By Rich Moreland, February 2013
Not every pornographer shoots sex for sex’s sake. Dan O’Connell, founder and owner of Girlfriends Films, does more than direct a sex scene just because he’s hired a couple of girls and has a camera. “I think the context of sex is important,” he says, explaining there must be a reason for the girls to explore each other in a Girlfriends production.
His formula works. The company is widely known in the industry for creating film narratives with a purpose. Like many studio owners, Dan emphasizes production values that reflect his personal tastes. In this case, he prefers “a dramatic storyline full of tension and anticipation.” Dan O’Connell is much like Evil Angel’s John Stagliano, though their movies differ in style and subject matter. Each man puts his passion on film. He knows what he likes and he has cultivated an audience who enjoys his offerings.
Girlfriends Films advertises its product as lesbian oriented though the company recently hired Vivid veteran Michael Bisco to develop boy/girl shoots.
Right now, Dan hopes to complete at least one a month. His objective has always been to produce films for women, but he realizes that male viewers can also find space under the Girlfriends’ umbrella.
Seduction is a key word at Girlfriends Films. As mentioned above, Dan O’Connell wants to move past just shooting sex. He amusingly puts it this way, Girlfriends avoids the “’I like you, oh, I like you, too. Let’s go have sex,’” theme.
However, seduction translates into a different approach when it comes to filming. Dan is always on scene, but he minimizes his crew for the sake of the performers he hires. He wants everyone to be at ease, otherwise seduction isn’t going to happen, or if it does, it will lose any claim to authenticity.
“I don’t have any more people in the room than we have cameras,” Dan says. For him, three is the limit. Speaking of the crew, its Dan and two girls who happen to be gay.
Why? It’s a simple consideration when working in an industry that demands a performer’s most intimate moments. “Some of the girls we shoot are relatively inexperienced in the business and we don’t want to make them nervous with a bunch of guys looking around,” Dan explains. When girls get aroused they must keep in mind that the cameras have monitors. Important, Dan insists, because “If you are not looking in the camera monitor, you are not making a good movie.” All very professional, keeping everyone on task and producing content that elevates a business’s reputation.
Legacy and Integrity
When I asked for his mission statement, Dan beams. “To provide orgasms, to make people happy!”
“Our industry is all about providing happiness and contentment and sexual satisfaction,” Dan says, “we are not here to rape and pillage.”
Then he adds something I’ve rarely heard in the industry, a sense of legacy.
“When pornography is finally a legitimate business,” Dan says, “I want people to look back and say GirlFriends Films was one of those companies that was sex-positive.” When I mention that the label sex-positive makes his company feminist oriented, he responds with a smile then puts a slightly different spin on what he means by the term.
Dan urges the adult business to strive for a sex-positive goal because “as an industry we should be respected, not vilified the way we often are.” It’s about integrity, something Girlfriends Films has solidified as part of its brand.
Girlfriends has a “clean reputation,” Dan believes, and in the porn world such an accolade does not come without effort. One might suspect that as owner he collects sexual perks for himself. Not so, Dan does not hang out with the girls who film for him. That’s important, he points out, because “you will gain their respect and they’ll want to work with you” if they are treated like the professionals they are. And there’s another benefit, the performers who shoot for Dan bring other models to his attention.
“I always am very respectful of the girls,” Dan says and explains that porn performers are top notch in his view. He describes them as “physically strong, mentally strong, very resourceful,” plus they are intelligent and educated. “At least the ones we use,” he notes.
I would agree. The Girlfriends booth at the Hard Rock Hotel is always busy with girls signing and talking with fans. Dan’s popularity among the talent is obvious. Other studios may have two or three performers available at any one time but Girlfriends has twice that number. Also, a company person is always around to schedule interviews for journalists or other interested parties. I secured my interview with Dana DeArmond through a simple hassle free request, something that is not always the case with other studios. In short, it’s about access and Dan knows how to make that work for him.
When I got to know Dan O’Connell better (we talked again the next day) I felt comfortable using Girlfriends as a place for brief timeouts from my hectic floor schedule. Anyone who plans to go to Vegas for the Adult Entertainment Expo should stop by Girlfriends. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed. I can assure any visitor that he or she will always feel invited.
Over the years, the adult business has changed for Dan. He used to be more into shooting a scene than writing one, but no more. “I get more excited writing scripts,” he says. Dan likes developing new ideas and testing out innovative story possibilities. As a writer, I can fully understand his view. Dan prefers storytelling to the task of getting just the right shot on set. Filming is hard work and has its rewards, but it doesn’t compare with inventing content, especially considering that Girlfriends shoots as many as thirty scenes a month. For Dan O’Connell the business is twenty-four seven.
In our conversations Dan reveals a philosophical side. He has definitive views on society’s attitude toward sex and porn. “The sex industry should be enormous,” he says, considering that everyone is concerned about sex in some way. Seems logical to me, sex is about our humanness. However, when it comes to the adult convention—the yearly occasion that sex takes center stage—Dan points out that reality paints a different picture.
Unfortunately, today’s market downturn crams the annual gathering into the confining spaces of the Hard Rock. I suggest that the hotel’s venues get crowded on fan days and Dan nods, mentioning that Girlfriends’ booth is deliberately located in the back of the ballroom where space is more available. In fact, he has added another booth just to make room for the company’s fans. Dan doesn’t want them to get “stacked up” while waiting to meet their favorite stars.
As I hinted above, it was a real help to me as I used the Girlfriends space to meet up with people, so my thanks to Dan.
Dan O’Connell makes a final point as we wrap up our talk. “People look at us (the porn industry) based on what they perceive to be the worse content.” Elaborating further, he believes that the vilest material that “disrespects women and causes pain” is it what the public believes the industry to be. Perception without a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of what it means to be in pornography is a problem the business has never been able to shake. But Dan insists that scenario can be changed.
I could not agree more and Dan O’Connell contributes mightily to that effort. He’s one of the good guys and his company is well respected in the universe of filmed pornography. With Girlfriends, it’s all very professional and sex-positive.