XBIZ 2019: Bree Mills Delivers Stirring Keynote in Candid Live Interview

XBIZ 2019: Bree Mills Delivers Stirring Keynote in Candid Live Interview

LOS ANGELES — Two-time XBIZ Director of the Year Bree Mills unveiled her grand plans for Gamma's massive Adult Time venture in a stunning live interview at the 2019 XBIZ Show with yours truly, during which she also passionately addressed the events surrounding Gamma's newly instituted code of conduct with stirring candor.

First revealed to XBIZ in an 11-page exclusive cover story for the January issue of XBIZ World, Adult Time is an ambitious industry-disrupting platform that will deliver Gamma Films' storied brands — ranging from Pure Taboo and Girlsway to recent acquisitions like Vivid and Burning Angel — with a Netflix-style subscription service.

The freedom afforded by such a model, which was inspired by Mills' desire to create episodic series of varying lengths without having to construct paysite “islands” for each and every branded offshoot, also does away with cross-selling and elevates historically underrepresented niches with imprints like older-themed "Age & Beauty," BBW-inspired "Shape of Beauty" and trans-focused "Transfixed," not to mention delectably darker fare like "Female Submission."

During the Visionary Keynote on Jan. 15, in the heart of the West Hollywood Andaz hotel on the famed Sunset Boulevard, Mills first delved into her background, which included mainstream marketing in music and e-commerce. She initially joined Gamma for a marketing position in their live cam project, ascending the ranks to become head of production and showrunner for their content. As a marketer for Gamma, Mills observed, “Consumers often want to share and contribute to making the product they like better, and I was really fascinated by all the nuances in the psychological drivers behind people’s desires.”

Over time, she took on eclectic roles within the company under president Karl Bernard, even playing interior decorator at one point. “I really did, for a number of years, do whatever Gamma needed me to do … like when I worked with this interior architecture firm for a year,” she said, chuckling. “I was just being creative wherever I could. I’m a creator. I want to make things. It’s been who I am since I was very, very little.”

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And when Gamma acquired a network of massage sites, Mills said, “We had inherited some relationships with people who had been producing the content, but the sites had fallen into status quo territory. It was a wakeup call for us, because once you own something, you’re responsible for not just a website, but the content and product itself. It’s not just about posting updates, you need to put some love into it as well. At the same time, we were looking to get into our own content production, so I raised my hand … and that was in 2013.”

Thus began her ascendancy within adult cinema. Even though she was inexperienced, her smarts and instincts guided her well. “I didn’t grow up in this industry, I was definitely kind of an outsider … so I did what I felt was the right thing, what I was naturally interested in, and I’ve always been into creative writing,” she reminisced. Then, following her success with what continues to this day as “Fantasy Massage,” she soon created the very successful Girlsway.com brand, as well as PureTaboo.com.

Next, the interview explored Gamma Films’ attentiveness to its fan base, where directors go so far as to craft entire storylines suggested by users, sometimes incorporating their usernames in the movie. Mills said that such engagement encourages long-term brand loyalty.

“You don’t have to pay for porn these days,” she stated. “You just don’t, it’s the reality. You’re two clicks away from getting whatever you want, and it’s increasingly high quality material. So, when we focus on the content itself, it differentiates us from some of the larger players in the business. We’re not necessarily focused on ad specs and traffic generation, but more on trying to make something that people connect with and want to stick around for. I like to say, ‘I want to get you off and get you equally excited for next week’s episode.’”

And when it comes to fostering a sense of community, the audiences spanning Gamma brands are not all alike. Analyzing consumers drawn to lesbian-themed content, she noted, “In particular, we found they had a lot of stories they wanted us to tell and were really active in contributing to discussions. It’s not necessarily like that across the board, I think every community is different.”

Pure Taboo, for example, is less open to storyline submissions “out of respect for the sensitivity of the topics we cover,” but people are still “very willing to comment and engage in discourse.” Wryly, she said, “We have a group of people who, come rain or shine, are happy to leave their full review on every scene. And I know them all by name. And Bob … is never happy!” She laughed good-naturedly, appreciative of Bob’s critiques, which speak to his enthusiasm for the productions.

Even though Gamma knows they cannot make everyone happy all the time, Mills said, “We try to know their names, since these are the people supporting us. We do our best to make sure they know we’re listening, that our passion matches theirs.”

One of her newer audiences is transfixed on, well, Transfixed.com, and given the structure of Adult Time, the trans site has drawn surprising demographics. “What’s beautiful about a community like Adult Time, is you’re bringing people from all kinds of origins, and I can tell you the majority of people watching Transfixed are not coming from trans sites, they’re coming from many sectors, including more traditional boy/girl fans, and that sparks discussion and inspirational ideas on how to improve.”

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While such promising results are already beginning to demonstrate the value of Adult Time, which officially launched on the very day of her keynote at XBIZ (though it had soft launched a month prior), Mills had only just begun pitching the concept to Gamma stakeholders back in November 2017. She did so after the successful debut of Pure Taboo with feature movie “Half His Age: A Teenage Tragedy” (which swept many of the categories at the 2018 XBIZ Awards), that cemented “our various ingredients that we’ve been developing.” She expressed that she was “really inspired by the power of the performances that we were able to get out of our cast” and that as a content producer “I have a million ideas, but the reality was it was frustrating because I knew three-fourths of them weren’t really paysite ideas.”

Thus, the wheels began to turn. “What if we created a space that was modeled more how mainstream entertainment is evolving,” she pitched, “where there is a lot of machinery and data science behind the platform paired with creative ideas. I’ve done a lot of research on Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime, trying to learn about their algorithms, and how we can apply that to an adult network, and what we can do with our basic membership to sort of become the petri dish for how we move forward.”

Given how massive Gamma had become, she said it was becoming cumbersome to get things done quickly. “The more products you have, the bigger and slower you get,” Mills said. “We got to a point where we were representing so many brands and products, and it got hard to innovate.”

Now, however, if a consumer joins “Fantasy Massage,” for example, they will be “ported into the ‘Fantasy Massage’ channel within Adult Time and as part of your subscription to ‘Fantasy Massage,’ you get access to over 50,000 other pieces of content within Adult Time, and to everything else we produce thereafter.”

The interview soon turned to the recent release of new guidelines by Gamma, triggered by allegations of sexual assault levied by a performer against a contract director. “So, I’m going to be pretty candid here guys, about what is the elephant in the room for some people,” Mills began. “There were statements made on social media a few weeks ago, and these are statements which Gamma as a company, and I as an individual, take very, very seriously. They are about as serious as you can make in terms of allegations.”

In the wake of that situation, as a uniformed group, Mills explained their first focus was trying to understand what was being said, what they can do and how quickly they can proactively take action as a company. They encouraged the individuals privately and in a public statement, to bring the matter to the attention of “the authorities, so there really can be a thorough and legal investigation into this.” As a company, Gamma Films vowed to “be as cooperative as humanly possible, to ensure that any info we can provide, any support we can provide to support that investigation, takes place.”

She underscored how important that was, adding, “I did not engage in a Twitter debate about this, because that is not the right place to have that conversation. There was an anonymous encrypted email posted about my character, which was very slanderous, but again, it is not the appropriate place to engage in a conversation about that on social media.”

Mills expressed, “I spent the last two weeks thinking about this and I’m heartbroken. I care deeply about the performers I work with. Since I moved to L.A. in 2016, when I went from moonlighting as a director, to actually becoming a full-time director and working with so many performers, my real professional motivation in life is to see them shine. You know … my wife is a former performer, and I’ve heard all the good, the bad and the ugly from her experience. And when I walk on set, and I work with a female talent, I see her face in every person that I work with.”

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Given her desire to "see them be proud ... from them doing these amazing acting performances, from taking on different characters from growing their careers,” that is what “honestly keeps me in this business.” She emphasized that it makes her want to continue to direct, primarily to provide that source of empowerment.

“And the more that I do this, the more I get to work creatively with performers, the more we’re able to collaborate on stories — which has become a big part of what I like to do — the more I see that talent come out and the more stages I want to give to them," Mills explained. "So, this rocked me to my very core when this happened, and if we can learn anything from this situation, it is that as a company, it will never be tolerated.” She said that common sense and ethics must continue to take center stage.

Mills then relayed, “There is a systemic issue in our industry, where performers do not feel empowered to speak up, because of fear of being ‘that girl,’ or ‘the diva’ or ‘the whistleblower,’ or not getting work. And there are plenty of people out there that are using things like social media to publicly shame people and to create that environment of fear, that you shouldn’t really say anything otherwise you might not get booked.

“Now, that has never been how I’ve conducted myself and that has never been how I have asked anybody who has ever worked with us to represent themselves, but that is not enough. And so, several things we are going to do, which we have spent the bulk of the last two weeks focusing on, is making sure that black and white, there is a written code of conduct for every contractor, subcontractor and representative of any Gamma Films production, so there will never be… when it comes to what is appropriate or inappropriate behavior, before, during or after set … there will not be any room for blurred lines or misinterpretation or ‘hey, that’s just porn,’ or ‘this is what we do.’ That stops in this industry.”

Every single person who works for her, including herself, is signing this document, which is being put into place effective Feb. 1. Mills said they have also been looking at what they can do as leaders in this industry to ensure policy reform for the safety and well-being of performers on set. That includes a detailed performer consent checklist, which the director will be responsible to review with talent and enforce on-set boundaries so they are not crossed.

“The other thing that we are doing,” she revealed, “because we need to eradicate the stigma that exists in our industry that suggests that if you are a performer, you should not speak up, or that you should not have a safe space to do so — I’m hoping to announce in the next week or so a partnership that we are making with a leading organization in this industry that’s providing mental health support for performers so we can establish a dedicated point of contact … so that any performer, or any crewmember, or anybody who is working on set, who feels that anything inappropriate has happened before, during or after set, not just in Gamma but in general, that they have a safe neutral party they can call to discuss the incident.

“As leaders in this — and I hope I can encourage other companies to follow this as well — we will make sure that as part of our paperwork package for every performer who comes on set, they receive this point of contact,” she continued, “and that all common places, washrooms etc. within our sets, we post these posters so they can be made aware of not just the existing services in general, but also a dedicated code of conduct if anyone wishes to report in confidence any other issue.”

Following this heartfelt speech, several audience members wiped away tears, and the conversation then turned to Mills’ love for bringing out the best acting possible in performers.

“So, one of my big personal focuses as a director in 2019 is a trilogy of new brands that we’re developing, that showcase very vibrant and active communities that are underrepresented within the mainstream porn industry,” she said.

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Mills touched upon how the XBIZ Award-winning “The Weight of Infidelity” movie she helmed for Pure Taboo, which was released for free and elevated the BBW genre thanks in part to Karla Lane’s stunning performance — she was in the audience and smiled brightly when Mills turned the audience’s attention to her — drove her to fashion the “Shape of Beauty” series. Seeing the positive response in both sales and body-positive advocacy, Mills also created “Transfixed,” spotlighting major stars like Cherie DeVille and Kleio Valentien making their trans debut, with Venus Lux and 2018-19 XBIZ Trans Performer of the Year Chanel Santini, respectively.

The third tentpole in her trilogy of inclusivity is “Age & Beauty,” where Mills is striving to transcend “the fact that, when you reach a certain age, you get shot out of this business.” This is a lost opportunity, she notes, not only because older women are a popular category in adult content, but because “you have so many sexually confident, beautiful, amazing performers … and it seems absurd, especially considering the market is there, fans want to see this and there’s so many iconic figures still shooting that just need a space.”

Mills said this is an effort to avoid “making it some kind of novelty joke, that they’re breaking out of the retirement home,” at this, the audience laughed. “Although,” she readily admitted, “we do have a site called ‘Lusty Grandmas’ on 21st sextury … it was an acquisition, but we still maintain it.” Nonetheless, Mills said, “It was like, can we do something with the Mrs. Robinsons out there, that’s really erotic and powerful and showcases the older woman not as a gimmick, but as the sexual beings that they are?”

Concluding the keynote, the interview ventured into Adult Time’s official launch and milestones in the coming year.

“It’s taking subscriptions right now, and anytime you subscribe to one of the studio sites you get access to Adult Time,” Mills shared. “Our first year is focused on validating this disruptive business model, where you’re trying to bank on retention, and if we focus on the right things, will that yield the product that people don’t want to cancel?

"Right now, I think our basic membership is $9.95 for streaming-only and $19.95 for download and streaming," she added. "If we offer that, can we bring in some people who are not inclined to spend 30 bucks? I think that statistically, people spend an average entertainment budget per month of 60 dollars on subscriptions across the board, so 30 dollars is a sizeable portion of that. It certainly works, but it works increasingly less. So, can we bring in people by offering a better value proposition, and if you don’t cross-sell or do all the shady stuff, is that going to be profitable?” So far, she said the results are very promising.

After such a riveting hour-long Q&A, Mills bowed humbly and the audience applauded vigorously, several of them rising to give a standing ovation. Two nights later, at adult’s biggest night — the 2019 XBIZ Awards — she won XBIZ Director of the Year for a second consecutive year in a row, among many other accolades, such as Gamma earning Studio of the Year.

For more coverage of Mills’ upcoming works, stay tuned to XBIZ.com. To read exclusive on-set coverage of her biggest projects last year, check out the write-ups on “Anne,” “Future Darkly: Artifamily” and “Future Darkly: Artifamily,” to name a few.

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