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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.”

 *          *          *

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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The 2017 AEE Extravaganza: Part One

by Rich Moreland, February 2017

I just returned from my annual trip to Las Vegas for the adult industry trade show. As usual my photographer and I teamed with Steve Nelson, the editor of Adult Industry News, to cover as much as possible in our brief four days.

This post is the first of two parts and represents only a portion of what we recorded.

A note on the hyperlinks. If a company’s online home page displays hardcore photos, I did not include the hyperlink here as it may not be suitable for all readers.

Photos provided by AVN are credited where appropriate.

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Trade shows are for networking, marketing new products, attending seminars, and in the case of the annual Adult Entertainment Extravaganza, oops, I mean Expo, canvassing porn talent.

This year’s show was one the best I’ve attended. Here are few highlights.

On the production side of the business, I had another opportunity to interview the always busy John Stagliano of Evil Angel. He gave me some thoughts on the incoming administration in Washington DC (my part of the country, by the way). Later in the week, John participated in a seminar on the same topic.


As the week was winding down, I renewed acquaintances with Moose of Girlfriends Films. Though they no longer have a booth in the show, Girlfriends has upped its game on the distribution side of the business and Moose is in Vegas to refresh his industry contacts.

I’m always interested in emerging companies poised to make a splash with a new idea. One relatively recent player is Royal Empire Productions. I interviewed the owner, Robert Morgan, to get his take on what he calls “realistic porn.”


Negotiating The Joint and the Artist and Muse Halls on opening day was easy, the crowd was a little sparser than I anticipated. By week’s end the fan traffic picked up considerably and the show was bustling with an upbeat tempo.


The refreshing part of the AEE experience is running into people unexpectedly. Here are a few examples of my week.

A text exchange led to breakfast with seasoned pro, Natasha Nice. We discussed the possibility of her writing a post or two for this blog.

Photo courtesy of AVN

Photo courtesy of AVN

The super fabulous Chanel Preston gave me a few impromptu moments as did the BBW April Flores when I found her chatting with friends near the AVN booth in Artist Hall.

A couple of times I stopped by Bang.com to pass time with the two legends of porn, Casey Calvert and Maddy O’Reilly.

Love these powerhouse girls.

Maddy and Casey Photo courtesy of AVN

Maddy and Casey
Photo courtesy of AVN

And, by the way, I visited with Chris Cane of Foxxx Modeling where I met a new girl who is bound to become a star, Emma Hix. My interview with this sweetie follows in another post.

Oh yes, timing sometimes fails me. I attempted to persuade a hurried Riley Reid to pause for a “hello” but I might as well have tried to hail a bullet train!

New Face of Porn

A new girl is solidifying her place in porn: the webcam honey. This year’s AEE rolled out the welcome mat for these dynamos who float between real hardcore and solo performances via computer, all in direct connection with their fans. MyFreeCams and Chaturbate seduced show goers with face-to-face fun.

Emma Chase Photo courtesy of AVN

Emma Chase
Photo courtesy of AVN

I met Emma Chase, a Chaturbate girl who stopped me for a moment to demonstrate with her computer how our conversation was soaring through cyberspace. Emma lists her talents as simply “entertainer.”  She’s a delight and if Chaturbate is your thing, go to Google and search her out.

Likewise a goth looker named Eliza Bathory, who markets herself as a model, camgirl, and artist, was at her laptop among the horde of Chaturbate girls. Since I’m fascinated by facial piercing (Eliza has a bunch) I promised to return later to get an interview. Unfortunately, she disappeared into the nether regions of the show. Very Dracula-like.

2017-01-18-09-59-36For the oglers, the Chaturbate crowd had the distinction of being the least dressed. Lots of flesh with pasties all around.



From the marketing side, let’s not forget VR. The Cam4VR booth offered a rousing example of what the whole virtual reality thing is all about; it’s the wave of the future.

Photo courtesy of AVN

Photo courtesy of AVN

I interviewed Ela Darling and among her many talents is a love of VR.

ela4“I am the ‘Queen of VR Porn,'” Ela says, “and the leading voice in the VR industry for the adult industry. I speak at conferences all over the world. People in that space really make room for me. They respect the work that I do, they respect us as an industry and understand that we are an important for the future of VR.”

Direct engagement with the fan is where porn is going in this age of social media, Ela explains.

“We just launched Cam4VR this past year. I’m the world’s first VR camgirl. We’re getting ready to introduce a new camera that’s really cool and a voice-to-voice experience and a private chat network. When you put on that headset, you speak. The performer hears and gets right back [to you].”


From year to year, the AEE rearranges its spaces to maximize the fan experience. The most obvious this year involved the setup for BDSM enthusiasts.

Photo courtesy of AVN

Photo courtesy of AVN

The bondage carnival known as The Lair relocated from the second level of The Joint to the floor of Artist Hall, a move I’m sure to increase its visibility and fan traffic.

BDSM equipment and a demonstration or two (All models were fully dressed, there was more flesh on a Chaturbate girl!) highlighted its activities.

Lastly, every year I come away with the same thought on the show. Artist and Muse Halls are easier to negotiate than the tight spaces of The Joint. Being a bit claustrophobic, I do appreciate the efforts of AVN to keep movement as smooth as possible!

Stay tuned for part two of this report.

Easy entrance into the show Photo courtesy of AVN

An easy and convenient entrance into the show
Photo courtesy of AVN


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A Dog in this Fight

by Rich Moreland, January 2015

Topless bowling and a scantily clad hula hoop contest welcome invited guests into a large suite on the Hard Rock Hotel’s upper floor. The occasion is Girlfriends Films’ (GFFs) after-the-show party on the Adult Entertainment Expo’s second night. Hanging out with yours truly is my photographer Bill and Morgan, our “lovely young assistant” as they say in show biz.gfs logo

This is Vegas, of course, and the forty or so guests mingle around the lounge, bar, hot tub, and pool table that complement the bowling ally. Top agent Mark Spiegler brought some of his starlets—Reily Reid, Lily LaBeau, and Penny Pax among them—while porn heartthrob James Deen circulates among revelers with his sweetie, Stoya. Jessie Andrews, the star of B Skow’s hit, The Gardener, arrives with the dewy nymph-like elegance that is her trademark while GFFs’ hottie Prinzzess shoots a little pool topless, her trademark tresses accentuating her Hollywood glamour.

The affair is an appreciation for the studio’s 2014 successes. It’s no secret that company President Moose and founder Dan O’Connell have built a highly respected and dynamic organization in a time of recession and content piracy. Results are impressive. Their efforts are moving the GFFs brand to the forefront of adult entertainment. Tonight Moose and Dan extend their gratitude to industry supporters while giving the lovely ladies who are the company’s image some downtime after the crush of media demands and signing for fans.

In a brief address to party goers, Dan praises those girls who make a successful go of it in adult film. They are “strong, resourceful, brave and smart,” he says, emphasizing that recognition and achievement blossoms from hard work and responsibility, characteristics GFFs fosters.

For my little team of media hounds, the gathering has another focus. We chat with Moose to get his reflection on the year. Distribution deals have blossomed that include ArchAngel Productions, James Deen Productions, Skow for Girlfriends Films, Tasha Reign’s Reign Productions, and Bonnie Rotten’s Mental Beauty, he tells us before corralling Deen for a quick introduction. And, GFFs continues to donate to charitable organizations its performers list among their favorites. Incidentally, no one has ever retired or resigned from Girlfriends, a rare claim for any company in any industry.

Dan, the girls, and Moose on the Red Carpet. Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

Dan, the talent, and Moose on the Red Carpet.
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

Be it understood that GFFs is one of adult entertainment’s good guys and its charity work is important. But now another community project has raised the company’s passion: child pornography and sex trafficking in the Long Beach/LA area. “Trafficking hurts people,” Moose says, and combating this evil is a commitment GFFs takes seriously.

“Girls are being pimped out starting at age nine,” he explains. Fortunately there are people willing to push back against the perpetrators and the pimps. Rock Against Trafficking is a worldwide organization that, associated with local groups and the music and entertainment industries, has taken the lead in this endeavor with the goal of outreach and rehabilitation. Girlfriends is proud to contribute to this mission.

Stopping trafficking, rooting out its villains, and getting underage victims through the court system is daunting. Moose insists that supporting local services is perhaps the highest priority and he backs up his voice with visits to facilities on the battle lines against a heart-breaking human tragedy.

Sure, a party sponsored by an adult film company has its “entertainment” and munchies with appropriate libations that settle well in the stomach. Eyes feast on barely dressed professional models sparking up conversation around the room. But there is more to Girlfriends Films, it’s a different breed of porn animal. No doubt the company is an industry leader in making money the right way, but it also cares about its employees, its performers, and now, its commitment to helping others.

For Moose, Dan, and the gang, every newly purchased Girlfriends’ DVD and VOD streaming carries a warning shot across the bough of the trafficker who deals in human flesh. Adult film has a dog in this fight and that’s good news for the powerless whose childhoods are endangered by prostitution, abuse, and lost futures.

Best of all, you help every time you pay for your porn . . .

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Changing Hands

by Rich Moreland, January 2014

gfs logo

The adult film business has its own Fortune 500 movers and shakers. Names like Adam and Eve, Hustler, Vivid, Wicked, Evil Angel, and Digital Playground come immediately to mind.

Powered by a self-created niche it has seen widely imitated, another name is seeking a space in that pantheon. Started over eight years ago, Girlfriends Films (GFF) is the leader in girl/girl erotica, an expanding genre in the industry.

Praised for its innovative film work, Girlfriends’ DVD and VOD (Video on Demand) inventory contains over a thousand scenes representing the best of the industry’s female performers.

As for the company’s ethical business practices, listen to Dan O’Connell creator of GFF. “No one has ever quit or retired from Girlfriends Films.” Now Dan extends that reality to himself because things are changing.

Dan O’Connell is passing from owner to adviser and confidant. Effective January 1, Dan sold the company to his long time Vice-President, Moose. But Dan isn’t going anywhere; he retains ownership of Groundwork Visions, the business that produces all of Girlfriends work.

The new arrangement frees Dan O’Connell to do what motivated him from Girlfriends’ inception, shoot film. He has an “exclusive arrangement” to continue with the company and, along with famed hetero filmmaker B. Skow, provide GFF fans with the high quality product expected of this superbly run enterprise.

For Girlfriends‘ loyal customers, nothing has changed. The varied and iconic GFF series will continue and production schedules will not be affected.

The deal is a win-win for everyone, particularly Dan O’Connell, who is at last putting management issues behind him. Opportunities going forward to improve his “movie-making game” are now on the table, he says. The sixty-something will devote his energies what he loves, filming beautiful women having sex.

As the new owner, Moose will continue with all his current duties. Dan reminds everyone that Moose’s talents are well versed in handling a multiplex business. “Running Girlfriends Films is a very complex operation that includes movie production and post-production, sales and marketing, internet sites, [and] our new GFF cable channel,” Dan says, not to ignore overseeing the company’s 37,000 square foot facility in Valencia.

Moose and Dan Photo courtesy of Bill Knight

Moose and Dan
Photo courtesy of Bill Knight

Their relationship over the years has been close as I can attest from a recent visit with some of the GFF gang (see “The Pornographer’s Heart” November 20, 2013). Everyone looks for the company to maintain and enrich its present course.

“I’m very fortunate to have someone of Moose’s caliber to take over the operation,” Dan O’Connell says, but adds his personal full-time efforts are not quite over. Upcoming is the hectic schedule of the Adult Entertainment Expo in Vegas and GFF’s distribution of other brands that demand his keen eye and industry wisdom. As the company likes to say, Girlfriends Films is “simply the most realistic sex in lesbian adult video.” Such a boast requires hard work and attention to customers and fans, something GFF does well.

For anyone interested in the business, visit girlfriendsfilms.com or contact Moose at moose@girlfriendsfilms.com.



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A Porn Family

by Rich Moreland, November 2013

This is the second installment on Girlfriends Films.

gfs logoMy students know that I write in the adult film industry and occasionally inquire about the people I meet. On the whole they are non-judgmental, though every now and then moral indignation pops up. A couple of years ago a female student asked me quite pointedly why I wrote about prostitutes. I was taken off-guard, but saw an opportunity in her question.

Hoping to have a conversation that would widen horizons, my attempts to assuage her preconceived notions about pornography were futile. Our encounter was brief and she departed, disappointed that a college professor would stoop so low. Had she been willing to listen, this is what she would have learned about one aspect of the business.

Pornographers run their companies much like corporate America. This includes employee perks not always seen in small businesses. A case in point is Girlfriends Films, one of the more prosperous enterprises in Porn Valley.

“Nobody has ever quit or retired from Girlfriends Films,” owner Dan O’Connell says. The company values its employees, offering health insurance (including dental and vision) as well as life insurance and a 401 (k). But Girlfriends does something else that outshines much of corporate America, it contributes regularly to charities selected by the performers. Beyond a paycheck for a day’s shoot, Dan shows his appreciation for their hard work, creating the best of all benefits: the Girlfriends family.

Part of my Family

Last January at the AEE (Adult Entertainment Expo) I interviewed Dana DeArmond, one of adult film’s classiest and most respected veterans. We were at the Girlfriends’ booth where she was signing for fans. Dana told me she was ill that morning and Moose, the company’s Vice President, visited her hotel room with bottles of water and pepto-bismol.

Dana signing at Grilfriends in Vegas. Photo by Bill Knight

Dana signing at Girlfriends in Vegas.
Photo by Bill Knight

He told her not to worry about signing that day, but Dana would have none of that.

“I am going down there and do press for this company because they take damn good care of me,” Dana said. “I am going to get it together because I love them.”

She then brought up something that really mattered personally to her.

“They let me choose a charity and donated a thousand dollars for me,” Dana commented. Last year it was Doctors without Borders, this year she selected the AIDS/LifeCycle ride from San Francisco to L.A., a distance of 545 miles. The event raises money to provide needed services to people with HIV and AIDS.

“I feel like they are part of my family,” Dana declared, referring to Dan, Moose, and the GFs staff. She happily added that the relationship works both ways, “I am in the Girlfriends’ family,” she said with pride.

Chastity Lynn Photo courtesy of Adult Video News

Chastity Lynn
Photo courtesy of Adult Video News

The monthly donation is an ongoing program. In May of this year, Chastity Lynn selected Farm Sanctuary for her charity and had a $1,000 given in her name. She chose the organization because of her concern with animal welfare.

Rising superstar Tasha Reign persuaded Girlfriends to donate to CancerCare in August. She lost her father to the disease a few years ago and wanted to help others who must deal with the uncertainty of a cancer diagnosis. CancerCare provides counseling, support groups, and co-payment options to families who are in the fight together.

Madison Young Photo courtesy of Kink.com

Madison Young
Photo courtesy of Kink.com

Girlfriends donated $1,000 to Planned Parenthood in the name of one of my favorites in the adult film world, new mother Madison Young. The director and performer recalled that in her twenties, she was without health insurance and very thankful for the services she received from Planned Parenthood.

Madison compliments the Girlfriends charity program, “It empowers performers and directors, offering an opportunity to create some small change in the world.” Everyone can give something back.

When I was at LAX not long ago, I met a fellow traveler who chatted amiably about his impressions of the porn industry. One of the issues that concerned him was the sexual abuse of children and he wanted to know about the industry’s role in producing such despicable fare. Another opportunity availed itself to me.

Adult film producers don’t like child pornography, I explained, and referenced ASACP (Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection). Reaching out to adult sites to help in its mission, ASACP is a non-profit that combats online child porn through a reporting system that turns in suspected sites. ASACP also enables parents to prevent children from viewing inappropriate online materials by offering the website label RTA (restricted to adults). This year Girlfriends donated $5,000 to the organization.

Adult film is a business and in spite of what much of the public believes, family is important to them as it is to everyone else. This included doing for others and caring about children.

If she had been a smidgen more open-minded, who knows what a particular young women would be thinking today.


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The Pornographers’ Heart

by Rich Moreland, November 2013

This is the first of a two-part series on Girlfriends Films one of Porn Valley’s most popular studios.

gfs logoDriving to the Girlfriends Films facility in Valencia is a hike but well worth the effort. Like the company’s industry leading product, the building is bright and pristine with an honesty that is a true reflection of its owner, Dan O’Connell.

The people who work in adult film are generally quite receptive to guests. At the 2013 Adult Entertainment Expo (AEE) in Las Vegas, I met Dan and immediately felt welcomed into the Girlfriends’ world. This unassuming October day proves no different.

Dan gives my photographer Bill and me a quick tour. The upstairs contains his office and those of the editors. White is the predominant color, the feeling is crisp and streamlined. Spotted around the massive hallway are old movie posters, an engaging artistic touch. Dan has an appreciation for film history, particularly the old days of the B-grade exploitation flicks of the 1930s and 40s.

Dan O'Connell Photo Courtesy of Bill Knight

Dan O’Connell
Photo by Bill Knight

“Shooting is the best part of the business,” Dan says. He does less now than ever due to director B. Skow, who has come on board recently.

“He’s doing a boy/girl every month,” Dan says of the company’s newest addition, adding that Girlfriends has a steady monthly output of five girl/girls. At least two of those are now in B. Skow’s territory. I’m guessing that’s the balance needed to please the buying public without over saturating the market.

The editors’ offices are opposite a bank of windows that extends the length of the floor. Editors are sensitive to light, we’re told, controlling it is vital to their work. The main editor, Dave, along with the business’s marketing guru Moose, keeps Dan up and running. We drop in his office.

Before storing content, Dave’s job is to do a write-up on the film and code it for identification within Girlfriends’ “database system,” Dan explains. Dave finishes off the movies with the other editors, putting the film into a DVD format complete with titles, trailers, and the like. The content is then ready for distribution and sales.

Despite this massive warehouse and office complex, the company maintains a storage vault in Hollywood. If an earthquake damaged this facility, Dan could lose everything, similar to the risk a computer user faces if the hard drive crashes and data is not backed up, a sort of technological earthquake.

There is a lot of film. Each four-hour shoot yields forty-five minutes of content using one pair of girls. Add a second twosome and the time needed expands to six hours. All this effort expended for two scenes with the typical DVD containing four intimate episodes, all with the same storyline. And remember, Girlfriends has thousands of shoots.

Though the shooting process is exact, developing new ideas for content is another matter. It “gets more difficult because you’ve expired your fantasies,” Dan says. Despite writer’s block Dan might suffer, Girlfriends’ central theme gives him a starting point for new scripts. It’s about “the girl who is the predator and the girl who is seduced,” he points out.

Is it a formula? Dan doesn’t think so, but concedes it could be viewed that way. He tries to vary the circumstances within the film, but remains resolute on what he wants to portray. Characters must be explored, who they are and how they meet, he explains. Going from there, Dan elaborates, the script accentuates the Girlfriends’ theme, “have they known each other before and how does that predator give that girl the first kiss?”

In other words, it’s about developing a girl’s larger reality beyond just a sex act, asking the question who is she and how does her on-screen presence support the sex she is having? The key is intimacy, a theme that is often lost in pornography. By the way, Dan’s philosophy reflects a feminist approach to adult film and separates Girlfriends from the majority of porn companies.

Magic Potion

Dave talks about the Girlfriends’ philosophy.

“Dan shoots specifically to let the girls go with the flow,” he says. The performers will have real orgasms and that buys customers. It’s Dan’s “magic potion” for success, Dave tells us.

Of course, it also lightens an editor’s task. Dave never has to rework scenes “to contrive the story.” Rather, he wants the viewer to feel like “a fly on the wall” and uses “suspension of disbelief” to describe the experience. “You want the viewer to believe they are in the room,” he explains. This type of editing is not the same as just telling a story. It’s a kind of authentic voyeurism that dissolves the shooter’s presence.

Perception makes it work. “The girls do what they’d do if they were in their own bedroom,” the editor explains. The narrative “comes in the set up and that’s between each scene.” In other words, it’s all about real sex and using it to massage the viewer’s interpretation of what is seen and felt. Think of it as unrestrained spontaneity, a distinguishing characteristic of the Girlfriends product.

Dan affirms that bona fide filmed sex means interruptions on the set are kept to a minimum. This includes stopping the action to shoot stills, a habit of some companies. Also there is no interference from the crew, unlike the gonzo genre in which the cameraman might take part in the filming.

Girlfriends’ pairs models “who want to work together” because that puts real orgasms on the agenda, Dan explains. But pairing is just the beginning. Gaining a rapport with performers is a necessity. For example, Dan likes them to share a bathroom when they are getting dressed so “they have time to meet each other.” Unfortunately, success is not one hundred percent. A girl who is reticent about having sex with the other girl in the scene is probably “one and done,” Dan says, because attitude is the energy of the shoot.

Calm them down

Most pornographers have a commonality. The type of film they produce appeals to their sexual tastes. Eroticism is brain based, of course, and everyone has a fetish of some sort. To watch it come alive can be an exciting experience and storing it on a DVD likewise rewarding, not to mention profitable.

Most filmmakers say they care about their performers, but at times I’ve heard otherwise. Never has an unpleasant word about Dan or his company come my way. He treats everyone with respect, especially new models whose nerves might get the best of them.

 “We have a lot of girls who aren’t that experienced,” Dan says. The atmosphere surrounding the shoot makes a difference. “If I was having sex [on camera],” Dan adds, “I would want people there who were actually working.”

Models can become uncomfortable on a set that buzzes with unnecessary activity and gawkers can be disruptive to a performer. Of course, that doesn’t include every performer, particularly a veteran..

Dan brings up Dana DeArmond. She’s a shooter’s dream girl because her level of experience is rare in the business. “You could put an auditorium full of people in the room and she’d be ok,” Dan says. The tall brunette is not going to get rattled; she’s seen it all and is a true professional.

Dana DeArmond signing for Girlfriends at the AEE Photo Courtesy of Bill Knight

Dana DeArmond signing for Girlfriends at the last year’s AEE.
Photo by Bill Knight

Understand that Dana DeArmond is porn gold. She thinks of herself as a mother figure around younger models, priceless for newbies when negotiating their way through a shoot. Dana on set opens up all performers to become involved in the sex.

To get what he wants and create a homey feel, Dan limits his film crews to three. Among them is the tall, bespectacled, Sabrina. On this day, she’s collecting trash from the offices. Dan introduces us.

Having a female shooter is important because performers’ nerves get tense. Sabrina reinforces what Dan says: she’s there to “calm them down.” Her warm smile does the trick. She laughs about being a jack of all trades for a small company. “I do everything,” Sabrina says, remarking that she’s in the warehouse during the workweek and often on weekends.

In our brief conversation, Sabrina tells us she is from the DC metro area. I’ll add her to the list of Washington transplants I’ve met in the adult film industry. A touch of home is comforting . . .

Diamond Mines

With roominess an understatement, the lower level storage space has a newly minted, clean, efficient feel. Dan points out stacks of boxes that belong to a neighbor in the warehouse complex, a producer of food flavoring. A sweet deal for his fellow entrepreneur because moving around in this downstairs area is more than convenient.

Bsnks of DVDs photo Courtesy of Bill Knight

DVDs ready for distribution.
Photo by Bill Knight

Dan gives us a walk through, pointing out boxes of DVDs and scores of box covers. “We package them as we need them,” he says. Sort of like print-on-demand books, I suggest. Girlfriends’ hires out the cover designs and supplies an independent contractor with photos and script summaries. Incidentally the artist is female, quite natural for the company, I thought.

The demand for the Girlfriends’ product is high. Even their earliest work still sells on VOD (video on demand).

But Dan can’t do it all and fondly remembers the days when VHS was the market. With today’s internet and the variety of entertainment formats that cater to pornography, running a company and producing a viable product “just gets more expensive and more difficult,” Dan comments. But he isn’t alone. He has help from two names in the business that are worth a South African diamond mine: Moose and B. Skow.

“Extremely bright and very loyal” is Dan’s description of Moose, an imposing guy on the underside of forty. He has a no nonsense amiability that commands attention while remaining warmly endearing.

Moose is the best in the business at what he does, Dan explains, emphasizing Moose’s “official job” of marketing and sales. Moose does it all with an efficiency that impresses his boss. “I don’t know how the guy accomplishes everything he does,” Dan says.

Moose and Dan Photo Courtesy of Bill Knight

Moose with his boss.
Photo by Bill Knight

The challenges of physical activity and a sense of competition have shaped Moose, who is a former firefighter and volleyball player. Working under pressure and paying attention to detail are his fortes. The native Californian’s experience in running his own EMT company and working on “Monster Garage” as the safety officer shaped the kind of management skills that profits Dan. Landing at Girlfriends was almost by accident. Meeting Dan at the 2007 AEE led to a job offer and secured Moose’s place among the porn’s recognized executives. Today he is the company’s vice-president.*

B. Skow’s move to Girlfriends from Vivid Entertainment was a noteworthy industry change. Directing for Vivid meant some restraint as to what he could shoot and B. Skow sought a greater level of artistic freedom. “Here we let him do his own thing,” Dan says, “I don’t review his stories, what girls he’s going to use, what he’s going to do,” though Dan does tell his newest director how many movies the company needs each month. Paying B. Skow the richest of compliments, Dan says the director pulls the maximum out of his performers in a shooting day that can be grueling.

What makes B. Skow special is his comfort level in taking on controversial subjects and handling them respectfully. Dan mentions a B. Skow film in which a girl with leg braces is portrayed as sexual and successful in her pursuit of the girl she wants. Porn involving the disabled can be dicey.

The Director Photo courtesy of Bill Knight

The Director
Photo by Bill Knight

“Dan has this freedom that he allows,” B. Skow says, “they trust me and have never pushed me in any way to do this or that.” Studying the Girlfriend’s product was the director’s first move before venturing to make his signature boy/girl films, ground breakers for Dan’s company. A recent success, Southern Hospitality, B. Skow characterizes as a “fun, crazy movie.”

Our time in B. Skow’s office, where we found him working on his computer, is brief. I’ve heard so much about his talents, meeting him was a rewarding finish to our tour.

Heading back to downtown LA, a story Dave told sticks in my mind.

Mentioning what keeps him working at Girlfriends, Dave remembers Dan canceling a meeting for three days when a girl got sick. He needed to be available for her in the hospital. “How many thousands did he lose by doing that?” Dave remarked. “Most people would just say, ‘you’re on your own,’ and just take off.”

Dan is “a friend as much as a director,” Dave says.

That takes heart. It’s the soul of Girlfriends Films.

*          *          *          *          *

* My thanks to Dan Miller of XBiz for permission to use material from his article on Moose, “Executive Seat: Takin’ Care of Business” (January, 2011).

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