover stuff, because he definitely knows much better than I do on how to place that for better revenue.

XBIZ: How do you balance digital vs. DVD distribution … or do you leave that to him?

Kross: One of the things I love and hate about TrenchcoatX, is I’m all of the “heads.” I’m directing and I’m booking and I’m producing and I’m casting. I’m also sitting with the editor and telling him what to do. I’m picking the music out, and I’m doing the social media. I get the distribution deal, and I sit with the box cover artist, and I turn the movie in. I turn the paperwork in, and I do the bookkeeping and the taxes! Everything. I have one person I can go to, to help me take over social media on the weekends, and to help me actually post the scenes onto the site. Other than that, I’m everything. So, because of that, my time is spent on literally everything. On the one hand, that means I’m getting a very pure version of what I want, but on the other hand, nothing’s getting all the attention it truly deserves. And that’s another reason I wanted to go to Jules, because I just generally trust that he’s going to make the distribution decisions and I can sit back and be like, “Please give me more money to make more stuff.”

XBIZ: Let’s zero in on some of your more recent titles. They seem to get increasingly daring in their scope, starting off with “Sacrosanct.” What inspired that movie?

Kross: “Sacrosanct” was originally inspired by Katrina Jade. That became a conversation in late November of last year. I called my friend Mike Moz, and I said, “Listen. I need someone who isn’t blending in. I need someone who has something interesting going on, because I can’t afford to spend money on someone that’s not going to stand out. I can’t buy Google Ads. I only have social media.” And so he’s like, “Dude, do you know anything about Katrina Jade?” I’m like, “Not really. She’s pretty. I know of her. That’s kind of as much as I’ve got on her.” And he’s like, “Look at her social media, her relationship with her husband ... it’s fantastic. They are crazy. They put everything on social media, they hold nothing back. They’re down for anything. There’s nothing like this dynamic anywhere. It just doesn’t exist anywhere else.” And so I go and I look.

When I shot for Mile High, I shot for Fetish X a couple titles in Spring of 2016. They never launched the site, I think it’s on Hard X somewhere. At the time, I was shooting these kind of fetish-y ideas, and I had this one idea that I was obsessed with, but we didn’t make it to the next movie. The idea was this table that’s set on this turning base with the pole. If it’s rigged the right way, a woman can be completely neck down wrapped in rope, and if you pull on each side, the pulling untwirls her. I was obsessed with this image. Of course, I never got to make it. So, I’d been sitting on this and I see this thing with Katrina’s husband, Nigel Dictator, where Katrina’s got the perfect look. She’s got this really shapely body, which means you’re going to see the shape under the rope. That’s one thing you lose with rope, you lose the form of the woman, unless she’s really, really good in the ratio department.

So I’m looking at her, and she’s got the perfect look. I’m looking at Nigel and he’s this big, six-and-a-half foot viking dude! I was like, “We gotta put that guy in a Sith hood!” So I go and I get the biggest hooded cape I can possibly find, and I rent out the studio. I cover the floor. And I’d been watching “Stranger Things” at the time, so the Upside Down really inspired me here. I covered the floor with this black, tarp-like material, so that we just have this inch of water everywhere. It’s reflective and it’s got that dripping noise. Just gives it this otherworldly feel.

I put her on this turntable, and he’s on this throne in the background, and we get this big opening where it’s very, like, ritualistic and she gets unwound and steps down. She’s like this Egyptian sex queen. Then, the light pops on and suddenly Nigel is revealed and you realize he’s the one in charge. It just goes into this really kind of sexual ritual feel. It’s removed on the one hand, cause the guys are wearing guillotine hoods, but on the other hand it’s very personal, because this removed thing is happening between these two very connected people. I just liked that dynamic. It’s not being done. Or if it’s being done, it’s not being done in a way that really plays with the psychology of it. They’re just so hot to me! I was so into it.

I made that, just to see what would happen. And once I made that, I got so excited about doing dark, weird shit that I had to do more. That’s where “Sacrosanct” came from. I did Honey Gold in this intro that I’m just obsessed with. And then I did Angela White as this noir look. I wanted her because she always does this glam, clean stuff. I wanted her to be really gritty. She’s in this dark, gangster looking garage with this gangster car and red lips. I loved taking her out of that usual place and putting her into this place. It was so off brand for her. That was probably our most successful of them.

The last scene I did was me with Manuel, and I brought Jillian Janson in. For me, it was like living out a personal fantasy, because I used to be a stripper. I sometimes would just dance for people and be attracted to them. It was this thing, where you don’t want to lose your whole night flirting with this dude, but on the other hand he’s really attractive. So I made another kind of surreal space — this time, it’s a VIP room, but it’s just a lone chair. I really like the look of the light coming down on one thing, like a spotlight. There’s something very vulnerable about it and pinpointing. So that was a really fun scene for me to make. Probably one of the hottest scenes I’ve ever done. That created the whole “Sacrosanct” movie.

Every scene was very personalized, and kind of tried to jump on what that particular performer had going. I loved doing the “Stranger Things” with Honey Gold, because she was new. She had just gotten into the industry, and the whole point of this intro was, “Have you ever had sex with a stranger?” She’d only ever been with her boyfriend for a very long time. It was a lot of fun to make. I wish porn were like that every day.

XBIZ: So, let’s shift gears to “Sun-Lit.” Take us through your creative process.

Kross: “Sun-Lit” is the opposite. It’s the complete opposite of “Sacrosanct.” I guess you could say these are the two main ways I am drawn to sex. One is the dark, late night “fuck with me a little bit,” and the other is the afternoon sunlight streaming through “please take your time and let’s order room service.” That’s all it was.

I wanted to do something that really, really made a point out of natural light. Not just advertise it as it was shot with natural light, but let’s embrace it. I want the sun flares. I wanted to see the golden light and I wanted the sun and where it was to really matter. And so I had the one with Valentina Nappi and Jay Savage. I loved their chemistry. It was so cool. Cause you know, Valentina can be a very hardcore performer. With Jay, what was really cool, I just got lucky on this, was they just had this very natural chemistry. They had never worked together, and Jay clearly was just crushing on Valentina. And she seemed to like him back. There was this very, kind of, sweet thing going on as we were getting ready to go to the scene. So, by the time we got to the scene, it felt like this new relationship. I got lucky there. I really did. It was a really, really great pairing.

I just liked the idea. It’s the weekend. You come in, and he’s like, “Hey! Come get warm next to me.” And she does. It’s just sex with no pressure. Just sex happening between two people who just want to have sex. And I feel like we get away from that in porn. I just wanted to come back to the basics, I guess.

For the Eva Lovia scene … I’d also been obsessed with … when you’ve been in a relationship long enough, makeup sex is great. After a fight, I mean. Makeup sex is explosive, because you’ve been shown something that feels risky. The idea of losing that person feels risky, and it heightens everything. So, then you come to the makeup sex and there’s this revamped attraction, because you felt like you almost lost that person.

I wanted to show that this was makeup sex, but I didn’t want to put two people in the position of having to have this long drawn out fight with lines. We didn’t have enough time to show a story. I was kind of thinking how I could show that we’ve had this progression without showing the actual progression, because we’re gonna lose the viewer. I realized I could cut it like this music video, just snippets. I get snippets of this part of the relationship and that part. Then you see it go dark and the color changes, and it cools off, and they’re fighting and he leaves, she’s alone. Then she comes back to the house and he’s there, and now you’ve got the whole story without having to sit through a two-hour movie. That was probably the strongest scene in terms of viewer response. I think people really liked having those stakes without having to go through a two-hour movie.

Then, I did the Ana Foxxx and Elsa Jean thing. I matched them because their features are like identical. They just have the upturned nose and the wide-set eyes and the perfect lips, same height. They just match. Once I realized that, I was like they gotta go together. I made it this thing, where Ana and Sean Michaels are just talking, and we start living out the fantasy that they play. They’re playing out a fantasy, without bringing anyone in. It was just a fun and easy way to tell a story that resonates with a lot of couples. I just loved the way they came together.

Then, the last one I had a lot of fun with too, because I got to do a callback to the Eva scene. I have Karlee Grey and she’s just kind of down and out. I wanted to show why people have sex in the afternoon, and why they have sex at night. There’s different reasons depending on the time of day that people have sex. For this one, I wanted the urgency to be focused on coping with outside stress, where you use sex as a relief to take your mind off of the real word. So, Karlee comes home, and she’s got these bill collectors and there’s all these voicemails. You see her house is boxed up because she can’t afford to live there. She just has life on top of her. Then, she goes into the next room and Manuel is crashing on her couch. At first, you get the idea that it’s like, “Old friend, what are you doing here?” And then, they kind of look at each other and there’s this thing where they’re both in a bad spot, and they use sex as a crutch. That has its own intensity that’s really nice.

That’s the whole movie! I’ve got more coming though!

XBIZ: Yeah? What’s next?

Kross: Mhm. I’ve already shot two. I’m in one of them. The next title we’re releasing is “How to Blowjob.” That’s probably something I won’t do again. I shot it last summer. It’s a funny instructional. I like it, because it’s funny. I mean, we’ll see how it does. I’ve improved as a director since that one, but I think the idea is very solid and well executed. We’ll see what the response is to it. But I want to stick more to this light and dark thing.

XBIZ: Speaking of light and dark, how did you become romantically involved with Manuel Ferrara. How have you influenced one another to evolve artistically and emotionally? There seems to be an element of "opposites attract" where you each bring very unique personas to the relationship.

Kross: Manuel and I just kept getting paired together. What’s funny is, he did my first-ever scene. It did not go well — mostly because of me, and because he’s French … and I was new and insecure and all kinds of things … I knew nothing about how to shoot porn. Then, I basically didn’t talk to him for a couple of years. And when I went to Digital, they decided that it would be best if my first-ever scene with them, was with him. It was so explosive! I wasn’t caught up in everything going on with production, I was used to it by then and kind of knew the ropes. We just had the most explosive scenes after that. I was constantly requesting him.

We were at the point that Digital was shooting me with him every other scene. He was in every one of my movies. I couldn’t get enough of him. We just clicked well. Even without the chemistry, he was always — to me — this physical ideal. I love the shape of his lips, for example, and his profile. I’m obsessed with his profile. I love the shape of his eyes. He has Spanish eyes specifically. He has a very brooding look to him, even if he’s not a brooding guy. Even his height. I think he’s the perfect height, and his shoulder width is perfect. He was both physically ideal and we had this chemistry.

So, that went on for a few years at Digital, and then towards the end before I quit the contract, he ended up not being in a relationship, and I was not in a relationship. It was finally this time where neither of us were in this place where we weren't actually available. And I remember he sent me a DM on Twitter. It’s such a cheesy way to hook up, but he sent me a DM on Twitter. And I went over to his house and kind of just never left. Here we are.

XBIZ: How have you changed each other since then?

Kross: We’ve changed each other for sure. We’re both pretty resilient personalities so I think we also drive each other crazy. There are things that I’ve tried to change in him, likewise there are things about me that he’s tried to change. We’re definitely polar opposites in all ways. For example, he’s very social and approachable on first meeting, but you cross him once and you’re dead to him. Whereas I’m very cold on first meeting, but the more I get to know you, the more you come into my circle, the more you can do no wrong.

I’m very Type A about stuff, definitely have an anxious personality. After the natural disasters, Harvey and Irma and the earthquake in Mexico, I went out and got the biggest earthquake policy I could get. Whereas he probably doesn’t know that he has health insurance. He only does, because I got it for him. I’m very technical. I’m the one who files the taxes, schedules the appointments and keeps the calendar. He’s the one who literally calls me as he’s leaving the gym and says, “What am I doing today?” And I have to tell him! Sometimes he’ll be like, “Ugh! Can you just cancel it?!”

He’s just very relaxed and just assumes everything will work out, whereas I’m very uptight and constantly am preparing for remote disasters. So we drive each other a little crazy like that. But I think we also get a good balance there. The most extreme things I do, he makes me stop. The most extreme things he does, I make him stop. In terms of creating projects, I think we do best when we’re actually working together. Because I’ll spend so much time on things. I’ll be like, “I want the sun to be in the afternoon sky.” And he’ll be like, “No, but she needs to gape.” He’ll bring the more porn-y stuff. At the end of the day, we’re selling adult content. I can get as artistic as I want, but if he isn’t on my shoulder reminding me to open up to the camera somewhere, we probably wouldn’t get done.

I think that’s why “Misha Cross: Wide Open” did so well. I hope movies in the future do well because of that.

XBIZ: With all the time and energy you’re investing into TrenchcoatX, you’ve still managed to make room for endeavors like Airerose’s “Casting Couch” series last year, and the Bang.com ambassadorship in September. What are your main studio or paysite commitments these days?

Kross: The thing that I do when I wake up, until I go to bed, is TrenchcoatX. The first thing I have to do … is I put out four social media updates a day. Each on Twitter and Instagram. Then, I have to obviously stay on top of the admin, the billing, the scenes. There’s this intermittent thing with TrenchcoatX throughout the day, where I can take an hour here and an hour there. I can come here right now and do this interview at XBIZ, but then I’ll go home and start working on TrenchcoatX again.

Things like the Bang.com ambassador gig, I like those projects because the only way for me to make TrenchcoatX survive is for me to keep traffic moving. The only way for me to keep traffic moving is to keep big name girls in my titles, as well as keep my name alive. If I don’t do that, I can’t buy Google Ads. There’s this critical mass, where if I’m not keeping my revenue going, by keeping these big name stars in my stuff and mentioning my work elsewhere … if I let it fall, then I can’t afford to do the big name stars next time.

There’s this balance. I like Bang.com though. They’re easy to work with, for one. They let me do what I want to do. They kind of just put the whole thing in my hands and said, “Make your thing and then send it to us.” I really liked that. I think it’s sort of a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” thing with the traffic. They need an ambassador, but I also need another company to push me. Without that, I’m only going to preach to the choir. My fans are following me on Twitter, but I need to hit other people who don’t know I exist, because I only ever really existed in contracts. I haven’t really existed as an active performer in a lot of people’s minds.

I try to put this equal amount of attention both towards keeping my name alive, so I can keep TrenchcoatX alive, and directly making TrenchcoatX something that can stand without me. It’s a weird line to walk, because I can’t turn TrenchcoatX into a solo site where people are only there for my scenes — it will do me no good.

One of those things that bothered me last year about TrenchcoatX was that it wasn’t standing on its own. It was standing on the fact that it had a couple of performers whose fans were going to buy their stuff, and that was the only place it was. Because of that, the site was vulnerable. The moment either of us stopped performing, everything would stop.

I forget that I’m a performer. I’ll go a week, and I’ll realize I haven’t tweeted. That sounds dumb, but it’s important, because that’s five million impressions that I didn’t make. It’s a really funny line to walk, so I appreciate companies like Bang.com knocking on my door and being like, “Hey! You’re a performer. Let’s talk about it.” At the end of the day, it’s probably helping me more than them. If it wasn’t me, it would be someone else.

I really appreciated being able to do these Aireose “Casting Couch,” because it helped me build up this director resume. I don’t do them anymore, because I need to put all my energy into TrenchcoatX. I understand that there’s a critical point where if it doesn’t take off in a bigger way, it’s not going to … it will sputter. But it’s taking off. We’re up 300 percent with our traffic, just compared to January 1. We’ve got these regular people and our membership count is going. Our catalog is growing. Definitely our brand is going.

That’s the biggest thing that’s been really nice. People I don’t know will come up to me and be like, “Please do something with me for TrenchcoatX!” And I’m like, “Oh good! They like what I’m doing.” There’s some brands where no one is saying, “I love the way you make me look.” There’s kind of this growing acknowledgement of what it is we’re making. For directing, I’m only directing for TrenchcoatX right now, aside from the thing I did for “Casting Couch.” That’s kind of where we’re at. We’re going to be releasing one title a month. I spaced that out, so I could take the time to build up the movies and accomplish that.

XBIZ: What’s up next, “Sun-Lit 2”?

Kross: Yeah, we just wrapped it! I’ve got another one in the works, but I can’t figure out all the four scenarios yet. One of them is really cool, really different.

XBIZ: And lastly, what are some of your biggest mainstream literary and cinematic influences, considering how well-versed you are in both domains?

Kross: As far as literary, for “Misha Cross: Wide Open” and “Carter Cruise: Wide Open,” I combined a bunch of stories from Anaïs Nin’s “Little Birds.” I kind of mashed them together. I love her dynamic, what she does. For cinematic stuff, I suppose I really like the “Twin Peaks” kind of aesthetic. “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” … I wouldn’t say it was necessarily an influence, because I watched the movie a long time ago and then realized the similarities as I was making “Sun-Lit.” I guess now it would be an influence. I just really like that whole look. In general, I really like French films. The thing Manuel always points out is they don’t have the budget to do a bunch of explosives, so they have to tell a good story. That’s what porn is coming around to. We don’t have the budget to be crazy, so we have to make it up in creativity.

I really liked “The Tree of Life.” I like stories that aren’t just coverage, coverage, sitcom lighting. I like stuff that is a little enigmatic and almost open for interpretation. I think camera work tells a lot better of a story, oftentimes even what the actors are doing. One of the things that I do — no one’s caught on to it yet  — but I do it a lot, is when a performer is sitting in his or her space, waiting for the camera to roll and they’re not talking, just on their phone or fumbling with their fingers, I’ll secretly roll on that. They won’t realize that. I’ll use that as insert stuff, because they’re not trying to look like they’re fumbling, or gaze off, or walk. I’ll catch them in a natural space. I’ve used that so many times, I don’t think they even know that’s not the footage I got when I told them I was rolling. That’s a really easy way to get something that feels more real.

It’s hard, because you can be in porn for 10 years and someone will tell you walk from here to there, and suddenly they’re doing the porn walk! It drives me batshit. I hate when you can tell that the person knows the camera is on them. I also like Flannery O’Connor, although I haven’t done anything yet with that kind of malicious, mundane-ness. I really want some of that. I’m reading Mary Gaitskill’s “Because They Wanted To.” I have a feeling I’m going to probably get a goldmine in terms of good stuff out of that. I like Lorrie Moore … she’s not sexual, but I like her storytelling. I think I’ll probably be putting a lot of influences there. I love Henry Miller.

I think there’s a huge amount of room to do something influenced by Charles Bukowski. This very kind of outspoken, love it or hate it vibe … something about that I like. There’s this book called “Ask the Dust,” which actually Bukowski was obsessed with, which is how I found it. I was reading one of his interviews, and he mentioned it. That’s the story I’m most obsessed with about making into a porn story. I’m waiting for the budget, but I already know every shot. I have it totally in my head. I have the location. I’m ready to go, except for the money. It’s definitely literary more than, like, John Grisham. I guess I tend towards porn films in terms of cinematic influence. I don’t watch enough movies to say I have a bunch of influences there.