Tag Archives: Dan O’Connell

Engaging Your Brain: A Review of Lesbian Sex 17

by Rich Moreland, October 2017

In Girlfriends Films’ Lesbian Sex 17, director Dan O’Connell takes an innovative approach to exploring the performer’s point of view on a variety of topics. In this review, I’ve included a sampling of what the video offers.

To order the DVD, click here.

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“With a woman there’s so much to touch and to play with,” Natasha Nice tells Georgia Jones. “I want to cover all the ground!”

Georgia smiles eagerly and Natasha turns the tables, asking Georgia for her thoughts on the same question Georgia posed to her, “How do you like your sex scenes with a woman?”

Depends on her partner, the slim brunette responses.

“If they come out of the gate ready to go you’ve got to match that!”

As I watched the four pairings in Lesbian Sex 17, I remembered being on set for a Dan O’Connell shoot a couple of years ago.

That day I noticed two girls on the veranda engaged in animated conversation. Adria Fox and Jorden Kennedy were awaiting their nod to rock and roll under the lights and had time on their hands. They decided to make use of it with a little “getting to know you.”

Kissing and caressing highlighted with a few giggles, these lovelies began warming up for their scene. When they finally made it to the bedroom, the crew was still setting up. By that time, Jorden and Adria were so into each other that Dan had to remind them to go slow at the beginning.

I wondered how their veranda conversation energized them and I’m betting that any film fan would also. With Dan’s idea of putting the girls together in front of the camera to share their thoughts before the sex begins, we get an inside look.

By the way, Lesbian Sex 17 is not in a BTS (Behind the Scenes) format. There is no interviewer, the girls do that themselves. They talk about whatever they want and lots of good stuff is revealed.

Let’s take a closer at a sampling of what usually stays very private . . .

Style

Each of the pairings have a different style of interaction.

August Ames

August Ames and Penny Pax are giggly and girly with August dominating their interaction because, I think, Penny is by nature more submissive.

Veruca James and Stella Cox are workmanlike and a bit more serious in their conversation. Again, one girl tends to take the lead, in this case Veruca who holds a mug of coffee and directs their conversation.

On the other hand, Natasha Nice and Georgia Jones are playful in a way that reminds the viewer of girl talk around the water cooler. Neither of them overwhelms the discussion though Georgia’s personality presents an unabashed eagerness when the mention of sex comes up.

The other conversation reinforces that the women in this film are well-respected veterans of the business. Chanel Preston and Vanessa Veracruz are a fascinating duo. Chanel’s personality quite literally takes over any room she enters. The statuesque beauty is the personification of presence. On the other hand, the sultry Vanessa holds her own, with points of view that are undeniably strong.

Natasha Nice

Locations also vary. August and Penny are shot relaxing out of doors, as are Chanel and Vanessa. Veruca and Stella sit at a bar while Natasha and Georgia settle in front of a window so the camera can capture the pelting rain that seems to embrace them.

Religion

The topics of conversation are not the same within each pairing, a result of not relying on an interviewer. Some things are discussed in common, however, such as masturbation, first time sex with another girl, and entering into porn.

The viewer learns that these girls were body explorers at a young age and by their early teens had thoughts about snuggling up to other girls. Watching porn as a kid almost seemed like a rite of passage and getting into the business was a breeze.

August Ames talks about her strict home environment and the religious overlay that corralled her. That led to smoking weed and hooking up with schoolmates (girls because she went of Catholic school) to play around with the dirty.

Chanel Preston

Chanel and Vanessa also bring up religion and their home life.

“We would go to church, but I wouldn’t say we were a religious family,” Chanel says. As a consequence, following the faith never played a part in how she felt about sex, so there was never any guilt about it. In fact, religion never played a role in anything in her life, Chanel remembers. It was just something her family did.

On the other hand, Vanessa, who is comfortable referring to herself as bisexual, reflects August Ames to a degree.

“I’m a little catholic girl,” the Latina hottie mentions, though her Catholic household was not strict. Not so with her grandmother, however, who doesn’t know what Vanessa does, the same thing, by the way, Vanessa once told me in an interview. Unfortunately, her middle sister, who “flipped out” about Vanessa’s porn career, “ratted me out” to the whole family, she comments.

Vanessa mentions what as a writer in the industry I have heard often. The family scene is difficult for most performers. Society thinks what we do is not the norm, Vanessa exclaims, so we’re outcasts.

Vanessa Veracruz

It’s difficult to tell her family she’s more respected on a porn set than working a normal job.

Fooling Around Young

Penny Pax was less rebellious than her shooting partner August, but remembers getting into the carnal with her female classmates in elementary school.

Penny Pax

She talks about messing around in the bushes on the playground and early versions of fingering for exploratory purposes. Hilariously, carrots and ice cubes came later, the quiet porn superstar muses.

Veruca James

Veruca James admits to masturbating very young and makes an interesting observation about 1970s style porn mags. The guys seemed pretty gross while “the girls seemed so much more tasteful,” she says. “Something about women’s bodies is so much more attractive,” the dark-haired miss believes.

The curvy Stella Cox brings up fetishes and talks about having sex with girls who are not into porn. It’s hard to figure out if they’re lesbian, bi, or just into to having sex with another girl, she comments. Then she adds it’s a longer more involved process to have sex with a woman than a man because having sex with a girl “engages your brain.”

What Approach Do You Take?

Stella Cox

One of the questions Natasha and Georgia bring up is how to handle telling people you do porn. Like similar issues covered by all the girls, this question entails communicating with non-porn people.

Georgia says, “It’s always different. It’s how I’m feeling at the moment.” If she’s not feeling real confident, the slender dynamo tells them she’s a model. Should she be more confident, Georgia says, “I tell them I do porn. Homosexual porn, I say it just like that. I tell them straight up I do lesbian porn.”

That, she declares, gets her “mixed reactions.”

As for Natasha, whose cuddly girl-next-door looks endear her fans, the approach is much the same. “I try to figure them out a little bit. I prefer to say ‘adult entertainer.’ I don’t really get any negative responses.”

Georgia Jones

The other issue they explore has to do with attraction to partners. Georgia is chemistry oriented. She likes girls who are “social smart” and “book smart,” can hold a conversation, and be witty with the ability to “snap back at you,” she says.

Natasha likes a “natural woman,” someone “I might see at the grocery store, not super chiseled like in porn.”

Beyond that surface value, she emphasizes that connecting with the person is vital. She wants her partners to be “someone I can giggle with. I’m still a kid at heart.”

Dan’s Girls

So there you have, a sampling of attitudes and conversation . . . but what about the sex scenes? Well, this is a Dan O’Connell production. The girls wear a minimum of makeup, avoid overly suggestive clothes to keep the “girl next door” image Girlfriends Films has heralded for so long.

It goes without saying that the sex is hot and consumes two hours of rollicking fun. Chemistry comes through on every shoot. Lots of kissing and finger banging is always prevalent and sex toys are assiduously avoided unless it’s an exceptional shoot.

Take notice, for example, of Chanel and Vanessa celebrating the weirdness of a film called Messed Up. It appears to deviate somewhat from the tried and true Girlfriends production.

One thing about all-girl shoots the average fan can appreciate: various degrees of shaving are always present. Bald is beautiful for some, but not all. Stylish trimming is never the same from one girl to the next, so there is something for everybody.

What’s the bottom line on this film? When it comes to girl-on-girl action, Dan’s ladies are always top notch. This time he’s added that inside look that informs the fan of what’s really on her mind!

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The Meaning of Consent: Directors

by Rich Moreland, February 2016

The series of posts on consent in the adult industry begins with the directors.

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Directors are the captains of the porn ship, so to speak. Everyone’s job on set is smooth sailing when the weather is good. . . until a disgruntled performer stirs turbulent waves that can wash over everyone’s day.

From a director perspective, coaxing anyone to go beyond their limits invites turmoil, such as speed dialing an agent to complain. If anyone walks, kill fees are offered to keep peace and the day is lost.

Though I’ve never seen this on any set I’ve visited, I’ve often observed models interacting with each other before their scenes. It’s not idle conversation. They are taking care of business, clarifying what they are good to go with and what they are not. It calms the waters.

Girlfriends Films

gfs logoThough directors have different levels of flexibility, they review the scene with talent before shooting commences and often work a camera themselves.

I queried two award-winners, the legendary Dan O’Connell and B Skow of Girlfriends Films, and got responses corroborated by performers who have worked for them.

Here’s Dan’s view. He shoots only girl/girl scenes, by the way.

“[Consent] has never been an issue on my sets. Everyone arrives knowing what is expected of them. We talk about the sex scene beforehand and go over each girl’s ‘don’ts.’ So nobody goes into the scene not knowing what to expect.

“I tell every girl that she can, should, and is encouraged to stop the scene if she wants to use the bathroom, consume water or discuss what’s going on. Nobody has ever stopped a scene except for water, to use the bathroom or blow her nose.”

Dan O'Connell reviews the scene with Jorden Kennedy and Aidra Fox

Dan O’Connell discusses the scene with Jorden Kennedy and Aidra Fox

B Skow sends a similar message.

“I never shoot scenes that push limits like the type that Kink.com or James Deen shoot, but I can tell you if I felt either performer was uncomfortable, I would stop shooting and make sure everyone respected each other’s boundaries and start shooting again if we all agreed.”

B Skow

B Skow

Skow does mostly boy/girl work, shooting gonzo and features. In Dan’s case, his content is the vignette, a short story with a sexual theme. My reviews of their films, which are offered on DVD, can be found on this blog and my column at AINews.com.

The Feminist View

For a theater-oriented director like Jacky St. James, whose content is marketed by New Sensations/Digital Sin, her set is geared to bring out a performer’s acting ability.

Jacky says, “I don’t delve too deeply into what is required of a performer prior to a shoot unless I am tackling territory that might be challenging for them.”

She mentions The Submission of Emma Marx, an award-winning three-feature series she wrote and directed, as an example of establishing limits. Jacky wanted to make sure the star, Penny Pax, “was comfortable with each of the BDSM activities we were going to film.”

Jacky St. James

Jacky St. James

Overall,  the feminist director emphasizes, “I would never ask talent to do something that made them uncomfortable. Basically I set the precedence that they must be prepared and work hard…and I’ll help take care of the rest. I want to make their lives easy on set so that we can really focus on the most important components of the production, namely, nailing their characters.”

Gonzo on the Internet

Internet sites, natural vehicles for gonzo or all-sex shoots, aim to satisfy the sexual tastes of their online members. How does this influence limits?

To explore that question, I chatted with Billy Watson who directs for the DogFart Network, an interracial conglomerate of over twenty sites. He runs his own studio in LA and has a variety of sets available for his scenes.

dog fart logo

“Essentially, when someone walks into my studio, I always go over what’s expected and what I want and what I need,” Billy begins.

He uses licensed agents exclusively and relies on them to tell the girls what the shoot entails, “so they know what they are getting into when they come here.” He mentions gang bang and cuckholding scenes as examples.

While the girls are in the make-up chair, a feature of Billy’s studio complete with artist on hand, he reviews the scene coming up, everything from “the sex positions themselves to what names we can call them during the shoot.”

Responses that vary from “Oh, you can call me anything, I don’t care,” to “Don’t call me a bitch,” and everything in between. The same with on-screen behavior. The native Arizonan gives the following example, “Pull my hair, choke me, but don’t spit on me,” or “You can spit on me, but just don’t choke me. You can slap this part of my butt . . . whatever.”

For the DogFart people, it seems language is a sticking point. Occasionally in a gang bang scene the girl will explicitly state she does not want to be called a bitch. “Invariably somebody will actually slip,” Billy comments with a shrug.

Apologies immediately follow, “‘Oh my God, I didn’t mean to do that,'” and the shoot moves on.

A Tricky Thing

However, Billy runs into an issue most other directors don’t encounter.

Jim Talks Business Photo by Bill Knight

Billy Watson

“We show a lot of interracial porn and a lot of the members love it when the girls call the guys the n-word. This is a tricky thing because it goes both ways.”

Some male performers don’t mind. In fact it cranks up their engine. However others “won’t accept that kind of language.”

Has he had an incident that caused filming to stop?

“No, never. I’ve never had any kind of drama because we’re really careful not to violate anybody’s boundaries.”

Billy Watson checks member responses

Billy checks member responses

There are times, however, when “my boss says the members are looking for a really crazy, over-the-top scene.”

In those cases, Billy will book a girl with guys who are comfortable around the n-word. But that may not apply to all the male performers that day and the ones who don’t want such language directed at them will make their boundaries known.

In this reversal of the norm, it’s the men who feel violated.

Billy recalls a particular shoot that starred a model who was free with questionable language. It was a ten-man gang bang and getting all male talent on the same page had its issues.

“A couple of the black guys came up to me and said, ‘that girl’s not going to call me a n—‘ and she had to hold her tongue because I didn’t want the black guys to get upset with her.”

Gone Away

Performers have hinted to me in casual conversation that there are some directors who will look the other way when problems arise.

Bringing this up with Billy evokes an honest assessment.

“It depends on the producer and director and your crew. There’s still some people in this business who think the girls are kind of like chattel. Bring them in [and do what you want] because we’ll never shoot her again.”

However . . .

“A lot of those guys seemed to have gone away,” he remarks.

“The 2008 perfect storm killed a lot of those dudes. [That’s when] Brazzers perfected the tube site, basically the fine art of piracy. They all started off as search engine guys in the early 2000s and have gone on to all the things they’ve done to ruin this business.”

Or challenged it, for sure. But they may also have run off the worst of the lot when it comes to ignoring the performer.

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Whatever Feels Good

by Rich Moreland, November 2015

This is the final installment of my day with Dan O’Connell. The movie is Women Seeking Women #123, a Girlfriends Films production.

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Eye Contact and Touch

It’s worth a mention that Dan believes his scenes must be a natural extension of two girls who might be real life lovers. Feelings and emotions, rather than gonzo-type hard banging, highlight his filming philosophy. The result is a Girlfriends‘ product that differs from other company’s more trendy girl-on-girl scenes. Sex toys are nowhere to be found, everything is generated by the performers’ hands and mouths.

Aidra and Jorden Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

Aidra Fox and Jorden Kennedy
Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

Like organic foods at the supermarket, there are no additives to gobble up the real sex of the scene.

As Vanessa Veracruz remarks after completing her shoot, Dan has his own approach to expressing girl/girl eroticism. “It’s definitely more about sensuality, connecting instead of just being a sex act. Dan usually tells us he wants a lot of eye contact, a lot of touch, a lot of feeling.”

The thoughtful and provacative Vanessa Veracruz talks with me.

The thoughtful and provocative Vanessa Veracruz talks after her scene

It’s all very appealing to this Mexican-American performer because she does only girl/girl shoots.

A self-identified bisexual, Vanessa explains that Girlfriends’ preferences are not characteristic of other companies. “It’s awesome shooting for them . . you really connect with a girl that your are working with. We don’t have enough of that in a scene.”

Aidra Fox who chats with me before picking up her check, offers that Girlfriends is a favorite studio for her.

“The moment you walk on set it’s super nice. The crew gets along with everyone and when it comes down to that actual scene, it’s always easy.”

The twenty year old Midwesterner praises Dan.

The sexy and charming Aidra Fox after her shoot

The perky and charming Aidra Fox after her shoot

“He’s always puts me with good girls, someone that is very into their job, very into me. . . It’s just real sex. He lets you do the positions that you want to do for however long you want.”

Most important for her is Dan’s easy-going manner.

“He doesn’t really tell you how to have sex. He lets you do whatever feels good, whatever feels right and natural.”

Like some of the other performers Dan hires, she came into the business “only doing girls,” Aidra says. Though she enjoys “the rough stuff” in filming, the dimpled brunette also likes the “really sweet stuff” Girlfriends offers.

Big Papa Bear

While the performers are being paid, my associate and I settle on the veranda with Mike Towers. An affable guy, he lives in Santa Monica which is a decent drive from where we are at the moment. Mike has perfected his still photography and cinematography having been in adult for over twenty years. Samples of his work can be found here.

As I listen to Mike talk with my assistant, I drift back to what Dani Daniels said when we did a short interview before her shoot.

Getting a few valuable minutes from Dani Daniels

Getting a few valuable minutes from superstar Dani Daniels

“Dan’s like big papa bear. His brain is awesome. He can come up with stories that I couldn’t come up with in a year. I love working with him. He sets are comfortable, you always get to work with a girl you want to work with. He treats his girls great.”

Dan O’Connell began Girlfriends Film to create his own vision of adult film and Dani’s words I’ve heard from others in the industry. But it’s Dan’s demeanor that is the real story because it sets the tone for an entire business model.

Dani elaborates.

“He’s got a great attitude. He’s calm, always about connection . . . real sex, real chemistry. There are very few companies that will turn on a camera and say, ‘Ok, have sex. Do whatever you want.’ I feel like my best scenes are from Girlfriends Films.”

Papa Bear setting up his shot.

Papa Bear setting up his shot.

After everyone leaves Dan joins us and the possibility of a brew and dinner comes up. My assistant and I are good to go. We’ve more to learn about Girlfriends and what better way than by relaxation and good companionship after an active shooting day.

We head out with the setting sun. The fading warmth of a fall day is only surpassed by the welcome mat of a Girlfriends Films set.

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gfs logoHere’s a final note about Dan O’Connell. In 2012, Dan won the XBIZ “Man of the Year Award” and in 2015 he was inducted  into the AVN Hall of Fame, an extraordinary honor. Over the few years I’ve known Dan, he has always been the consummate example of class. He, director B Skow, company president Moose, and others at Girlfriends Films continue to work with purpose to elevate the studio’s reputation in the competitive world of adult film.

Their formula for success works. As a business, Girlfriends maintains high ethical standards and treats employees and performers alike with respect.

 

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Let’s Go, I’m Ready

by Rich Moreland, November 21015

This is the third part to my adventure on a Dan O’Connell set. If it’s Girlfriends Films, it’s an enjoyable day with good people.

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The Veranda

The Veranda

Two on the Veranda

Break time and my lovely assistant notices Jorden Kennedy and Aidra Fox on the veranda getting into each other.  Reminds me of Julie Andrew’s ditty in The Sound of Music “Getting to know you, getting to feel free and easy when I’m with you.” Precisely.

Jorden and I had talked earlier and she loves shooting for Dan, but for reasons the other performers didn’t mention.

Jorden Kennedy Photo courtesy of Mike Towers

Jorden Kennedy
Photo courtesy of Mike Towers

In her brief time in porn, the twenty-three year old has appeared on-screen a handful of times for the company. They’ve told her, “We really like how good you are about dialogue and improvisation.”

The compliment fits Jorden’s professional agenda. The college grad likes Girlfriends “because there’s a story” in their shoots. “There’s back story, characters, and you get to act and I thoroughly enjoy that.”

Well, there’s not much acting going on outside right now as she and Aidra are getting deeper into the Julie Andrews theme!

 

We Know What You Like

Aidra Fox Photo courtesy of Mike Towers

Aidra Fox
Photo courtesy of Mike Towers

The impact of Jorden and Aidra’s playful interaction is evident when the crew sets up the next bedroom scene. Dan is going over what he wants and Aidra pleads, “Can’t we just come in and have sex?” All that bullpen action on the veranda is paying a dividend.

The girls continue their fooling around on the bed while everyone else is still getting their individual act together.

Corralling their attention, Dan gives the girls their instructions, seemingly unneeded because Jorden beams, “We know what you like” and Aidra chimes in, “Let’s go, I’m ready.”

And finally, so is the crew.

The girls get their directions, but they know what Dan likes

The girls get their directions, but they know what
Dan likes

More Touch than Kiss

The tone of this scene is the opposite of the romantic flavor of the Dani/Vanessa episode earlier. These girls are going for rough and tumble.

Like schoolgirls, they're listening to instructions, but they're ready to dive into a great scene

Like schoolgirls, they’re listening attentively, but they’re ready to give Dan a hardcore show

But Dan reins them in a little with the directive, “more touch than kissing.” At the beginning he wants some restraint because that fits the format for the opening minutes.

Once the sex really gets underway, Dan lets them go. The girls do indeed know what he prefers and the scene has an energy that electrifies the room.

Because porn is a formulaic list of sex acts, there is a limit to what performers can do. Jorden and Aidra’s enthusiasm uses up the variations with time to spare. Dan tells them  quietly, “I need ten more minutes.” Never missing a beat, the girls go into improvisation mode.

For clarification, the Jorden and Aidra scene is distinct from its Dani/Vanessa counterpart. These girls are into spitting, spanking, aggressive finger play, and crunching body movements, working each other over pretty well with heavy breathing and lustful expressions.

Aidra, in particular, smiles broadly and often, redefining the meaning of a sexual frolic.

Aidra gets the action started Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

Aidra climbs on board
Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

Unlike a constrained Vanessa an hour ago, there are no demons to exorcise here!

The girls wind things down with cuddling, a favorite Girlfriends Films romantic conclusion to hot sex.

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The final look at a day with Dan O’Connell is next. I get an opportunity to chat with Vanessa Veracruz, Dani Daniels, and the irrepressible Aidra Fox.

 

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Box Cover

by Rich Moreland, November 2015

Here is the second installment on my visit to a Girlfriends Films shoot. It’s about the box cover, the image that captures the consumer’s eye.

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I’ve been on shoots before, but I’ve never seen a box cover being photographed. Because stills in adult film are routinely shot with few, if any retakes, I am surprised at the time invested in the cover. On the other hand, a well thought out shot sells the movie, so repeated takes make sense.

The equipment waits patiently for the cover takes.

The equipment waits patiently for the cover takes

Dan O’Connell pairs the girls on the cover according to their scenes. What astonishes me is the discussion among Dan and girls that surfaces as Mike Towers clicks away.

This part of movie-making is not solely director dictated, at least for Girlfriends Films‘ founder.

One of many shots taken to find the boxcover.

One of many shots taken to find the boxcover.

In an atmosphere akin to an open forum, Dan asks the performers for input to make this vital shot unique. Among the ideas bandied about is Vanessa’s suggestion that she kneel at Dani’s feet in an act of submission. It takes hold for the moment but we won’t know until the final product comes out if the cover designers liked it.

Try This

After Dan endorses Vanessa’s suggestion, the other two girls, Jorden Kennedy and Aidra Fox, experiment with different poses. They are sensuous with each other which makes for a terrific erotic exchange. Actually, they were getting along very well on the porch (warming up to get the juices flowing, if you know what I mean) while waiting for their scene to be shot, so anything here is simply an extension of that.

Jorden later tells me that Dan encourages input from the girls and she is more than willing to contribute.

Talking with Jorden

Talking with Jorden after the shoot

“What if you did this or tried this. Like with the praying or the kneeling or flipping your hair back or with Dani pulling my hair,” Jorden says as she describes how the cover exchange involved everyone. “That’s very normal of him. He’s very open to suggestions.”

Then she adds for emphasis, “He’s outside the norm as for as taking suggestions.”

What this tells me is that Dan O’Connell invests his performers with a stake in the movie they are creating.

Reinforcing my thought, Jorden summarizes the Girlfriends Films attitude.

“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 as well. He wants us to enjoy ourselves as much as the viewers.”

Incidentally, she hits the word “us” with emphasis, the mark of ownership Girlfriends’ performers take in their work.

Hands

Though the cover is actually two pairs of girls that offset or counterbalance each other, blending them together into a cogent artistic expression becomes the dynamic that sells the film. Everything relies on Mike’s talent in catching the right expression at the right moment.

Dan’s chief concern reflects Mike’s: what to do with hands. They have to be placed appropriately to convey sensuality. Of course, no arm behind the back can be completely hidden, it suggests an amputee. So hands cover breasts, then don’t, then go to tummies and arms, then search elsewhere . . . all for just the right pose.

What to do with hands?

What to do with hands?

Many clicks later, Mike has what he needs and I am eager to find out which shot will be the cover winner. It goes without saying the girls are panties only because full frontal nudity carries possible obscenity implications that differ from state to state.

However, there is more to this moment than just a photograph. It brings back memories for me and relates to a conversation Dan and I had a few years ago.

We shared stories of our conservative upbringing, his in Montana, mine in small town Southern Maryland. For both of us in that long ago pre-computer time, lingerie ads were about as erotic as our teen-aged eyes ever got to see, especially if you were trying to survive a religious household.

Unless, of course, the lazy days of summer meant the carnival midway and hanging around the hoochie koochie tent with only your imagination as your friend.

For a moment I am a kid again among the sideshows, listening to barkers lure passersby inside to see real flesh and hoping for a furtive peek at what I wasn’t supposed to see.

A playful look at the box cover babes! Dani, Jorden, Aidra, and Vanessa Photo courtesy of Mike Towers

A playful look at the box cover babes! Dani, Jorden, Aidra, and Vanessa
Photo courtesy of Mike Towers

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The third installment in this series looks at the scene between Jorden and Aidra who change the tone of Women Seeking Women from romantic to aggressive.

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After the First Kiss

by Rich Moreland, October 2015

During my recent trip to LA, I was invited to a Girlfriends Films set by Dan O’Connell who founded the company several years ago. My visit with the crew and performers is in four installments, this is the first.

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Dropping in on a Dan O’Connell shoot is to be surrounded by pulchritude and comeliness, or for those who don’t want their vocabulary expanded, hot girls. When my associate (who is quite a looker herself, I might add) and I arrive, Dan is setting up a take staged in the front yard of the house he is using for this 123rd version of Girlfriends’ popular series, Women Seeking Women.

Dan lets me know what the line-up is for today's shoot.

Dan goes over the line-up for today’s shoot.

Vanessa Veracruz’s dark eyes and engaging smile greet us with a “Hi.” The starlet is playfully checking out the faces in the window. My guess is they are part of the story line because Dan likes to spin a plot around the sex. Later we’ll watch Vanessa kneel to pray wearing only her white lingerie for an interesting mixture of sex and religion Dan has in mind for the shoot.

What is striking about this moment (and what follows once we are inside) is how the girls hang around each other as if this were a sorority house. It’s obviously a relaxed atmosphere for everyone.

Dan reviews the general directives with Dani, Jorden, and Aidra. Photo courtesy of Mike Towers

Dan reviews the general directives with Dani Daniels, Jorden Kennedy, and Aidra Fox.
Photo courtesy of Mike Towers

Leaving the heat of day, we go indoors and quickly meet cinematographer Mike Towers and once again offer a “hello” to Girlfriends’ favorite PA, Sabrina. She was with B Skow when we were on his set a couple of days ago.

More Romantic

Before pairing Dani Daniels and Vanessa in the first sex scene, a brief episode involving a phone call is shot. The crew films it with Dani sitting on a toilet and Vanessa on her bed. The set is really the master bath with an open door to the bedroom so communication is easy between Dan and the girls.

A break is called and Dani readies herself while Vanessa kicks back patiently awaiting the action.

Dan and Mike setting up.

Dan and Mike setting up in the bathroom to film Dani.

Sabrina and Mike are setting up the lighting which includes Impact flood lights. They demonstrate for me how the lights can be angled to get the effect they are seeking.

No one is hurried, though everyone works efficiently.

Dan and Sabrina getting set up.

Dan and Sabrina testing the angles for the sex scene.

The girls are all set, we are quiet, and Dani walks into the bedroom.

“After the first kiss, we’re not going back to the dialogue,” Dan announces softly, then follows with more direction.

He tells Dani to be considerate of Vanessa because of the prayer scene filmed just a short time ago. “Be tender with her,” he says. Then he reminds Vanessa that her character is unsure of what she wants “because of this religious thing” and instructs her to resist Dani’s advances.

Mike and Sabrina preparing for the prayer scene.

Mike and Sabrina preparing for the prayer scene.

Vanessa gets into her role with expressions of reluctance laced with conflicting desires. Doubt versus longing fill her eyes while she offers her submission to Dani.

The curvy lass climbs onto the bed and approaches Vanessa with hushed conversation and wanton looks. Kissing, a Dan O’Connell favorite, follows.

The performers’ caressing and mutual pleasure is so believable that I feel like a voyeur rather than a writer visiting porn set. By that I mean, I have willfully suspended my disbelief, the mark of a powerful scene.

Dan reviews what he wants in the shoot.

Dan reviews what he wants when Dani moves on Vanessa.

Dani and Vanessa are established adult actresses who understand the dynamics of a girl/girl scene. Dani smiles sweetly, Vanessa rolls her head in ecstasy and the rest of the shoot moves forward with the gentleness Dan wants in this episode. He later explains that “taboo” drives this scene; it’s an internal struggle for Vanessa with her “inner demons pulling her into sex.”

Dani plays the aggressor to a tee, moving catlike over a shy Vanessa.

The actresses are facing Dan who is beside the bed which allows Mike to keep his position near the foot board. The boom tilts above the girls to pick up subtle dialogue.

Talented performers! Photo courtesy of Mike Towers

Talented performers!
Photo courtesy of Mike Towers

The scene is like a well-rehearsed musical composition, moving to its conclusion with a kind of rhapsody that good porn is capable of producing, but rarely does.

When we’re finished, I corner Mike and Sabrina for a short course in lighting, learning about balance, shadows, and how to emphasize skin tone.

Dan interjects that “lighting is more important than the cameras you use.”

Cool. Makes a non-camera person like me want to take a pic or two.

 

*          *          *

In part two of this day on the set, I get my first look at what sells a porn film, the box cover.

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A Leaner Message

by Rich Moreland, March 2015

A statewide version of L.A. county’s Measure B condom law is likely headed for the 2016 California ballot. As a result, shooting in Nevada and Florida is on the adult industry radar, though opinions are mixed about migrating out of state. Going underground is possible for some producers, especially smaller labels who can’t afford the enforcement fees.

A legal seminar at the recent AVN show and Attorney Clyde DeWitt’s the “sky is not falling” February essay for XBIZ have contributed to the discussion. Obviously, constitutional questions loom should the measure be approved.

A conversation with two of the most respected directors in the business today, Girlfriends Films‘ Dan O’Connell and B Skow, offers a front line perspective on the issue.

Asked about the extra cost of the shooting under the proposal, neither director is overly concerned about the money spent. On the other hand, the restrictions imposed are troublesome.

Dan O'Connell Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

Dan O’Connell
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

“I’m not worried about the dollar part of it,” Dan says. “I’m worried about requirements that would be prohibitive for us.” Girlfriends’ founder mentions shooting and location permits, producer cost for talent testing, and the onerous provision he calls “a snitch fee.”

“You slip up and you can get fined. The person who turns you in can get twenty-five percent of whatever your fine is,” and it “doesn’t have to be a performer, could be anyone, anywhere.”

Snitching is troublesome because performers who haven’t been booked for a while might get “vindictive.” To illustrate their concern, Skow mentions that he gets “uncomfortable” when a performer comes up and asks, “‘how come you don’t use me anymore?'”

Adult entertainment is a supply and demand business. Directors have to juggle shoots to keep people working. Too many girls and a limited number of bookings, something performers often fail to realize.

If the proposal gets on the ballot, a recent poll indicates that over seventy percent of California voters would approve it. Should that happen, location becomes the impending issue hovering over everyone.

“I don’t see us shooting in California,” Dan says, but he fears the AIDS Health Foundation, the force behind the referendum, would follow the industry wherever it goes. On the other hand, Skow thinks many studios will go underground and that’s costly for everyone. From the state’s point of view, he adds, the “whole campaign will be a waste,” a loss of jobs and money.

However, there may be a ray of sunshine in this political storm; a needed shake-up might occur, a weeding out process that leads to a more efficient industry. In other words, the number of shoots might drop, but the ones produced would be better.

B Skow Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

B Skow
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

Skow asserts the “creativity” put into film making would improve with the added benefit of having “a smaller pool of performers that you know and trust.” In his business utopia, a select group of stars reminiscent of porn’s past would “make most of the movies” like in the old Hollywood system. “People would start following them, just like they follow celebrities,” he says.

Returning to a more intimate talent pool means the business becomes “more corporate, more organized.” Unfortunately the fledgling studios might suffer, but for the industry as a whole, Skow explains, the “big companies” would cultivate a “pool of trust.”

On another matter, the Girlfriends’ director brings up a personal concern: much of the creativity in porn goes unrecognized. He mentions the AVN awards show, but in truth, it could be any similar gala the industry sponsors.

“There should be ten or twelve awards,” Skow says, “then it would mean something. A lot of people in this industry do some pretty cool stuff, but it gets washed away.”

The leaner message is really this. The industry could benefit from downsizing. Keep the best performers regularly employed by the strongest companies and reward movie making for its art and not its quantity.

In the long run, this may be an unanticipated windfall from the current political turmoil. Rather than threaten the industry’s existence, the condom initiative may make it stronger.

*          *          *

B Skow’s thoughts on a leaner industry are shared by others in the business. In his book, The Unsexpected Story (2012), Darren Roberts examines the state of adult film today and references remarks by Jessica Drake and Barrett Blade that reinforce Skow’s view. Drake is thankful for her early years in adult film. “‘I was lucky to enter [the adult entertainment industry] when I did. There was a very old Hollywood feel about everything, and the glamour and excitement was there.”

The past revisited is always possible. Barrett Blade believes that “an industry-wide movement away from the production of low quality content” will result in a “renewal” for porn and mentions that some studios are focusing on “lean principles” that have “allowed many companies to ‘cut the fat.'” Part of this change could result in a reduced performer pool and higher production values.

Only time will tell.

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