Eros: Part Three

by Rich Moreland, March 2018

This final post on Eros is for posterity. It is intended to give readers a heads up on an emerging female talent in filmmaking.

At this time, the direction Davyana San Miguel will take professionally is evolving. If she makes a name for herself in long run, this post will lend a meaningful back story to her career.

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Reframing the Lens

When writing about Davyana, the first thing that comes to mind is her ability to capture the female gaze. Typically, we use “gaze” descriptors, especially the male version, in referencing the pornographic image. However, the concept carries over to the erotic if performance art depicting female nudity and its corresponding sexuality is our focus.

From my standpoint, the female filmmaker who fits neatly into the erotic artistic paradigm is Amy Hesketh of Pachamama/Decadent Cinema. Her work examines women who move beyond the sexual for its own sake. Amy’s preferred vehicle is the the horror/torture setting framed with psychological overlays.

On this blog, I’ve reviewed Amy’s films with that point of view in mind, an especially challenging endeavor considering she is usually behind and in front of the camera simultaneously.

What is delightful about Amy is her willingness (eagerness?) to appear on-screen as the distressed female victim. Needless to say, her performances are powerful.

Interestingly, Amy sometimes constructs the film sets and the instruments of torture her characters (especially those she plays) endure on film. Often writing her own scripts which she also directs and produces, Amy is the complete package.

Labels notwithstanding, the now college professor is clearly a feminist filmmaker. Amy’s female protagonists assert themselves despite their dire circumstances.

Though her work doesn’t deal with horror or sadomasochistic themes, Davyana is in the beginning stages of a career much like Amy’s: cinematographer, director, actor.

“As a director, I do consider myself a feminist,” Davyana says, and by its very nature that statement takes on a political interpretation akin to Amy Hesketh.

The student filmmaker adds,

“Recently, I’ve learned that 4% of Hollywood’s cinematographers are women, that means that 96% of the visuals we consume are inherently from a male gaze. Through my work, I hope to reframe the traditional lens and present things from my unique feminine perspective.”

Eros is the beginning of that journey.

Learning from the Bottom Up

As do all cinematographers, Davyana is learning her craft from the bottom up.

Here are some examples she mentions. They are from two separate productions.

“One was an independent short film called Mer, based in Brooklyn, New York. I was the second Camera Assistant on that shoot when I lived in New York for the summer of 2015,” she says.

“The second set is a senior thesis film from SFSU. I was the First Assistant Director on that one.”

Breezy and Cool

When I take a closer look at Davyana, I am persuaded that her on-camera appearances are notable, even if they are casual in nature.

What piqued my interest was a photo of her on a rooftop. It has a playfully erotic appeal, replacing the male gaze with a female alternative, though I’m not sure that was its intent.

Davyana relates that the pic “was a BTS shot from Mer. I was adjusting the lights during a nighttime rooftop scene we filmed in Bushwick. For the same film we also shot at Coney Island for one of the locations.”

If you look closely, you’ll discover Davyana has a pixie quality about her that is breezy and cool.

Then there are other moments when Davyana steps in front of the camera and moves her image beyond the incidental.

“That vinyl record photo is one of my favorites photographed by my creative partner Mehran Karimabadi,” she says. “We were filming for our short film Du Bist Schon and had an impromptu photo shoot while we had the lights setup.”

The shot is happily inventive in its nature, I might add, because it frames Davyana San Miguel in a completely different light. She, like Amy Hesketh, is transformed into the center of the gaze while maintaining a subjective, rather than objective, quality.

In other words, she is the creator.

Knowing that Amy built a career on camera, I asked Davyana about modeling and acting.

“I have consider(ed) being in front of the camera more often,” she affirms, though she has some hesitancy.  “It’s a bit uncomfortable for me to step out of my comfort zone behind the camera.”

That discomfort is not from lack of experience it seems, but touches on Davyana’s ethnicity in today’s political/social climate that sadly minimizes, rather than celebrates, diversity.

She explains. “I rarely see anyone who looks like myself on-screen, which has subconsciously dictated how I view myself within society.

“I hope that by inserting myself in front of the camera more, others [will] feel accepted and recognized visually.”

If anything, that may be Davyana’s most significant contribution to film at this point in her career.

All things considered, like Amy Hesketh, Davyana San Miguel takes her image and frames it artistically and politically. Where Amy is presently more psychological in her work, Davyana leans toward a broader message of multiculturalism and LGBT acceptance. That is not to say Amy ignores this, nor does it imply that Davyana is downplaying internal psychological forces in her self-created images. Each woman borrows from the other.


Lastly, Amy is very fetish oriented, as we know. For Davyana, her fetish expression is somewhat spontaneous and less calculated. The native of Hawai’i comments on a photo I brought to her attention. I suggested it celebrates multiple fetishes.

“My mesh outfit was one that I wore to last year’s pride parade in San Francisco. I suppose that the overlay of fetishes was my intent,” she says.

But it seems the unconscious might have influenced her in a more innocent manner.

“I was simply expressing myself with things I had in my closet,” Davyana concludes.

Wow, what a closet!

So, here is perhaps the most deeply personal photo of them all, a product of mind and emotion that Amy Hesketh can appreciate.

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You can see samples of Davyana’s work on her website.


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Eros: Part Two

by Rich Moreland, March 2018

Now that we’ve introduced student filmmaker Davyana San Miguel, let’s have a conversation about what makes Eros a striking accomplishment.

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To begin, Davyana describes the film as “an audio-visual experience that explores themes of pornography and feminism through experimental filmic techniques.”

Without doubt, it accomplishes that.

After viewing the film, I wanted to share my thoughts with Davyana. One of them concerned how she chose to represent herself on-screen. As the film opens, the viewer’s first impression is Davyana with her back exposed to the camera by a very low-cut dress. To push an avant-garde button, she has buzzed her hair.

Was that intentional? Here’s what I found out.

Davyana shaved her head during a trip to London. Her hair was always long and a close trim was something she wanted to do, but her friends weren’t exactly supportive.

“According to their opinions, I wouldn’t be beautiful or feminine anymore if I shaved my hair,” she recalls.

Moving forward nevertheless, Davyana discovered an opportunity to put her new look on-screen in an interesting way.

“I decided to insert myself in the film to join the conversation and redefine the notions that a woman is defined by her adherence to traditional gender roles.”

What about baring her back?

“My outfit choice and camera angle are intentional but shouldn’t be over thought.” She comments. “There is no deeper meaning. I simply enjoyed the aesthetics of the shot.”

Unfortunately, I stand guilty of over thinking. Let me give you an example. 

In a film review I did a couple of years ago, I interpreted a painting as cleverly defining connections within the plot and its characters. Later, the director thanked me for the observation, but the painting was incidental in the scene and lent no special meaning to the film, he said.

Well, this time around I argue that Davyana gave her film “deeper meaning” by putting her image in it and I agree with Dr. Augsburg who claims, “I think she also underscores the importance of feminist art since the 1960s–or what I call feminist ars erotica— by depicting herself working with paint in the film. She seemed literally to turn her back on the male gaze as well.”

The good professor is spot on.

Simply a Business

Eros incorporates the feel of early film. There are sprocket holes continuously on-screen accompanied by flickering to create the effect of a reel-to-reel experience. Do the boxes on each side of the film have multiple meanings other than sprocket holes and did Davyana employ them to enhance the theme of the narrative? 

I think so. Grainy reel-to-reel images remind viewers there’s a bit of history going on with what they are seeing.

Incidentally, the effect confronts the male gaze engendered by stag films, the earliest version of motion picture pornography. If this is her intention, Davyana exposes how women’s sexuality has been viewed in our culture over time.

Here’s what she had to say, mixing in some techie talk with the film’s message.

“I’m intrigued by the psychological effects of subliminal messages. The grid pattern of 16mm hand-painted clear leader simply came together through experimentation. The strobing effect of the 16mm was achieved by filming the live projection.  Every frame is intentional and represents something related to the adult industry. I don’t want to give too much away; a lot is up for the audience to decode.”

Regarding Marilyn Chambers (in a clip taken from a TV appearance) and Andrea Dworkin as opposites in the film, Marilyn seems nervous; whereas, Dworkin is her usual forceful self.

Selecting those clips for Eros is astute filmmaking because Marilyn symbolizes the early days of the emerging 35 mm pornography phenomenon that is not quite sure of itself; whereas, Dworkin is a statement of suppressed (or repressed?) female sexuality, a longstanding cultural expectation then and now.

Does Davyana consider the two women as antithetical?

“Andrea Dworkin was included to represent the anti-porn feminist perspective and Marilyn Chambers represents the pornography feminist,” she says. “I wanted to showcase both sides of the feminist debate that spanned the 1970’s.” And into the 1980s, I might add, so Davyana has encapsulated a large chunk of porn history in momentary images.

Having said that, what do we do with Dworkin and Annie Sprinkle?

Davyana elaborates.

“Andrea Dworkin’s intensity and overconfidence (in her point of view) really helped to show the different sides of feminism that exist.  That visual (in the film) about porn people leading happy lives is all thanks to Annie Sprinkle! That’s the very message I wanted to get across strongly (about porn) . . . this is simply a business.” (Notice the dollar sign in the title card reproduced above?)

Buckley and Days Gone By

What about conservative commentator William F. Buckley? Where does he fit in?

“I found his reactions as a moderator quite funny and left his shots in there. Talking about pornography and feminism can be overwhelming and tiring, hence the need for comedic relief,” Davyana comments.

No doubt, but let’s not forget that Buckley’s resume includes supporting McCarthyism, segregation (he was no friend of civil rights), and opposing multiculturalism. With her avant-garde lens, Davyana gives him the zapping he deserves, if ever so subtle, in a film that addresses a pair of ideas that would appall him: feminism and pornography.

Another segment of interest in Eros is the scene of women and typewriters. It presents a 1940s snapshot of the corporate world that Buckley would certainly endorse. Jobs are stamped out; typists are cloned. They are hardly in charge of their image.

The vision is an innovative way to move the history of women forward because of how it defines society and the female statement within it.

“The shots of women training to be secretaries are included as a visual juxtaposition to the idea of an independent female who works in the adult industry,” Davyana declares. “These secretaries represent the women oppressed by a patriarchal society.”


Finally, how does Annie Sprinkle fit into Davyana’s message?

“I learned about Annie Sprinkle through Dr. Augsburg’s course,” the student artist says, and offers a “shout out” to her professor for “inspiring the themes discussed in Eros.”

Davyana explains that she needed “a credible source to help my argument that feminism and pornography can coexist.  What better person to ask than Annie Sprinkle, who has worked in the industry and created a successful art career because of her experiences.”

When I asked Dr. Tanya Augsburg about Davyana’s commitment to excellence, she said:

I’m so impressed that she took the initiative to interview Anne Sprinkle, Shine Louise Houston, and yourself. What I appreciate so much about her remarkable film is that is also quite the feast for the eyes. She presents a full range of feminist perspectives in mesmerizing ways.”

I could not agree more and am most flattered to be a part of Davyana San Miguel’s continuing journey into filmmaking.

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We have one more Davyana San Miguel post in front of us. This time we’ll talk about the artist up close and personal.


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Eros: Part One

by Rich Moreland, March 2018

When I was researching feminism in adult film, my intention was to provide a historical resource for the college classroom. In the spring of 2017 that became a reality at San Francisco State University.

A student from the university was introduced to my work and contacted me concerning a film project she was undertaking. The discussion was an enjoyable role reversal for me because someone else was asking the questions.

The outcome of her effort is extraordinary considering this is a student film, not the product of a professional filmmaker. For that fact alone, it is a remarkable accomplishment.

(All visuals in Parts One, Two, and Three of Eros are courtesy of Davyana San Miguel except that of Dr. Tanya Augsburg who granted me permission to use a her image.)

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Five Minutes

The filmmaker is Davyana San Miguel and the film, Eros, is a comment on how we as a society must create a space for a woman’s take on her own sexuality and, more importantly, how she expresses it.

Early porn feminists, specifically Annie Sprinkle, a member of Club 90, the original feminist support group in the industry, and the late Marilyn Chambers, who did not openly identify as a feminist but was in control of her image, are included. For a more recent take on feminist porn, the narrative offers a moment with director Shine Louise Houston whose Pink and White Productions is a well-known studio in the queer porn genre.

Additionally, the ideas of two feminists from the heady days of second wave feminism are juxtaposed as part of Eros’s message: Andrea Dworkin’s anti-porn feminism and “the erotic is power” philosophy espoused by African-American lesbian, Audre Lorde.

By the way, the film is brief, running a bit over five minutes. But don’t let that fool you, it is smartly done with an artistic verve.

Challenging Social Stigmas

So, who is Davyana San Miguel?

“I’m a filmmaker and multimedia artist,” she says. “As of right now, I’m finishing up my bachelor’s degree in Cinema from San Francisco State with an emphasis in Experimental Filmmaking.

“I’m originally from Hawai’i and moved to California when I was seventeen, spending the first three years in Southern California and now residing in foggy San Francisco.”

Davyana explains that her filmmaking focuses on “challenging social stigmas.” To do so, she explores “open conversations about topics that may make people uncomfortable,” such as feminism and pornography.

Of course, modern artists must take care of the technical aspects of their work. In Davyana’s case, she and her “creative partner” Mehran Karimabadi operate “DSM Visuals, a production company and art collective that creates diverse and original content,” she says.


Early in her time at the university, Davyana took a humanities class, Images of Eroticism, from Dr. Tanya Augsburg, an Associate Professor of Humanities in the School of Humanities and Liberal Studies who describes herself as “a humanities-trained interdisciplinary feminist performance scholar, critic, and curator.”

I invited her to talk about her course.

First, she tells me that Images of Eroticism “is a popular upper-division general education humanities course” that has been part of the university curriculum for quite some time. Dr. Augsburg is one of several professors who have undertaken the challenge of defining the sexual and its place in our culture.

“Each instructor teaches it differently, according to their own interpretation of what ‘images of eroticism’ means as well as their own areas of expertise,” the professor points out. Though one instructor teaches the class as a porn studies offering, Dr. Augsburg’s version is not quite that.

Her approach is broader, examining a variety of erotic “representations” that focus on “art, philosophy, literature, film, and contemporary pop culture.”

To give me some specifics, Dr.Augsburg mentions that her course encompasses “erotic imagery” as it connects with “sex-positive cultural representations of women that are created by women and those who do not identify with toxic heteronormative masculinity.”

Dr. Augsburg uses a variety of sources. For example, she includes “clips from the ‘golden age of porn’ and Annie Sprinkle’s films,” on one hand, she says, and “the art of young ‘fourth wave’ and ‘sex-negative’ feminists such as Ann Hirsch and Leah Schrager,” on the other.

The professor also mentions Cheryl Dunye’s film, Mommy Is Coming.

(Note: I met Cheryl Dunye a few years back by way of Pink and White’s Jiz Lee who was impressed with what Dunye brought to the cinematic table.)

New Erotic Imagery

Although the college atmosphere often resists changes in methodology (we often teach as we were taught), Dr. Augsburg’s students are not passive receptacles of professorial pronouncements (my professorial words, not hers!).

“In Images of Eroticism I challenge students to create new erotic imagery that is consensual and that represents their own communities and/or interests. Students can take up that challenge for their final as long as they draw from the course material,” the professor explains.

Some will write “erotic short stories that draw from the course material as well as their own experiences,” she continues. “I’d like to think that Davyana also took up that challenge after the class was over in her film class.”

(Indeed she did. Eros was a project Davyana developed for her Experimental Documentary Workshop at the university.)

What impressed Dr. Augsburg was that Davyana incorporated elements from her course in her student production. Among the literary examples that stand out for the humanities professor occurs in the final frames.

“Davyana ends the film with a shout-out to yet another course text, the novel Story of O with the masked man and woman.”

And, of course, the young filmmaker boldly steps into her own production prompting high praise from Professor Augsburg.

“My class featured many examples of feminist art and performance so I was delighted to see Davyana doing her own performance art in the film,” she says.

The “Porn” Class

From Davyana’s perspective, Dr. Augsburg had a significant impact on a young woman’s educational journey.

“Images of Eroticism was one of the first classes that I took at SF State. I was intrigued by the name. My roommates at the time told me that it was known as the ‘porn’ class. Well, maybe, but it was more than that.

In fact, firsts were everywhere. Not only was the class new to Davyana, it was Dr. Augsburg’s first time teaching it and she was the first woman at the university to do so.

The experience was rewarding. Dr. Augsburg “gave the class a critical analysis and historical overview of erotic art and its effects on society from a female perspective,” Davyana says.

A couple of decades ago that would have been unthinkable and certainly not conventional when it comes to the erotic.

Incidentally, Davyana mentioned that the class read parts of my take on adult film feminism because it “represents a counter-narrative to the consequences of traditional gender roles.”

She goes on to say,

“My copy of your book is littered with post-it notes and I read the whole book after the course was over. When I studied your text and related films, the concept of feminism coexisting with pornography, no longer felt foreign.”

Cool. That is exactly its intent.

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The filmmakers of DSM visuals.

*          *          *

Next we will delve a bit into Eros, the film.

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Interview with Scott Taylor: Part Two

by Rich Moreland, December 2017

This is the second part of my interview with New Sensations/Digital Sin owner Scott Taylor.

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After a quick break to adjust the digital recorder, Scott and I get back to our conversation. I’m interested in how Eddie Powell and Jacky St. James hooked up with New Sensations. Scott is more than happy to tell the story.

Incredibly Creative

Eddie Powell was with the company before Jacky came on board, Scott begins.

He is effusive in his praise of the director/videographer.

“Eddie embraces any new technology or challenge,” Scott exclaims.  “He’s self-taught, an incredibly creative and a brilliant individual. It’s been amazing what he has contributed to this company in the several years he’s been here.”

Furthermore, Scott believes Eddie’s talent at special effects, editing, lighting, and videography makes him “second to none in the industry.” High praise indeed!

Scott explains it this way:

“When I was shooting I could express myself artistically from the angles to the lighting to the emotions I’m trying to capture in the frame. There’s a huge difference between someone who knows how to do that and someone who doesn’t. It can be a slight tilt of the camera, it can be framing in a different way that feels and tells a different story. Trying to teach that to somebody is kinda difficult. You understand what that looks like or you don’t.

“I’m lucky in Eddie. He’s so creative. We leave him completely alone on whatever he turns in. It’s so good on a regular basis.”

What about Jacky?

Scott next fills in the blanks about Jacky St. James.

It started with scripts.

“When I read a script I look at it from more of a mainstream point of view. I don’t want it to be the pizza man shows up. I want the entire story to make sense. There should be real integrity for what we put out here, not just words on a page.”

By the way, the delivery man scenario Scott references is an old stag film formula involving a knock on the door and a bored housewife that goes back almost a hundred years. No story, really, just sex.

A paucity of good writers encourages New Sensations to run a contest to find new talent.

Scott continues:

“Jacky wins this contest. She’ll come in, write for us, and that’s all she’ll do.”

That, of course, was only the beginning. Like the old delivery man scenario, Jacky got her foot in the door. She took over the studio’s PR work and continued to do scripts. Of course, she meets Eddie.

“Jacky’s an excellent writer and I can see that she’s working with one of the best videographers at the time.’” Scott explains, then continues as if speaking directly to Jacky.

“You’ve got this. You need to start directing. You see the script in your head when you’re writing it. You already know in your mind what this looks like. You need to get out there and Eddie can shoot it for you. You can’t run a camera, that’s fine. He can do it and you guys can work together.”

It’s a blueprint for how Jacky’s collaboration with Scott and Eddie changed the porn feature by leading it in a more artistic direction.

Scott sums it up this way:

“She slowly took the reins at the very beginning, to trying out this new field to ultimately becoming a very confident director. She still is the best writer I’ve ever seen. She floats between different genres very well and she’s been a real joy to have along for the ride. That’s how we got Jacky.”

Working Together

I know from my research on Jacky’s relationship with Scott that they have bonded professionally. I wanted to get his point of view on this.

He mentions the Emma Marx series (which I’ve reviewed on this blog) and Torn as memorable moments. Emma Marx came along at the time Fifty Shades of Grey was the rage. New Sensations had a parody in mind, but it was abandoned in favor of a more serious approach.

“We wanted to tell our own story. Jacky knew the characters and we agreed on the direction of where it would go.”

Torn was also a serious film that the company is” every proud of.” He says. “She did an excellent job (writing and directing it).”

The film is about an older man and the young lover who comes into his life as his marriage is crumbling.

Scott quickly follows with what everyone in the adult biz knows about Jacky as director.

“Jacky can get acting performances out of people that are really inspirational.”


Do they have a give and take professional relationship?

“Absolutely!” he replies and explains that a concept for a film might be his or hers, “but we generally work together. If I see the script and I like it, then we do it, but if I want some changes, then we change some things.”

That was early on, however.

Once we began working together for a number of years,” Scott says, “I didn’t have any changes to her work. She’d hand it in and I was floored by it every time.”

It bears mentioning that Scott does not smother his talent to do things his way. In fact, he’s hands off, but he’s always available for advice.

“If they need it, I’ll be there. I generally embrace talented people and let them go do their work and critique it afterwards.”

For Eddie, it was learning process that sparked “a lot of conversations along the way,” Scott says, before coming full circle today.

As for Jacky, he exclaims, “I wouldn’t say that Jacky’s writing ability is any less than it is today,” though early on he established the parameters he wanted.

Considering she was working in a genre new to her, that’s understandable.

“When she started writing the romance movies that we were doing at the time, we needed to follow a certain formula. She adopted to that relatively quickly. We’re not talking about multiple rewrites. It was ‘let’s do this’ and she has an idea and she puts it together,” Scott says.

The Company Secret

I mention that when I review a Jacky film, the story and the cinematography are my focus, but I know these things are less important to the average fan who is just waiting for the next sex scene.

“I’m afraid that is true,” Scott admits. He wishes there was a greater appreciation of what New Sensations puts out there and uses Eddie as an example.

“Eddie is so deserving of best director for so many years from what he does. His creativity is well thought out. It is not by accident. That’s how he tells his story.

“Eddie edits his own movies and writes his own music because he’s really trying to create a feeling. He’s a secret if anybody wants to know the secret to the company. It’s this guy who’s been such a rock in so many ways. His cinematography most people don’t even notice, but I notice and gasp!”

Crossing Over

Finally, I want Scott’s opinion on crossing over, the idea that adult performers and directors can move between Porn Valley and Hollywood.

He mentions that the Emma Marx series has made an appearance on Showtime. “When I see those movies on there I think they hold up very well. It makes me feel very proud to see that movie on a mainstream channel and it looks as good as it does.”

That being said, Scott assesses Jacky’s attempts to make a splash in mainstream film.

“Jacky has actually stepped into that world and it’s proven to be pretty difficult. She is able to work with more veteran actors. I wouldn’t say they’re big Hollywood stars, but they are honing the craft of acting more than the craft of having sex. It helps to tell your story with people that can bring the emotion to the characters that’s necessary.

“For crossing over the only success we’ve had is Showtime embracing ‘after hours’ programming even though it’s not. They’ll show it at eight o’clock in the evening. But you’re still working with primarily adult actors and actresses.”

Scott is not sold on the idea that crossing over is realistic.

“I don’t think you take anything X-rated and go with it no matter what the budget is. I don’t see it really catching on.”

Interestingly, Scott sees an additional issue with the jump to Hollywood: a true lack of performing talent.

Remy LaCroix

“You need really good actors and there are some . . .I think Penny (Pax) is an excellent actress, Remy LaCroix is an excellent actress. There are guys who are excellent actors compared to other people in this business.”

But they are the few.

On the other hand, Scott has a more positive view of directors.

“Could a director cross over and make a mainstream movie? Yes, I think it’s very possible.”


Where does this place Jacky and Eddie?

Scott is honest but with reservations.

“What Jacky is trying to do now is bridge that gap. She’s doing it with an R-rated series, but I would love to see her transition into something that is fully mainstream if it is beneficial to her. Mainstream work is very, very difficult from what I’ve seen. It’s very difficult to break into.”

Scott offers a final thought.

“I think Eddie can get out there and run that camera on a mainstream set in a second. I think Jacky can write mainstream all day long. But to carry the X-rated market into a mainstream market, even if it is a little bit softer, is limited.

“It’s just the way most of the country views it. It’s still porn and is classified as the dirtiest thing you’ve ever seen or heard of. Porn falls into the porn bucket, that’s what it is.”

Perhaps, but a New Sensation/Digital Sin product is the cream at the top of that bucket, so who knows?

*          *          *


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Interview with Scott Taylor: Part One

by Rich Moreland, December 2017

On my recent trip to the sunny wonderland of Southern California I had the distinct privilege of interviewing Scott Taylor, owner of New Sensations/Digital Sin, one of Porn Valley’s top production companies.

Scott has done it all from shooting to directing and offers some valuable business insights into the ever-changing world of adult film.

We sat in his office in Chatsworth and discussed a variety of topics. Here are some highlights.

*          *          *

From Army Brat to Business Owner

I was an “army brat,” Scott  begins, so moving around (in other words, frequent change) was his version of normal. In his teens he became a drummer and later gave college a go, but education was not his calling.

“I really wanted to pursue music and moved to LA to become a rock star.”

Of course, bursting onto the music scene takes time and the nineteen-year-old recognized the rent had to be paid.

“I don’t have a degree, so I’m taking any job I can. I play in a band, work in a warehouse, do whatever, until I stumbled onto adult video,” Scott continues.

He caught on with a distributor and spent a couple of years learning the business before his entrepreneurial instincts sensed bigger opportunities.

How did all this lead to becoming a respected company owner?

While still involved in the music industry (he cut a record), Scott wanted to start his own distribution company because adult film was becoming his future. Before long the next logical step was to produce his own content.

“I decide I wanted to go into making movies and I’m going to shoot with two cameras,” he says.

It was the 1990s and gonzo shooting, a POV style popularized by Evil Angel’s John Stagliano, dominated the market. Scott hitched his wagon to that train and turned out the award-winning Dirty Debutantes.

“I do all the interviews. I learned how to edit. I’m learning photography,” he mentions with a go-to pride.

Scott had a company in place: Video Virgins/New Sensations with Video Virgins being the pro-am package, he explains. At this point, the enterprise represented “a change between pro-am and a more gonzo related product,” he says, adding that Jewel De’Nyle was “our first contract girl.”

With New Sensations underway and more opportunity on the horizon, Scott and his business partner Joone initiate a new venture, Digital Playground (DP).

“We’re doing CD ROMs at the time and the business became moderately successful. I created a series called ‘Virtual Sex With.’ We shot Jenna Jameson as our first girl. It was interactive,” he explains, and relied on “new technology’ that involved switching  “between cameras.”

The result? More innovation.

“By the time I left Digital Playground the CD-ROM industry had been replaced by DVD. Digital Playground was a leader in the emerging DVD marketplace,” Scott adds.

Scott’s eye for talent was vital to his early success. He brought on Peter North and Nic Andrews, whom he recognizes as “an excellent filmmaker.” Working with the best behind the camera became a Scott Taylor trademark and, at that time, determined the future of New Sensations because it underscored “the difference between pro-am and becoming a gonzo/feature film company,” he proudly states.

Though I had several questions prepared for the interview, I let Scott Taylor’s passion for what he does take over and the outline of an adult film company’s evolution took shape.

Gonzo v. Feature

Scott and DP ultimately parted ways.

“I had controlling interest (in the company) when I left, but elected to take a buyout and start over. This was one of the best decisions of my career.”

The move allowed him to invest in a new enterprise, Digital Sin, to go along with the existing New Sensations. His maneuvering yielded a single entity he defines this way:

“Digital Sin is a DVD company releasing a New Sensations product.”

This transition allowed Scott to experiment with interactive video.

I inquire if the interactive idea is like today’s virtual reality.

“It is as best you could do at the time,” he says. The action is prerecorded obviously, but the control is left up to the viewer. In other words, Scott adds, “it’s POV, the intent is to make you think you’re in the scenario.”

He goes on to say that the shortcoming of interactive video reflects what virtual reality also currently lacks, the “touch and feel” that personalizes the viewing experience. Over time, Scott asserts, achieving this has been difficult and there is no guarantee for the future.

“Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t,” he comments.

At this point in New Sensation/Digital Sin’s development, Scott makes a market decision that defines what we see today.

“I decide that Digital Sin is going to become its own company. It’s going to produce its own series of movies and release them through New Sensations/Digital Sin.”

The result shaped his future because he determines that “Digital Sin will be gonzo driven, New Sensations more feature oriented.”

Bear in mind, however, that the business model is flexible. The company will stay fresh because sales will determine the direction of the collective product.

Either label will become more of what the other label is creating depending on what the customer wants, Scott explains. Originally Digital sin was more feature oriented and “rested on New Sensations’ shoulders.” Then it began “outselling New Sensations” and that sparked the necessary adjustments.

It’s All About Talent

To ensure a strong path, Scott brings in the best film making talent he can find because that ensures success.

“It’s important to me that the integrity of the company is maintained,” he says.

Incidentally, a high-quality product means one more thing to Scott.

“I’m very loyal. I attach myself to certain people even if they move on.”

He emphasizes the “excellent working relationship” he’s nurtured with “everyone who has passed through here” and stresses that friendships have remained in place.

“It’s been fantastic working with all these creative people” and when they go on to enhance their careers elsewhere, there’s no animosity on anyone’s part.

Lee Roy Myers

Like a proud parent, Scott Taylor runs through a list of porn talent that is recognizable across the industry landscape. Among them are Jonni Darkko, who started as a cameraman, Greg Lansky and Mike Adriano, whom Scott met at a European trade show.

“Mike is more the performer where Greg is more the director,” Scott interjects, offering them up as any porn company’s dream team.

Throw in Nacho Vidal, Jeff Mullen (aka Will Ryder), Lee Roy Myers, and Axel Braun, all award-winners with impeccable credentials, and you get a sense of Scott’s ability to find innovative talent.

That leads me to Jacky St. James and Eddie Powell.

Scott is eager to talk about both and that takes us to Part Two of this interview.

*          *          *

Some of the awards on display in Scott’s office

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An Evil Christmas Story?

by Rich Moreland, December 2017

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The Krampas and the Old, Dark Christmas

Who is our beloved Santa Claus, Father Christmas, and Merry Ole St. Nick? Every child can come up with an answer, just think toys and other goodies delivered during the holiday season. But have you heard of The Krampas? If not, then let author and researcher Al Ridenour put a bow on the inside story as your holiday treat.

“In Protestant lands,” he begins, the St. Nicholas figure “was transformed (into) a gift giver,” the jolly fellow every child loves. But a quick look at folk tales tells us there’s more because as the good saint moves into modern times he is “accompanied by a number of different characters that have come to be known generally as ‘dark companions.’”

Bad guys hanging out with Santa Claus, what gives? It’s all about social control, the acculturation of social norms, and the next generation. Here’s one of the lessons that has persuaded potential imps to be good children over the centuries.

In parts of Central Europe, specifically the Alpine regions of Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and northern Italy, naughty and misbehaving children feel the sting of switches and are carried off in “a large sack” (or in some cases, a basket) by a version of the dark companion known as the Krampas, Ridenour writes.

Today in those same environs, the “folkloric devil” is celebrated with “runs” (actually walks announced by the sound of bells through town, village, and countryside) of costumed figures whose grotesque masks could frighten any kid. In some parts of the region, house visits are part of the show where the family’s dining table is employed as a barricade to protect children from the evil-looking one.

In his book, The Krampas and the Old, Dark Christmas: Roots and Rebirth of the Folkloric Devil, the author investigates ancient beliefs and connects them to today’s world. The result is a read that combines a continuous history lesson with the flavor of a travelogue complete with dazzling photos exploring the art of the Krampas celebration. Ridenour gives us the cultural back story of how the spooky Christmas rascal came about and describes how the rituals of frolic and amusement that celebrate him are carried on in this modern century. Make note: villagers are discouraged from giving a drink to their local Krampus when he stops by. He can get drunk, you see, and inhibit his next round of visits!

Perchta and Friends

To enliven his research, the author uses interviews and on-site observances to bring Krampas festivals to life. If there is a drawback, however, it is Ridenour’s academic approach that may be off-putting for some readers, especially when he reviews the entomology of important terms.

Frankly, the challenge that plagues every writer in the social sciences is his or her storytelling choice. What is best, a footnoted study or a popular history? Throw in trying to do too much within limited pages and scholars need an effective balancing act to draw in the casual reader.

To his credit, Al Ridenour pulls off a social history that engages the reader with references to fairy tale storytellers and psychologists. After all, The Krampas legend is complex with a cast of characters that can be overwhelming, particularly since this is a Central European legend that cuts across regional history. Local customs and terminology can be confusing if one is unfamiliar with the culture. For example, take a look at the female influence in the Krampas narrative and the words associated with the concept: Perchta, Holda, Holle, and Hulda.

An example of what Ridenour handles effectively is his explanation of the witchcraft craze that plagued Europe centuries ago. He tells us that the Alps (where the mist is always unsettling) is “the birthplace of the modern European notion of witchcraft” and tosses in a reminder of “how the Christmas season was formerly a time of menacing supernatural activity.”

Ridenour goes on to inform the reader that “the old Percht (male image) behind the Krampus mask” is “dreadful” and “capricious.” To carry the thought to its logical conclusion, Ridenour then conflates the “realm of the dead,” the purview of Perchta (female image or spirit), with the male-dominated Christmas image of kindly St. Nicholas. It facilitates the notion that a “fearful wonder (that) once saw offering of porridge placed on snowy Alpine roofs” still lingers with the cookies and other treats we leave “for Santa in dark suburban kitchens.”

Horns and Whips

As mentioned above, the purpose of tales of Krampuses and witches is to terrorize children into following social norms. In the earth’s gloomiest hours, the winter solstice, Christmas can’t escape its educational responsibility.

So as European villagers go about having a bit of entertainment during December, children are reminded that toeing the line is part of moving into adulthood. And, I might add, not without a little erotic stimulation to spice things up.

The author suggests that the horns on the Krampas mask are clearly linked to “virility, sexuality, and fertility” and that whips impart fertility. He relates that “goat-hide thongs to strike women” were significant in ancient Roman festivals and in some parts of the Krampas “runs” today, young men are so equipped to strike local unmarried village girls . . a little S and M flirting to shape them up, we suppose.

Witches and Werewolves

The Krampas and the Old, Dark Christmas is a catalogue of folk legends that live within what was once known in Charlemagne’s time as the Middle Kingdom that stretched from the Atlantic coast to the Italian Pennisula. In the first half of the book, the author gives us a peek at local customs that currently dominate the Christmas season. When he moves to the second half we get visions of witches and werewolves that help frame the roots of these legends in a different and invigorating way.

Do we have any versions of Krampuses in our American holiday celebrations? Sure. Don’t forget the Grinch that Stole Christmas and Gremlins! The little demons play on this side of the Atlantic, too!

For folklore aficionados, The Krampas is a solid read. Likewise for historians, it’s a must have for those who want a fresh view on the power of folklore. Al Ridenour connects some new dots in our understanding of Western culture and its fascinations with the Christmas season.


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Information for The Krampas and the Old, Dark Christmas: Roots and Rebirth of the Folkloric Devil

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Feral House (October 4, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1627310347
  • ISBN-13: 978-1627310345


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A Gonzo Afternoon: Part Two

by Rich Moreland, December 2017

Their shoot for Eddie Powell wrapped up, Steve Holmes and Mandy Muse are game for a dual interview so we move outside to the veranda.

Steve’s wife soon joins us.

Here’s some of what we discussed.

*          *          *

A Convenient Marine

I open the discussion with a question about getting into the business.

Mandy starts us off. She’s been shooting for a while and works with Kendra Lust’s agency, Society 15.

“I’m 23 years old. I’ve been in the industry for 4 years now, started when I was 19. I have a big booty which I’m known for. I do pretty much everything except for double anal and double vag.”

Mandy has no background in acting other than a film class she once took. But the Southern California lass is well versed in sex, having her first experience at the tender age of twelve.

“I had my first threesome with two guys when I was fourteen and then my first orgy at about fifteen.” Her voice rises as if she’s not sure of the age, or doesn’t remember exactly.

She got into the industry once she turned eighteen, Mandy says, and relates how it happened.

“I was attempting my first DP with these two marines on base.”

A good time was had by all before another soldier shows up. He was on duty but that didn’t faze Mandy.

“He was really attractive and I wanted him to join in,” she remembers.

The marine was interested but declined. He was on duty. Undaunted, Mandy gave him her number.

“He later asked me if I’d do a scene with him for a uniform fetish website. I wore my cheer leading uniform from high school and that’s how porn found me!” the brunette declares gleefully.

Married with Children

Steve’s path started at a much later age.

“I’m German, born in Transylvania, then went to Germany as a kid.” he begins. “I worked in IT for ten years, before that in different jobs, always sales and marketing.”

I can believe that. He’s easy to get along with, just ask Mandy who met him for the first time today.

Steve’s wife arrives to pick him up and takes a seat.

As if on cue, he says, “When I started I was already married with children.”

I suggest his wife is a tolerant person. She smiles and sends him a knowing look.

“She is, yes,” he responds and turns to Mandy, “I did a nice feature with your agent, Kendra Lust. She played my wife.”

Come to think of it, I guess Steve has had lots of “wives” but only one real wife.

I tell Steve I first learned about him through his work with in San Francisco.

“Kink is a funny story actually,” he offers. “They booked me the first time in 2007. I didn’t know the company. They always asked the girls at Kink who they like to shoot with. They were requesting me.”

The fetish giant explained that before they booked him he needed to do a little research to find out his comfort level with what they do.

They said, “’It’s not like the regular stuff. We’ll send you a link to our website and a password,’” Steve remembers.

He checked out their shoots and noticed something. He didn’t know how to do the rope work that seemed to be everywhere in a Kink production.

“They told me, ‘no problem we have people for that,’” Steve explains. “So that’s my first shoot at Kink for Sex and Submission in February or March, 2008.”

As time passed, Kink expanded their offerings to Steve.

“They asked me if I can help with producing and organizing. That’s how I started directing. One of the websites I produced was Public Disgrace. Princess Donna initiated that with the company.”

Donna has since left the adult business. I remembered seeing her a couple of years ago in a shoot for a European BDSM company called Elite Pain. Their work is rougher than anything stateside.

“Yes, a company owned by a friend of mine in Budapest,” Steve interjects. “They normally just shoot nudity with no sex.”

He references a shoot he did for them and shows a still of the bound model on his phone.

“The girl contacted me many years ago. She wasn’t a porn girl. She was a medical student in Germany. I booked her in Europe and we shot her in Berlin for Public Disgrace and I asked her if she enjoyed the scene.”

“‘I was hoping you’d beat me harder,’” he remembers her saying.

Asked about her limits and the girl said, “‘I don’t know, I’ve never reached that.’”

It turns out that Steve suggested she might want to give Elite Pain a shot.

“She came for the scene. We did it together. Hard punishment. I fucked her and she had so many orgasms. She was happy for the experience, but she’d never do it again,” he says with a chuckle.

As time passed Steve’s work with Kink was so impressive that he became one of their directors and specialized in filming in Europe.

Warming Up

Turning our attention to the shoot just completed, I asked our pair how they got to know one another when they arrived.

Steve begins

“Easy. We met. We got attracted to each other. We use the time they are setting up the lights.”

Yep, all that “warming up” paid off.

Mandy points out that being comfortable with your co-stars is important and in her case, she has “never really had a hard time finding chemistry especially with a performer like Steve Holmes. It’s just how I love being handled during a scene.”

“Thank you,” Steve says, forever the gentleman. Mandy giggles.

“We had a good time,” he continues, and comments on touching, caressing, and the like.

Mandy chimes in, “We talked about that too.”

Steve brings up the most important factor in porn . . . do you love what you do? It can make or break a shoot. And, of course, there is chemistry between performers.

“Productions have a certain idea about the scene and how they want it to be. But then sometimes they don’t always book the right people. When I feel the girl is just going through the motions, it usually reflects in the scene.”

Reading Expressions

How about communication when the camera is rolling?

Steve thinks of it as akin to dancing and uses a generational analogy I completely understand.

“My role model is Fred Astaire. Sometimes you go on the dance floor with a girl and she doesn’t feel it. You try to lead her, push her, you know. And then there are sexual girls. You dance to enjoy and also to put on a show. This is what we do here. We know where the camera is. We try to enjoy ourselves and look nice for the audience, the camera.”

I ask Mandy about making eye contact during sex.

She loves to do that but comments that in her personal life, it doesn’t always happen.

Regardless if it’s business sex or private sex, “You can see what they (your partners) are feeling more when you look at them.”

The eyes “make connections” and bring people together, she adds.

Steve is on board with that.

“Eye contact is very important. You know what your partner enjoys by reading their expressions. We react to each other.”

“Coming back to the BDSM fetish stuff,” he says, “it’s so important to read your partner so you can push them or back off.”

In shooting that type of scene, there is always a potential a safety issue, so everyone needs to be on the same page.

Did Steve use his expressions to get Mandy to go where he wanted to be in the shoot, or where he wanted her to be?

In chorus, Steve and Mandy exclaim, “Both.”

“It’s a given thing,” Steve says.

There was a fair amount of spanking in the shoot. How did this influence Mandy?

“I’m submissive,” she explains. “I like pain so I like to be spanked. It gets me stimulated. When the penetration after the spanking happens, it’s two different types of feelings so I just love the mixture of both.”

The PA for the shoot, AJ Westwood, comes out and offers to drive Mandy to her car. She’s parked at a local mall. Steve says it’s on his way and he’ll give her a lift.

Incidentally, in LA neighborhoods people coming and going from a house raises red flags. For that reason, my photographer and I parked down the street some distance away.

Keep the Energy

Before we wrap up, the conversation turns to Eddie Powell.

Steve says he’s worked with Eddie for about a year. He likes shooting for him because the director gives his performers freedom to express themselves.

“There are certain directors you enjoy more than others,” Steve says, and he’s known ones that are not to his taste.

He mentions a director from years ago. “The first time I shot for him was so boring.”

Once the director put the performers into a position, Steve explains, “he didn’t change anything. Don’t move your hand, don’t change anything. Hold the position.”

The crew worked around them.

“In the end the product looked great because the dynamic came from the editing. It was actually not a lot of fun, (just) hard work,” he says, adding that some shoots can range from five to eight hours on set.

Today was much different, Steve declares. He didn’t have to save his energy.

“The camera follows you, you can just keep going and enjoy yourself because you know the camera is going to pick it up.

“With Eddie, the scene is so good with the lighting and the camera being handheld. It’s not so easy and he pulls it off so well. That’s the quality of his shooting.

“The key is that Eddie actually tries to book performers who know what they are doing, then he tries to capture it. If you give him what he wants, then he lets you do it.”

Mandy offers a final comment about maintaining on-set energy especially during breaks.

“Even when the cameras aren’t rolling I want to continue the flow (of the scene) to still keep the energy there.

“Today was not supposed to be so hardcore. It was easy to not get worn out when the lights are changing,” she says.

What is important, Mandy insists, is “to continue flowing with the same energy.”

Understandable. That’s always a priority when you make your living as an entertainer.

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