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Vanna Bardot: The Girl with Braces

by Rich Moreland, November 2018

New girls come and go in porn at what seems at times dizzying speed. A shoot or two and a lot of girls go home never to return to the industry.

Vanna Bardot, on the other hand, is more than the blink of the eye. She’s smart and friendly with a fan base that, I suspect, grows daily.

Interviewing her was more than a pleasure, it was downright fun!

All photos are credited to Kevin Sayers.

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On a recent visit to a Girlfriends Films set, I sat down with newcomer Vanna Bardot. Though a mere nineteen, she is wise beyond her years with a killer attitude that spells porn fame.

A camera presence is natural for this slim and spicy girl since artistry is in her DNA. Vanna attended a performing arts high school and was steeped in the rigors of ballet for much of her young life. With adoring audiences always close by, Vanna expanded her on-stage resume. At eighteen she was dancing in Miami clubs and exploring the delights of camming.

By the way, that’s all good with her family. Vanna grew up in a liberal household where self-expression was never stifled.

All of these adventures were a warm-up for the real deal: shooting porn. And boy, is she ready.  With a smile, this petite sweetheart proclaims, “I’ve done a lot of living so far.”

A Broader Market

Rather than delve into the formulaic interview questions every porn girl gets, we talk about Vanna’s career interests. Is filmmaking from the other side of the camera in her future?

“Transitioning from an actress to a director is sparking my imagination now, especially after becoming more familiar with different sets and meeting different directors,” she says.

As Vanna navigates through the industry, her education is expanding.

“I’m taking more time to really watch other people’s work whether it’s on sets or online.”

It’s inspiring she says. “I see things that I really like that fall into my style.”

Vanna does have her opinions on what she sees in the industry, however.

“I would never tell a director how to do their job, of course. But it may happen I see things that could be altered in a way that could be more efficient or more esthetically pleasing.”

That brings me to ask, “What drives porn, director choices or market demand?”

“I think market demand ultimately decides what’s happening,” Vanna replies.

“People want to make money and they want to cater to what people are asking for. But I think we’re coming into a time where a lot of people are starting to shoot the kind of content they want even if people tell them this isn’t going to sell. And those things do end up selling.”

She mentions Spain’s Erika Lust.

“She shoots a lot of porn that caters to LGBT people.”

Vanna believes Lust’s work is “a truer presentation” of porn’s demand because the stereotype that “only old dudes buy porn” is a misconception.

“There’s a much broader market for porn now, especially for younger people, people of different sexualities, gender identities, and race.”

The Bondage Scene

Porn is becoming more diverse and that is particularly true in the fetish arena.

For example, BDSM is popular today. How does Vanna regard the bondage product and does she want to try it?

With eyes brightening, she exclaims, “I want to. That’s what I’m most looking forward to. I really want to shoot for Kink soon. I’ve been kind of waiting to do everything super slowly. But yeah, that’s something I have a really big interest in.”

“What fascinates you about that?” I ask.

Pausing for a moment, the olive-skinned teen says,  “I started watching porn when I was younger. Once I started having my own sexual experiences, it’s something I started to dabble with. The power exchange is great, but I feel in BDSM porn I see real reactions.”

Too often BDSM scenes rely on “frivolous acting” and that hides the reality of authentic bondage pleasures, Vanna asserts.

So, if you’re listening Kink pick up the phone!

The Real Thing

For Vanna’s porn fun, it’s about authenticity, an advantage she believes the amateur porn product has over scripted studio shoots.

Speaking of real porn reactions, I mention that a woman’s sexual desire peaks in her thirties and beyond.

“That actually makes a lot of sense,” Vanna comments.

Perhaps in the future being thirty or forty will be an industry norm. Vanna is on board with that.

“I do think so. In porn, girls fall into only two categories. There is rarely a middle. You’re either a teen or you’re a MILF. Girls as young as twenty-one, if they have big tits, can be cast as MILFs which is crazy.”

She mentions director Greg Lansky, three-time winner of AVN’s Director of the Year.

“What I’ve noticed with Greg Lansky’s work is it’s a lot less teen and MILF. A lot of the women he casts are girls who are women, not necessarily ‘little girl’ and not necessarily ‘I’m your friend’s mom.’”

Vanna believes that there are “girls in their twenties and forties and no girls in their thirties,” or at least it seems that way. For whatever reason, today’s content dictates that “those are usually the characters girls have to play.”

She’s hopeful that “more women in their thirties” will come into porn.

Her remarks lead me to delve into the final questions I have. The first has to do with camming and how that ratchets up the amateur porn universe in the mind of the online customer.

Reagan Foxx and Vanna along with Elsa Jean and Sarah Vandella.

The New Porn Girl

Is the cam girl the new porn girl?

“It’s interesting,” Vanna muses. “I think camming is really taking over the porn world, at least what I hear from a lot of men. They don’t watch [traditional] porn anymore. They like to go on camming websites because they see this girl next door who is camming in her room. Then they can interact with her.

“This is a really big market now and it’s easy for any regular girl to do it. You don’t have to go through this whole process of getting into porn which is very daunting for a lot of young girls.

“So, this idea that you sign up on a website and work from the comfort of your own home appeals to a lot of people.”

However, this self-proclaimed homebody believes that camming presents a major change, like it or not, for girls accustomed to shooting scenes.

“For porn stars, it’s not usually enough to just do porn. A lot of girls do weekly or monthly cam shows because people want to be able to interact with their favorite girls and see them in real-time and not always acting in a role.”

This brings us back to the young girl in porn. Regardless of camming or playing the ‘little girl,’ as Vanna puts it, an amateur product that markets a naïve girl sells well.

I’m interested to know if the young girl image represents a power exchange concept for the viewer, especially if he is an older man.  Does it fit a formula that is easily repeated in amateur shoots?

Vanna is doubtful about that.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a formula that is going to work because I don’t think everyone enjoys seeing that,” she says.

“It definitely works for a lot of men because they like this idea of preying on a young innocent girl but I think for a lot of other people they’d rather see a more empowered role not necessarily of a girl who doesn’t know what she is doing but a girl who is more eager. She going to find this sexual encounter, or this sexual experience.”

Braces

We should mention that for the present, Vanna’s appeal lies somewhat in her braces. That certainly helps to sell her teen image.

“I still have my braces [which is] something I’ve been able to build my fan base on. It is pretty unique thing that not a lot of people have. I got them really late when I was seventeen, so I still have them.”

For now, they’re very marketable.

“But it’s not something I plan on keeping forever. I don’t want to be twenty-one with braces as much as I’m sure my fans would like it. I’m looking forward to taking them off. But I think it’s a good thing because my fans are kind of growing up with me and can see me turn into a young woman.

And, the future?

“I don’t know how long I’ll be in porn, or if I’ll reach MILF years. But I think it’s going to be good. I think people are going to enjoy seeing me grow up.”

Then this very intelligent sweetheart gives us the feel-good news.

“I’m here because I like sex, I like these sexual experiences, I like to see myself out there.”

Braces and all!

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Dan O’Connell’s sets are always idyllic, a refreshing touch to the day’s work for any performer.

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Dan O’Connell: A Gentle, Loving Approach

by Rich Moreland, November 2018

Recently my photographer Kevin and I were on set with Dan O’Connell. Out of that experience, came this post.

What you will find here are testimonials and observations about a porn legacy.

First, a few of shots of Dan’s set to put you in the mood.

Outside . . . .

And inside . . . . First the equipment . . .

Then the room where the action is recorded!

[All photos are Kevin’s unless otherwise noted.]

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I wrote my first article on the adult industry in the winter of 2011. Previous to that, I’d visited the AVN trade show and networked in the business as part of a book I was writing on adult film.

All in all, I’m now a ten-year veteran of adult scribing.

During my industry tenure, performers have come and gone while behind the camera personnel–company owners/producers/directors–have remained remarkably constant.

Of everyone I’ve met and written about, no one stands out like Dan O’Connell, founder of Girlfriends Films and its leading director.

Dan’s warmth and understanding of performers’ desires and needs is well-respected industry wide. Likewise, his easy-going attitude on set is appreciated by every performer I’ve talked with.

But that just scratches the surface. Dan and the good folks at Girlfriends take things a step further. They care about the performers they hire.

From my perspective, Girlfriends is top-of-the-line friendly and always accommodating. Just a few weeks ago, I took my new photographer to GFFs’ facility in Valencia. There we met with company president Moose who assured me (as is his habit) that whatever I needed, just ask.

Like Dan, Moose is friendly and always available for conversation and a fresh outlook on the business of porn.

Photo by Bill Knight, 2013

Hall of Famer

In this post, I want to take a moment to celebrate Dan whose kindness, positivity, and political wisdom is well-known within the business. To put an exclamation point to that remark, let me say that in my industry travels over the last ten years, I have not once heard a negative comment about him.

And for good reason.

Photo by Morgan, 2015

The native Montanan is an industry award winner. Two of the most notable accolades occurred in 2015: Nightmove’s Lifetime Achievement Award and enshrinement in AVN’s Hall of Fame, the highest honor in porn. In 2012, he was tapped for XBIZ’s “Man of the Year.”

Of course, Dan’s greatest accomplishment is the creation of Girlfriends Films, a company known for charity sponsorship and combating piracy, the bane of porn today.

I decided to go back through my interviews to look at what performers have said about Dan. What follows in a brief catalogue of their remarks about a man they regard as a top-notch director and a friend.

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From 2013 interviews at the AVN trade show

Dana DeArmond at AVN 2013. Photo by Bill Knight

Dana DeArmond

On Girlfriends Film and Dan:

“They give you the freedom to do the scene the way you want to. They’re cool people. They advocate for the industry probably more than any other company. They’re very involved with the Free Speech Coalition (the industry’s political voice).

“I am in the Girlfriend Films family. They take really good care of me. They treat me awesome. I was sick this morning and Moose came up to my room with bottles of water and Pepto. I was like I am going to go down there and do press for this fucking company because they take care about me. I am not going to sit in my room and be sick all day. I am going to get my shit together because I love them.

“[By the way] Dan is fucking cool.”

Daisy Layne at AVN 2013. Photo by Bill Knight

Daisy Layne

On Shooting for Dan:

“I used to do some midwifing. Dan contacted me because one of the girls [he was shooting] was pregnant and she wanted to do a scene. I met up with her and she was like you used to midwife? And I said, ‘If you go into labor, I’ve got you.’ She was just so enthralled. We had a blast. Dan said he loved it. He wanted ‘real’ and we had chemistry.

On money:

“Several times Dan and I have worked out deals, I was expecting less and I got more and I even reminded him. ‘Dan, we agreed I was going to get this rate’ and he says, ‘Oh no. The scene was so beautiful I had to pay you full-rate.’ That was just above and beyond. He takes care of the girls.

“He wants acting. He has a script so you have lines to memorize while he’s doing the blocking. Then he shoots the scene. Generally, there is a little shooting after that. He’s doing your day rate, acting rate, scene rate. He gets quality work because the people who work for him know what to expect and he pays for it, so he should get it.”

[It’s worth noting that Dan gave me a space in the Girlfriends booth to interview Dana and Daisy, an accommodation not to be minimized because the trade show is a cacophony of club music and chatter that makes interviewing difficult.]

From 2015 interviews done in LA:

Dani Daniels, 2015. Photo by Morgan

Dani Daniels

On Dan:

“Dan’s like a big papa bear. I love it. His brain is awesome, he can come up with stories that I couldn’t come up with in a year. I love working for him. His sets are comfortable. You always get to work with a girl you wanna work with. He treats his girls great. He’s got a great attitude. He’s calm and always about connection. He’s all about the girls—this real sex, real chemistry.

“If he needs something, he’ll let you know. If you’re blocking a shot or if you’re in the wrong room or whatever, he’ll voice it. But for the most part, he just lets you do your thing.”

On Girlfriends:

“There’s very few companies that will turn a camera on and say, ‘Ok, have sex. Do whatever you want.’ I feel like my best scenes are from Girlfriends films. I love it.”

Aidra Fox, 2015. Photo by Morgan

Aidra Fox

“With Dan it’s real the moment you walk on set. The crew gets along with everyone. It’s super nice. ‘What do you need? What do you want? What’s going to make your day?’

“When it comes down to the actual scene, it’s easy. He’s always puts me with good girls, someone that is very into their job, very into me and having sex. It’s just real sex, Dan lets you do the positions that you want to do for however long you want. He doesn’t really tell you how to have sex, just lets you do whatever feels good, whatever feels right and natural.”

Dan getting Dani Daniels (foreground) and Vanessa Veracruz ready for their scene. Photo by Morgan

Vanessa Veracruz

On Girlfriends Films:

“I recently started shooting for Girlfriends back in November. They are one of my favorite sites. I’m bisexual, I got into the business because I had an attraction towards women. Since I am a girl/girl only performer, there’s not a lot of companies to work for.

I love the way Girlfriends directs [their scenes]. It’s very different from what a lot of people shoot. It has its own style and it’s definitely more about sensuality, connecting instead of just being a sexual act.

On Shooting for Dan:

“Dan loves to talk about your character and he gives you a breakdown of what he thinks your character is supposed to be like. He’ll include other things to put the idea in your mind about the kind of person you are going to playing. Today, he gave me a little bit about my character’s background I can remember and convey during the shoot.

“Dan usually tells us he wants a lot of eye contact, a lot of touch, a lot of feeling. In my honest opinion, we don’t have enough of that in a scene. It’s more of the foreplay leading to the sex act which for me is exactly what I like to do.

“It’s a lot easier to enjoy the sex when you have an actual connection, when you’re looking into somebody’s eyes and really touching them and feeling their energy.”

“It’s awesome shooting for them and really connect with the girl that you are working with.”

Getting Jorden Kennedy (on the left) and Aidra Fox ready for their scene.  Photo by Morgan

Jorden Kennedy

“Dan actually cares about the scene looking beautiful and passionate because he cares about the viewers as well as us. To make sure that we’re having a good time, he wants us to be enjoying ourselves. Doing the scenes involving sex. He doesn’t cut. He doesn’t switch positions or do this or say that. He lets us have sex which, I think, makes it really nice to watch because it’s just natural.

“He might stop us once or twice to say ‘Can you position yourself more to the camera’ or ‘Can you push your hair back so we can see your face.’ But otherwise, he’s very open to ideas, especially with the dialogue.

“Dan is more flexible than most. I’ve never had him say ‘No we’re not going to do that.’ He encourages your input. He’s outside the norm as for as taking suggestions.”

From 2018 interviews done in LA:

Vanna Bardot

“I love Dan’s whole demeanor. He’s very easygoing. He’s never too serious. That makes working with him really pleasant. Lots of laughing.

“He says it’s all about real lesbian experiences. He likes the soft affectionate kind of sex. A lot of guys really like that. They don’t just want to see a girl getting pounded or slapped in the face. They want more softer touches. It’s really nice.”

Sarah Vandella

“This is actually my second time on set with Dan and what I have noticed is that he is extremely hands on in a way that will walk you through the scenario from start to finish.

“What makes Dan different is that he has this real gentle loving approach. When we go to roll, I know what is expected, I know where my mark is, I know the tone and the contents of the dialogue and it just makes for a great shooting experience.”

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So, there you have it. A handful of remarks about a director and overall nice guy whose has left his stamp on lesbian sex in adult film.

From my personal perspective, Dan, Moose, and the good people at GFFs are more than professional colleagues, they are among my most treasured industry friends.

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Some boxcover shots Kevin snapped during our visit with Dan and the girls on set that day:

Reagan Foxx and Vanna Bardot, Elsa Jean and Sarah Vandella

 

Reagan Foxx and Vanna Bardot

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Never seen a Girlfriends Film DVD?  Go here and here for a look at the company and the product.

 

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Scarlett Mae: Making Sex Feel Natural

by Rich Moreland, November 2018

During my recent visit to LA, I invited performer Scarlett Mae to share a veranda table with me at my hotel. She is represented by Foxxx Modeling and new to porn.

We had a great discussion.

Waiting for the arrival of winsome lass known as Scarlett!

[Photos from Foxxx Modeling and Scarlett’s twitter account are labeled accordingly. Other photos are credited to Kevin Sayers.]

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Stunning with gorgeous eyes and a glow that almost seems surreal describes Scarlett Mae.

From the outset of our conversation, this twenty-two-year-old is polite, soft-spoken, and gentle in her words and thoughts.

Scarlett got into porn around her twenty-first birthday and came equipped with a working idea of the sex industry.

A former employee of a strip club–she was a door girl, not a dancer–adult entertainment as a profession was not on her agenda. In fact, Scarlett never cammed, the vehicle that often leads a girl into porn.

So, what’s the story?

Adventure, pure and simple. Scarlett and a male friend wanted to abandon their Midwestern roots and hit the road.

“Originally we were going to go to Texas and then we stopped in Tennessee and stayed there.  We were on a campground in the mountains. We kind of made our life living like hippies,” this 5’9” beauty says with a smile that never left her during our interview.

“After a while, I decided I really wanted to see California, to go do my own thing,” she adds.

How did everything lead to porn? Did you watch porn as a child?

“When I was a teenager, yeah,” Scarlett says. She discovered an attraction to it.

“I always knew it was an option. I mean, I never saw it as something wrong. When I was younger, I grew up in a very conservative area, but I was always liberal-minded.”

So, our girl got an agent and a career was birthed out of a boring Midwest existence where factory work and waitressing were the highlights of Scarlett’s young life.

The Sex Feels Natural

Scarlett Mae falls into the gonzo girl category though she has some acting background.

“I did stage acting in high school, middle school. I did like Shakespeare plays. I’d love to do a feature. The only heavily scripted things I’ve done have been working as an extra with not a lot of heavy dialogue.”

Photo courtesy of Foxxx Modeling

Sounds like she’s the girl in the background who is ready to be the center of attention. But for now, Scarlett is forging her career and controlling the outcomes.

“I do shoot my own content, what goes on my Manyvids. I do a lot of hardcore stuff there. I get to do what I actually like to do versus what I’m getting paid by other people to do.”

Manyvids is a form of Clips for Sale. It’s an industry website available to models to market their own content, allowing them to sell their product sans agent and without relying on studios.

Photo courtesy of Foxxx Modeling

Scarlett explains her view.

“There will always be video selling. The guys are buying from Manyvids and Clips for Sale because they prefer to buy from the model herself. And a lot of that is honestly the best content. It’s very amateur, but in a good way. You get to work with who you want to work with. There’s always more comfort with that [because] it’s the most natural, for sure.

“You’re not really thinking about the sex in overly produced video because that’s an acting job. But when you do amateur work the sex feels natural. You think about pleasing him or her or whoever. It just feels like a boyfriend/ girlfriend, girlfriend/girlfriend, or boyfriend/ boyfriend making their videos.”

Scarlett knows what she wants and is confident how to accomplish her goals. Recognizing that, I want to know what makes her on-screen image unique.

“Even though it’s overly produced, I have a way of making sex feel natural, I believe. Just enjoy the sex for what it is. I just like it to be as natural as possible and please myself, please them [her co-stars].

“You know, I think everybody has more fun that way than feeling like it’s a job the whole time.”

Breaking the Mold

Out of that question, Scarlett’s maturity comes forth.

“My favorite thing about the porn industry is it’s punk. It breaks the mold of society and we’re not all just doing what we’re supposed to be doing, living a normal life. And I really like that. We’re doing something we enjoy as long as we enjoy it. We’re doing something that other people either wish they could be doing or they hate on it, whatever. But we have a blast while doing it.”

A true free spirit, this girl.

Interestingly, I bring up a conversation I had with male actor, Chad White, who can assess the authenticity of a sex scene by talking with his scene partner for a few minutes before they shoot.

Scarlett is on board with that.

“I understand. I definitely feel the same way. At least in the first five minutes of talking with my scene partner, I can tell if they’re really there that day. If it’s just a bad day or whatever for them. I can tell whether they’re really going to be into the sex or if it’s just a job to them.”

Impressed, I tell Scarlett her attitude is an admirable trait and she’ll have a productive career should she decide to give the porn business a go.

“For sure,” she says, her eyes still smiling with allure.

Scarlett Mae from @scarlettxmae

Before we wrap up, I ask Scarlett Mae about her piercings and tattoos.

She talks about the tats on her hip and mentions her piercings.

“I have my belly button here,” the auburn-haired sweetie comments, lifting her shirt to show me a fascinating jade chain before adding, “I’m thinking about getting my nose pierced.”

All good for fans of body modification on a modelesque girl who is ripe for a well-versed career in porn.

*          *          *

Photo courtesy of Foxxx Modeling

Follow Scarlett Mae on twitter @scarlettxmae

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Invictus, Part Two: The Long and Winding Road

by Rich Moreland, October 2018

In this post, we’ll take a look at Invictus’ visual appeal. In particular, what are the images that best communicate the film’s collective focus? And, how do the sex scenes reinforce the narrative?

Spoiler Alert. This review reveals vital story elements that may influence viewers.

If you wish to see Invictus for you own take on the film, it is available online at Sssh.com.

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The Eyes

As mentioned earlier, one of Invictus’ most important images is evident in the opening scene. Jane passes a deteriorating billboard that has weeping eyes. In faded colors it proclaims that “climate change is real,” setting the tone for a narrative that challenges climate change deniers and fake news believers.

Invictus’ roadside advertisement is similar to the symbolism found in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. In that tale of misplaced love, a billboard with the eyes of Dr. T.J. Ekleberg lord over the industrialized segment of New York City (the “valley of the ashes”) that separates the lower classes from the moneyed elitists.

Both stories employ the billboard symbol to comment on America’s moral decline. We need only look at the eyes to see.

But there is more. In Invictus, the woods are filled with eyes, those of human creatures who struggle to hold on to their humanity. And don’t forget there is a particular set of eyes belonging to a mysterious man who watches Jane from afar, following her every step.

In this film, the eyes have it, so to speak, both figuratively and literally.

An Abandoned Pathway

Invictus’ other prominent image is the long and winding road–if we may borrow a musical/literary phrase–that runs through the entire film. The pathway is abandoned, reflecting the landscape that has become Jane and Paul’s milieu.

As their journey progresses, they also follow railroad tracks as derelict as the roads they walk. With their once fast-moving trains, the rails suggest the sense of urgency that pounds away at the story.

Upon reaching an urban area, the couple moves through streets of desolation and destruction. Leaving the city, they follow a broadened highway before reaching an airport runway. On it is a wrecked plane.

All along their trek, the carcasses of broken vehicles—cars, buses, planes—remind the viewer of civilization’s destruction. What once was filled with vitality is no more.  What once ran full speed is now dead.

Incidentally, most of the roadway shots are taken from high above the walking figures, emphasizing their loneliness and isolation.

In fact, height is important in the film and presents its final image. Rising above the misery of this post-apocalyptic world, a helicopter keeps the story’s metaphorical promise.

One more point is worth a mention. Like a Grimm fairy tale, the woods are always present to stoke our primal fear of the unknown. Notice, for example, Jane and Ava agree to reunite in an open field away from the hidden “wild people” who infest the wilderness.

Despite ever-present danger, we can’t forget that our travelers are seeking Invictus’ Land of Oz (the fruit-laden north). We are reassured that there is a yellow brick road, no matter its form, to all destinations of peace and plenty.

But peril always lurks a mere misstep away. Even Dorothy and her trio of friends in L. Frank Baum’s tale never knew exactly what or who was in the woods along the way.

The Wall

Outside the city, Jane and Paul come to a wall that symbolizes much of what this film is about.

Graffiti proclaiming “Art Prevails” is painted near another illustration, the silhouette of a strong man with a hammer. He has created a “hole” (or portal) in the barrier that reveals a footbridge across a body of water.

Is this the route to the North and the Land of Fruit and Happiness? Or does it have a more literal meaning? To reclaim a lost America, we require bridges, not walls.

Is the muscular hammer attacking ideological bulwarks that seal off protest and freedom of speech, something Invictus implies the government has taken away? Does the film assure the viewer that when much seems lost, art is a beacon that penetrates the darkness?

As we’ve mentioned above, Jane and Paul enter the city and walk among abandoned buildings that suggest a community destroyed by riots or a Chernobyl-like disaster.

The scene is a reminder of catastrophe and our travelers do not linger because revisiting the past holds no future in this emerging Distopia.

In This Together

As we have seen, the helicopter reminds us that the quickest way forward lies not on ruined roads but in soaring above the chaos to a new place and a new way.

Of note is this. Remember the four circling birds of prey we first see when Jane reaches the house where Paul is in hiding? Their vision was earth-ward waiting to feast on death, i.e. the past.

On the other hand, in the final scene the helicopter lifts upward, transcending destruction in pursuit of rebirth.

Finally, the voices of director Angie Rowntree, Delirious Hunter, Ava Mir-Ausziehen, and Joeydotrawr close the film. They start and finish sentences for each other in a “we’re all in this together” moment.

Here is the centrality of their message.

If we stand together and fight for each other, there is hope.

“Those who would pit us against one another . . . talk of making life great again . . . But greatness can’t be driven by fear.”

The film comes full circle with, “The only answer to divisiveness is unity. The only response to hate is love.”

Go Forward

Produced by the woman-friendly website Sssh.com, Invictus is an adult film. But it differs from typical porn fare.

On-screen sex is employed in three scenes with the intent of exploring human passion. Beyond that, the sex is vital to understanding the narrative and is no way gratuitous to the story. We learn quite a bit about the characters when we see them intimately engaged with each other, no holds barred.

Director Angie Rowntree makes one thing clear in these scenes. She wants her characters to “go forward” in their development especially if it means revisiting past events. We see this when Jane spends moments of reverie about her intimate relationship with Ava.

In the first sex scene, they are shown making love with a strong emphasis on gentle kissing and passionate bodies in motion.

Later, when Paul guesses Ave and Jane were once lovers (she affirms his comment when she tells him they met before same-sex relationships were a crime), he delivers the film’s central theme.

During his feverish sleep, Paul dreams of the past when all was normal. But he knows returning to that is impossible because it’s nothing more than an imaginative realm of what once was.

They need to go forward to something better. Jane acquiesces to his thought and in the process draws closer to him.

But what to do with remembrances of Ava?

From Fantasy to Reality

As previously mentioned, the first sex scene with Ava and Jane is a memory, a look backward. The second sex scene is Paul’s fever-induced vision when he is asleep. It departs from Jane’s reverie because it affirms Paul’s notion of what can be, not what was. Things are no longer “normal.”

The sex is graphic, of course, and woman-friendly. There’s male-on-female oral, caressing, and the standard positions found in porn.

Delirious Hunter makes each sex scene special. She is a rough-and-ready porn girl who can shoot with the best. In particular, her modeling resume of BDSM and gangbang scenes are bold and raw.

On the other hand, the sex in Invictus paints a different picture by transcending porn’s sameness and venturing into art. Delirious is up to the task with sensuality galore.

Because she and Joey are lovers responding to each other, Delirious sets just the right romantic tone to make it all work. Close-ups of her face and Joey’s capture the on-screen ecstasy and energy they draw from each other. Their lovemaking drives the film and reinforces the story of Jane and Paul.

That is noteworthy, by the way, because in real life Delirious and Joey are married. The sex is as authentic as it can get, one of the hallmarks of female-friendly porn.

The conflict of past and present and where to go from here is clearly the theme of Invictus’ sex scenes. Referencing the new film genre mentioned in Part One of this review, Angie Rowntree establishes a purpose for the Jane/Ava and Jane/Paul encounters, something not widely found in porn.

In other words, the sex itself is an image in the narrative.

Finally, the third sex scene is fantasy that becomes reality. The couple relaxes on a blanket, Jane eagerly discards her clothes and the intimacy happens because she chooses to make it so. It’s a feminist statement.

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Angie Rowntree has proven once again that an adult film deserves mainstream accolades. Like its predecessor, Gone, Invictus presents a solid script and an engaging story. The sex is never thrown in as a promise to the viewer. Rather it is a tool within the narrative that helps to clarify the interpersonal actions that move the story forward.

The characters define themselves with their sexuality and their sexual expression. Ava and Jane are lovers as are Paul and Jane. The question becomes, can Jane simultaneously exist in both relationships?

Possibly. Take a look at the final scenes and reach your own conclusion.

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A completed project is always a call for an all-for-one moment.

Celebration by cast and crew, left to right: Delirious Hunter, Argus Hammer (partly obscured), Rob Tanguay, Brad Benton, Angie Rowntree, and Joeydotawr

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Here is the trailer for Invictus. It’s Not Safe for Work because of graphic content. But if you’re not offended, please take a look!

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Invictus, Part One: The Rendezvous Point

by Rich Moreland, October 2018

Invictus is a film by Angie Rowntree and stars Delirious Hunter, Joeydotrawr, and Ava Mir-Ausziehen. Also appearing in speaking roles are Argus Hammer and Cat Belmont.

Spoiler Alert. This review reveals vital story elements that may influence viewers.

[Invictus is available online at Sssh.com. All photos included in this two-part review are likewise courtesy of Sssh.com.]

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Angie Rowntree is a noted feminist filmmaker whose stories are relevant to our times. Her directing talent is exceptional and her cast dedicated to producing an indie film suitable for mainstream viewers. Though Invictus doesn’t forget its adult film roots, it seldom dwells on them.

Jane and Paul

Invictus is a futuristic fantasy. The US has devolved into a chaotic dystopia and the few remaining freedom-loving souls (what we loosely would call “patriots”) are fighting to keep hope alive.

As the viewer joins the story, an authoritarian government has weaponized climate change, turning citizens into ‘wild people” who prey on one another for survival. But all is not lost. A mission to save a once multicultural collectivist America is on the time clock.

The opening credits roll and we get glimpses of the back story. A succession of quick news reports about the social issues of our time pass in review–the most important being climate change. Then everything suddenly falls silent as we hear, “signing off.”

We later learn this references the end of independent newscasts. Not surprising since the government is suppressing free speech.

The scene shifts to a solitary female figure with a backpack walking a lonely paved road. Passing a billboard that proclaims “climate change is real,” she comes upon an abandoned and disheveled house that offers momentary refuge. Note that her arrival is marked by four birds of prey circling in the sky.

In voice over, the hiker says, “It’s been nearly two weeks since I left Mount Weather.”

In fact, she is on a mission but her food and water are in short supply and she estimates making “the rendezvous point” is in doubt.

From here the narrative moves quickly. The woman is scientist Jane Darling (Delirious Hunter) and in the trashed dwelling she meets its squatter resident Paul Young (Joeydotrawr). He claims the building is not much but does have a “vibe” he humorously describes “post-apocalypse chic.”

Jane is unmoved by his levity and trusts no one. Her reaction is to defend herself and she is armed. This chick is not to be fooled with.

Pro-Government Thugs

Invictus has three major themes. The first emerges early: freedom of the press and the supposed rise of fake news.

Paul was an independent newscaster who avoided capture when “they” came to arrest everyone at the station, he tells Jane. He suggests that she may have seen his face on billboards and declares people now chase “fake news” which we tacitly understand is government-controlled propaganda.

Paul rolls an apple across the floor to Jane, an “Adam meets Eve” gesture that sets up the explicit love-making we see later. She’s skeptical that the fruit is real before a bite convinces her it is. Apparently, the delicious treat came from rumored farmable land up north, Paul declares, and wants to find out if such a place exists.

Having established the fake news theme, the narrative moves to its second and overriding message–climate change and how the nutty fundamentalists have abetted the earth’s destruction. On that note, there’s revenge of sorts at film’s end.

Jane warns Paul of “pro-government thugs” who are out to hunt down “people who aren’t patriotic” which brings up a question. Can a person be a patriot and criticize the government? The film lets the viewer decide.

In the meantime, Invictus’ story line is set. Jane and Paul decide to unite for the journey they must take: she to the rendezvous point, he to the land of the fruit. This introduces the central image of narrative: the road.

We will look at that in Part Two.

Survivors

There is one more element of importance in the film. From her backpack, Jane produces a flash drive that holds the key to an encrypted computer Ava, her colleague and friend, could not save when their offices were raided.

Jane is from the World Protection Agency, she tells Paul, and what is on the flash drive could save humanity. She and Ava plan to meet on her birthday in the field where they once admired a meteor shower together. The place has both an emotional and moral meaning for them.

In a broader sense, Invictus is a moral journey to save mankind. More simply, it’s the trek the flash drive must take. Jane and Paul are merely couriers, survivors navigating a “new apocalyptic world,” as Paul describes it, in which desolation and isolation are mankind’s enemies now.

Circumstance has brought them together. Both avoided arrest when their professional environments fell under assault. He wasn’t at the news studio and she was not at Mount Weather when the government raided both.

Now they are a new age Adam and Eve striving to regenerate civilization.

As the film progresses, their moxie is tested. The country has fallen into chaos: tribalism rules the countryside and the unlikely pair encounters violence on the road. Later in a fight over Jane’s backpack, Paul is stabbed. The attackers flee and his three-day recovery brings them closer.

Out of that, their personal visions and reveries lead to the film’s first two sex scenes, but more on that later.

A Comment on Filmmaking

Invictus is as much a tale steeped in symbolism as it is an adult film highlighting nudity and lovemaking. Because it is a rare combination of literary expression and art mixed with see-it-all sex, the film raises an important question.

Is it possible for an adult film created by industry directors and actors to become a Hollywood-worthy production? Does such an offering bridge the divide between two film worlds: pornography and mainstream?

To put the question another way, is Invictus part of an alternative genre created by independent filmmakers who believe uninhibited sexual expression is part of their storytelling and, by extension, the development of their characters?

Like Gone, an earlier award-winning Angie Rowntree film, Invictus does just that. What’s more, this production is also pro-woman and made by a feminist. But it takes a further step.

It also addresses an adult film audience that is often short-changed by the industry’s standard romantic comedies: couples. With Invictus, they get love in a turbulent world where fighting for a cause is preferable to a date night of fun and frivolity.

Finally, speaking of female power in a patriarchal world, Delirious Hunter’s character portrayal is the film’s driving force. Her acting skills are noteworthy and her sex scenes reveal a woman’s touch that compliments Angie Rowntree’s directing talent.

 

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All good filmmaking requires a team commitment . . .

And some fun along the way.

 

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Check out the trailer for Invictus. Bear in mind it is Not Safe for Work because of nudity and graphic sexual representation.

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Love in the Digital Age, Part Two: Humanized Sexuality

by Rich Moreland, September 2018

In Part Two of “Love in the Digital Age,” we’ll take a look at the production side of filmmaking that makes the award-winning Jacky St. James/Eddie Powell style one of the finest in the business.

[My thanks to Jeff Koga, Jacky St. James, and New Sensations for the photos in this post.]

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“Love in the Digital Age” is another Jacky St. James feature film that reveals just how precise and demanding the writer/director can be.

Jacky is fond of saying that she’s not concerned with how popular her performers are in the fan world of adult film. Fame built on gonzo scenes and horny bodies is not what drives her casting. In fact, standards of hotness aren’t even in the equation when it comes to the on-screen expectations Jacky has for her hires.

To make a feature film come alive as an artistic statement, Jacky looks for performers who can take direction, deliver lines, and get into their characters. Some adult directors settle for line readings as benchmarks to create their characters; Jacky insists on acting ability. In this romantic comedy, she gets what she demands in spades.

Gia and Logan

Take Gia Paige. Her performance is superb.

Here’s an example. After an unsavory discovery, Sara confronts Griff (Logan Pierce) as she is walking out on him. She wants to know what category of undesirable females she falls under in his mind. “Dumb sorority girl, bad chick, crazy chick,” she growls. It’s Gia’s finest acting moment in the film. She expresses her frustration, anger, and feelings of deception.

For his part, Logan’s performance is also top-of-the-line. When Griff talks to his radio audience about screwing up “the best thing he had in his life,” he admits to being a jerk and doesn’t want his audience to be like him. The pain on Logan’s face illustrates the contrition and deep sense of loss Griff feels.

Bottom line? Expect good acting and character development in this film. The script is lively, but the actors’ energy moves the production into the fast lane.

Fit the Narrative

Eddie Powell and his filming cohort Paul Woodcrest frame the sex scenes to fit Jacky’s directing philosophy. She focuses on female pleasure and wants it evident on-screen. That requires a special commitment because extracting intimate performances from actors who are often limited to all-sex shoots is not easy. Too often spitting, deep throating, and facials limit the artistic boundaries, such as they are, in those types of scenes. On the other hand, romance scripts demand a different approach.

Jacky wants her cast to be engaged in the story but they must go a step further with the sex scenes because they must fit the narrative.

In this production, the women initiate the sex, moving the female characters from the object of sex to its subject in the eyes of the viewer. There’s lots of kissing, loving gazes, and passion.

As always, Eddie’s camera work reflects Jacky’s story telling mission. When framing the performers during their sex scenes, he focuses on both bodies equally. He and Paul build the intimacy with facial closeups as opposed to relying on genital action. In other words, the pure up-close piston shot is absent. In its place is a humanized sexuality, a Jacky St. James/Eddie Powell trait that has forged their legendary talent.

To put it another way, Jacky and Eddie step away from the traditional male gaze and rough sex that present women as merely bodies with no larger reality. It’s a departure from run-of-the-mill porn.

There is one more ingredient in the mix. Eddie’s camera is always in motion, swirling and floating in an expression of what happens in the minds of lovers who are absorbed in each other. His shooting mimics what lovers experience when passions are high, a trait that elevates his work above the best cinematographers in the business.

A Cowgirl Sexcapade

There are four sex scenes, as mentioned previously. The first is Gia and Tyler Nixon. It’s a sample of Sara’s previous relationship that is ultimately doomed because of a social media post that inflames her.

The second is Kenna James and Small Hands. Lizzie meets Jeremy at the bar. He takes her home and the sex heats up.

The third is Gia Paige again, this time with Logan Pierce in a triumph of their new-found romance.

The fourth involves Mona Wales and Marcus London. Janine is at first turned off by her coffee date with Mark, but he gets a do over and love ensues.

The favorite sex position to begin each scene is cowgirl. The female controls her pleasure and relishes the expressions of her lover as she rides to ecstasy. This is not to minimize mish (missionary), spoon, and doggie. They are there, of course, as is oral sex. Incidentally, there is a lot of that for her enjoyment, something not found in abundance in adult film unless the scene is girl/girl.

In the final analysis, porn is often in a hurry. Chuck clothes, get to the blow job, then run through the standard positions with the pop shot that is most often a facial. Jacky will have none of that. Her performers warm up to each other, a necessity in a true romantic comedy.

Once again, Jacky St. James and Eddie Powell have made a Hollywood-worthy adult film. Because of their exceptional talent, “Love in the Digital Age” belongs in every porn library in a prominent place on the feature film shelf.

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Here’s the YouTube trailer for “Love in the Digital Age.”

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Love in the Digital Age, Part One: The Old-Fashioned Way

by Rich Moreland, September 2018

Once again New Sensations teams up award-winning filmmakers Jacky St. James and Eddie Powell and the result is another Hollywood-worthy motion picture. Produced by Scott Taylor, “Love in the Digital Age” is a romantic comedy starring Gia Page, Kenna James, Mona Wales, Tyler Nixon, Logan Pierce, Small Hands, and Marcus London.

The DVD also offers a BTS, photo gallery, and trailers highlighting other New Sensations productions. It can be ordered here.

[Photos in this review are credited to photographer Jeff Koga and director Jacky St. James]

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Jacky St. James’ latest romantic comedy is all about our tech driven age and the sexual hookups it offers us. Take notice of the montage of social media images that begin the film as we hear in voice over,

“Social media is how we connect now. Everything is at our fingertips. Why should we ever feel like we need something else?”

That question sets in motion a porn film that is as much social commentary as it is “doggie” and “cowgirl.” Be prepared for a thoughtful look at today’s online dating scene and the love, authentic or otherwise, that emerges out of it.

Four superbly shot sex scenes explore the realities of modern romance Jacky St. James presents in her script. Kenna James, Gia Paige, and Mona Wales fire up the screen with female pleasure that is a far cry from gonzo’s “rough her up” sex. But more on that in the next post.

First, let’s take a look at what the film is all about.

Testing a Theory

Lizzie (Kenna James) lives with her mom Janine (Mona Wales). The household welcomes a newcomer, Lizzie’s cousin Sara (Gia Paige). Sara has just dumped her boyfriend whose insensitivity trashed her on social media.

From there the story develops around a “theory,” as Janine proposes it, that the girls can’t survive without their cell phones. In return, Lizzie and Sara insist that Janine get a smart phone and go to dating apps to find a love life. She has, after all, been a “weird single lady” since “dad left,” Lizzie says, and celibate far too long.

The adventures from there are humorous and filled with carnal desire. But there is a deeper message in Jacky’s film. As the narrative progresses, she touches on subtle examples of how modern life is consumed by social media.

Here are some highlights.

After they agree to give up their phones, Lizzie and Sara drive to a bar, not an easy task because Lizzie doesn’t know how to get there without her phone’s GPS.

Sitting at the bar, the girls are listless. Boredom quickly sets in. No phones; no fun. They’ll have to create their own.

The bartender is mixing drinks and checking out his phone at the same time, something that fascinates Lizzie. She never noticed him before, of course, because she was always engrossed in her own phone. From her perspective, Sara observes that the people in the bar remind her of zombies attached to their phones and she feels out-of-place.

To occupy her time, Lizzie wanders outside to the bar’s patio and lights up a cigarette. She meets Jeremy (Small Hands) who muses that two friends in the bar are arguing and texting at the same time. It’s a comment on multitasking with a downside.

Jeremy, who doesn’t have a mobile phone, tells Lizzie, “We have our heads down so much we miss what is right in front of us.” In other words, too often social interactions are cell phone dependent at the cost of real human expression.

Never More Connected

“Love in the Digital Age” also addresses other issues technology has brought into our lives. One is the internet’s impact on our privacy. Another is somewhat more egregious: when we worship at the altar of technology, we sacrifice our imagination.

But all is not lost. Without a cell phone, Sara must learn to negotiate a landline setup to talk with her new-found love interest, Griff.

They’ve already communicated through letter writing (the earliest form of texting, by the way) and have moved to the next step. She doesn’t know what he looks like, of course, he’s just a voice on the other end of the wire. But she draws on her imagination to picture Griff and admits she’s never felt more connected to someone than she does to him.

Sara later confesses to Janine, “You can’t get to the heart of who a person really is online.”

The older woman is on board with that conclusion, but must explore dating apps as part of their deal. She’s now learning what technology offers.

When her weekend with Griff heats up (it’s Easter, by the way, the season of renewal and rebirth), Sara is immensely happy. “I was just living my life in real-time with someone I was getting to know the old-fashioned way.” Despite her upbeat revelation, Sara’s remark is a scalding comment on what we’re losing in this modern digital age.

The Sum of the Entire Picture

There is much more to this story. We see an older couple, Janine and Mark (Marcus London) navigate their more traditional relationship and witness how Lizzie’s face-to-face meeting with Jeremy generates an immediate connection. And not surprisingly, the Sara/Griff romance takes a rocky turn that delves into how technology fosters deception and embarrassment.

The voice over that ends the film simultaneously warns and reassures the viewer about our digital world. They are Sara’s words.

“We should remember that the things we hear or read online aren’t always the sum of the entire picture. If you want to know someone, really know someone, I suggest you do it the old-fashioned way.”

Jacky St. James wants us to understand that human interaction does not differ from generation to generation regardless of the platforms we use. Technology may move us forward, but the basics remain in place. For better or worse, social media, whatever its form, reflects our maturity, compassion, and values.

Mobile phones are designed to co-exist with traditional living, not redefine or overtake it. They can enrich personal connections and, on the flip side, be used in emotionally destructive ways. But whatever our conclusions about that handheld device, it can’t and doesn’t replace real human contact and the feelings that go with it.

This is the wisdom of “Love in the Digital Age.”

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In Part Two, we’ll look at the sex scenes (this is a porn film don’t forget!) and Eddie Powell’s cinematography.

Watch the trailer compliments of New Sensations.

 

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