Tag Archives: XBIZ

Dan O’Connell: A Gentle, Loving Approach

by Rich Moreland, November 2018

Recently my photographer Kevin and I were on set with Dan O’Connell. Out of that experience, came this post.

What you will find here are testimonials and observations about a porn legacy.

First, a few of shots of Dan’s set to put you in the mood.

Outside . . . .

And inside . . . . First the equipment . . .

Then the room where the action is recorded!

[All photos are Kevin’s unless otherwise noted.]

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I wrote my first article on the adult industry in the winter of 2011. Previous to that, I’d visited the AVN trade show and networked in the business as part of a book I was writing on adult film.

All in all, I’m now a ten-year veteran of adult scribing.

During my industry tenure, performers have come and gone while behind the camera personnel–company owners/producers/directors–have remained remarkably constant.

Of everyone I’ve met and written about, no one stands out like Dan O’Connell, founder of Girlfriends Films and its leading director.

Dan’s warmth and understanding of performers’ desires and needs is well-respected industry wide. Likewise, his easy-going attitude on set is appreciated by every performer I’ve talked with.

But that just scratches the surface. Dan and the good folks at Girlfriends take things a step further. They care about the performers they hire.

From my perspective, Girlfriends is top-of-the-line friendly and always accommodating. Just a few weeks ago, I took my new photographer to GFFs’ facility in Valencia. There we met with company president Moose who assured me (as is his habit) that whatever I needed, just ask.

Like Dan, Moose is friendly and always available for conversation and a fresh outlook on the business of porn.

Photo by Bill Knight, 2013

Hall of Famer

In this post, I want to take a moment to celebrate Dan whose kindness, positivity, and political wisdom is well-known within the business. To put an exclamation point to that remark, let me say that in my industry travels over the last ten years, I have not once heard a negative comment about him.

And for good reason.

Photo by Morgan, 2015

The native Montanan is an industry award winner. Two of the most notable accolades occurred in 2015: Nightmove’s Lifetime Achievement Award and enshrinement in AVN’s Hall of Fame, the highest honor in porn. In 2012, he was tapped for XBIZ’s “Man of the Year.”

Of course, Dan’s greatest accomplishment is the creation of Girlfriends Films, a company known for charity sponsorship and combating piracy, the bane of porn today.

I decided to go back through my interviews to look at what performers have said about Dan. What follows in a brief catalogue of their remarks about a man they regard as a top-notch director and a friend.

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From 2013 interviews at the AVN trade show

Dana DeArmond at AVN 2013. Photo by Bill Knight

Dana DeArmond

On Girlfriends Film and Dan:

“They give you the freedom to do the scene the way you want to. They’re cool people. They advocate for the industry probably more than any other company. They’re very involved with the Free Speech Coalition (the industry’s political voice).

“I am in the Girlfriend Films family. They take really good care of me. They treat me awesome. I was sick this morning and Moose came up to my room with bottles of water and Pepto. I was like I am going to go down there and do press for this fucking company because they take care about me. I am not going to sit in my room and be sick all day. I am going to get my shit together because I love them.

“[By the way] Dan is fucking cool.”

Daisy Layne at AVN 2013. Photo by Bill Knight

Daisy Layne

On Shooting for Dan:

“I used to do some midwifing. Dan contacted me because one of the girls [he was shooting] was pregnant and she wanted to do a scene. I met up with her and she was like you used to midwife? And I said, ‘If you go into labor, I’ve got you.’ She was just so enthralled. We had a blast. Dan said he loved it. He wanted ‘real’ and we had chemistry.

On money:

“Several times Dan and I have worked out deals, I was expecting less and I got more and I even reminded him. ‘Dan, we agreed I was going to get this rate’ and he says, ‘Oh no. The scene was so beautiful I had to pay you full-rate.’ That was just above and beyond. He takes care of the girls.

“He wants acting. He has a script so you have lines to memorize while he’s doing the blocking. Then he shoots the scene. Generally, there is a little shooting after that. He’s doing your day rate, acting rate, scene rate. He gets quality work because the people who work for him know what to expect and he pays for it, so he should get it.”

[It’s worth noting that Dan gave me a space in the Girlfriends booth to interview Dana and Daisy, an accommodation not to be minimized because the trade show is a cacophony of club music and chatter that makes interviewing difficult.]

From 2015 interviews done in LA:

Dani Daniels, 2015. Photo by Morgan

Dani Daniels

On Dan:

“Dan’s like a big papa bear. I love it. His brain is awesome, he can come up with stories that I couldn’t come up with in a year. I love working for him. His sets are comfortable. You always get to work with a girl you wanna work with. He treats his girls great. He’s got a great attitude. He’s calm and always about connection. He’s all about the girls—this real sex, real chemistry.

“If he needs something, he’ll let you know. If you’re blocking a shot or if you’re in the wrong room or whatever, he’ll voice it. But for the most part, he just lets you do your thing.”

On Girlfriends:

“There’s very few companies that will turn a camera on and say, ‘Ok, have sex. Do whatever you want.’ I feel like my best scenes are from Girlfriends films. I love it.”

Aidra Fox, 2015. Photo by Morgan

Aidra Fox

“With Dan it’s real the moment you walk on set. The crew gets along with everyone. It’s super nice. ‘What do you need? What do you want? What’s going to make your day?’

“When it comes down to the actual scene, it’s easy. He’s always puts me with good girls, someone that is very into their job, very into me and having sex. It’s just real sex, Dan lets you do the positions that you want to do for however long you want. He doesn’t really tell you how to have sex, just lets you do whatever feels good, whatever feels right and natural.”

Dan getting Dani Daniels (foreground) and Vanessa Veracruz ready for their scene. Photo by Morgan

Vanessa Veracruz

On Girlfriends Films:

“I recently started shooting for Girlfriends back in November. They are one of my favorite sites. I’m bisexual, I got into the business because I had an attraction towards women. Since I am a girl/girl only performer, there’s not a lot of companies to work for.

I love the way Girlfriends directs [their scenes]. It’s very different from what a lot of people shoot. It has its own style and it’s definitely more about sensuality, connecting instead of just being a sexual act.

On Shooting for Dan:

“Dan loves to talk about your character and he gives you a breakdown of what he thinks your character is supposed to be like. He’ll include other things to put the idea in your mind about the kind of person you are going to playing. Today, he gave me a little bit about my character’s background I can remember and convey during the shoot.

“Dan usually tells us he wants a lot of eye contact, a lot of touch, a lot of feeling. In my honest opinion, we don’t have enough of that in a scene. It’s more of the foreplay leading to the sex act which for me is exactly what I like to do.

“It’s a lot easier to enjoy the sex when you have an actual connection, when you’re looking into somebody’s eyes and really touching them and feeling their energy.”

“It’s awesome shooting for them and really connect with the girl that you are working with.”

Getting Jorden Kennedy (on the left) and Aidra Fox ready for their scene.  Photo by Morgan

Jorden Kennedy

“Dan actually cares about the scene looking beautiful and passionate because he cares about the viewers as well as us. To make sure that we’re having a good time, he wants us to be enjoying ourselves. Doing the scenes involving sex. He doesn’t cut. He doesn’t switch positions or do this or say that. He lets us have sex which, I think, makes it really nice to watch because it’s just natural.

“He might stop us once or twice to say ‘Can you position yourself more to the camera’ or ‘Can you push your hair back so we can see your face.’ But otherwise, he’s very open to ideas, especially with the dialogue.

“Dan is more flexible than most. I’ve never had him say ‘No we’re not going to do that.’ He encourages your input. He’s outside the norm as for as taking suggestions.”

From 2018 interviews done in LA:

Vanna Bardot

“I love Dan’s whole demeanor. He’s very easygoing. He’s never too serious. That makes working with him really pleasant. Lots of laughing.

“He says it’s all about real lesbian experiences. He likes the soft affectionate kind of sex. A lot of guys really like that. They don’t just want to see a girl getting pounded or slapped in the face. They want more softer touches. It’s really nice.”

Sarah Vandella

“This is actually my second time on set with Dan and what I have noticed is that he is extremely hands on in a way that will walk you through the scenario from start to finish.

“What makes Dan different is that he has this real gentle loving approach. When we go to roll, I know what is expected, I know where my mark is, I know the tone and the contents of the dialogue and it just makes for a great shooting experience.”

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So, there you have it. A handful of remarks about a director and overall nice guy whose has left his stamp on lesbian sex in adult film.

From my personal perspective, Dan, Moose, and the good people at GFFs are more than professional colleagues, they are among my most treasured industry friends.

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Some boxcover shots Kevin snapped during our visit with Dan and the girls on set that day:

Reagan Foxx and Vanna Bardot, Elsa Jean and Sarah Vandella

 

Reagan Foxx and Vanna Bardot

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

 

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A Nice Girl Who Howls at the Moon: Part One, Sexiness is Ageless

by Rich Moreland, January 2016

This is the first of a four-part essay on Madeline Blue, a unique and rising actress in adult film. Except where noted, all photos are courtesy of the performer. Those from studios retain their watermarks.

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It’s no secret that fresh faces drive the porn universe. The industry welcomes the nubile sweetie, the “barely legal” girl who can make instant money, while other girls wait until their twenties before going on set. But what about an older woman who wants to give adult film a try? Is the passage of time her albatross?

Consider Madeline Blue, thirty-seven years of eagerness who self-identifies as a “late bloomer” to porn.

CAOrfEEWYAAmcmo“I am basically a nice girl who howls at the moon and needs to roam from time to time!”

We’re in the awards season and this fanciful sweetheart is being touted by XBIZ and AVN for her performance in Sssh.com’s blockbuster short film, Gone. The Angie Rowntree production is redefining how women in adult film are perceived and for now, that is Madeline Blue.

My Age and My Limits

Agents are flocking to this hottie, right? Not exactly. Madeline thought stepping in front of the camera would be a walkover. It can’t be that hard, “just go do some porn.” But the doors did not open.

“I was in touch with about ten, twenty agents and talent recruiters over the past year or so and all went sour usually when they found out my age and my limits.”

Undeterred, Madeline wanted to do “something sexually liberating.” Though exotic dancing was out of the question, the brunette beauty was convinced that sexiness is ageless and she would prove it.

It helps to be philosophical.

“I have seen the young girls who do tours at age twenty and felt bad that I am excluded from that, but it’s probably for the best. If I had done porn at twenty, maybe I would have a big porn career now, or not, who knows?”

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With “options that seemed slim,” Madeline and her soon-to-be husband started their own Clips4Sale store. The voluptuous charmer could do what she wanted while building her own subscription site. In other words, they had to sod their own playing field.

So, Madeline entered adult entertainment with seventeen years of performing arts under her belt and a comfort level not easily achieved in an industry where stripping down can strip away all your preconceived notions about yourself.

She’s still in learning mode and the future looks bright.

Enlightening

Madeline Blue is a product of New England’s strict moral ethos. A Boston native, she attended private school and focused on the arts: music, dance, writing. With a degree that includes a double major (English and Psychology) and a career of “regular jobs,” Madeline’s sense of adventure encompasses international travel (she speaks French and Spanish). Yet, her butterfly of liberation always seems to flash its colors in other directions . . . sexual ones.

In her early twenties, she tried nude modeling for “extra cash and to keep life interesting,” she remembers.

CQPgFG0UwAE4nwx“I was pretty shy and I wanted to feel sexy, so I did the occasional modeling gig.” Though nude, it was artsy, never reaching into the category of sensual, seductive, or explicit. About a year ago, Madeline decided “to be more daring and do an erotic shoot.”

“Enlightening,” she is how she describes the result. But that was only the introduction.

“Long conversations about life, sexuality, identity” followed, as did talk about “porn and BDSM” which she concedes, “I knew nothing about.”

Madeline quickly back tracks to say that she’s watched porn since her late twenties never thinking she was a “vanilla girl” with all the limitations that dictates. Now she admits she was more missionary position than she realized. Remember “my limits” noted above?

Super Introverted

Things are changing in Madeline’s comfort zone.

“I wasn’t ready to porn until now,” she says.

Being “super introverted” didn’t help. “I was often painfully shy in public, I felt awkward in my body around others, but wanted so much to relax and let my body be free.”

As Lao-tzu gently proclaims, a journey of a thousand miles begins with single step. Madeline took hers and one foot forward led to another.

“I have done some scenes with my boyfriend, with friends at a couple of studios, and for my site, but I have done no other b/g videos.”

But she is undeterred by lost time and for good reason.

Describing porn as “this fascinating industry,” the New Englander is confident in her own skin. “I know who I am, what works for me now.”CTtyyK2UEAAp2Zc

Her present job is not an issue (she teaches dance). “My career is established, I run my own business, and I feel free to do what I want and not worry about repercussions or ridicule.” Getting fired because of porn is not on the table. In fact her profession has turned out to be a plus.

“If I hadn’t become a student of dance, I imagine I wouldn’t be where I am now,” Madeline declares.

The performer “craves” certain challenges, particularly shooting porn, but finds them scary at the same time. Nevertheless, her determination tramples reticence.

“Taking my clothes off on-camera was the natural next step in facing my fears!” Madeline confesses.

Still, doubts lingered.

No Boundaries

“I am past my prime and my body will never be ‘perfect’ again,” Madeline admits, a realization that is a crusher for any woman wanting to do adult film. The age question provoked a plunge in her spirits until the magic man, Gee Richards, opened Madeline’s emotional door and released a tidal wave of possibilities.

Photo courtesy of Sssh.com

Photo courtesy of Sssh.com

Along the way, meeting Gee was a gamechanger. He filled a void. Having the freedom to be adventurous in her life was satisfying, but Madeline wanted “more substance than that” and couldn’t quite find the personal relationship she desired. It was the proverbial “needle in a haystack,” she laments. Gee showed up at just the right time, turning into mentor and lover.

After her “first sexy shoot,” Madeline realized what she could achieve in adult. “It was a revelation. . . . I had no clue there might be a place for me in the porn world. I didn’t even have it on my radar.”

She is now convinced . . . sex appeal has no boundaries.

Women like Helen Mirren and Jessica Lange, Madeline says, “are smoking hot and have AARP cards! They are in their bodies and they enjoy it.” Simply put, she believes that women “who know themselves and are experienced lovers are more fun to be around. And that gets better with age, especially if they are open to personal growth”

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More on this remarkable woman is coming your way next in part two of the Madeline Blue odyssey. To follow Madeline on twitter, click here.

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New Wave Porn: A Review of BrightDesire.com Part One

by Rich Moreland, December 2015

This is the first of a two-part review of BrightDesire.com. All photos are courtesy of the website.

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BrightDesire.com is the Australian website of feminist pornographer Ms Naughty. Advertised as “a different kind of porn,” the site offers a couples-friendly product that ditches “old clichés” and the “negativity of standard old-style pornography.” It’s a bold “new wave” claim that lives up its billing.

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The descriptors “fresh, inclusive, and intelligent” enhance the website’s mission statement. In other words, it’s a thinking woman’s eroticism that highlights fantasy and emotion while injecting just the right amount of pure sex for the joy of it.

The site is packed with content that has something for everyone—straight, gay, couples and fetish. Erotic stories, photo sets, short films, and book and film reviews are among its offerings. Be it film or print, BrightDesire delivers on its promise. It’s a breeze to navigate and visually pleasing, but keep in mind that not every model has that pornified look and the films generally avoid the Porn Valley shtick of acrobatics and opening up that defines sex for the professional. As the website’s welcome mat touts, it’s all about “smart, sensual sex.”

The site is no stranger to accolades, having received in 2015 XBIZ’s Adult Site of the Year and AVN’s Best Alternative Site. Similar noms are on tap for 2016.

Within the feminist porn universe, BrightDesire is a widely known. Toronto’s Feminist Porn Awards have honored MsNaughty’s work and the site sponsored the 2014 Feminist Porn Conference held in conjunction with the Awards week.

Curious? Check out the site here. You can get a free seven-day trial which I highly recommend.

Membership information is available in FAQ found in the banner. The first month is $19.95 with recurring months at $9.95. Or, $34.95 will get you ninety days non-recurring. New content is posted weekly.

What You’ll Find

The heart of BrightDesire is a plethora of short films that will stoke the erotic fires in every porn fan. Selected scenes are included in Part Two of this review.

From "The Scent of Her"

“The Scent of Her”

A variety of authors have contributed stories that are quick reads, just enough to fill a few pleasurable moments during a busy day. Among the list I found appealing are “The Scent of Her” about a couple who play an odd game of seduction involving another woman and “Memo from the Boss,” a brief tale that involves a female executive who seeks stress relief from an underling at the office. Both stories use bondage as focal points. In “Scent,” passion oozes from the page; “Memo” is a safely underplayed workplace routine kept private.

"Purple 80s Porn"

“Purple 80s Porn”

There are sections for columns penned by MsNaughty, a blog she maintains, and news updates. Also, photo sets original to the site, along with some from other production studios, can be viewed in the traditional magazine approach to still photography. They feature straight, gay, multiple partners, fetish, and people of color. One of particular interest is “Purple 80s Porn,” a retro look at adult film. The write-up points out that the shots are from an old film and the actors are not known, though one of them looks remarkably like the infamous Traci Lords who was in the business from 1984 to 1986.

The interview section contains short vids of selected people featured in MsNaughty’s films. Typical of the BTS segments found today in DVDs, performers talk about what is important to them, things like attitudes about sex work, shooting porn, and feminist porn as a political and social statement. The website explains that the interviews are integral to “ethical, feminist porn” and “personalize” the performers, not all of whom are professionals. Unfortunately, I did have a few technical problems downloading a couple of interviews.

Jay and Kim

Jay and Kim

After reviewing their BDSM shoot for Part Two, I tuned in to Kim and Jay’s interview. They explain how they met online and the mutual pleasure that comes from acting out their fantasies. It’s a must see for all fans of D/s relationships.

The interviews frame those who make porn in all their naturalness. Sex workers have been around since the beginning of recorded time and many enjoy what they do. In her segment, Livia Vye (who appears in “The Birthday Wish” also reviewed in Part Two) adds a euphoric touch to her sex worker persona when she talks about choice and the freedom to express herself on film.

Livia

Livia

There is much more to explore at BrightDesire. The “Under the Bed” section contains more photos and short films (“Tea or Sex?” is a personal favorite). Reviews highlight books and films. Jiz Lee’s “Coming Out Like a Porn Star” and Jacky St. James’s groundbreaking “The Submission of Emma Marx,” both offerings I’ve reviewed for this blog, are included.

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Speaking of reviews, a look at a few of MsNaughty’s films, all of which are individualist without being egoist, are next in Part Two. Needless to say, the quality of her work is excellent.

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Fantasy and Ethics: Part 2 of Mindbrowse with Candida and Jacky

by Rich Moreland, July 2015

This is the second segment of Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals’ discussion with Candida Royalle and Jacky St. James. I neglected in the first installment to let everyone know that Mindbrowse is produced by Sssh.com, an erotica for women website that keeps the modern sex-positive female up-to-date on issues that move her world.

The owner of Sssh and Mindbrowse producer is the well-known voice for women’s sexual growth and exploration, Angie Rowntree. Launching Sssh in 1999 as one of the first “for women” sites on the web, Angie’s fame has moved forward in leaps and bounds. In 2014, she entered the AVN Hall of Fame Founders Division, a mark of elite recognition in the adult business. At this year’s XBIZ awards in LA, Sssh was honored as the “Alternative Adult Site of the Year.”  Sssh.com continues to grow and has been featured on MSNBC and Nightline and in publications such as Playboy, Psychology Today, and Time Magazine. It can be visited here.

header-www.sssh.com

 

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“I hoped that I would inspire other women to get out there and have the courage to . . . create their own vision,” Candida Royalle says.

Jacky St. James offers her view. “I really want to create content that reaches people . . . challenges them to think about their sexuality and their own sexual fantasy.”

The topic is porn and its nuanced expression of fantasy and art and the female influence in shaping both. Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals’ mindbrowse interview featuring Candida Royalle and Jacky engages the discussion from a feminist perspective.

Fantasy

Though a porn generation apart, Candida and Jacky represent a style of movie making that reflects the growing liberalism in our personal lives. We are freer today to talk about our sexual imagination. This is particularly true for women who realize that there is “fine line,” as Jacky says, between art and porn. Women can swirl them together to create their favorite fantasy.

An example for Candida is the rape fantasy. It’s “one of the most popular fantasies for women,” she says. Because society circumscribes female sexual behavior, women need “permission,” a way of “letting go enough” to be “pleasured and have an orgasm.” Sometimes that involves “being forced.” But remember its just fantasy, Candida insists, “you’re in control.” That’s important because no woman wants “to go out and get raped.”

Jacky on the set of "fauxcest" film, Our Father, with Steven St. Croix and Carter Cruise. Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Jacky on the set of “fauxcest” film, Our Father, with Steven St. Croix and Carter Cruise.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Jacky brings up another fantasy that is on the popularity radar: incest. “But, it’s not like they really want to have sex with a family member,” she declares. Jacky is now filming “fauxcest” porn that tells stories about step-relations. However, a bit of the luster is lost because legalities insist that “step” is emphasized in the film (none of the performers are related) and everything is consensual.

Despite their feminist critics, both filmmakers agree that women find empowerment when they fantasize about giving up control. BDSM movies, another hot topic for porn these days, is a perfect example. It’s the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon.

Dr. Tibbals asks about the future. Where will porn be ten years from now?

Candida hopes it will be less stigmatized as more women get involved in the industry. Jacky’s focuses on financial survival. Creating content people are willing buy is the key to stemming the rising tide of tube sites.

“Higher quality” porn will keep the companies going, she thinks, “the scripted kind of content that people do pay for.” For her employer, New Sensations, DVD sales are still strong, an indicator of success.

Truth and Ethics

Before the interview wraps up, Jacky asks Candida about her greatest hurdle in her early days as a filmmaker. Not surprisingly, the pioneering director mentions the industry’s male-dominated attitudes. Money talks in adult, Candida says, and her movies sold well enough that she gained respect quickly.

There was, however, “this sort of gang of outlaws in California back then,” she mentions. A time of transition, the industry was leaving the East Coast to settle out west and Candida was based in New York.

“They wanted to keep it [the industry] a renegade world. They didn’t want women entering it and they were very critical of my work.”

Candida took them on and held her own. Overall, she concludes, “I’ve been treated well by the industry.”

The question of ethics in filming comes up and Candida explains that her “rule of thumb” concerns female performers. “As long as the woman appears to be enjoying herself and seems to be really into it, I can enjoy what I’m watching.”

A Candida Royalle Classic Photo courtesy of Adam and Eve

A Candida Royalle Classic
Photo courtesy of Adam and Eve

Candida believes it is important to be as ethical as possible. Porn companies have to stand behind the content they produce and how they treat their talent. When  anything “ethically questionable” arises, freedom of expression is tested and everyone might suffer if the Feds intervene.

To stress her point, the owner of FEMME Productions comments that too many young people in adult today don’t remember the 1990s when the government “assaulted” the industry. It could happen again.

Jacky St. James gets that picture.

“I live and die by ethics,” the multiple award winner declares. She has three important tenets in filming: make sure talent is aware of what is expected before they are booked, let them know who they are working with before they arrive on set, and always communicate limits.

As for content, some of hers is considered “unethical” by the occasional critic, but Jacky reminds everyone that she’s “creating a fantasy.” Of course, with BDSM and “fauxcest” the risk is promoting certain activities that make some people uncomfortable.

In the end, it’s up to the individual, whether performer or viewer, to decide if porn is for them. It’s called responsibility.

Candida departs with the hope that the industry will be legitimized as “another form of entertainment.” If that happens, the renegade reputation that has surrounded porn for decades will be pushed aside and the number of talented and ethical people who want to work in the business will increase.

Finally, both women encourage fans to support porn and pay for what they enjoy.

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Many thanks to the good people at Sssh.com for their permission to use portions of this important discussion.

Angie Rowntree Photo courtesy of AVN

Angie Rowntree
Photo courtesy of AVN

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A Leaner Message

by Rich Moreland, March 2015

A statewide version of L.A. county’s Measure B condom law is likely headed for the 2016 California ballot. As a result, shooting in Nevada and Florida is on the adult industry radar, though opinions are mixed about migrating out of state. Going underground is possible for some producers, especially smaller labels who can’t afford the enforcement fees.

A legal seminar at the recent AVN show and Attorney Clyde DeWitt’s the “sky is not falling” February essay for XBIZ have contributed to the discussion. Obviously, constitutional questions loom should the measure be approved.

A conversation with two of the most respected directors in the business today, Girlfriends Films‘ Dan O’Connell and B Skow, offers a front line perspective on the issue.

Asked about the extra cost of the shooting under the proposal, neither director is overly concerned about the money spent. On the other hand, the restrictions imposed are troublesome.

Dan O'Connell Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

Dan O’Connell
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

“I’m not worried about the dollar part of it,” Dan says. “I’m worried about requirements that would be prohibitive for us.” Girlfriends’ founder mentions shooting and location permits, producer cost for talent testing, and the onerous provision he calls “a snitch fee.”

“You slip up and you can get fined. The person who turns you in can get twenty-five percent of whatever your fine is,” and it “doesn’t have to be a performer, could be anyone, anywhere.”

Snitching is troublesome because performers who haven’t been booked for a while might get “vindictive.” To illustrate their concern, Skow mentions that he gets “uncomfortable” when a performer comes up and asks, “‘how come you don’t use me anymore?'”

Adult entertainment is a supply and demand business. Directors have to juggle shoots to keep people working. Too many girls and a limited number of bookings, something performers often fail to realize.

If the proposal gets on the ballot, a recent poll indicates that over seventy percent of California voters would approve it. Should that happen, location becomes the impending issue hovering over everyone.

“I don’t see us shooting in California,” Dan says, but he fears the AIDS Health Foundation, the force behind the referendum, would follow the industry wherever it goes. On the other hand, Skow thinks many studios will go underground and that’s costly for everyone. From the state’s point of view, he adds, the “whole campaign will be a waste,” a loss of jobs and money.

However, there may be a ray of sunshine in this political storm; a needed shake-up might occur, a weeding out process that leads to a more efficient industry. In other words, the number of shoots might drop, but the ones produced would be better.

B Skow Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

B Skow
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

Skow asserts the “creativity” put into film making would improve with the added benefit of having “a smaller pool of performers that you know and trust.” In his business utopia, a select group of stars reminiscent of porn’s past would “make most of the movies” like in the old Hollywood system. “People would start following them, just like they follow celebrities,” he says.

Returning to a more intimate talent pool means the business becomes “more corporate, more organized.” Unfortunately the fledgling studios might suffer, but for the industry as a whole, Skow explains, the “big companies” would cultivate a “pool of trust.”

On another matter, the Girlfriends’ director brings up a personal concern: much of the creativity in porn goes unrecognized. He mentions the AVN awards show, but in truth, it could be any similar gala the industry sponsors.

“There should be ten or twelve awards,” Skow says, “then it would mean something. A lot of people in this industry do some pretty cool stuff, but it gets washed away.”

The leaner message is really this. The industry could benefit from downsizing. Keep the best performers regularly employed by the strongest companies and reward movie making for its art and not its quantity.

In the long run, this may be an unanticipated windfall from the current political turmoil. Rather than threaten the industry’s existence, the condom initiative may make it stronger.

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B Skow’s thoughts on a leaner industry are shared by others in the business. In his book, The Unsexpected Story (2012), Darren Roberts examines the state of adult film today and references remarks by Jessica Drake and Barrett Blade that reinforce Skow’s view. Drake is thankful for her early years in adult film. “‘I was lucky to enter [the adult entertainment industry] when I did. There was a very old Hollywood feel about everything, and the glamour and excitement was there.”

The past revisited is always possible. Barrett Blade believes that “an industry-wide movement away from the production of low quality content” will result in a “renewal” for porn and mentions that some studios are focusing on “lean principles” that have “allowed many companies to ‘cut the fat.'” Part of this change could result in a reduced performer pool and higher production values.

Only time will tell.

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Moving to a Younger Lover: Torn, Part 1

by Rich Moreland, May 2014

Torn is another dynamic New Sensations film from Jacky St. James and Eddie Powell. No review of mine could top the ones already published. For excellent assessments of the film, check Adult Video News’ review here and XBIZ’s assessment here.

torn 20

With this article, I’m taking another avenue on this film. Rather than review the movie, I’m going to look at its imagery. In the silent film era, audio dialogue was non-existent, acting and the cinematographer’s craft drove the narrative. To move the story forward with words, filmmakers relied on the well placed title card to reveal snippets of the conversation between the characters.

My bet is that a St. James/Powell film can tell its story without dialogue because their artistry as a team is every bit as good as F.W. Murnau’s effort in the pre-sound fantasy, Nosferatu (1922), or William Wellman’s in the adventure classic, Wings (1927).

To test my idea, I decided on a two-pronged approach. First, I read the boxcover for a brief handle on the plot. Second, I did not view Torn from beginning to end. Instead, I studied the opening scenes in which the credits were superimposed on the screen then skipped to the final minutes of the film right before the last round of credits were run.

Would this sparse amount of information provide enough guidance so that the story would be meaningful if I sat through the entire film with the dialogue muted?

The answer is “yes,” because the directing, cinematography, and acting are that good.

(A disclaimer is due here. After the first silent run through, I watched the film again with the sound on so that I might fill in the names of characters and their relationships to each other. What is presented here is the story as I saw it without the dialogue, but with that information subsequently included. For the record, all photos are from Jacky St. James and are credited to Jeff Koga.)

Bedrooms: the Beginning and End

Beds reveal much about the story. In the beginning, the bed in which Christine (India Summer) and her husband Drew (Steven La Croix), occupy is immense, one of those extra wide varieties. The solid headboard is overly large, resembling a bridge between two faraway shores, or perhaps a dam or a wall that might be holding something back.

The crew setting up the opening shots with India and Steven settled in.

The crew setting up the opening shots with India and Steven settled in while Jacky (left) and Eddie (far right) get everything ready. Notice the headboard.

The room’s decor is subdued. As the shot is framed, the wall above the bed is blank and consumes an inordinate amount of space. The night stands are ebony (like the headboard) and the actors are dropped to the bottom third of the screen.

The feel is formal, distant, cold, and uninviting. There is brightness in windows on each side of the bed, but they are almost pushed out of the shot.

In the final scene, the camera is much closer to the bed. As in the beginning, the shot is taken from the footboard. Vastly different from the first scene, the bed is smaller, more intimate, and if the headboard is an open bridge (it consists of vertical metal strips, not solid wood), the shores are closer. No allusion to a dam, no way to hold anything back.

Smaller bed, snuggle and smile!

Smaller bed, snuggle and smile!

Color and warmth dominate the scene and the characters, Mimi (Remy La Croix) and Drew. Over the night stands on both sides of the bed are larger paintings of nature and fresh beginnings.

The opening scene imparts separation and divide, the final one intimacy and union. Knowing this, the story apparently revolves around Drew and how he moves from his wife to his much younger lover. Somewhere in this tale is a tearing away and a rebirth, at least that’s what is indicated so far.

The Afternoon Party

Drew’s life appears filled with drudgery. The snooze alarm is his morning friend and the drive to work is a bore. He has the look of “Is this all there is?” about his day-to-day existence.

Jacky sets up for the party shots.

Jacky sets up the party shots. India, Steven, Raylene, and Tom get their instructions while the crew hangs out.

An afternoon party hosted by Drew’s co-worker,Vicky (Raylene), and her husband, Roy, features an announcement of some sort. A somewhat disinterested Drew goes outside to smoke. (By the way, among the party goers is Jacky St. James a la Alfred Hitchcock, a cameo in her own film.)

Steven and Remy hang out at the wall before shooting the scene.

Remy flashes Steven before she becomes Mimi.

The home is in the hills and Drew sits on a retaining wall, a recurring image in the film. Mimi, the photographer at the party, joins him and they chat as if meeting for the first time. The scenery overwhelms the players and at this point in the narrative sends a distinct message. Nature is primal (remember the paintings in their bedroom referenced above), existing without assumptions and conclusions. Is this what Drew and Mimi will discover because they are not so much the focus of the scene as they are the recipients of its message?

Later in their bedroom, Christine tells Drew about something that is troubling her. It is related to the goings on at Vicky’s house.

A Bathroom Hideout

During the party, Christine is interrupted while she is in the bathroom. Desperate, she hides in the walk-in shower and peeks through the shower curtain. Roy, Vicky and a friend (Samantha Ryan) have three-way sex that features girl/girl oral, unusual for a Jacky St. James romance.

Waiting for the shoot to begin, Raylene, Tom Byron, and Samantha Ryan.

Waiting for the shoot to begin, Raylene, Tom, and Samantha fool around.

Apparently Vicky and Roy are swingers.

All the while, Christine is in the shower and her dilemma is told by the camera.

The angle is shot from above, an image akin to looking down an empty elevator shaft. Christine is trapped. Confined like the walls she has built around her marriage, Christine is devoid of the sexual passion right within her reach. At this moment, she gives the flimsy shower curtain an unassailable power over her. St. James’s message is clear: we only need rip away our self-imposed barriers and face what troubles us to free ourselves from its tyranny.

As the sex romps just beyond her, Christine sits on the shower floor, physically smaller, frustrated, and seemingly exhausted.

After the bathroom empties, Christine yanks back the curtain. Disgusted and upset, she washes her hands repeatedly and vigorously, much like the recurring imagery of tooth brushing that dominates bathroom scenes in the movie. What are the characters trying to cleanse in this tale of love’s failures and renewal?

The next day at the office, Drew talks with Vicky. Her surprise is followed by laughter, Vicky indicates Christine should have joined in. Drew gives her an “are you kidding me?” look.

A Living Room, then a Studio

A fireplace with large crucifix above the mantle dominates a room whose size stresses the divide between Drew and his wife. Christine is sitting in a loveseat under a huge mirror that reflects the crucifix on the opposite wall. Does the image comment on the sanctity of marriage and sexuality within it?

The crucifix sees all. Jacky directs Steven and India

The crucifix sees all. Jacky directs Steven and India

Hiding a piece of red lingerie behind his back, Drew approaches Christine. Incidentally, he wears a shirt that is also red, the color of passion. She doesn’t like the gift; rejection covers his face. Later he surprises her amorously in the laundry room but she pushes him away. Unfortunately, nothing is going to reignite passion in this marriage.

Mimi, who happens to be Vicky’s niece, shows up at the office. Remembering Drew from the party, the twenty-something wants to photograph him and they go to her studio.

In the foreground of the scene, Mimi loads her camera and Drew sits in a director’s chair some distance away. Mimi’s image fills the entire screen and is totally shaded. As the scene continues, Mimi emerges from the shadows, moving closer to him. Two close-ups of his hands emphasize his wedding ring.

Getting into position for just the right angle. Mimi foreground, Drew in the distance.

Getting into position for just the right angle. Mimi foreground, Drew in the distance.

The scene is playful and refreshing, smiles all around, the exact opposite of the deadness the viewer gets with Christine. But is Mimi about to dominate Drew’s emotions? Is she a harbinger of trouble to come?

Drew is about to make the move.

Drew is about to make the move.

As he leaves, the middle-aged Drew drops all decorum and kisses Mimi. She is stunned, but not unpleasantly. She did, after all, set this up.

The affair begins. Drew faces a relationship where second chances are rarities, but will Mimi become the dreaded other woman, the mistress destined to be shunted aside when tensions arise?

*          *          *          *          *

One of the difficulties in eliminating dialogue is losing the nuances it adds to a film, a richness we appreciate more fully when sound is turned off and words are gone. But clearly the visual operates on its own, proving that filmmakers of the silent era handed down their skills to a modern generation with, of course, the complements of the title card.

The second part of Torn is coming shortly.

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Gnawing at the Heart: The Temptation of Eve, Part Two

by Rich Moreland, May 2014

This is the second installment of New Sensations’ The Temptation of Eve, an adult film extraordinaire and multiple award winner at this year’s XBIZ Show. Oh yes, it was also AVN’s Best Romance at their Las Vegas extravaganza in January.

Remy Lacroix received Best Actress Award for AVN and XBIZ; Tommy Pistol landed XBIZ’s Best Supporting Actor. Not surprisingly, the film won XBIZ’s Best Sreenplay, the ultimate honor for a beautifully constructed and performed picture.

As I suggested in the first post, buy the DVD. You’ll need Eve in your library for repeated viewings.

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boxcover back eve

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The interior of Brandon’s house reflects the reductionism Eve seeks to reorder and bury her past. The minimalist decor sports muted pastels and clean lines that are in direct contrast to the complications and conflicting emotions unfolding within the narrative.

Most descriptive are the black and white photos of nude and semi-nude women arranged in controlled lines throughout the house. The pictures reflect Eve’s longing for a sexual simplicity that confines her desires and rejects temptation, while illustrating Brandon’s line up of women he casually brushes aside once needs are serviced.

Is she one of them?

Brandon wants to corral Eve with images from the past. He keeps her dangling between yesterday and today with a questionable investment in tomorrow. There is no finality with her nude pictures; like the journal, they are kept out of sight but easily retrieved because she knows where to look.

In contrast, Eve has discovered a new start with Danny, the sweet guy she purports to love.

The couple plans to grow old together while Brandon captures Eve as forever young and desirable. The photos and the journals (there is a second one solely about her) are frozen moments, tangled webs whose individual elements swirl in the abstract painting by the front door and are twisted into the black metal frame that is across from it.

Minimalist is Brandon view of his world, sex without complications where every affair is a fleeting adventure. Eve’s oversimplification is to cope with her past in such a way to free her up to support a future of security.

For both, it is easy in thought, but difficult in reality.

More Flashbacks

Through Brandon’s intervention, Danny secures a job interview in Seattle. As Eve and Danny celebrate, Brandon offers flippant congratulations and sits at the kitchen table to write in his journal. The scene communicates a fluid situation. Over the table are three lights with red shades, one dominating the other two. Eve is the largest figure framed in the shot, the men smaller in stature. Is she gaining in this war with her temptations?

More flashbacks pop up, this time in the same kitchen. Eve is relaxing, naked on the counter. After a two year friendship, Eve and Brandon have just had sex for the first time.

Will our relationship last? Photo by Jeff Koga

Will our relationship last?
Photo by Jeff Koga

“Tell me it’s not going to fuck up our relationship,” she says. Doubt prevails through this carnival of free-flowing intimacy, but for now it’s all good. The two lights in the background are the same size, mates of each other.

Later when Danny is through packing and ready for some sleep. Brandon texts Eve. She goes downstairs to find him watching porn.

Exasperated, she says he is testing her patience.

“I’m testing your self-control.” His glibness bites at her. “Your resistance will break down.”

Pained, she casts her eyes downward, another flashback bubbles up from her unconscious mind. Yes, the sex screwed up their relationship.

Sex in Faded Color

Tormented by Brandon and memories that won’t sit still, Eve crawls into bed beside a sleeping Danny. The film’s second sex scene evolves out of Eve’s desperation to cling to something that offers protection against Brandon’s insensitivity. Nuzzling Danny, she awakens him and their lovemaking begins.

Getting it right with some guidance from the director. Photo by Jeff Koga

Getting it right with some guidance from the director.
Photo by Jeff Koga

The porn formula of oral and standard positions are highlighted and Remy Lacroix’s pert sexiness puts her stamp on this segment. There’s no hint of gonzo because the scene is more emotional than sexual. Raw physicality is not the message, how it is presented in mood and shadow is.

The music is an evocative cloud of doubt and foreboding that hangs over the lovers. The lighting is shaded, creating a scene that edges toward film noir, sex in faded color. Eddie Powell has created a cinematic masterpiece that communicates deep emotion so powerful the viewer forgets this is a porn film.

Considering the context of the lovers and how they are enmeshed in a conflict that could trample both of them, this just may be the most artistic sex scene ever filmed.

In the background are containers, boxes suspended between packed and unpacked (clothes hang on the sides). They are symbols of Eve’s presence in Brandon’s house, an unexpected transition in Eve’s life that now replaces the once irreplaceable—her love of Brandon. She’s been here before where she thought she would stay.

To highlight this message, Eddie Powell reveals only glimpses of penetration, simultaneously concealing and exploring Eve’s dilemma.

On the nightstand are three candles in different states of use, two having been burned, one hardly touched by flame. They offer different interpretations that are appropriate to the story.

The candles are on the right. Photo by Jeff Koga

The cast takes a break. The candles are on the right, the boxes are beneath the window.
Photo by Jeff Koga

The almost whole one is Danny, little affected by the past complications of Eve and Brandon, the others a deeply burned and a slightly singed. Which is Brandon and which is Eve?

Perhaps they also represent Eve’s vagina, used severely by Brandon, now delicately by Danny. Once the getaway is accomplished, it has a chance to begin anew, tested, but not overcome, by the past.

Or maybe the best preserved candle is the resolution to the temptation, perhaps it offers Brandon redemption.

Like the film’s closing moments, the objects in the bedroom explain a saga of love pained and redeemed in a sex scene graced with an emotionally surreal quality, a true anomaly in adult film.

Nothing More, Nothing Less

Alone in the house the following day, Eve decides on a bubble bath: soak troubles away, read the journal, and self-stimulate. In a wonderfully framed split screen shot of Brandon’s bedroom and the bathroom, pay close attention to the arrangement of pillows on his bed and then later the six candles grouped in threes by color behind the tub.

Preparing to shoot Brandon's entrance. Photo by Jeff Koga

Jacky and Eddie prepairing to shoot Brandon’s entrance.
Photo by Jeff Koga

Jacky St. James and Eddie Powell are preparing the viewer for a collision of emotions. Close-ups of Eve’s eyes and her licking her lips communicates everything. Is this journal about her?

When Brandon enters unannounced, whose privacy is being invaded explodes their conversation, offering Remy Lacroix her finest acting moment.

“People have fantasies, crazy intense out of control fantasies,” she says, rebutting Brandon accusations. “But that doesn’t ever mean they are ever going to get acted on.”

The ground under Eve is hardening, temptations are all around but she remains firm because separation, psychological and physical, is beginning to take hold.

“Fantasies aren’t reality,” she shouts, “They’re an escape, nothing more, nothing less!”

Eve defines the film in this forceful segment and her confrontation with Brandon is the contentious moment that turns the story in her favor.

Another quick flashback races across the screen, Brandon’s tongue works Eve into a joyous state.

“How many is that?” Brandon looks up at her.

“Too many to count,” a smiling Eve purrs, her eyes venturing down her body to find his.

The film’s reality is evident now, there will be no real time sex between Eve and Brandon. Early days with a hot lover remain a memory, recalled only in reverie.

Later Brandon plays his last card to move into real time. He brings Eve a bagel with her tea and asks her why she will not tell Danny of their affair. The solemnity of this moment is captured by the three candles on the nightstand; they now form a triangle.

Brandon says their first encounter years ago was more than just a weekend.

“For me, maybe,” Eve replies, but times have changed. “I’m not willing to jeopardize what I have now for what I wasn’t allowed to have before,” she adds.

“I’m sorry,” Brandon says, admitting things were too intense for him.

The truth is often painful. Photo by Jeff Koga

The truth is often painful.
Photo by Jeff Koga

He moves across the bed toward her, attempting to negotiate the emotional divide demarcated by a teacup. Danny suddenly arrives and calls Eve’s name, dropping the tension instantly and saving the misery of future entanglements.

A Trashy Taste of Gonzo

Jen (Bailey Blue), the girl who took Eve’s job, arrives with Brandon. The slutty blonde provides a trashy taste of gonzo that stands in contrast to the other sex scenes. Rough and raw in a hallway setting, the shoot is quick; no bed needed.

Bailey and Xander before they become Jen and Brandon Notice the metal artwork to the left. Photo by Jeff Koga

Bailey and Xander before they become Jen and Brandon. Notice the metal artwork in the background on the left.
Photo by Jeff Koga

Jen’s oral skills, spiced with doggie and cowgirl, drive the scene. Incidentally, casting Bailey is another Jacky St. James coup. She is the perfect Jen.

When the pop shot is deposited on Jen’s chest, a faraway look blankets a close-up of Brandon’s face. In using the office tramp, Brandon clarifies that he is incapable of dealing with Eve, but unwilling to accept that they exist only in the pages of his journal. Eve’s response is to put in her earbuds to stifle the noise of the sex, erasing Jen’s presence.

Brandon and Jen getting rough and raw. Photo by Jacky St. James

Brandon and Jen getting rough and raw.
Photo by Jacky St. James

For the record, there is no girl/girl sex in the film because it rarely fits a hetero romance unless a gay or bisexual element is attached to the story, or the characters explore personal fantasies. Such scenes in straight movies recall a porn formula evident decades ago, the obligatory and disconnected girl-on-girl sex thrown in to entertain a male audience, something Jacky St. James sees no purpose in resurrecting in this film.

Also, anal and facials are absent, though as professionals Bailey or Remy would gladly accommodate either. And if this were marketed as a gonzo flick, there would be a multiple penetration scene dropped in somewhere, probably a threesome with Eve, Danny, and Brandon.

Finally, a word about editing, Gabrielle Anex’s work is outstanding and particularly appreciated in the close-ups Eddie Powell shoots so beautifully.

No Key

Remy’s Lacroix’s second notable acting moment comes as the film heads for its conclusion. At long last, Brandon and Eve have it out. They were friends before they were lovers, she says, until “that weekend” after which he disappeared.

“You don’t value people.” Her voice is inflected with anger and frustration. “You just use them, they’re a means to an end.”

Eve has the proof. “It was a different girl on every single page of that journal . . . there’s no difference between me and them and whatever we had!”

Though Brandon’s expression spins a different take on her words, Eve has chosen to blur the lines between truth and deception and reality and fantasy. But, does anger encourage resolution because she is dead wrong as she will soon discover?

After Brandon says his goodbyes and leaves with his latest lover for an afternoon of fun, Eve checks the house for anything forgotten before she and Danny depart.

In fact, the rooms are filled with much to forget.

Wandering into Brandon’s bedroom, Eve finds his journal on the bed. It’s the final temptation and she weakens.

This journal is solely about her. On the wall is a powerful image that reams the truth out of Eve’s mind. One more black and white photo, it’s a partially dressed girl cowering and shielding her face with her arms.

A note addressed to Eve falls out of the diary and a final flashback occurs, the long awaited sex scene between Brandon and Eve, alive, as if in real time.

Passing the metal artwork, gnarly tales of pity sex, revenge sex, and lost opportunity, Eve closes the front doors of Brandon’s house behind her. She has no key, of course, and cannot lock up her past, or Brandon . . . because temptation and the inaccessible never stop gnawing at the heart.

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The cast going over the play before the sex arrives. Photo by Jeff Koga

Every superb film requires good acting. The cast going over the play before the sex arrives.
Photo by Jeff Koga

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