LOS ANGELES — The beauty of Gamma Films is how deftly its venerated brands weave sophisticated storytelling with profitable pornography, especially in the introspective sequel to Girlsway’s “Fantasy Factory.”
And after seeing the sheer majesty behind 2018 XBIZ Best New Studio PureTaboo.com, during an on-set XBIZ exclusive for the debut episode of 2018 XBIZ Director of the Year Bree Mills’ “Future Darkly” sci-fi offshoot, I jumped at the chance to see her talented colleague Stills by Alan in action.
The lens magician and screenplay savant, whose Girlsway production “Vampires” scored All-Girl Feature Release of the Year at the 2018 XBIZ Awards, spotlights timely sex worker consent issues against a thrilling sci-fi backdrop in “Fantasy Factory — Wastelands.”
“On one level, the story is about androids and the future, but on another level, I wanted it to be relevant to what’s going on today in society, and more specifically, how people treat sex workers,” Alan explained. “The idea is that even if you’re a sex worker, you still have the option to withdraw consent, and that’s what this movie’s about.”
In “Wastelands,” the utterly bewitching Kenna James portrays an android owned by a corporation that paid $12 million for her. She has suddenly become self-aware and wants to withdraw consent as a sentient being, but the question becomes, will the world let her? And the answer is a sinister, “No.”
Alan underscored his commitment to bringing such a critical theme to the fore of his narrative, during a break from directing dialogue between James and her love interest April O’Neil — the 2018 Girlsway Girl of the Year who plays a seriously badass “Wastelands” doctor. His words elicited hearty agreement from the starlets, who burned with passionate enthusiasm — a characteristic shared by any talent fortunate enough to be directed by one of Gamma Films’ hallowed feature movie-rich brands.
For beyond an ironclad commitment to unlocking the #PowerOfActing in a way that supercharges adult stardom, the key ingredient that makes Gamma content so addictive is how often they incorporate member feedback into their cinematic works.
This devotion reaches a truly remarkable peak when Girlsway bases entire characters on their most loyal fans, portrayed by adult stars bearing an uncanny resemblance to them and donning their actual usernames. Such is the case in “Wastelands,” which goes triple meta with Easter eggs aplenty throughout the diabolical Girlsway pleasure factory — past Girlsway scenes (from titles like "Extradition" and "Sharing the Bed") are recreated in various rooms, with the original stars from those scenes performing alongside characters based on actual Girlsway subscribers.
And as Alan headed to a jailhouse portion of the massive, multi-story shoot manse, which is a veritable funhouse of various themed rooms ranging from hospital hallways to restaurant-looking areas, I took a moment to chat with the big star of the movie — James.
“I’ve been in the industry for three and a half years,” she shared. “I’ve shot a ton for Girlsway with both Bree Mills and Stills by Alan. It’s one of my favorite companies and they’re fantastic to shoot with. I love Stills by Alan’s approach, which is so great. He’ll act out a lot of the stuff for you, so you get to see first-hand what he’s thinking. It’s very detailed and it’s nice to have someone that knows exactly what he wants to see, but is also open to other options.”
The incredibly scintillating blonde, who has that enigmatic X factor charisma about her, is lithe and girlish and highly sexual. Her eyes locked onto mine with hypnotic cobra-like intensity, burning an afterimage that still haunts me to this day. That she spent basically the entirety of the movie completely naked, even in outdoor scenes, only made her that much more alluring.
“For this movie, I play an android who becomes self-aware,” James explained. “April O’Neil finds me and has no idea what I am, until Abigail Mac comes along and they take me back to the Girlsway Corporation.”
Mac, decked out in “Mad Max” garb and posing for photos in the distance, looked ridiculously hot as a heartless villain.
“Then, April’s got to break in and get me, it’s amazing,” James added, bouncing with enthusiasm. “It’s a very unique role. It’s actually a continuation from ‘Fantasy Factory,’ the first one, where I had a small bit in it — but nothing quite this extensive, it’s so much fun.”
As for O’Neil, whose luscious breasts almost burst from tight-fitting dystopian threads while she casually passed her fingers across one of the prop guns holstered at her side, the 10-year veteran said that Girlsway “has been fantastic” to her. “I absolutely love shooting for them,” she said. “You get to do really weird stuff, very cool things … they’re great.”
When I asked her what Stills by Alan’s directorial style was, the man in question perked up. “Pretend he’s not in the room,” I suggested conspiratorially. Sporting a wry, self-effacing grin, Alan interjected, “It’s a clusterfuck … controlled chaos,” prompting crewmembers and talent to laugh gregariously.
If either of those characterizations was indeed true, it was expertly concealed from me the dozen or so hours I was on set, for Alan was an easygoing captain of a very tight ship. Something of a cross between Mike Quasar and Bree Mills, Alan managed his set with light-hearted mirth and laser-focused perfection.
Once the room settled down and O’Neil had a moment to think, she described Alan’s leadership personality. “He’s very detail-oriented, which is really cool to get amazing stuff out of us, and he has a great sense of humor about it,” she said. “He’s kind and sweet … comes up with really cool shots and amazing stories … it’s a great time.”
As for her role, O’Neil summarized, “I was a doctor in the city and I moved to the Wastelands with my sister, before she died. Then, I hit Kenna with my car. I think she’s dead but she’s actually alive and for some reason we fall in love.”
“We have a reason!” Alan objected, with mock indignation.
O’Neil retorted, “It’s porn, you don’t need reasons,” before continuing.
“And it’s great because she [Kenna] ends up waking up, basically like a zombie, and I’m just like ‘yasss,’” she said. “But then I become protective of her and she gets taken away from me, so I break into the evil pleasure park to save my true love.”
I witnessed the break-in, which, as anyone who has been privileged to watch a Gamma Films production unfold, was shot from tons of angles. Take after take after take, the Gamma crew, under the very capable gaze of Alan and oft-seen Matt Holder, ensured that the crack team of editors back at HQ would have plenty to work with.
The starlets were very patient, and Billy Visual, a non-sex pro for many of these movies (when he’s not producing films of his own), continued moving with robotic jerkiness in his “Robocop” getup. His face covered in a dark mask with glowing cybernetic eyes, he gripped his futuristic rifle and scanned for foes. Prior to the jailhouse scene, O’Neil had evaded his sentry patrolling routes, almost being discovered several times as he stopped inches away around the corner.
I won’t spoil the outcome of O’Neil’s attempt to free James, who played a shaken prisoner perfectly, particularly when Mac gave her a menacing tongue-lashing — lest she consider herself anything more than a sex object to be used and owned. I will share, however, that between takes, James showed off her enchanting gymnastic skills, hanging from the prison bars and seducing anyone careless enough to lock eyes with her own.
As the evening stretched from twilight into moonlit darkness, I sat down with Alan to talk shop and get to know his background. When I asked what the difference was between the sequel and the movie that inspired it, he said, “What we wanted to do now, because we’re a bit more ambitious with this project, is create the world of the Wastelands, and film in that world.”
Unlike the previous title, it isn’t so much centered on the actual in-progress fantasies being played out he noted, but they are nonetheless woven in.
“April is running around the pleasure park, stumbling through all these different fantasies that the members are reenacting, based on several of our most popular Girlsway scenes,” he said. “So, in the movie, she walks in on Abella Danger and Luna Star from our movie ‘Extradition,’ scene two, where they’re doing the ransom video. She walks in on the same set and is all like ‘sorry guys’ — then we’ll have an actress playing one of the members living out her fantasy, and she’s like Luna’s henchman from ‘Extradition.’
“Then, she goes in another room and Shyla Jennings plus Sasha Heart are there from ‘Sharing the Bed,’” he continued. “It’s one of our most watched scenes and I have Charlotte Sartre playing one of our actual members, a woman named Eva … who’s very popular on the site. She’s posted pictures of herself and she actually looks like Charlotte! So we cast her accordingly.”
This detailed, uniquely fan-centric approach stems from Alan’s desire “to make Girlsway a community and not just a platform for content.”
He underlined, “If you’re having conversations with the models and the producers and the directors, you can have some sort of influence and input into the content, which makes you a lot more invested in it. We’re making these movies for them.”
But before Alan reached this point of his career, standing proudly as the master of the Girlsway universe, his working relationship with Gamma’s head of production — Bree Mills —was more of a “director/cinematographer situation,” where he would really concentrate on how the movie was captured and she would write the features. He would focus on how they were blocked, and she would focus on their delivery.
“Obviously, that was several years ago, but when I started taking the reins over, and writing my own features, the first one of those was ‘Vampires,’ and this is now the second one,” he said. “I also wrote several miniseries throughout 2017 before it all culminated in ‘Vampires,’ which was such a huge project.”
Even before joining the Gamma family, Alan had started earning his stripes starting way back in 2001, when he first joined the adult industry.
“When I moved here from Boston, the first job I had was with Jill Kelly Productions,” he reminisced. “Back then, she was a very popular performer and she’d found an investor who helped her start her own porn company. I worked there as a box cover graphic artist, then I met our photographer and ended up getting a job with him as his assistant.
“We used to work for Penthouse magazine, then I went back and got a job being an on-set stills photographer, around 2005 or 2006,” he added. “I spent two or three years being a graphic artist, then being a photographer for about 10 years, working for major companies in the industry. And around 2012, I started directing. Gamma was my first directing job, with Web Young.”
At the time, Web Young was Gamma’s lesbian version of another glamcore competitor. Given Alan’s photography background, he had developed visual and lighting skills “but not sound and continuity skills, which were a little more cinema-oriented.” Nonetheless, he learned quickly, in part because “it was a great style for me to jump into, since I was really good at that glam style.”
They had tried out different producers before “handing over the gig to me, and it did so well, they handed another gig to me, an all-girl massage project, part of the Fantasy Massage brand.”
His predilection for all-girl adult movies was no accident, either, since Alan had “noticed over the years that one particular day-killer was wood problems, with the male talent, or the female and male talent not getting along.”
It occurred to him that “you wouldn’t really have those problems with girl/girl content, which I like and think is hot as a genre, when girls hookup,” and he thought as a style of porn, it would make the most sense for him to specialize in, if he could, even though it’s a tough one to pull off.
“We were doing it, it was working out and Gamma kept giving me more girl/girl to do — not that I was refusing boy/girl, but they kept on with it,” he said. “Soon, I was doing all the girl/girl content for all of Gamma Films. They decided to expand Web Young into an offshoot, Girlsway, which evolved from it in 2014. And the rest is history! We made our first feature ‘The Business of Women’ (which won the 2016 XBIZ Award for All-Girl Release of the Year), and we went from there. And every year, it’s bigger and better!”
Once Mills knew that Alan could fully handle Girlsway on his own, after working side by side with him from about 2014 to 2017, she “kind of broke off to start working on Pure Taboo with Craven Moorehead, leaving Girlsway in my hands, with the execution of the content in my stewardship … and I hope I’ve done a good job in her absence.”
But, Alan underscored, “She’s certainly still around, popping in here and there. She let me do ‘Vampires’ on my own, whereas all the features before then had been co-directed, and it worked out well enough that they’ve given me the opportunity to do this second effort … because of all the miniseries I did last year, ‘Fantasy Factory’ was the one that stuck out most in my mind.
“I loved the way members engaged with it — it was well-received and when I wanted to do another movie, I wanted to do one with lots of special effects and sci-fi, and I kind of looked back, debating between doing a new story or revisiting an old story,” he revealed. “And while it started out as a new story, when we were talking about it, I was thinking this sounds like ‘Fantasy Factory,’ and figured … why don’t we warp this into a sequel? So, that’s how it all came together. I actually co-wrote this with the editor who’s cutting it together, named Jonathan B. — we came up with the world and story.”
In terms of repping the Gamma Films brand, Alan is not an attention-seeking person, even if attention inevitably comes his way. “I always envision Bree, especially with Girlsway being a girl/girl site and her being a lesbian, as the frontman — or woman, if you will — of the band, and myself as the guy behind the curtain,” he said. “But since she’s moved to Pure Taboo, she’s been pushing me as the frontman. I’m not someone who showboats or craves the spotlight, in fact, I shy away from it since that kind of attention can bring its own problems, but if there is a frontman for the Girlsway brand band now, I suppose I’m it!”
Humble as always, Alan nonetheless emphasized, “But I think it’ll always be Bree’s brand on some level. I’m certainly devoting 100 percent of my time, effort, energy and career into this project, but I mean, she will always represent Girlsway in general. All in all, it seems to be a financial success, a critical success … and all we can do is be thankful for that and keep going.”
After our interview, I followed him up several flights of stairs, as James and 2017 XBIZ MILF Performer of the Year Cherie DeVille prepared for a scene where DeVille examines the inert form of android James on a table, with the Girlsway logo displayed on a television in the background — as the evil corporation in the movie, where all the sexy hijinks take place. Of course, Girlsway is anything but evil, even if its corporate headquarters is filled with highly intelligent suits, scores of pornographic video editors and number-crunching masters of the universe types.
As I bade the starlets farewell, taking a group photo with several of the most beautiful and multi-talented women on the planet, I reflected upon the tremendous good that adult movies could do, in the hands of passionately creative souls.
Here was a work of art that not only painted starlets in the brushstrokes of cinematic sexiness — it sought to mine the depths of their souls, to make diamonds of all their edges, to uplift their value as sex workers beyond a commodity, even if that message and that beauty was being sold as such.
Such an empowering endeavor, which inspired the crew, the stars and the paysite members themselves, is a testament to the #PowerOfActing and the wonders of this magnificent industry. Bravo, Gamma Films, on yet another masterpiece-in-the-making.