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