Some Euro Companies Resume Production; Uncertainty Looms

Some Euro Companies Resume Production; Uncertainty Looms

LOS ANGELES, BARCELONA, and PRAGUE — As of March 14, several European production companies have reportedly resumed production following the interruption that begun in mid-February, after a performer in Barcelona tested positive for HIV.

However, other European studios have decided to extend the moratorium until April 1.

This lack of a common policy, especially compared to the U.S.-based PASS system, has created confusion among performers since a growing number work in both continents.

XBIZ spoke with Pablo Ferrari, the Barcelona-based producer and performer who acts as spokesperson for the Asociacion Española de Productores de Cine Para Adultos (Spanish Association of Adult Film Producers), who explained the current state of uncertainty among producers and talent who shoot in Europe.

According to Ferrari, producers and companies “have reached a tentative agreement across all of Europe to keep working towards a standardized protocol. Meanwhile, starting [March 14th], we will only accept 14-day tests, with PCR.”

“Valid PASS tests will also be accepted,” he added. Performers with a valid U.S. PASS test have customarily been able to shoot in Europe without re-testing locally, but there is no reciprocity as U.S. companies in the PASS system do not accept valid European tests.

“Shooting has resumed as of March 14th,” said Ferrari, “though some important companies, like Prague’s Fake Taxi, are waiting until April 1. Either way, it’s with 14-day, PCR/4th Generation Combo tests.”

A meeting was also scheduled for today Monday, March 18, to continue working on a possible common testing protocol.

“The adult industry on this side of the Atlantic is quite small, especially compared to the U.S.” said Ferrari. “We travel for work all around Europe — Barcelona, Budapest and Prague mostly, and also Paris and London and a few other places.”

Ferrari explained that at this time, there is no standardized testing protocol in Europe. Each country has its own standards and there are a few main labs where talent gets tested.

But things might be changing in the wake of this latest production hold.

“After the positive test, we all came together and are trying to get a little better organized,” said Ferrari, who has been a performer since 2004 and director since 2011. “We started a WhatsApp group with the representatives of some of the main European production companies.”

Besides a growing number of independent studios, such as Erika Lust Films, large companies that shoot in Europe include MindGeek, Fake Taxi (Prague), Reality Kings (Barcelona), DDF (Barcelona), Legal Porno (Prague and Barcelona) and Marc Dorcel (France).

The current “Euro Hold” has hit the Spanish producers particularly hard, as the positive test occurred at the Barcelona lab where much of the local industry tests.

“The day the rumors [about the positive test] started, I was shooting,” said Ferrari. “I wrapped that day and I put the next day’s shoot on hold and went straight to the [Barcelona] clinic and told the doctor ‘Please don’t tell me the name of the performer, but let me know as soon as you can if there has been a positive test.’ On the 13th [of February] the doctor confirmed that someone had tested positive. I immediately stopped shooting and informed the Prague and Budapest companies.”

The more than 30 Spanish producers who formed the association hope that their unity will allow them to negotiate public health policies and testing subsidies with the national government. La Gaceta Uncut, Spain’s fledgling trade magazine, regularly reports on their efforts.

“We are trying to operate like a large trade group of sorts,” said Ferrari, “representing a sizable community that could be at a higher risk of STIs, we will try to negotiate with the Spanish government on that basis.”

Negotiations between the adult production community and local governments are still on a case-by-case basis in Europe.

For example, there’s an ongoing debate in the U.K. right now between producers and talent about an informal compromise reached between a producers’ group and the main NHS clinic in London where talent tests. U.K. talent also shoots in continental Europe.

The agreement resulted in performers being given free tests by the underfunded clinic every 28 days with no hassle, but some performers have been getting free tests every 14 days to account for the new Euro standard.

Some producers have argued that getting tested twice a month will cause the already overtaxed London clinic to cut back on the 28-day tests, and are trying to convince talent to pay for the second monthly test out of pocket. U.K. talent contends that having to pay for their own tests, coupled the current Euro rates for scenes (often half of U.S. rates), would cause mass retirement of performers within the London-based industry.

The uncertainty over testing in Europe also affects transatlantic talent, where opinions about protocols are by no means uniform.

“I started to perform in Germany in 1996,” German American performer and producer Steve Holmes told XBIZ. “I came to shoot in the U.S. in 2002. In the course of my career I shot in 21 different countries. Nowadays I work mostly in the U.S. My last European shoot was in October 2018 in Italy. As a result, this current production stop in Europe did not affect me personally.”

Holmes remembers the days when tests on both sides of the Atlantic were monthly. “I still think this would be sufficient today,” he said. “At the end of the day it only counts which test is accepted by your scene partner. Back in the day, Belladonna insisted on a test not older than two days and I was happy to oblige whenever I shot with her. One of many things I like in porn is the freedom, and that’s why I’m not a member of any association or union.”

“In Germany, there is no centralized testing facility and no porn association and everything works just fine,” added Holmes. “The same is true for Italy and many of the other of the 21 countries I’ve shot [in] so far.”

U.S.-born, Prague-based performer Anna de Ville, on the other hand, crossed the Atlantic for work in the opposite direction to Holmes.

“I started shooting in Europe about a month after my first scenes in Miami and L.A.,” de Ville told XBIZ. “I flew out to Miami at the end of May, 2015, a month after turning 18, with the sole intention of making extra money to pay for my first (dream) trip to Europe. I made it to London in mid-July, and shot five scenes there before continuing on to visit the other countries I had planned to visit."

De Ville thinks there are a lot of differences between the American and European sides of the adult industry. “There’s definitely a huge difference in standard rates, European rates being probably about half of what the standard rate for the same thing is in America. But there are a few companies willing to either pay American rates for models from the U.S., or compromise on a rate somewhere in between the two industry standards.”

De Ville also describes Euro sets as “a lot more laid back” than in America. “Also, don’t expect there to be anything on set for you to prep with. Enemas and douches are harder to find — you have to go to a pharmacy for them. Some of the bigger companies will be more prepared and have supplies for you, but be sure to bring your own hygiene products, lube, toys, etc.”

The actress, who recently starred in the Prague-lensed — and very “European art-house” looking — “Perverse Family," stresses that her opinions are highly subjective. “This is based on my perspective and is not a complete representation of the entire European industry,” de Ville said. “I do miss my friends in America, but I’m happier out here.”

“I’ve been shooting [in Europe] for a few years,” she added. De Ville said that based on her experience, testing every 14 or 28 days yields similar results. "At Prevedig in Prague, they do vaginal, anal and oral swabs as opposed to urine testing, which I always appreciated and consider to be better than urine tests.”

“Thankfully, the production hold has not affected me," de Ville said. "I got back to Europe on February 8th, and finished shooting a movie in Budapest for Rocco [Siffredi] on the 13th right before [the HIV positive] result came out the next day. Some productions are back to shooting now, and some are still holding off a few more weeks to be safe. All companies that have started shooting again are requiring the new DNA HIV test as well as the original HIV 1 & 2 test that we were already using.”

The HIV 2 test checks for a different strain of HIV, most common in West Africa, that is not included in the American performer testing panel, de Ville explained, but is part of European panels because of the continent’s proximity to Africa.

De Ville is “happy and extremely proud” that the European community is coming together and trying to implement new protocols.

Dan Leal, CEO of Budapest-based Immoral Productions, agrees. “I am very happy to see that so many people throughout Europe came together and have agreed upon our new unilateral 14-day standard testing policy,” Leal told XBIZ. “Performers in Europe will have a much safer work environment than ever before.”

However, at this time a formal European association does not exist. “The idea is to create a common association in the near future,” said Ferrari. "I’m personally in favor of first organizing each country’s association and then coming together in a general European organization, leaving competition aside and trying to find issues where we have common ground.”