LOS ANGELES — There is a movement afoot in adult cinema to enrich sex scenes with seductive storytelling, to give viewers a reason to feel invested in a product and a brand, beyond orgasmic release. Ricky Greenwood and Mile High Media’s all-girl Sweetheart Video studio are among the finest artists leading this endeavor, enshrining each lovingly fashioned title with exquisitely edgy box covers, stellar acting and compelling tales.
From his multi XBIZ Award-nominated “Confessions of a Sinful Nun” to his critically acclaimed “Becoming Elsa,” Greenwood came out of the gate swinging, making a name for himself with risk-taking imagery and poetic flair.
Never content to fall into a predictable groove or linger on a particular genre, Greenwood set his sights on sexy roller derby hijinks with “Talk Derby to Me,” for which XBIZ was granted an exclusive day on set — a day, it just so happened, when the legendary Stoya performed a not-to-be-missed girl/girl scene with Joanna Angel, as well as plenty of dramatic dialogue betwixt the two.
For Greenwood to land not one, but two of the most darkly radiant women in the industry, is a feat worthy of immense praise, speaking profoundly to the caliber of cinematic craft that he leverages to recruit the very best leading ladies. In part, this is due to the fact that before he began sculpting his roller derby concept into a full-fledged script, he sought to secure his preferred talent first.
The burly, bearded and tatted auteur brimmed with positive energy and alertness, as he explained, “I like to pick the team for the movie and after that, I do the story. ‘Confessions of a Sinful Nun’ was a nunsploitation film, ‘Becoming Elsa’ was a coming of age story and ‘Talk Derby to Me’ is a sports drama like ‘Rocky.’ I spoke with Jon Blitt at Mile High and I told him I wanted to do a derby movie, and that I wanted Stoya in it. Given how rarely she performs for studios these days, he wished me luck. And I thought, maybe if I ask her, she’ll say ‘yes.’
“That’s how I approach my movies,” Greenwood said. “I pick my dream person that I want and if they say ‘no,’ okay, but if they say ‘yes,’ great. So I sent her an email, with the rough outline of ‘Talk Derby to Me’ and a link to ‘Confessions of a Sinful Nun.’ She sent me an email back and said, ‘I want to know more about your project, and discuss it.’ So we went back and forth, I told her about my vision and she liked my idea. We then met in January, went for a dinner and … I was super nervous meeting Stoya!”
Everything went according to plan, as Stoya recalled, “Ricky Greenwood reached out to me and he passed my defenses, and I was intrigued, so I checked out ‘Confessions of a Sinful Nun,’ and I was then very interested. I liked the way he handled the plot, where there were reasons for the sex that made sense, and it was this adorable, uplifting kind of story. Everybody’s heard me talk shit on porn plots, like, why is everybody always cheating? Why can’t we make a movie about people who are just slutty and happy about it? Can we do open and honest? And so when he told me more about the project after we met, I was like, ‘yeah, I’m there!’”
I agreed with Stoya, for while my own tastes are far more sinister and darkly inclined, relishing twisted themes and diabolical delights, shadows are most magically defined when contrasted against bright flames. Without luminous starlight, the abyss loses definition. Without fireworks exploding across the sky, the quiet of midnight cannot be felt so keenly.
That is why upbeat stories in the hands of stellar directors like Greenwood, are so integral to this wild and wonderful biz, bringing balance to the force. That is also why Greenwood struck gold with Angel, who usually produces and stars in movies for her very own Burning Angel brand, and isn’t prone to perform in another studio’s titles.
“I didn’t know if she wanted to do something with another company and she was like, ‘yeah, let’s talk about it once you have a script and if the part is nice, and I like what I have, I will do it,’” Greenwood said. “And when I had a script, I sent her an email and she said, ‘yeah, let’s do it.’ I was super happy having her and Stoya!”
What a casting coup, indeed, and what an auspicious start to so ambitious a project. Yet Greenwood has thus far consistently delivered hit after hit, and so this latest slam-dunk kept pace with his forward momentum and penchant for excelling.
As for Angel, she was definitely excited to be involved. “I’ve never been in an all-lesbian feature before and this is very fun,” she enthused. “I don’t shoot all that much girl/girl in general. It kind of feels like a big slumber party on set. And I’m glad that Ricky asked me to do this, because I haven’t worked for another studio in a really long time.
“When he proposed this to me, I just thought it sounded like so much fun and I was really stoked that Stoya was in it,” she remarked. “The whole cast is amazing. He did such a good job! It’s so many amazing people from so many amazing generations of porn. I’m also really happy to be in a feature and not be the director! Haha. It feels like I’m on vacation.”
The rest of the cast fell smoothly into place after Greenwood sold Stoya and Angel on his idea. “Elsa Jean, I was blown away by her in ‘Becoming Elsa,’ so I brought her back,” he said. “And with Gia Paige, I’m a good friend with Jacky St. James who said Gia is one of her favorite actresses … and I always liked what she did, so I put her on board. KJ (Katrina Jade), I like what she is doing, with her attitude, and she fits her role. It was important for me to also bring in some independent performers. That’s why I brought in Sovereign Syre and Arabelle Raphael.”
On this particular day of the shoot, Stoya and Angel performed alongside Gia Paige, Katrina Jade and Carmen Caliente.
The first major scene taking place that day was a scintillating Sapphic sequence between Stoya and Angel. Whipping up steamy sex and erotic energy in spades, given the chemistry and history they share, such a pairing was destined to be one for the books.
“We had sex in the shower, Joanna and I, and it was great,” Stoya gushed, after her riotous and sensual lovemaking. “We’ve known each other for quite some time, since my first year performing, and I respect her a lot. I also find her quite beautiful and attractive, and can we talk about what great shape she’s in now? I mean she looks even better than she did at 25! It’s ridiculous.”
I nodded, for Angel’s allure is immortal to be sure.
And while her memorable girl/girl action was being shot with Stoya, Jade and Caliente were kicking back outside on a comfortably well-worn couch, sharing a vape pen and regaling each other with ribald romantic drama. I sat down beside them, inhaled the vapors, and then got down to business interviewing them.
“I am shooting a girl/girl/girl sex scene with Gia Paige and Carmen Caliente,” Jade told me, her eyes wild with excitement. The 2017 XBIZ Female Performer of the Year has become even more of an all-star player since her epic win last year, taking home 2018 XBIZ Performer Showcase of the Year in January. She is still the Princess of Darkness, the kind of heavy metal I adore.
“We were derby-ing yesterday,” she continued. “We derby-ed all day. And I was doing it backwards. I had never been on a pair of roller skates in my life, but I didn’t fall, so I started getting really excited. I was like, ‘this is cool, yeah,’ and then they were like, ‘no, it’s way harder,’ and they explained how badass roller derbying is in real life. And I was like, ‘well yeah, mosh pits!’ But I never imagined being in a pit where you throw on some roller skates. I was like, ‘whoa man, this is actually pretty cool!’ It was nice to do something different.”
Caliente chimed in on how the project reminds her of a Lifetime movie. “We have a moral and everything,” she said, before sharing the twists and turns that happen in the plot. Lest the story be spoiled, I will not include too many of those details in the span of this article. “I’m the neutral girl, I want to fit in with the cool girls but I also see that they’re fucked up, so I’m like damn,” she noted.
Interjecting, Jade said, “You’re like a good-cop-bad-cop-ass-bitch.”
Caliente laughed in agreement.
Then, Jade explained, “Today, we incorporate all the sex into the derby-ing.”
Bouncing on the couch, Caliente exclaimed, “I’m excited to do that! Because we’re all so into the dialogue and the storyline is so deep, but now we’re going to see how that actually unfolds into sex.”
When I asked if they would be having sex with the roller skates on, Jade said, “I don’t know. God I hope not. The last time I had sex in like, body armor, it was horrible.”
Caliente informed, “Oh hell no, we’re not having sex with elbow pads and kneepads!”
Sighing with relief, Jade recalled, “I had to do it one time for another studio and it was traumatizing! It was so annoying because you slide on everything. You have no traction.”
But, before the girl/girl/girl scene, it was time for Stoya and Angel to get their dialogue on. While the cameras were set up, with Erotica X director James Avalon lending a hand as one of the eagle-eyed lensmen, I searched for Stoya in the kitchen.
She and several other crew members were hovering around the beloved homemade guacamole whipped up by JC Adams, whose gay DVD reviews and feature articles regularly pop up on XBIZ when he isn’t working behind-the-scenes for Mile High Media productions.
After some light banter, I asked Stoya about her role that day. “I’m the coach of the roller derby team,” she said matter-of-factly. “My career was sidelined by a knee injury. In reality, I just don’t know how to skate, so they made it work for me, haha. I basically said that I can try to learn how to skate or I can deliver a girl/girl scene.” Her trademark wit did not disappoint.
As for how she gets into character, Stoya said, “I find out what I’m doing in a scene, the ‘-ing’ word, and have the director fill in the blank with what emotion they need. Then, I go into my head and mash a bunch of different buttons and ka-ching, ka-boom, a different world comes out.”
And so long as I had this rare opportunity to bask in the aura of such triple-X royalty, I figured it would be wise to ask Stoya about her recently released book. After all, much of her charm stems from her intellectual and literary pursuits when she isn’t unleashing that seductive stardom.
“It’s just a compilation of my blogs with a couple of other things like the two op-eds I did for the New York Times,” she said with understated grace. “It’s called ‘Philosophy, Pussycats and Porn.’”
Remarking upon the title of her book, I rhetorically mused, “What else do you need in life?”
She concurred, “Exactly! But, it could have easily had an alternate title like ‘Stoya Rambles on Things and Every Once in a While You Have a Sentence Describing a Penis.’” I chuckled.
Stoya nibbled on one last little morsel, before joining Angel in an office-like setting, where Greenwood’s attention to detail was evident in several framed photographs depicting the stars of “Talk Derby to Me” in past memories. There were also numerous gorgeously designed, custom sports posters promoting upcoming roller derby events, featuring the cast in dramatic poses.
Throughout the scene, Greenwood mixed specific dialogue instructions with encouragement of improvisation, allowing the dramatic scene to unfold in a most captivating manner as a result.
Afterwards, I tracked down Joanna, not too far from where she and Stoya had made lust-filled love in the shower, to get a better sense of her character. The snarky Burning Angel director, whose movies are among the funniest comedy flicks each awards season, bluntly stated, “I’m the old, washed up bitch that decided to return to roller derby for no good reason.”
A wry grin passed her lips, with a knowing gaze that belied there was indeed a good reason in the script — but that wouldn’t have made for such a hilarious off the cuff quote.
“Actually, there is a reason,” she confessed. “It’s because my life feels empty without it. That’s my role and that’s not too far off from what’s actually going on right now in my life, haha. I am very happy to be in the film though, and it’s a lot of fun. Ricky Greenwood is amazing and I’ve known Stoya for a very, very long time, so we get along very well.”
I then found Gia Paige taking selfies for her social media streams, squeezing her magnificent breasts together and showing off that superb ass for all her adoring fans to see, as she assumed various poses on and off a chair. When she settled down, I asked her about her role that day.
The bubbly brunette sat back and explained, “I’m the new head of the team and I’m very set in my ways. I think I’m the best, and I’m kind of the bitch in the movie.”
Given her friendliness and approachable personality, I asked her if that role was hard for her to channel or if it came naturally. Without hesitation and much to my surprise, she said, “Naturally. I’m very good at it. And I only get to play the nice girls all the time, so it was actually great to be the bitch! I grew up with three other sisters, so I have to know how to be feisty.”
I laughed, properly chagrined, and segued into exploring what it’s like starring in a Greenwood movie. “I have not worked for Ricky Greenwood before, but it’s awesome,” she shared. “This has actually been a really easygoing set. We had a long day yesterday but we were busy sharing ideas, so it was awesome. I space my work out a lot, and this is the first time in a while I’ve been booked several months in a row. I have a couple big projects coming up, like my first DP, but ‘Talk Derby to Me’ is a real treat.”
She then waltzed away with Jade and Caliente to a locker room setting, where plenty of sexy stills were taken before the horny starlets let loose on each other. The sweat and sighs and moans, as the fiery women devoured and fingered and sucked on each other, was insanely hot. Nary a cut was required, since the scene flowed with such natural choreography.
As the cast and crew started wind things down, I asked Greenwood about his overall approach to filmmaking, given the unique products he puts out.
“I try to go for a cinematic feel with my movies,” he revealed. “For ‘Talk Derby to Me,’ I looked at a lot of sports movies like ‘Rocky’ and ‘Warrior’ and ‘The Fighter’ from Darren Aronofsky … that was my inspiration. The first day, we did a Sovereign Syre and Arabelle Raphael sex scene, and we did Joanna Angel and Elsa Jean. The second day was the hardest day, because we had a lot of stuff to cover, with mostly dialogue and a sports movement segment. The hardest part was finding a warehouse and everything, but we did, and we created a roller derby track.”
The entire cast, replete with roller skates, protective pads, helmets and colorful garb, had recreated a high impact roller derby competition the day before — quite an impressive accomplishment in the span of an adult movie.
“We had friends of mine from Team Canada Roller Derby come to teach the girls some moves, and two of them were stunt doubles for Elsa Jean and Joanna Angel, so we have them in the movie as well,” he said. “It was great, even if it was longer than I expected, but we have some nice shots to work with. And today we had a sex scene with Stoya and Joanna Angel, and the threesome with KJ, Gia Paige and Carmen Caliente that you just saw, of course.”
Such a devotion to craft — bringing in actual roller derby professionals to coach adult talent — is what sets the vanguard of visionary directors apart from the rest in this business. Tender loving care, attention to detail and a fierce desire to surpass expectations can be challenging to muster, given the tighter budgets these days. But when an artist worships the art form, everything is infused with feverish passion. Even a light touch here, or a quickly hewn sculpture there, burns with that smoldering light, and ignites into a full-blown conflagration when time permits. Without such heart, without inspired souls like Greenwood, adult cinema would be a far less glorious affair. It is why Sweetheart Video feature releases have become quite an event, certain to leave a lasting impression and rack up nominations.