Tag Archives: Dan O’Connell

Sarah Vandella: Open to it All

by Rich Moreland, November 2018

This is the final installment of my day with Dan O’Connell. The older woman/younger woman theme of the shoot that afternoon paired Sarah Vandella’s porn maturity with Elsa Jean’s  youthful appeal.

Much to my pleasure, Sarah put aside some time to chat about her career and the importance of seasoned performers in adult film.

All photos are credited to Kevin Sayers.

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In the world of adult film, veteran performers are a treasure. Any girl who has shot for over a decade is wise to the tricks of the trade and has incredible staying power. Best of all, she knows how to keep her brand fresh and exciting.

With those thoughts in mind, meet the lovely Sarah Vandella, a pure delight.

On a beautiful fall afternoon, Sarah and I took a few minutes before her scene with Girlfriends Films’ director Dan O’Connell to discuss a subject that permeates porn today: the rise of the cam girl and what that means for the industry as we’ve known it for the last two decades.

Before getting into Sarah’s opinions and insights, a little background info is appropriate.

Born in the early 1980s, Sarah’s parents blessed her with a spontaneous, easygoing attitude that influenced her adolescent years. When adulthood greeted her, the sex industry appeared on Sarah’s agenda. She worked in a porn shop at twenty-one and was dancing at twenty-two.

This engaging beauty shot her first scene in 2007 at the age of twenty-four.

Older, Powerful Woman

We talk about being an over-thirty performer, the MILF image, if you will, by porn standards.

“Since I have entered my thirties, my sex drive and desire has grown into a new area,” Sarah begins. “I’m definitely more open-minded when it comes to certain things than I was in my twenties. Once you have a little experience coming into your thirties, you’re just adding to your resume in terms of being an actress.”

Does this evolution create a better performer?

“I definitely think that women in their thirties can be considered better performers. However, there are some incredibly sexually attuned ladies in their twenties that make just as great performers.

“There’s definitely something to be said for a woman with a little more experience.”

She amplifies her comments by suggesting that an older, powerful woman is pretty sexy, citing the “step mom thing” (a version of MILF) as one of porn more popular taboos.

The New Porn Girls

The conversation shifts to cam girls. Are they the new porn girls?

Sarah’s reaction reflects what I’ve heard from a couple of directors.

“To take any average cam girl and try to turn her into a superstar won’t work,” she says. But the daughter of liberal parents concedes that there are exceptions who have done some “mainstream porn stuff,”, commenting that “the cam girls that turn into performers are the special ones.”

But shooting for studios is demanding and not for everyone.

“I don’t feel that just any basic cam girl can overnight or over a year’s time become the next Ginger Banks. I don’t find that to be reasonable.” [Ginger Banks is a webcam model who produces her own porn vids]

The native New Yorker goes on to say that these girls “have a built-in fan base” and are “available to their fans” online, of course. As a result, some have reached porn star status. “They make their own videos and have them available on their sites.”

Sarah quickly adds a personal note. “I wouldn’t call myself a cam girl because I never cammed until I was a porn star.” Now she does cam “on occasion,” this blonde stunner says.

Intimacy and Connection

Has camming changed the adult business?

“First of all, porn has changed, as you know. We don’t have adult stores anymore. Distributors are dying. Everything is online now. Thank God for fans who still support the websites,” Sarah says.

Technology has forced the adult business to reposition itself. Where does the cam girl fit into this new business model?

“Cam girls provide a certain level of intimacy and connection that not every porn girl has. When you’re camming you’ve got to open yourself to conversation, to sex play, to help instruction, to be that all-around fantasy girl. Porn stars aren’t available to their fans that way.”

As we’ve suggested, camming is much different from shooting video, right?

“Absolutely,” Sarah says. But there is a positive in camming. Fans have high expectations for online models, she points out, and that pressures established porn performers to “keep up with these girls who are giving these fans so much attention.”

To emphasize response, Sarah explains the cam girl advantage.

“They’re just so easily accessible. They’ve made it their priority. I really admire a lot of them, truly. I think they’re hard working girls. They keep their schedule; they never flake. They can’t afford to. It’s their show, their name and their brand, and also their income.

Waiting on Dan.

Empowerment

I suggest that camming may be the ultimate empowerment. Sarah concurs, but insists that camming “can be brutal, just like being a dancer,” the other job that cultivates the personal touch.

From her perspective, it’s not easy dealing with the grind of her three entertainment personas—part time dancer, film actress, and sex worker—Sarah says. However, through it all rewards do show up.

“There’s days when you get to the club and nobody wants a dance from you. Nobody cares that you do porn. Those days are rough. Then you get that one guy who is your biggest fan and he buys ten dances from you and it makes your night.”

It mirrors the online girl’s experience, she believes.

“Much like camming, you can be sitting there in your little room and waiting and waiting. You’re beautiful and you’re ready to go and time keeps on ticking until the next day, and that’s your lucky day.”

This well-established porn model offers one more thought.

“Like we said a few minutes ago camming is the ultimate empowerment in terms of being in control of your finances because you don’t need a studio, you don’t need an agent. You don’t need to get in your car and drive anywhere. It costs you nothing to put make-up on and put on a cute outfit and get your toys ready.”

All in all, she concludes, “I feel a lot of these cam girls are hustlers and want to make their money while they can. They’re smart about it. Those girls never quit and I really admire that.”

Get a Little Messier

Finally, how does Sarah maintain her on-screen freshness because sometimes porn is a yawner in its repetitiveness?

“Indeed. It sure is,” she responds, then describes her formula for success.

“I keep pushing myself and my boundaries as a performer as long as I’m comfortable with them. So, maybe going a little harder, a little rougher, different positions, or going in the opposite direction and being more sensual and connecting more with my partner. Giving that softer side.

“We continuously switch it up and push ourselves in all directions so we’re never doing the same thing.”

I joke about creative oral sex and Sarah comments with humor, “A blow job is still a blow job, but you can do a seductive blow job and a not very seductive blow job.”

Spoken like a true veteran.

“I think that when a girl keeps pushing her boundaries, she tries to go a little harder,” Sarah adds. “Maybe she tries to deep throat a little more, get a little messier with it. As long as you’re showing genuine interest and desire to be there on-set, that’s the key [to staying fresh].

“Yes, oral sex can be repetitive. But if it’s a Riley Reid or a Maddy O’Reilly, you want to keep seeing their new scenes because it’s so fucking hot and you love it,” Sarah notes with appreciative excitement.

What is in her future porn-wise?

“I really admire ladies like Julia Ann and Lisa Ann who have put their time into the business. They have evolved with age.

“So, you never know. I’m open to it all. I would love to have a movie deal, do feature work and/or gonzo. I’m a lifer. I never want to stop,” Sarah proclaims with her dimpled smile that I’m certain her fans have come to love.

Elsa Jean enjoying the afternoon while waiting for her shoot with Sarah.

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Sarah Vandella’s porn resume has produced seven AVN Award nominations, an XRCO Award and one from Urban X.

She can be followed on twitter @MssSarahVandella

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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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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.

*          *          *

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

*          *          *

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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