Tag Archives: Girfriends Films

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.

*          *          *

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.

*          *          *

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Is That Something You Can Live With?

by Rich Moreland, July 2014

Proud Parents is B Skow at his cleverest, a parody of porn history and a history of porn told tongue-in-cheek. Skow presents an inside look at adult film with a movie within a movie that entertains a question every parent faces.

GFF proud big boxcover

The sex scenes are top notch with three standout women, India Summer, Lily LeBeau, and the incomparable Casey Calvert. There’s enough nastiness in that trio to guarantee the success of any adult film.

The movie opens with Stan (Steven St. Croix) and Marge (India Summer) being interviewed by an unseen film director (B Skow). After meeting on a porn set—it was “love at first thrust,” Stan says—they married in 1982. Porn has brought Stan and Marge a comfortable home with a swimming pool they never use and enough money to pay for their daughter’s elite education.

Though their conversation has the casual appearance of a BTS (Behind the Scenes) segment that is common in today’s DVDs, Stan and Marge are actually talking with the documentary filmmaker who is following their daughter Casey (Casey Calvert). Unbeknown to her parents, she plans to enter the business and is set to do her first shoot.

Skow establishes the tone for the film when it’s revealed that Casey grew up around porn. Despite the opportunities the business has provided them, Stan and Marge are adamantly opposed to Casey following in their footsteps.

The Happy Family. Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

The Happy Family.
Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

Jamie Gillis, the rough-sex porn icon of 1980s and 1990s—the era of the VCR and white nose powder all around—is offhandedly mentioned. When Stan and Marge move into the film’s first sex scene at the request of the documentary filmmaker, the legendary Marilyn Chambers’ oral skills on Gillis in Insatiable II (1984) are recalled. Marge drops her head over the bedside for Stan’s pleasure in a salute to Chambers. At film’s end, Casey Calvert will offer another round of the same.

A Garage Studio

When Casey shows up for her first shoot in garage studio (the American dream often starts in a garage), Skow presents a hilarious 1980s moment. A dude named Leonard bops in wearing a tacky two piece outfit that thankfully is locked away in pop culture’s disco past. In this uncredited cameo, Richie Calhoun tries vainly to produce wood for his scene with Casey. It’s hopeless, of course, because he’s really the late John Holmes, cokehead extraordinaire, whose droopiness couldn’t respond to the best oral efforts of Marilyn Chambers in Up and Coming (1983).

Casey moves in to handle the casting couch on her own. Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

Casey moves in to handle the casting couch on her own.
Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

1980s cheesiness is not all rotten apples, however. When Casey’s identity is accidentally exposed, the garage director, Jean Kreem (Scott Lyons) is ready to drop her like an overheated halogen lamp. To save the day she reverses the casting couch schtick (they are on a couch, literally). She sucks him off. All the while Jean takes on a bizarre, wild-eyed look. Remember the fantasies of 1980s filmmaker, Rinse Dream (aka F. X. Pope), whose Night Dreams I, II, and III (1981, ’89, ’91) are avant-garde classics to this day?

The garage has a green screen and in an all-too-short segment, Casey’s friend Franny (Aiden Ashley) has a brief fling with porn newcomer, Keisha Grey. It’s steamy, but nothing like Franny and Casey’s earlier scene for the documentary guy.

Challenging Casey’s career decision, the director suggests that sex for money is different from loving sex. Casey’s answer is to have a good grind with her friend in his presence. Beyond the finger banging and oral with a scissors wrap-up, what makes the Casey/Franny scene top quality is their slutty demeanor. In warming up for her best sex, Casey’s eyes narrow with a wantonness that is deviously framed in a puckered brow. It’s the Casey Calvert erotic trademark. Like a cat ready to strike, Casey draws back a little before feasting on her lover with a smuttiness that redefines salacious. On the other hand, Aiden is demure and dreamy, but when the action starts is as aggressive as Casey.

Aiden Ashley Photo source unknown

Aiden Ashley
Photo source unknown

“Does that answer your question?” Casey says, finishing up with Franny.

To add an exclamation point to her performance, Casey crawls across the bed toward the director and as the camera focuses on her chest and neck, muffled slurping is heard. Remember a teenaged Traci Lord’s rep for doing everyone on the set?

Gonzo Implanted in a Feature

B Skow shoots the garage sequences in the reality TV mode popularized in porn with John Stagliano’s Buttman series. By the 1990s, gonzo, as the style came to be known, was appropriated for all-sex productions. Close-ups of anal and oral thrusting moved to the front of the line. Skow pays tribute to Stagliano with over-the-shoulder POV shots, including Franny’s tongue on Keisha’s crotch. The final sexcapade between Casey and Kurt Lockwood ends with a splashy facial (Casey is careful to keep her eyes closed), gonzo to the core.

Skow’s camera moves about in Stagliano style, not always removing objects around the cluttered garage. With sex scenes hastily set up in an amateurish way, Proud Parents seems like an off-the-cuff production. In truth, it’s a carefully crafted tribute to porn in the new century, gonzo implanted in a feature.

The Threesome. Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

The threesome with the strap-on attachment at hand.
Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

An eventual three-way between Stan, Marge, and Casey’s friend Zooey (Lily LaBeau) is superb, proving that Skow’s sex scenes are rich and diverse. During Zooey’s oral work on Stan, cameras drift in and out of picture adding moments of delightful confusion. In one part of the sequence, Stan holds the camera that is shooting Zooey’s efforts and a crewman’s foot is spotted momentarily.

This is porn set reality. Things and people get in the way inadvertently and because of limited budgets, retakes don’t happen and editing doesn’t cover it all. Proud Parents is a commentary on how movies are made.

There is much in the threesome to be appreciated, though one shot stands out. Skow moves his camera above the action when Stan doggies Marge, Marge munches Zooey, and she kisses Stan. Later when Zooey moves to the floor, a cameraman hands Marge a strap-on. Priceless.

Zooey and Marge warming up. Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

Zooey and Marge warming up.
Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

Raised in the Wild

Shoot cancelled, a disappointed Casey comes home reluctant to deal with her parents. The documentary director persuades her to give it a try, saying, “They raised a horse in the wild and they don’t expect it wants to run?”

When Casey finds a note her parents are out, her agent, Mark Spiegler, calls with a booking (Casey Calvert is a highly regarded Spiegler girl, by the way). Excited, the determined neophyte returns to the garage to be surprised by her parents and her old babysitter, their good friend Kurt (Kurt Lockwood), who refused to do Casey in the earlier scrapped scene.

Everything is a go now. Before they start, Kurt mentions the reality of a porn career. “Every day on the set, you’re going to do something you regret,” he says to Casey. “Question is, is that something you can live with?”

Like loving parents supporting their child’s first game, play, party, what have you, Marge and Stan are there to videotape the launch of Casey’s career. In hot sex with Kurt there is a standing sixty-nine, Casey positions her head upside down in front of his crotch in the best of gonzo acrobatics.

Oh yes, like Marge and Marilyn Chambers before her, Casey drops her head over the couch to fellate Kurt again. Stan later comes in to pause the action for the stills. In a reverse anal cowgirl, Casey seduces his camera with her signature expression, eyes of determined pleasure, as he clicks away.

“She’s going to have a great career,” Kurt says.

Who, then, are the Proud Parents in this film? Don’t be deceived by the obvious, because there is a twist to come. In a porn movie about making a porn movie with an embedded documentary film to drive the story, possibilities abound.

*           *           *           *           *

Not long ago, I talked with B Skow about the comeback of the feature, a vehicle that he admires and is able to supplement with gonzo elements that satisfy a modern audience.

Though the DVD does not sustain the popularity of the video tape when that was a viewer’s only option, it survives with verve because people want to own things, he says, “they want to have it somewhere.”

“If you make something interesting, there’s a crowd [for it],” Skow believes. The crowd does not have to be huge, it just needs to exist.

Girlfriends Films’ award-winning boy/girl director proves his point with each of his productions. Proud Parents sold out in two weeks of its release, unheard of in today’s market. But it is no wonder, B Skow has built a following with films he rightly considers art.

When I asked about Casey Calvert, Skow’s praise is effusive. “She’s one of the top,” he exclaims, “a girl that loves what she does.”

Casey Calvert. Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

“Loves what she does.”
Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

Casey Calvert treats Skow with similar enthusiasm.

“B Skow is very easy to work with. He pretty much lets us do whatever ideas we have,” she comments. He avoids over directing the sex scenes “unless he needs something super specific.” When I inquire about shooting with Kurt Lockwood, Casey references their creativity. “Skow sets up three cameras and just lets us do our thing,” she explains, “Kurt and I made up that last scene as we went.”

Though we don’t get into the MILF aspect of the film, Casey praises my favorite mature couple in porn.

“I LOVE India. Steven has played my dad in multiple movies, but we have never had sex. I like him. He’s very professional and a good actor,” she beams.

No doubt India and Steven have similar praise for Casey. There is a reason why these top tier performers appear on the boxcover; it’s all about competency, responsibility, and a personal pride in their work.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

With Girlfriends, it’s all Sex-Positive

By Rich Moreland, February 2013

Photo Courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

Photo Courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

Not every pornographer shoots sex for sex’s sake. Dan O’Connell, founder and owner of Girlfriends Films, does more than direct a sex scene just because he’s hired a couple of girls and has a camera. “I think the context of sex is important,” he says, explaining there must be a reason for the girls to explore each other in a Girlfriends production.

His formula works. The company is widely known in the industry for creating film narratives with a purpose. Like many studio owners, Dan emphasizes production values that reflect his personal tastes. In this case, he prefers “a dramatic storyline full of tension and anticipation.” Dan O’Connell is much like Evil Angel’s John Stagliano, though their movies differ in style and subject matter. Each man puts his passion on film. He knows what he likes and he has cultivated an audience who enjoys his offerings.

Girlfriends Films advertises its product as lesbian oriented though the company recently hired Vivid veteran Michael Bisco to develop boy/girl shoots.

Photo Courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

Photo Courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

Right now, Dan hopes to complete at least one a month. His objective has always been to produce films for women, but he realizes that male viewers can also find space under the Girlfriends’ umbrella.

Seduction is a key word at Girlfriends Films. As mentioned above, Dan O’Connell wants to move past just shooting sex. He amusingly puts it this way, Girlfriends avoids the “’I like you, oh, I like you, too. Let’s go have sex,’” theme.

However, seduction translates into a different approach when it comes to filming. Dan is always on scene, but he minimizes his crew for the sake of the performers he hires. He wants everyone to be at ease, otherwise seduction isn’t going to happen, or if it does, it will lose any claim to authenticity.

“I don’t have any more people in the room than we have cameras,” Dan says. For him, three is the limit. Speaking of the crew, its Dan and two girls who happen to be gay.

Why? It’s a simple consideration when working in an industry that demands a performer’s most intimate moments. “Some of the girls we shoot are relatively inexperienced in the business and we don’t want to make them nervous with a bunch of guys looking around,” Dan explains. When girls get aroused they must keep in mind that the cameras have monitors. Important, Dan insists, because “If you are not looking in the camera monitor, you are not making a good movie.” All very professional, keeping everyone on task and producing content that elevates a business’s reputation.

Legacy and Integrity

When I asked for his mission statement, Dan beams. “To provide orgasms, to make people happy!”

“Our industry is all about providing happiness and contentment and sexual satisfaction,” Dan says, “we are not here to rape and pillage.”

Dan O'ConnellPhoto Courtesy of 3 hattergrindhouse

Dan O’Connell
Photo Courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

Then he adds something I’ve rarely heard in the industry, a sense of legacy.

“When pornography is finally a legitimate business,” Dan says, “I want people to look back and say GirlFriends Films was one of those companies that was sex-positive.” When I mention that the label sex-positive makes his company feminist oriented, he responds with a smile then puts a slightly different spin on what he means by the term.

Dan urges the adult business to strive for a sex-positive goal because “as an industry we should be respected, not vilified the way we often are.” It’s about integrity, something Girlfriends Films has solidified as part of its brand.

Girlfriends has a “clean reputation,” Dan believes, and in the porn world such an accolade does not come without effort. One might suspect that as owner he collects sexual perks for himself. Not so, Dan does not hang out with the girls who film for him. That’s important, he points out, because “you will gain their respect and they’ll want to work with you” if they are treated like the professionals they are.  And there’s another benefit, the performers who shoot for Dan bring other models to his attention.

“I always am very respectful of the girls,” Dan says and explains that porn performers are top notch in his view. He describes them as “physically strong, mentally strong, very resourceful,” plus they are intelligent and educated. “At least the ones we use,” he notes.

I would agree. The Girlfriends booth at the Hard Rock Hotel is always busy with girls signing and talking with fans. Dan’s popularity among the talent is obvious. Other studios may have two or three performers available at any one time but Girlfriends has twice that number. Also, a company person is always around to schedule interviews for journalists or other interested parties. I secured my interview with Dana DeArmond through a simple hassle free request, something that is not always the case with other studios. In short, it’s about access and Dan knows how to make that work for him.

When I got to know Dan O’Connell better (we talked again the next day) I felt comfortable using Girlfriends as a place for brief timeouts from my hectic floor schedule. Anyone who plans to go to Vegas for the Adult Entertainment Expo should stop by Girlfriends. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed. I can assure any visitor that he or she will always feel invited.

Over the years, the adult business has changed for Dan. He used to be more into shooting a scene than writing one, but no more. “I get more excited writing scripts,” he says. Dan likes developing new ideas and testing out innovative story possibilities. As a writer, I can fully understand his view. Dan prefers storytelling to the task of getting just the right shot on set. Filming is hard work and has its rewards, but it doesn’t compare with inventing content, especially considering that Girlfriends shoots as many as thirty scenes a month. For Dan O’Connell the business is twenty-four seven.

In our conversations Dan reveals a philosophical side. He has definitive views on society’s attitude toward sex and porn. “The sex industry should be enormous,” he says, considering that everyone is concerned about sex in some way. Seems logical to me, sex is about our humanness. However, when it comes to the adult convention—the yearly occasion that sex takes center stage—Dan points out that reality paints a different picture.

Unfortunately, today’s market downturn crams the annual gathering into the confining spaces of the Hard Rock. I suggest that the hotel’s venues get crowded on fan days and Dan nods, mentioning that Girlfriends’ booth is deliberately located in the back of the ballroom where space is more available. In fact, he has added another booth just to make room for the company’s fans. Dan doesn’t want them to get “stacked up” while waiting to meet their favorite stars.

As I hinted above, it was a real help to me as I used the Girlfriends space to meet up with people, so my thanks to Dan.

Dan O’Connell makes a final point as we wrap up our talk. “People look at us (the porn industry) based on what they perceive to be the worse content.” Elaborating further, he believes that the vilest material that “disrespects women and causes pain” is it what the public believes the industry to be. Perception without a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of what it means to be in pornography is a problem the business has never been able to shake. But Dan insists that scenario can be changed.

I could not agree more and Dan O’Connell contributes mightily to that effort. He’s one of the good guys and his company is well respected in the universe of filmed pornography. With Girlfriends, it’s all very professional and sex-positive.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized