Tag Archives: Hollywood

AEE 2019: Bree Mills, Part Two

by Rich Moreland, April 2019

In this second installment on Bree Mills, we will look at her filmmaking philosophy from a business and creative point of view.

Photos are credited to Kevin Sayers. Logo is courtesy of Girlsway.

*          *          *

Data and Creativity

Like every successful businesswoman, Bree Mills understands how to produce the best content for the dollar. And, like every renowned artist, she knows how to find the right story to keep her fan base coming back for more.

Neither of the above accomplishments works without a collective effort.

“My content is a real mix of data driven decisions and creativity,” the head of production tells me. “I sit on a lot of data and I have a whole team at Gamma that studies what people want.” She refers to the accumulated information as her Petri dish she can “source from.”

“I speak with customers and porn fans, so I use that intelligence to fuel my ideas. But I try not to let the data override the creativity. It ends up being a good balance.”

To what extent does fan response drive future productions?

For an “ongoing series” it has tremendous value, she insists. What’s more, fans can be co-authors of a Gamma Films production.

“Girlsway, one of our big studios, is very involved in member feedback and sourcing ideas for our stories. My finger’s always on the pulse of how our fans are reacting to content.”

Usually she will produce a full season of a series then get feedback to generate the material for the next one. But with the recent development of Adult Time, she’s changing things a bit. Now Bree puts out “pilots of concepts so we can start getting feedback from members right away.”

The result has an “impact on subsequent episodes that we shoot,” she says, “so that we can start building an audience, build engagement, [then] refine our series.”

It’s a partnership of sorts, she indicates, because we are “shaping the content together.”

Outsider

A closer look at her product reveals that Bree considers herself to be “a pop culture vulture.”

“I’ve watched a lot of films, read a lot of books, and watched a lot of television. It’s in my genes.”

She explains that inspiration for a project comes for many sources and likes to quote Pablo Picasso, “Good artists copy and great artists steal.”

“When I come up with a concept, I’ll pull a little thing I saw here, a frame of a film that I remember here . . . to help me craft the piece I’m doing. I allow my respect for pop culture to influence the way that I work,” Bree explains.

Having said that, she qualifies her work in adult. “I’m an outsider. I’m not a pornographer who grew up through this industry. I kind of came in and crashed it in many ways.”

Admitting that people may not understand exactly what she is doing with a film or a series, Bree is undaunted.

“I do it because that’s the pull that I’m receiving creatively or the direction I’m going.” In other words, she follows her instincts.

Lastly, Bree mentions the feedback she gets from women. There is “strength in the female characters in Pure Taboo that is more relatable to a lot of female viewers,” she comments. Consequently, they “find porn very empowering.”

Her films present “something other than just a stereotypical portrayal of a woman as a sex object” that is characteristic of the industry.

But the picture is complicated, Bree infers. With Pure Taboo productions, there are “no winners,” male or female. In fact, “there are a lot of anti-heroes.”

Sex is the Last Thing

Finally, we talk about crossing over from adult to mainstream, or, to put it another way, from Porn Valley to Hollywood.

Bree concedes that there is some crossing over between “mainstream pop culture and adult culture,” but that is more lifestyle oriented. Her dream is to have one of her films cross over.

For the upcoming year, she is developing a “primary project” that can be shopped to film festivals she characterizes as “mainstream outlets.” It will have a hardcore version for her fans.

Her objective is to create “a film with sex in it.” A workable idea, Bree insists, because “half of the films on Netflix these days [have] a good degree of sexuality being depicted.”

Though her intention is to “showcase quality stories, if people are interested in seeing the extended, uncut, uncensored version, they can,” she affirms.

Lastly, the writer/director offers her assessment of what she does as a filmmaker.

“The sex is kind of the last thing I’m thinking about,” she says. “I’m thinking about how to build the tension, build the narrative, how to develop the characters. If I have done my job right, I’ve gotten into the actors’ heads, they will carry out the scene with their own experiences.

“They know how to have sex. If can get them to have sex in their characters, it will be a good scene and secondary to the story. It’s the end result of the story.”

Then she summarizes her goal.

Create a “good enough story that people can watch all the way through, are left thinking about it, and are amazed that we can do a story that is really interesting.”

Bree Mills ends with “I think that is completely possible.”

Gamma Films’ record eighty-four AVN award nominations for 2019 validates her point.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Why Can’t We Have It All? Part One

by Rich Moreland, March 2015

tumblr_inline_niyv8fWLMv1qkrmi0

The Submission of Emma Marx: Boundaries is Jacky St. James’ sequel to her award-winning masterpiece, The Submission of Emma Marx which I had the pleasure to review in three parts here in August 2013. With cinematic partner Eddie Powell, St. James now boldly continues Emma’s odyssey.

Before moving into the film, it’s worth mentioning that sequels are financial risks. Though supportive of her project, New Sensations President Scott Taylor was cautious. “Sequels often flop.” St. James remembers him telling her. “They don’t sell as well. They seldom find that magic of the original.”

Perhaps, but in the case of Boundaries it is every bit as good as it’s older sister and I encourage watching the first film before enjoying the second. If not, the viewer will feel like a late arriving movie goer who takes a seat half way through a story with no understanding of its origin.

Boundaries‘ success is complemented by the reassembled cast. Penny Pax reprises her role as Emma, as does Richie Calhoun as Mr. Frederick. Though porn flirts with the edges of mainstream Hollywood, both players remind us its acting can be every bit as good. Pax is learning her trade, building a resume that separates her from adult’s usual “just give me the sex and don’t ask if I can act.” No doubt St. James’ directing is a crucial factor in the diminutive model’s professional evolution.

Jacky, Penny and Richie.  Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Jacky, Penny and Richie.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Riley Reid is perfect as Nadia and Van Wylde likewise as Ray. Their roles are not an easy sell because Reid and Wylde must come across as a vanilla “cookie cutter suburban couple” snug and homey in their conventionality.

In making the film, St. James confesses that “staying true to Emma and her sexual journey” could not be compromised. The result is Emma as a complexity that intrigues the viewer on various levels. I can imagine that her shadow seductively passes through the corridors of St. James’ mind just as she does in the film’s opening credits and its denouement.

Conceding that her “screenplays hold very deeply personal connections to experiences I’ve had or people I’ve known,” Jacky St. James faces a near impossible task with Boundaries, write a flawless script that moves Emma along bit by bit while confronting the viewer with unsettling issues. The question that captures the film’s raison d’être and St. James’ good storytelling is simple: Does sexual and emotional turbulence reach a satisfactory resolution that spells the end of the story?

Or, is there room for Emma redux, part three?

One thing is evident, Boundaries’ tightly written script is worthy of industry accolades. Indeed, it is as close to impeccable as an adult film can be.

Part of News Sensation’s Erotic Stories line, this second Emma Marx falls into the couples porn genre, yet it is sexually groundbreaking for a date night film. The carnal scenes are integral to the story; nothing is thrown together or gratuitous. Some of the action, however, directly challenges the formula for what the industry touts as comfortable for lovers. But more on that later.

Just Drawing Lines

Emma Marx and Nadia are sisters whose relationship is close considering their sexualities are anything but. In the first Emma Marx, Nadia and Ray “silently judged” Emma’s fetishes. Now they are outspoken, letting her know of “their aversion” to BDSM.

Is this progress?

Over a bland vegan dinner she believes is suitable for everyone (one size fits all, if you will), Nadia announces she doesn’t understand why being tied up and spanked is not abuse. Deprecating BDSM kinkiness with her sappy smile and haughty attitude, Nadia tacitly reinforces her normalized sexuality in a way only modern moralists can appreciate. When Emma mentions consensuality, she is ignored. In an amusing moment, Ray condemns suspension and cattle prods while disgustingly holding a fork with two pieces of the vegan mystery food hanging from it. The real torture in this scene is inflicted on Ray.

But, apparently the happily married duo is not opposed to a little experimentation.

With the superficiality of a Valley Girl who thinks a sip of wine makes her a connoisseur, Nadia announces to Emma the next morning, “Ray and I totally tried BDSM last night and I’m totally a sub.” Kudos to Emma for respecting her sister’s asinine interpretation of sexual enlightenment.

Jacky setting up the scene for Riley and Van Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Jacky setting up the scene for Riley and Van. Blurred flowers framed on the wall.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Here’s the story. In the film’s first sex scene with Nadia and Ray, a blindfold is about as deviant as they get. (She does ask him if she can call him “master” in a laughable attempt to identify with what Emma authenticates.) Having now seen the light while not being able to see, Nadia tells Emma she “completely” understands what a BDSM relationship is all about.

Incidentally, the sex is classic Riley Reid, who is an industry gem. Considering it’s a script-driven vanilla encounter–necessary to set up Emma’s future sexual experimentation–Riley’s smile, spirit, and energy carry the show. On the wall bedside the bed is a black and white photo of two flowers that lord over the sex in front of it. The flowers are blurred, an important image for this film.

Blindfold in place, ready to shoot. Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Blindfold in place, ready to shoot.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Later when the sisters are in the gym, understanding suddenly vanishes. As she gives the elliptical machine a workout, Nadia is clearly irritated. “Trying BDSM was the biggest mistake of my life.” Now Ray wants a three-some, but Nadia slammed the door on that idea, proclaiming that men put women in “sexual situations solely for their benefit.”

Emma’s hint that Ray might want to expand Nadia’s horizons falls flat. “Men do that,” a fired up Nadia says. “They pretend it’s all about you and it’s really about them. They wait for the moment you say, ‘yes,’ and they push your limits.” Annoyed with Emma’s suggestion that Ray wouldn’t cheat, Nadia digs in. “I’m just drawing lines.”

But doesn’t everybody?

Open to New Experiences

Nadia’s indignation spurs Emma to confront her own crisis. Mr. Frederick has presented her with a new contract which she reads line by line in an earlier scene. It is a quest for “Why can’t we have it all?”

Preparing for an office shot. Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Preparing for an office shot.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

When she reviews the contract, equality and symmetry are visually emphasized to reflect the supposed state of their relationship. Emma is sitting on a long desk with her legs extended to a Mr. Frederick who massages her feet. The shot has perfect balance regarding the desk: two half full glasses of red wine on each end and a pair of tall plants in floor urns on either side of it. In the background, French doors halve the scene like the entrance into a Georgian manor.

As this segment progresses, brief glimpses of Emma and Mr. Frederick’s encounters are revealed as she goes through the contract.

In one, symmetry is repeated when she talks about training. It is a shot of interior French doors at the end of a hall. Framed prints are on opposite walls to balance the scene. Mr. Frederick leads Emma from left to right across the screen, moving her symbolically from an old definition of her sexuality to a new experience.

“I will not just play the role,” Emma says in reference to being a submissive, “I will become the role.”

When she is bound to pillars in the kitchen a la Fay Wray in King Kong, Emma says, “my body is his to do with as he pleases.”

The Kitchen Pillars. Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

The Kitchen Pillars with Eddie Powell in the background.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Incidentally, in the provision having to do with enjoying her orgasms, there is a quick flash of them having sex in a hallway that doglegs to the right, an image that is revisited later.

When Emma gets to the item that involves having sex with other people, she balks. Tense and unsure, she asks if he is bored with her, that fatal relationship blow everyone fears.

This moment sets up the rest of the film. Mr. Frederick orders her to stand up, face him, and masturbate while thinking about someone who sexually arouses her. With eyes closed, she confesses it is Shane (Logan Pierce), the new guy in the office. Emma loses her bearings in a rush of endorphins and says, “I wonder if he’d like me.” Projecting her sexual preferences into Shane, Emma says he’d be down and dirty and insist on violating her with anal.

Logan Pierce Photo courtesy of 101Modeling.

Logan Pierce
Photo courtesy of 101Modeling.

It’s the opening Frederick wants and sex scene number two begins with anal its focal point, a clear break from the couples’ porn formula. To emphasize this shift, Eddie Powell moves his camera over Richie Calhoun’s shoulder to get the standard male masturbatory gonzo shot of a kneeling Penny Pax, mouth at work and adoring eyes looking upward.

St. James and Powell have a dual purpose with this scene. For story purposes, Emma’s exploration is picking up steam, but on another level, they are forging a new path in romance porn. The bondage remains light, adhering to the submission pornography genre popular in today’s market, but the sex is edgier.

Several questions in the film are present here. Mr. Frederick claims he is turned on by Emma’s self discovery, but is he engaging in his own fantasy of whoring out Emma and role playing Shane? In her mind, is Emma mocking her sister, knowing Nadia would never be this unconventional? Or does this exercise add to the unpredictability of Emma relationship that keeps it from getting stale?

There is a deeper question. Is Mr. Frederick gently and firmly nudging Emma forward or is he applying subtle pressure with the bet that Emma’s devotion will give him carte blanche to ratchet up his demands?

Or perhaps what Frederick tells her is straightforward and eerily true. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. I just want you to be open to new experiences.”

Mr. Frederick and Emma exploring. Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Mr. Frederick and Emma exploring.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

At any rate, as Mr. Frederick anally penetrates his submissive, Emma sees and feels the new guy in her imagination. Before the pop, she begs, “Cum on me please, Shane.” Is Emma transitioning to a new experience or enjoying a healthy fantasy?

Whatever St. James’ intention, the scene explores the emotional complexities of BDSM characteristic of submission pornography, or what might be called in today’s culture, bondage chic. For raw sexuality, it steps beyond the inanity of Fifty Shades while pulling up way short of the hardcore fetish elements found on many extreme internet tube sites.

Dumbbells

Back in the gym the options posed for both Nadia and Emma are carefully defined. As the camera moves in on Emma’s treadmill next to Nadia’s elliptical, it floats past a rack of dumbbells that illustrate the choices available to each woman.

The top row contains two smaller dumbbells, both round and equal in size, with a exercise baton nestled in the juncture between them. This is Emma’s next possibility. Both weights are side by side and sexually open with the option of welcoming in a third person. In the same row, but to the far right, are two larger six-sided dumbbells of equal size representing Nadia’s view of her marriage, closed off and solid, or so she hopes.

Should either woman choose an unequal relationship, open or closed, in which her stature is diminished , the options are on the bottom row. Two round dumbbells and two six-sided ones, with the larger dominant one snuggled next to the smaller. Curiously, off to the right of the closed dumbbells is a single and smaller six-sided one, perhaps it is Ray’s suggestion that so infuriated Nadia and her no nonsense answer.

Where will all this drama leave Emma?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

“Blush”

By Rich Moreland, October 2012

This post is dedicated to two most gracious individuals I had the pleasure of recently meeting.

Decades ago an old high school chum and I went to Las Vegas, the first time for both of us. In those days, Vegas was Frank Sinatra’s“Rat Pack,” rumors of mob control, and hookers on the Strip. One adventurous evening we decided to find a local grindhouse for a new experience, a porn movie. These were the pre-VCR days; adult film was in its infancy and not yet in America’s living rooms. I remembered stag films in my college fraternity and I’m not sure to this day that my pal had ever gone that far. We were truly clueless about filmed pornography.

After some wandering, we found a theater and paid our money with some of it undoubtedly going to an in-house checker who skimmed profits off the top for the mob. We settled in for what is known today as the double bill that birthed pornography’s golden age, “Deep Throat” and “The Devil in Miss Jones.” I remember little about either film, though I did appreciate the artistic adventure of “Devil.” I left the theater never anticipating that one of the performers on the big screen that night would be a someone I would get to know years later.

*      *      *      *      *      *

I’ve just finished a delightful lunch at Victor’s Delicatessen in Hollywood with people I am fortunate to call friends. Among them is David Bertolino, an off-Broadway producer, and a charming couple, John and Chele Welsh. The Welshs are senior citizens whose love for each other is the stuff of teenage romances. Their marriage of many years is filled with a warmth and adventure that is evident to those who know them. They were especially kind to me when I arrived at their home before our lunch date, but more on that in a minute.

You see, among Chele Welsh’s collection of show business AKA’s (also known as) is Georgina Spelvin whose portrayal of the fictional Justine Jones drove the sexual escapades of the second feature that Vegas evening long ago. To have seen her on the silver screen is one thing; to sit between this wisp of a woman and her husband almost 50 years later is the moment of a lifetime.

The occasion is my way of taking Chelz up on an offer she extended to me a couple of years ago. We established email connections because I am working on a book exploring feminism in adult film and wanted her spin on porn’s early days. She concluded one correspondence by insisting that I save a spot on my “dance card,” as she put it, if I ever got to Southern California. I was cashing in the ticket now.

At our table is Chele’s husband John Welsh, a retired veteran of TV and film. They married decades ago after meeting on the set of an Irish play, The Hostage, in North Hollywood. The other member of our group is photographer Bill Knight who makes my job as a journalist much easier. I’m next to Chelz and across from David, the best seat in this house!

Yours Truly with David and Georgina at Lunch Photo by Bill Knight

Yours Truly with David and Georgina at Lunch
Photo by Bill Knight

David is along for a reason beyond a good meal and history revisited. He is producing “The Deep Throat Sex Scandal,” a play scheduled to open at L.A.’s Zephyr Theater in mid-January 2013. The show is about the government’s attempt to prosecute the film in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1976. Its theme is free speech and offers a look at porn’s early battles with censorship.

The table conversation turned to the late Gerard Damiano, the director of “Devil” and “Deep Throat.” His talent propelled Georgina (as I’ll now address her for the show biz part of this post) onto a public quite ready to embrace filmed pornography. “He was the sweetest, most wonderful man,” she said, “a real pussycat who just wanted to make movies.”

Today at Victor’s, Miss Jones will meet a modern interpretation of the dust-up surrounding the other film on that notorious double bill because our luncheon is more than a historical check-up. The atmosphere is building to a moment that will enhance the authenticity of David’s play. He wants to recruit Georgina for the show.

Ever the persuader, David explains that he has a cast of ten, with two members rotating in weekly. Temporary actors will play the judge in the Memphis trial and the role of the theater ticket taker where the drama begins. These cameos will include personalities from mainstream studios and the adult business. Hollywood will contribute Adam Glaser, Bruce Villanch, and Christopher Knight, to name a few. Adult film will see its own hall of famers on stage.  Hershel Savage, Paul Thomas, Ron Jeremy, Bill Margold, John Stagliano, and Nina Hartley are on the rotating schedule, with Veronica Hart in a permanent role, an impressive lineup for any theater marquee.

For David, Georgina Spelvin is a game changer. She’s the “Grand Dame of Adult Film” and the only surviving member of the original trio who put filmed pornography on America’s cultural landscape.  Linda Lovelace died in 2002 and Marilyn Chambers, the all-American girl sensation of “Behind the Green Door,” passed away in 2009.

If she agrees, Miss Jones will once again be in a “devil” of a show the instant her cameo lights up the theater.

At this point, Georgina relates how she ended up in Memphis, revealing the kind of information historians love while filling in the blanks to complete the story.

She was doing a summer stock production of “Anything Goes” in Brunswick, Maine. On the day of the show’s final rehearsal, the casting director suddenly approached her and said, “don’t go to your dressing room.” Aware that something was amiss, the play’s comic urged Georgina to “go back in the wings and say you’re not dressed.” What was going on? Two “suits” had walked into the theater, Georgina explained, “one tall, one short,” armed with an arrest warrant fully listing all her stage names. The feds wanted to their woman, aliases and all!

Theater owner and the play’s producer, Vicky Crandall, informed the Feds that their mission had hit a snag. Ms. Spelvin could not accompany them, Crandall pointed out, her presence was required for that evening’s opening night. The “suits” backed off. An appearance at the Judge’s office the next morning would suffice.

In the meanwhile, the producer suggested Georgina call an old friend, “a local big wig judge,” as Georgina puts it, and “get this straightened out.”

The next morning his honor ruled that Georgina be released to Ms. Crandall’s custody for the duration of the theater’s season. A victory, but Memphis was still on the table.

Georgina later described how a civil liberties attorney in Maine helped her find a Tennessee lawyer. She traveled to the Bible Belt in a converted school bus, the “Dorabelladonna.” An amusing account of this journey appears in her autobiography, The Devil Made Me Do It.

The Memphis lawyer let her park her bus in his driveway and accompanied her to the police station where she was fingerprinted and posed for a mug shot. With true southern grace, Georgina signed fifteen Polaroids for the assembled officers. Even in their most devilish moments, show biz people always create a buzz.

At the trial, she was on and off the stand in a wink. She gave her name, Georgina said, was asked about how much she got paid for “Devil,” and “where the film was shot,” all very quick and without controversy. A free bird at last, Georgina departed Memphis and headed to California via New Orleans.

Forty-six years later, Shelly Graham, a native Texan who sought fame on Broadway in the 1950’s, is an honoree in the pantheon of porn. David promised to treat her like royalty, not unusual for him actually, if she would walk across his stage. Equity rules are weak when it comes to benefiting actors David reminded us. The pay is low and to get simple amenities like water, juice, and fruit is rare. David guaranteed Chelz that her dressing room would be well stocked and pay would exceed equity expectations (a personal practice of his, by the way).

The now seventy-six-year-old turned to John and asked if he’d take time to drive her to the theater. It was the sweetest moment of our gathering. Hubby gallantly acceded to her request with his characteristic smile and everyone headed triumphantly out. Coincidentally, David just happened to a have a script in his vehicle to give to his newest star!

*      *      *      *      *      *

We left Victor’s and headed back to John and Chele’s home. On the way I played the tourist role to the hilt because they live near the Hollywood sign and I needed to take some pics back to the east coast to impressive my friends. At John’s insistence we made our way to a massive dog park that is just below the historic landmark. I’m forever thankful for John’s lead in this endeavor. Got some great photos and experienced one of the most remarkable settings in recent memory, dogs frolicking with their owners on a hillside with the valley below providing a remarkable backdrop, in fact a real drop for those whose fear of heights acts up in these environs!

The Dog Park at Old Hollywoodland Photo by Bill Knight

The Dog Park at Old Hollywoodland
Photo by Bill Knight

Winding down the hilly road we returned to the Welsh’s home. My affection for them had grown. I posed with Chelz and John on the terrace behind their house and just briefly remembered my parents long departed. Bill secured a memory that preserved the three of us in a family-like moment, perhaps routine for the Welshs who are most proud of the lovely terraced hillside that is their backyard, but much appreciated by me, nonetheless.

Sitting on the Terrace Photo by Bill Knight

Sitting on the Terrace
Photo by Bill Knight

Before we left, John showed Bill and me a photo of the Hollywood sign a half century ago. It spelled out “Hollywoodland” and the winding hillside road that the Welsh’s call home today was visible in the brownish-gray photo. I’m a historian who plays at journalism so the snapshot’s frozen moment marked the end of a perfect experience for me. My time in Hollywood served as a constant reminder of the history that was everywhere I went. Americans rarely have an institutional memory of what came before them. Not true of the Welshs, they recognize that they are part of Hollywood’s collective past and narrators of it for those who will listen.

Later I sent Chele an email thanking her for her time. Meeting a legend is rare, if it happens at all, I noted, and she is most memorable for me.

I envisioned her and John looking at my message and smiling together.

“Blush” was her typed reply, a singular gesture from the sweetest, most wonderful woman who altered American culture and befriended an academic striving to chronicle a business so many don’t understand.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized