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AEE 2020: Emma Hix, the slut plays the piano

by Rich Moreland, February 2020

Photos by Kevin Sayers

Emma Hix is a rising star in porn. Just twenty-two, this sweet, seductive beauty has a personality that matches every degree of her comeliness. She is endearing, cooperative with everyone and has a definitive career direction.

If adult film issued report cards on performers, Emma would be at the top of the class as witnessed by the show guides provided here. Emma travels with the elite.

I first met this native Canadian at the Foxxx Modeling booth during the 2017 show. She was a newbie, a bit nervous but with an undeniable charm. We chatted briefly and did a quick informal interview. Since then, it’s been hit or miss, mostly miss. We’d converse, hope to set something up, then schedules conflict and opportunity slipped away.

Thanks to her PR people, this year Emma and I did everything very formally in the press room. Moving up requires protocol and with Emma’s popularity soaring, that’s the only way to go!

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Depends on Her Mood

After some small talk, I noted that in Axel Braun’s Nylon 3 she’s playing the piano, or at least appears to be.

So, Emma, let’s have the backstory!

“My mom tried to put me in piano lessons when I was a kid,” Emma says, but “I hated learning from someone else, you know?”

In fact, mom bought Emma a piano as an incentive to take lessons. Didn’t work.

“A couple of years later, I was playing around on it,” she reveals. “I was like ‘Wow I actually really enjoy this.’’’ Turns out, Emma learned to play by ear along with some YouTube help.

She has her own instrument now.  “I bought a grand piano with my first paycheck from porn. It’s my baby. I love it!”

What kind of music does this self-taught virtuoso like to play? Is it different from the typical youngster who practices more formally under a teacher’s eye?

It’s a variety, Emma replies, with alternative, rock and instrumental piano her preferences. “Cinematic orchestra is one of my favorites,” she adds, but “it depends on what mood I’m in.”

Maturity

We turn the conversation to how Emma has moved forward with her career.

“I had a little bit of a rough start because being from Canada, it took a while to get my US ID,” she says.

Emma mentions having her tattoos removed. An image adjustment, I’m guessing.

“I’m starting to progress to do different kinds of scenes. At first, I was doing very vanilla scenes. I don’t want to say boring, but just more elegant. Recently, I’ve started doing more anal and DPs, which is a whole new ballgame for me. I wanted to bring on this more slutty kind of persona. I’m trying to change my look and my performance.”

“The slut plays the piano,” I joke.

Sporting a big smile, Emma is cool with that!

With two AVN noms in hand, this stunning blonde has matured since we first talked three years ago. Is this a natural progression due to getting older?

Emma claims it’s just wanting to get better at your job.

Art

I pose the “what is pornography?” question and Emma doesn’t hesitate.

“It is a work of art, shown by an individual or a group of people, whatever the scene calls for. Being very artistic, being themselves on camera. . . a sexual moment caught on video. Very beautiful.”

We talk about how porn has changed over the years and Emma references Hollywood.

“I feel like now, it’s kind of moving with the mainstream industry,” Emma says, and brings up Bree Mills’ Adult Time. “They put a lot of work into their scenes. They make it look like an actual movie. Their sex is not just sex. It’s art. It’s really well put together.”

As for mainstream film, Emma speculates that sex “must be super awkward on a mainstream set.”

Regarding that statement, Adult Time steps into our conversation again.

“It’s kind of cool seeing an actual movie and seeing all of the sex. I wish they did that in mainstream movies sometimes. I wish they normalized it and made it okay.”

Emma points out what much of the public believes. “Sex is such a shameful thing” and, of course, “it’s obscene seeing two people have sex and you know people look down on it. But I feel if mainstream normalized it,” it wouldn’t be a big deal.

I mention Maitland Ward, an actress who entered adult from mainstream film. Emma is impressed with the move, but she raises the typical criticism of Ward’s change of scenery.

“That’s amazing. Of course, people are going to say ‘Oh she downgraded.’ But no, you’re moving from one form of art to another [and] that’s pretty cool.”

A Personal Reboot

Finally, I persuade today’s Emma to go back in time and visit with the Emma who is just coming into the industry.

What advice would you give yourself?

Pondering the question for a moment she offers up two things.

First, “don’t get taken advantage of because I was in the beginning of my career and it took me a while to learn that. But I don’t regret anything because it’s made me [who] I am today, [though] I’m still not happy with [that]. I want to keep going, doing better.”

On the Red Carpet

Then the slender hottie relates what I’ve heard so often over the years in this business.

“I had a little bit of a rough start. I didn’t know who I was and that’s another thing. I was trying to be someone else. I kind of lost myself.”

This leads to her second piece of advice. “Just be yourself [and] don’t regret anything,” Emma declares. “When I was new, I didn’t really know anything about performing at all.”

But she has come to realize that her career goal is longevity. “Since I had a slow start, I was able to have a longer career instead of getting famous right off the bat and getting overwhelmed with it. I’m happy that it went gradually and slowly.”

I mention that some girls jump into everything like anal and multiple penetrations immediately when their careers begin.

Emma took the more cautious route.

“I didn’t know who I was at eighteen, nothing. But if you know where you want to go in this industry, do whatever you want off the bat. I had no idea. So, it took me a while to learn and now I know where I want to go.”

Her approach has changed, however.

“I [like to] take every scene that comes at me…because as female talent, you never know when the work is going to slow down. But I try to take Sundays off because you need those grounding days for your mental health.”

Nevertheless, work is never assured. Every performance is an audition for the next one.

“If you do a really good job [on set] and you have a good time with the crew and the director and everything, you can get rehired. But there’s only so many times that they can shoot you. So, you are unemployed until they can rehire you again.”

Longevity?

How does she cope with the uncertainty?

“You never know when it’s going to end. So, I have my Only Fans and my Snapchat that I make money off of.”

Hollywood actors often have lifetime careers, Emma muses. “I wish you could do that with porn, but it ends eventually.”

Ironically, I mention that in adult longevity mostly belongs to the men.

With resignation, Emma comments, “I know.”

As we’re about to wrap up, my photographer Kevin throws a question Emma’s way concerning being taken advantage of.

“Because you were young and naïve, did they put you in scenes you didn’t want to do?” he asks.

“Yeah,” Emma responds. “when I was newer, I was very naïve. I took every scene. Now I’m more selective. I’ve definitely had some bad experiences on set. Now, I know to stand up for myself.”

Well said, Emma Hix, and thank you for a great interview.

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AEE 2020: Seth Gamble, Multilayered

by Rich Moreland, February 2020

Photos by Kevin Sayers.

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Seth Gamble has been around porn for a few years. He began in 2006 and reflects the veteran status men in the business often reach, much different from many female performers whose on-screen careers are often no more than a few months.

Maturity has moved him forward. For the 2020 AVN Awards, Seth went home with Best Leading Actor honors for Adult Time’s Perspective. Incidentally, his co-star in the production, Angela White, also copped the Best Leading Actress trophy for her role in the film.

Parodies

We start our conversation with his early days.

“In the earlier part of my career, no one [had] an idea of what I could do,” Seth begins. Then, a break came his way with an Exquisite Media parody. The film was a take-off of Saturday Night Fever and Seth was convinced he should be cast in the lead.

“I literally went into the office, didn’t have an audition. I don’t know what came over me,” he says. His persistence paid off. “Give me a piece of the script [and] I’ll show you,” he remembers announcing. “Twenty-four hours later, I’m booked for the role [and] I’m doing dancing lessons”

The film came out in 2011. From there, Seth’s talent and audacity led him to the Stars Wars parodies directed by Axel Braun. Seth recalls doing a “nine-page dialogue stretch on one take” that cemented his talent for acting.

“The parodies got me in the door and to be honest with you, when it came to actually doing more intellectual [and] layered roles, that really came from Pure Taboo,” he concludes.

By the way, Seth Gamble is not about to step over his friends. He mentions those who have helped him along: Dale Dabone, Bree Mills, and Craven Moorehead.

At this point in his career, Seth knew his journey was set and more was needed. “I actually went to acting school for two years,” he says.

Seth’s career has come together, highlighted by his 2019 performance in Perspective. “The prep work I and Angela did on that [film] was insane.” Needless to say, the results were cinematic gold.

Honesty

My next question concerns transitioning from an acting moment into a sex moment. How does Seth do this seamlessly on set?

The native Floridian answers with an example. In the closet scene in Perspective, he has sex “in character” with Angela.

In other words, “The whole time I was having sex with her,” he says.  “I didn’t do normal things that Seth Gamble would do in a sex scene, if I was just doing a scene as me. I did what I thought Daniel [his character] would do in that moment.”

Making this kind of transition is an actor’s responsibility, Seth believes. “I don’t think that is on the director, I think that’s on the talent. But I don’t know how many talent have the thought process to want to do it or think about how to do it,” he observes.

Seth admits he often “overthinks” a role. “I strategize and analyze exactly [how] this would happen. Sometimes it’s not even a thought it’s more of a feeling” when it comes to making the transition, he says.

I interject that Jacky St James once told me that as a director she thinks of sex as being part of the dialogue.

Seth agrees and points out, “Anytime there’s dialogue in any scene, I think it should be involved in the sex as well. If there is dialogue involved, then you should be acting physically with the sex.”

He emphasizes that however the scenes are depicted on-screen, the most important ingredient is honesty.

Adult film is “a fantasy regardless if there’s sex involved or not. What enthralls them [the fans] in any film is if the character feels honest. And if there’s no honesty to the character, then they don’t want to watch.”

His remark offers a springboard to a further analysis.

“A lot of porn is disingenuous because it’s like ‘do this, do that,’” Seth says. But he strives to be unique. “I didn’t want to come into this industry being a carbon copy of anything. I decided to be honest about all of my performances.”

That’s what makes it real, he believes.

Multilayered

Next, we turn to his directing. I ask about his style.

“I want to use what I have and give it to other people to bring out better production,” Seth says and highlights three directors—Axel Braun, Bree Mills, and Kayden Kross—whose style he thinks works best. He adds Jacky St James to the mix, but mentions that she does not have the financial backing of the others. “She deserves to be able to have those budgets for those films because she’s that talented [and] I truly enjoy working for whatever she does because even with what she’s got, she makes it good and amazing.”

His directing “forte” is “story based,” Seth comments, and as a director he wants to use his on-screen experience “to give [his actors] insight into what they’re doing character wise.”

Seth perceives porn acting to be “multilayered” and there is an industry shift in that direction.

“AVN Performer of the Year nomination is such a big deal because for so long it hasn’t been looked at as [demonstrating] versatility” he declares. For too long it’s been interpreted as who can deliver the best sex scene.

Because of his acting, Seth perceives that he is “in that conversation [that] is showing the shift.”

In that vein, he admires Axel Braun for being a star maker. “That’s what I want to do as a director,” Seth says.

Mystique

I mention the idea of crossing over from porn into Hollywood. Seth responds that young performers these days have evolving ideas on that.

He looks back ten-twelve years ago and says, “I was not a famous porn star. No porn star was famous, they were infamous. You weren’t going to see them on social network. You might get Jenna Jameson on Howard Stern. You might get her in an R-rated B movie.

“Now we’re allowed on social platforms. We have fame now. We’re being put on ShowTime and Cinemax.”

He does point out that “being in adult film comes with mystique.” It’s what “makes adult film actors and actresses so alluring. I agree that adult film actors and actresses doing R-rated films would be cool.’

But there is a limit, or rather a complication.

“If you put me on the Disney Channel, it isn’t right, because kids aren’t dumb. There’s something to be said about let’s do mainstream but how do you make Seth Gamble an international star that children can watch?

“You take an Angela White or a Kristen Scott or a Casey Calvert and put them in a Quentin Tarantino film. I think that’s a possibility.’

Then Seth brings up a point I had not considered.

“There was a time where you went on a mainstream audition and [were] asked you if you did pornographic films. I’ve heard now they don’t ask. So, I think we’re pushing that boundary.”

The thirty-two-year-old veteran sums it up nicely.

“I think that porn is more mainstream than it ever has been. A lot of the newer talent don’t understand that or see it that way because they weren’t here. Yes, we want our rights we want all these things, but there’s also a flip side to it.

“Something about [porn] is alluring to you, but then you don’t look at what you’re putting out there” and the consequences it might have.

That is the issue, Seth Gamble believes.

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A hint of mainstream in the trade show

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AEE 2020: Casey Calvert on Rapid Change

by Rich Moreland, February 2020

Photos by Kevin Sayers

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By virtue of her eight years in the business, Casey Calvert is a respected adult film veteran. I’ve known her for some time and she is always an informative interview because she carries that remarkable trait that separates the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, in porn. With a university degree adorned in honors, Casey is no dummy.

We had an extensive interview that covered a handful of topics, but the part recorded here is on the changes that porn as an industry is experiencing as we move into the next decade.

As a result, this discussion is placed within the sequence of articles on the show that examines the evolution of the modern adult product.

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Ready for our interview

Be Patient

Offering a thumbnail sketch of her career, Casey reminds us she began and as a bondage model shooting for Lew Rubens. That was over nine years ago.

How about your first hardcore shoot?

“The first time I did that on camera was for Sex Art in November of 2012,” she says. Surprising to me, incidentally, because I thought it was for Kink.com where Casey’s early career was nurtured.

In fact, one of the films nommed for this year’s AVN Movie of the Year was Derelict, a Kink production starring Casey and Charlotte Sartre.

If you could go back in time and have a talk with yourself about the business, what would you say?

I would tell myself to be patient and to not expect overnight success in the way people were telling me it was going to happen. And I would also warn myself that the business is changing.”

The native Floridian insists that every performer should understand today’s business environment. Getting into porn in 2020 is different from 2012.

On the floor at Adult Time

Where the Money Is

If she were starting today, Casey would do things quite differently. “I would have never moved to LA. I would have never signed with an agency. I would have never shot mainstream porn. I tell people these days that you don’t need to do that. That’s not where the money is anymore,” she declares.

“The money is in owning your own content and being your own content creator and shooting the kind of porn you want to shoot with the kind of people that you want to have sex with. But in 2012, that was not what the business was. So, I would warn myself to be prepared, rather than trying to play catch up.”

What potential conflicts would you warn yourself about?

“I would tell myself that MindGeek is coming [which] translates into all of these companies that you work for now and idolize are going to change in some way. I would also warn myself more generally that all of these big companies now that you’re so excited working for, they’re going be gone in ten years.

Posing for a fan

There’s more.

“I would warn myself that these things that you think you want right now, may not actually be what you want in six months. Things change so quickly, just be prepared for rapid change . . . . rapid like institutional change.”

Paperwork

Referencing the “Rolling Your Own”seminar that appears on this blog, I ask Casey about the problems that arise when girls engage in content trade.

She brings up two issues: paperwork and negotiating what is to be traded.

“Paperwork is the number one thing,” she says. “I did a contract trade [recently] with a bunch of independent content creators. When I brought up that we needed to do 2257s in releases, [their response was] ‘We don’t do paperwork.’”

(FYI. 2257 is the government regulation that guards against child porn. Among other things, it makes sure all performers are eighteen years of age or older.)

In response to their naivete, Casey decided to take care of it herself. She got the IDs and went from there.

“Just because it’s a content trade doesn’t mean we not do paperwork. I was the mother hen,” she comments, “and swept them all up.”

On the Red Carpet

“Another big problem is not negotiating beforehand where the content is going to go,” Casey points out.

“If you shoot a content trade scene with someone and they put it up on Pornhub for free. Now you can’t sell it. Sometimes people shoot content trade because they want to have sex with someone. [In that case] put it up on PornHub, do whatever you want. [But] get paperwork because you’re making a film. Follow the law,” she emphasizes.

“But, if you’re shooting content trade with the intention of having a product to sell, you have to communicate with your content trade partner. Put in writing a release plan [with a] schedule and rules.”

Casey explains many content traders don’t do that because they’re just using their phones to shoot the sex.

Does that make every amateur a professional?

“Technically yes,” she replies. “If [you’re] doing something [for money] that makes you a professional, it makes every amateur a professional.”

In the end, it means everyone has the opportunity to create porn.

Casey Calvert sums it up.

“You can do it. You don’t have to move to LA. you don’t have to find an agent. You don’t have to go and work for any of those companies where they tell you who you’re going to have sex with, what you’re going do that day, do your makeup and all of those other things.

“You just do your own thing because you almost certainly have a cell phone that connects you to the internet.”

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Casey shooting for Lew Rubens as a bondage model before she entered hardcore porn.

Photo courtesy of LewRubens.com and TheBondageFiles.com

 

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AEE 2020: An Industry in Evolution

by Rich Moreland, February, 2020

Photos by Kevin Sayers.

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The Independent Performer

The adult industry is in flux and the evidence is everywhere at the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas. I’ve been writing in the business for over ten years now and what was once a studio-dominated industry is turning more to online webcams and websites.

It’s the influence of technology and money, of course, but it’s also more than that. The change is natural, expected, and unavoidable.

The trade show’s sponsor, MyFreeCams.com, underlines what is happening as does one of the largest kiosks on the floor, Chaturbate, a popular adult site offering live webcam performances. The influence of this evolution on the commercialized industry continues to pop up in discussions about the business today. Just check out the trade show seminars to see what I mean.

Simply put, camming gives performers what has been denied them for years: control over their image and their content. No longer dependent on studios, cammers brand their own name and engage their own fan base. Even talent agencies feel the pinch as the girls and many male performers, for that matter, need them less than a decade ago.

Does this mean that the traditional porn formula is dead? Of course not, it’s just been nudged aside so as to take up less of the limelight. Evil Angel, Jules Jordan, Adam and Eve and others will still do their thing, but the independent performer who runs her own show is emerging.

Change is often feared, but the message here is positive and we can thank the 19th century German philosopher Georg Hegel for understanding how it works. History is a living thing, he postulated, and is based on a concept called the dialectic: the interaction of the thesis and the antithesis to reach a new understanding called the synthesis.

Moving aside the clutter of language, here’s what it means. Every tradition (the thesis) will have an opposing idea (the antithesis) and the two will clash. The result is a new entity called the synthesis, an innovative way doing things. This is what is happening in porn. In other words, the big studios are the thesis (the tradition) and the online cammers the antithesis (the new kids on the block doing their own thing).

Technology is the catalyst which abets the “revolution” or the synthesis, the new way of doing business, and performers are the beneficiaries.

Has the synthesis caught on in the industry? Not entirely, but one company is out front on the change and illustrates what is happening.

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Shifting the Power

At the 2020 Adult Entertainment Expo, I met again with Bree Mills who is a driving force in adult today. We talked about the state of the industry.

“I know that I’ve been a part of a change that’s been active over the last few years. I’m certainly not the only contributor to that change. Other people have helped to get us to where we are now as an industry,” she begins.

“I have pretty outlier views compared to most people in terms of what I think we can do. So, if I can, [I want to] inspire other people to follow that same path.

“The industry has come to a point where the performers have the power. They’re the brands. Studios don’t have [that] power anymore. [Performers] have the means and the platforms to never need to shoot for a studio again. They can produce their own content; they can monetize their brand. And then they can choose who they want to work with. That’s the reality and that is probably the greatest change that can happen.

“It’s not only going to shift the power into the hands of the people that are really at the forefront of this business, but it’s going to continue to break all of the old mentality and rule books that existed. Some of the most interesting content that’s being created today is being created by these people. And it’s because they don’t have to answer to anybody.”

The message used to be that “you got to do something a certain way cause so and so said [so]. Or you’re not supposed to shoot this with this person because so and so said [not to],” Bree points out.

In other words, times have changed and the synthesis (the new way) has arrived.

The chief creative officer of Gamma Entertainment gives us a peek at what to expect.

“They (performers) can do whatever they want and that is awesome. And so, I can use my influence to empower them in whatever way that Adult Time can [benefit them]. So, if you got a great idea for a show, let’s collaborate. I would much rather see over time less stuff that I’m directly doing and more creativity that I can inspire and empower [others] to do their own thing.”

There it is, the new way of doing business and Bree Mills has set the tone. She is the emerging synthesis, the new force in adult and others will follow.

“That’s how we’re going to keep it happening,” she continues. “I’ve created the best advertisement for this with my own work. So, if someone wants to work with me because they love what I do, great. Let me help you do what you want do.”

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AEE 2020: Bree Mills: Educational and Inspirational

by Rich Moreland, February 2020

I was privileged again this year to interview Bree Mills at the Adult Entertainment Expo. Bree is single-handedly changing the industry, a topic we discuss in the next article. This portion of our talk offers a little background for that story to come.

A side note to our interview. When the press area at the Hard Rock Hotel is full of journalists and industry people, the overflow is assigned to the bathroom of the suite that serves the media. It’s quite luxurious and an enjoyable place to talk as Bree and I found out.

Photos are credited to Kevin Sayers.

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Social Statements

My question for the show this year is a definition of porn. In other words, how do the people who make the product define it?

In her usual thoughtful manner, Bree gives us her view.

“I consider porn to be an entertainment medium that has a significant influence over culture,” she says.

“As a community, we have a great advantage. We’re not afraid to express our sexuality [and] be vulnerable with people. [We] put everything out there for people to see, to help people recognize their own sexualities and their own kinks and their own interests.”

There’s more, Bree insists.  “We have the ability to raise subjects and make social statements that are going to impact a mass audience.” In other words, it’s an issue of awareness, she believes, especially in our “digital culture” where “everyone who grows up online, grows up watching porn.”

For Bree this is a positive to be cultivated.

“Porn is entertainment and it’s also an opportunity to talk about sex and sexuality in a culture that otherwise puts sex in a little box and causes so much shame around it. [That] has done significant damage to people,” she adds.

Bree Mills believes our culture lacks a “sex education infrastructure.” “Transphobia, homophobia, and racism, especially the sexualization of people of color, are not addressed,” she says.

Bree sees adult content as educational and inspirational, insisting that it helps people “feel more comfortable with themselves while providing great entertainment.”

The Spectrum

We move on to fetishes, something people would have kept under wraps a generation ago.

“Porn is an amalgamation of sex and sexuality,” Bree says, it “represents the spectrum of human sexuality.”

Does this mean that porn is normalizing the concept of fetishes?

“I think it is,” the director/writer responds.

“Fetishes have always been there” and people have been drawn to them, she points out. Now people can find others “who share the same interests. Porn has opened the doors for fetishes to become more identifiable.”

Bree sees a significant advantage to that: building communities in which people are “able to gain some comfort” through acceptance.

Directing

When she shoots a film, how does she treat the sex scenes in regard to the drama unfolding on-screen?

“Sex is part of the story, but it is always about the story to me,” Bree comments. Though she does all her own writing and casting, Bree admits, “I’m a lousy pornographer from a traditional definition, in the sense that I don’t really care about the sex. What I care about is that sex and sexuality are fascinating subjects [that] define all of us [and] shapes us. It’s fundamental to the human psyche. That’s great material. That is fascinating to unbox and to explore and to weave stories around.”

I congratulate her on Teenage Lesbian, AVN’s Movie of the Year, and, incidentally, a Silver Winner at the Queen Palm International Film Festival.

“The reason I made Teenage Lesbian was to make an independent film about somebody coming out in the era before gay rights became any sort of household discussion. While that was twenty years ago, it is remarkable to see the difference [today]. It is also a really important reminder of the need to continue to evolve as a society.”

Is the film intended to serve a larger audience?

“From the get-go, it was a movie that would have an uncensored version. It wasn’t this hardcore sex film that would have a softcore version,” Bree emphasizes. “It was an independent film that we could put out on YouTube [and] submit to film festivals.”

In other words, Teenage Lesbian is a richly engaging story before the sex is even considered.

That leads me to a final thought.

Kick-Starting

How does the Adult Time operation create so many unique stories and put them on film?

Bree, who is the business’s Chief Creative Officer, explains.

“We produce about twenty-five days a month out of LA with different crews, different series [and] different lines. Ultimately, I oversee our marketing or content strategy. But we have full teams in place writing [our stories].”

She brings up the Pure Taboo line as an example of how she starts a project then hands the ball off to her production team.

“For its first year, I wrote almost every script [and] directed every episode. But it got to a point where I was able to transition that over to a full writing [and] production team. Now I only do an occasional Pure Taboo episode. So, I’m good at kick-starting things, getting things to market, getting a certain amount of success and then being able to shift them over to being managed afterwards,” which, she says, lets her move on the other things.

As we wrap up our talk, I suggest to Bree that she is the premier woman in the business today and her industry footprint is driving the modern porn product.

She smiles and suggests my remark is “scary.”

Nevertheless, Bree Mills has a clear understanding of where she is.

“I certainly recognize the influence that I have and I recognize that with great humility and great respect.”

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The next article on Bree Mills examines her role in the current evolution in porn.

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AEE 2020: Rolling Your Own

by Rich Moreland, February 2020

Photos by Kevin Sayers.

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“Rolling your own” sounds very personal, and, in fact, it is. However, this Adult Entertainment Expo seminar was not about indulging in a recreational activity. Rather, what’s personal here is film making; in this case, controlling content, building an image, and branding a name.

The panel featured four empowered women who talked about being your own boss, especially when dealing with cyberspace and porn.

Ready to take their seats. L to R: Violet Doll, Jada Kai, Mz. Kim, Madelyn Marlowe

The panelists were Mz. Kim, a domme who teaches classes on market strategies and owning content; Asian performer Jada Kai; Madelyn Marlowe, whose industry footprint was branded by Kink.com; and Violet Doll, online dominatrix and industry veteran.

A couple of quick takes before we begin

A New Age

Moderator Glenn King of Mean Bitches Productions reminded the audience that the old days of talent agencies maintaining a hold on a girl are over. It’s a “new age in adult entertainment,” he proclaimed, emphasizing the “dramatic shift in the business” now taking place.

Referencing the participants, Glenn pointed out that each of them started out with webcam content.

Violet Doll stated she is an online model who shoots her own content. At the very least, she offered, today’s online atmosphere allows for solo modeling via a cell phone.

As a cammer, Madelyn Marlowe posts her shoots on Clips4Sale and has “come back to being independent,” she said. Taking online content beyond just camming, Madelyn’s work is often plot oriented. It’s like “making up a soap opera,” a sort of “reality tv,” she said. But she never loses sight of the fan in all of her activities, especially camming.

“My opener is a question,” Madelyn pointed out, before she gets them to “tell me all about your kinks and fetishes.” It’s important to “know who my audience is,” she commented.

Jada Kai is also active with webcam, making her own clips and putting them on Pornhub and Manyvids. Like Madelyn Marlowe, Jada believes fan preferences must come first. Always ask the customer, “What are your fetishes?” She makes her own content every day and “keeps that amateur feel” so popular with fans.

As a result of her fifteen years in the business, Mz. Kim brought up two objectives every online porn girl should consider. First, record content for a bigger audience beyond online and use skype sessions. “Talking to people” gets her “into the customer’s heads,” she believes. Madelyn Marlowe firmly added, “say people’s names” when dealing with the customers. Personalization is the name of the game.

Glenn summarized the conversations about satisfying customers as “learning to read the clues they’re giving.”

The final two topics centered on pricing and content trade.

Start at an Average Rate

“I am my own crew,” Madelyn Marlowe stated, and it’s the costliest issue she deals with. For her, “pay per view” is the way to go, emphasizing “some charges can go as high as $100.”

Violet Doll said that $1 per minute plus ninety-nine cents for clips is standard in the industry with charging more for specific acts somewhat the norm. Considering that, however, she advised, it’s “always better to start at an average rate.”

Mz. Kim’s pricing is $5.99 to $1500. She will up the price when “targeting specific people” who are interested in her product. Her forte is interacting with men. Ask what they are looking for, provide it, then charge, she suggested, because success is “about getting to know them more.” She did, however, mention that updating can be overwhelming. Update regularly, but not as often, was her advice.

Jada Kai pointed out, “my strength is making clips.”  As a result, the advantage of charging higher membership fees reinforced Mz. Kim’s point. Jada doesn’t update as often as others. Nevertheless, “I think of my fans as a premium store,” she said. They “give you the feel you’re there for them every day.” The result? They will tip more.

Pricing should reflect “people’s budgets,” Jada insisted, with a reminder that Pornhub “will pay you” for videos. Not bad since some people won’t pay for their porn at all.

The content trade issue was thorny. “Perilous” was how Glenn framed it.  Madelyn warned everyone to be diligent with the paperwork. You must know who is going to update and when, she said. Violet, who does not engage in content trade, said get content to the other party ASAP to show good faith.

Be Disciplined

When asked for their best advice, here’s a sample of what was rendered.

Talk to your customers and connect with people on social media.

Trust yourself and know your target audience. Stay with what makes you comfortable.

Above all, be disciplined, “it’s a work skill, it’s a job. Structure your time,” Mz. Kim said.

Glenn King agreed. Discipline is the key. “Stick with it” and don’t get discouraged. “Growth is not linear,” he concluded.

Before the seminar began.

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AEE 2020: Sex Dolls

by Rich Moreland, February 2020

Photos by Kevin Sayers

At this year’s Adult Entertainment Expo’s novelty exhibition, I wanted the inside scoop on a topic that I’ve seen evolve over the years: the manufacture and sale of sex dolls. Today’s dolls are more than party items and they don’t have that cheesy comedic look popularized in 1960s porn mags. In fact, sex dolls in their earliest forms go back centuries. For modern times, we have German businessmen to thank for bringing the public’s attention to the doll in the 1930s.

Putting aside the past, where are we today with the product? To find out, I talked with three companies that offered their artistic conceptions to trade show attendees.

*          *          *

XR Brands

Michael Guilfoyle, XR Brands’ Director of International Marketing and Business Development, was gracious with his time. Though XR has a broad array of intimate products and toys beyond sex dolls, the company has upped its game for the sex doll market.

“We’ve tried to meet various customer needs throughout the whole demographics,” Michael begins, and that includes both gay and straight males. Doll sales are doing “amazingly well for us across the board. Somewhat surprisingly, more than we anticipated.”

As for the technical aspects of doll construction, XR Brands is aiming for better opposability (movable parts). Most important, however, is “longevity, making them more durable long-term,” he says. “To some of our buyers, these are companions [that] are not to be kept in the closet” and the company respects that.

Who is your audience?

“It’s across the board,” Michael notes. Some male dolls are sold to female customers, but not surprisingly, most of the product is purchased by straight males. He mentions the film Lars and the Real Girl “about a young man finding [and] falling in love with a sex doll.”

But that’s the movies, what about real life?

“I saw a man in Australia having dinner in a restaurant with his doll and it opened my eyes to how much of a companion this truly is. I thought of it as something you hid in the closet. When you’re embarrassed by it you don’t want anyone else to see it. I don’t know if you’ve seen the memes online where they’ll rent out movie theaters and twenty guys will bring their dolls to go see the movie. These are rare occurrences, but they happen.”

Michael goes on.

“People have joked with us about buying one to drive in the HOV lane.”

That makes sense to me.

The marketing director mentions another use.

“In Sydney, Australia they opened a Bordello that was nothing but sex dolls. My thought process was, ‘Why? Where is that coming from? It’s a little weird.’ But their big pitch was ‘It’s the only way, you can be sure no one is being trafficked.’”

Certainly a social benefit Michael concludes. “We can think of these as opening avenues to less trafficking.”

How does XR Brands tackle the affordability issue?

“We still make components of dolls,” he says. That’s the “door opener” to further interest in the whole package. If the customer is fascinated by detached body parts, moving to the larger, whole product is less imposing.

“Being comfortable with ‘This is what I’m having sex with,’” is important,” Michael insists. The customers must “rise over all of the hurdles [they face] to get to the point where they’re going to spend the amount of money [necessary] on something like this.”

What I understand from Michael is this. It seems as if the psychological barrier is most important in grasping customer needs rather than the money spent.

*          *          *

Real Dolls

Mike Wilson of Abyss Creations, maker of Real Dolls, was next on my list. Mike is the firm’s co-owner and production manager.

First, I asked for the business’s backstory.

The twenty-two-year-old company has produced dolls for movies and TV shows, Mike informs me, adding that “we were made famous back in the early nineties by Howard Stern. He launched us forward.”

The company’s interest in “life-like mannequins” opened the business door. “We were contacted by several people that were willing to pay a lot of extra money to make them [the dolls] anatomically correct so they could have sex with them,” Mike says. Currently “we’ve been diving deep into artificial intelligence and robotics.”

How has sex doll manufacturing improved?

Over the years “we started making them out of different silicones” to meet affordability needs, Mike says. But the major moves forward have to do with “the internal structure of the dolls, the skeletons.” Then there is mobility. “All of our dolls are fully articulatable, meaning that every joint moves just like a real human joint, [in other words, they are] opposable.”

The craftsmanship is important, too.

“Every product is hand-crafted by well-paid artists here in the U.S.” Mike explains. “We don’t do any work overseas or in any other countries. Everything in San Marcos, California.” Company employees “are mostly special effects artists from Hollywood. So, we have that base knowledge of how to create things with hyper-realism and sculpting.”

For Abyss, sex doll robotics is the next move forward, Mike added.

What is a profile of an Abyss customer?

“Our audience is quite large. The majority of our customers are generally older. They have money,” Mike emphasizes. But he doesn’t rule out younger buyers.

“People these days are so trapped in their phones. I don’t know a single person under the age of thirty that actually can go to a bar and pick up a woman. That’s a time well passed. Everyone’s so insecure and has no personality skills that we all have to do it on our phones.”

But, he points out, prospective buyers “below the age of forty or fifty, with few exceptions, [don’t] have the money [to afford a doll].” Understandable. “Even the baseline dolls that are non-robotic, cost seven thousand dollars,” he adds.

Having said that, Mike delves into a concern that characterizes many buyers.

“The majority of our customers are looking for something. They feel like they’ve been burned in relationships [and] they don’t want to go back into the dating game. They just want something to find intimate connections with.

“Having a doll that you can come home to and talk to even if they don’t respond, there’s a lot to be said for that.”

But there’s more to consider. For some people a sex doll is a piece of “interactive art you can actually have fun with,” Mike says, adding “I see good friends that are really into cars and they just treat their cars better than they treat their girlfriends. The concept of us attaching ourselves to inanimate objects is not unheard of in any fashion. We do it all the time. You know?”

Looking into the future, Mike turns the conversation to nest systems and home security.

We have wireless cameras now, but the doll will do more.

“She could act as a security system. The app has got the intelligence and the brains.” In short, “the robotic, the doll itself, [is] the personality that exists within your wireless device.”

Finally, I ask Mike about his personal background.

“I was born in the Midwest. My father was an independent filmmaker (who) went into production design. I was home-schooled doing special effects art, light casting, sculpting, all of that. Went to college in Pittsburgh.

“I’m fascinated by the psychology behind sexuality and I’m also an artist, so, it was kind of a natural progression. What got me to California, where our company is located, was not Real Doll. I was working for the government doing hyper-realistic military training with medics.”

Then a career change came calling.

Real Dolls was looking for a painter. “I got hired,” he says, and brought “all my imagination and skill to the table.”

Also, Mike’s background in retail proved valuable and the rest is history.

“I love the sex industry. I love open minded things,” he says with an infectious smile.

 *          *          *

Dukes Dolls

Tucked away in an unpretentious booth on the novelty expo floor is Dukes Dolls and Toys.

The company is a fascinating story and who better to ask about it than owner Greg Charles.

“I started out with an adult cartoon comic website called dukeshardcorehoneys.com,” Greg begins. The site was developed from the adult illustrations he created back in his high school days and college years.

“I’ve always had a knack for drawing adult stories. My personal preference was curvy women, and, at the time, I didn’t really see a lot of content out there like that.”

Though his art work began as a hobby, Greg explains that he would post his images on “different websites [and] galleries” in cyberspace.

“I began to grow a following and eventually created a pay site, dukeshardcorehoneys.com. I started getting members.” As the work became more “taxing,” it also “became more fun,” he comments.

So here we have an artist who has taken his passion and turned it into a business.

Greg’s next move was to hire animators to do his stories and a new fan base emerged. Out that growth came the idea of sex dolls, “a fun thing [that is] very unique,” he declares.

How has that part of the business grown?

“Before it was more of a hobby,” he says, “if I made money, so be it. If it didn’t, I still had fun doing it.”

But everything has evolved.

“Now I’m looking at it as a revenue gainer and a business. I’m being more professional. My presentation’s better and the [product] quality is much better.

“I put more elaboration on the design. It’s more realistic.” He mentions that the newer designs are better proportioned with skeletons that facilitate ease of movement.

“I have more variation in designs also,” Greg explains, pointing out that the company offers dolls of different sizes and carries a line of “handheld collectible ones.” Refusing to rest on his current product, the New Jersey native plans to develop dolls with alien and monster themes.

Of course, there is the influence of a comic book artist in his work.

“That’s first and foremost, that’s where I’ve always been,” Greg beams. “Ever since I was a kid, I loved drawing comics.” Today, he continues to illustrate but with decidedly adult themes.

“So, at the end of the day, that’s what I like doing in my spare time, on my work time. If I’m sitting in meetings, I’m always drawing and sketching.”

My last question concerns his audience.

“Some people think, ‘Oh it’s some lonely losers that can’t get girl themselves.’ That’s definitely not true,” Greg says. “Most of my customers have been couples that wanted to experiment in threesomes but they didn’t want another woman screwing up their relationship.”

He talks about disabled military who are not confident they can find the companionship they want, “so they have a doll as a companion.”

And don’t forget the collectors and the artists.

“I’ve had artists that like to draw the human form” but using a live model is problematic, he suggests. “The sex doll is the answer for them because the metal skeletons are opposable (movable) which makes them perfect for artists. You can put it in any position and they hold it for you.”

All in all, Greg points out that the business has “different types of clientele and I definitely am proud of that.”

It’s worth mentioning that Dukes Dolls is minority owned. Greg offers a bit of his personal background.

“I grew up in Jersey City and it’s a kind of a rough area. Me and my friend Shawn, we grew up together, same area, went to high school together.” However, their college years separated them.

Getting Shawn’s take on the business of sex dolls

We were on “different paths,” Greg explains. “I was always an artist; he was always a video-audio guy. Our paths never crossed because I was doing comics and he was doing video and music.

“Once we began to work on animation, our talents started crossing and we began to work together in business. Sometimes it’s tough where we grew up. Not too many people understand entrepreneurship, let alone entrepreneurship on the internet. That’s alien, the concept of making money off the internet. When we try to explain it to people we know, they don’t understand. ‘Oh, you’re trying to goof off, why don’t you get a real job?’”

“Sometimes this fake job makes more money than the real job, you know?” Greg says with a smile.

Yes, I do, and good luck to you both.

*          *          *

Here’s contact information for the three companies covered in this article.

XR Brands

Real Doll

dukeshardcorehoneys.com

 

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