Search for:
rame.net  :  faq  :   breaking in

Table of Contents

How can I become a porn star?

That's not very encouraging... I really want to do it. Tell me how.

What are some other avenues into the porn industry?

What's all this talk about licensed agents?

So, who are the hetero agents?

Who are the gay agents?

Do you think I need an agent?

OK... How about getting into gay porn?

Are there any secrets to gay porn success?

Do porn stars get recruited?

How much do porn stars make?

How much do porn directors make?

What I really want to do is direct!

So, maybe mainstream is not where I want to be... would you tell me about amateur?

What kind of budgets to amateur productions have?

What kind of equipment do I need?

What about editing?

What about legal issues?

Okay, so maybe directing is not the thing to do... who writes the songs that those people fuck to?

Well, how about some other tech job? How do I become a videographer? An editor?

What about more mundane jobs in the adult industry?

How much can I make if I write adult movie scripts?

Are there any books I can read about the subject of porn production?


How can I become a porn star?

Hart Williams makes these observations...

First: Being a good masturbator is more important than being a stud. Why do you think so few males star for so long? It's the surest way to ruin your enjoyment of sex... and that's assuming THAT you ever get in. (Pun intended)

Second: If you REALLY still think you can do it (and I've seen so many male egos implode during 'their big shot' -- it isn't pretty! -- that I can only ask you to reread the above) your best shot right now is to find someone who's making amateur tapes. You'll have to bring your own girlfriend, and you'll both be paid peanuts, but that's the way it's done these days. There are ads in the backs of many magazines, personals, etc. But, you will have a better chance in LA than NY.

May God have mercy on your pole...

Tim Evanson tells us that:

Many gay studios and producers advertise for models and video performers in local gay newspapers such as the NEW YORK NATIVE and LA's newspaper FRONTIERS. The biweekly magazine ADVOCATE CLASSIFIED also contains many ads. Many low-budget studios and independent directors find their casts this way. Several gay porn agents often visit local clubs or special parties in their home towns and distribute their cards, which is a way in which several recent gay porn actors (Derek Cruise, Rick Bolton, Phil Bradley) were discovered. Having an agent doesn't seem to matter; gay porn stars have said in interviews in MANSHOTS magazine that sometimes just being smart is good enough, while others say agents are useful in screening out the crappy scripts and identifying bad directors/studios.

Remember: Most scenes that last 15 minutes on film take from 4 to 6 hours to film, and during that time the actor MUST remain erect. Also, most gay porn is very stop-and-go as positions change, lighting changes, and camera angles change. Performers often must have sex in front of anywhere from 4 to 15 people (many of them also masturbating or otherwise aroused). Days often begin at 6 AM and continue for 18 hours or more. Sets are filthy, cold, and location shoots in homes and outdoors hard to find and often very distant from where the star lives. Few studios pay your airfare into town, your hotel room, your rental car, or food bills and rarely provide food or drinks on a set. Pressure to use drugs and alcohol is strong on a set, and sex with your co-actors after a shoot nonexistent.

That's not very encouraging... I really want to do it. Tell me how.

Hart Williams:

It is considerably easier for females. Jim South at World Modeling is one of only two licensed agencies in the business. The other one is sort of in/out of it as I write. Long ago (late 60s, I think) two licenses were issued for this sort of talent agency, and no more will ever be (at least the Powers That Be Have So Decreed). According to people in the know, the current way to get into the biz for a female (always much easier than gents) is to first: Answer that ad in the Classifieds of most LA papers sending you to WMA.

But, secondly, through amateur videos. They don't pay squat, and they now seem to comprise the "minor leagues" with the Owners looking at promising new talent. Prayer is always good. The male "stud" is the rarest of creatures. Everyone thinks that he can be one, and every producer has heard it so often that he tends to tune it right out. But, if this still does not dissuade you, let me mention the qualifications:

  1. Dick size is not THAT important. The camera (and your imagination) makes them all look larger than life. But, underhung can truly be a disadvantage. Somebody named Dave Cannon made a career for himself by being the only gent that his girlfriend, Bridgette Monet -- a big star at the time -- would screw. This was his entrance (and exit, it's a 2-edged sword). The classic way in is by bringing a porn mega-babe with you. It worked for Ken (Seka's ex) and for Bud (Hypatia's ex, Asia's ex, someone else's current).

  2. Also (though down the same road) through amateur shoots. But, again, the demand for males is negligible (approved plumbing is a MUST, and hard to find), and the demand for females -- while not as insatiable as in the 70's(when any girl who wanted to could) and the 80's (when any reasonably good-looking girl etc.), the business is always on the look for fresh meat.

Now, I realize that you may believe your destiny is to be a porn stud, and I don't want to dissuade you, but I offer this advice:

What is most necessary in the porn stud is the ability to jerk himself off (so as to come on cue). The ones I've known have privately bemoaned the hamburger it's made of their sex lives, and the fact that they're now trapped from here to eternity: always wondering if someone will see their movies. The social crap you'll take is quite a bit more hostile than that the ex-porn-kitten takes.

A great trick is to find a girl to bring with you. If they drool over her, they'll accept you -- if SHE insists. But watch it... she has a way of forgetting who got her into the biz in the first place.

Brandy Alexandre sez:

It pays to hang out and chat in the agent's office every few days for MONTHS until he gets to know you and knows you aren't a pervert, rapist or law enforcement. Or get to know someone in the business who may eventually recommend you.

Bill Majors concurs:

When I moved from NYC to LA 10 years ago I tried to find talent. It wasn't until a friend actually took me to several agents and vouched for me that I was able to get talent lined up. While I guess it might be possible to break through it is much easier just to find someone in the business and ask them to give you a hand. In spite of all of our competition we are basically a friendly bunch.

In the end, getting into the adult video business is really no different than going to Universal and telling them you want to star with Tom Hanks in their next feature. :) However, a new service opened up for people looking for work in all facets of the adult industry -- AdultStaffing.Com is carving a niche for itself as the jobseeker board that caters to the adult industry. Maybe you'll find what you want there...

What are some other avenues into the porn industry?

Dave Cummings has been nice enough to allow us to quote from his Apr/May 1999 column which appears in full at http://www.davecummings.com

Though I prefer to be positive and encouraging, I also have a responsibility to be personally honest in what I write here as my personal view. First of all, you need to know that there is a HUGE glut of video tapes in the market place; some folks credit this disastrous situation to people with some extra investment bucks, a 3-chip digital camcorder, and the (mostly) false idea that they can get laid and/or become millionaires in the $4.2 Billion Adult Film Industry.

Many want to improve the quality of adult video, or appeal to renters and buyers who have the same specific preferences as they do (indeed, there are different preferences for different viewers, but the majority of consumers are mostly men watching by themselves who often seem to prefer: to have little time "wasted" on set-up/plot/dialogue; to see beautiful and sexually enthusiastic young girls having hot sex; and, after the "money shot" for that sex scene, to view other/additional sex scenes but with different girls----hence, the reason "Gonzo" videos are so popular. Full length features with plots, nice settings, high production values, and love-making as well as sex, seem to appeal primarily but not exclusively to couples and women...--features cost much more to produce, but often bring in soft core cable money not available to many gonzo videos. And, of course, there are specialty videos which appeal to a specific audience, such as those viewers who like B&D, older women, heavier women, gang bangs, foot-lovers, etc.).

Because of the glut of many kinds of available productions, some wholesale buyers/distributors are extremely picky about their selections (and sometimes are a little slow in paying their accounts payable). I've heard of instances where producers waited many months before they got fully paid and had enough proceeds available to finance their next release).

Since I'm familiar with the financial aspects of my "Sex Fun" series, and my "Dirty Dave, The Sugardaddy" gonzo lines, let me use them as an example.

Generally having four or five regular-length 13-16 minute sex scenes and three "quickie" 5-10 minute sex scenes featuring additional actresses who will be in full-length scenes in other volumes of one of the 90-minute series (all seven/eight sex scenes have different girls/set-ups/sex, and cum shots), I spend approximately $9,000-$10,000 in hard costs to get 1,000-1,200 fully completed copies delivered to my sales distributor for onward domestic sale and shipment to wholesale distributors/buyers at approximately $12 each. If (and with today's massive glut of product, it's a big "if") we actually get fully paid for all copies sold, it brings in $12,000-$14,400 which is split 75%-25% with my sales distributor, leaving me with $9,000-$10,800 or a gross domestic distribution profit of only $0-$1,800 per video. As a result of the glut of product and the low profits for Producers, I now release a new video every 6-8 weeks instead of every month as previously. An investment of approximately $10,000 yielding an eventual profit of less than $2,000 is not going to make any producer or investor very rich, especially since it often takes 2-6 months to get your money. Follow-on foreign licensing, catalog sales, and Internet sales might possibly bring in some additional profits, but not all that much! Use of the still photos and footage for Internet content has possibilities of making money; also, cable-version sales, if available, are lucrative (though shooting costs increase somewhat, especially for editing). If someone plans to put out a $10,000 video a month, they probably need at least $50,000 to finance the first five productions before enough collections from their first release will be available to finance subsequent productions.

The video your sales distributor sells for $12 to wholesale distributors and buyers probably winds up being listed in a retail store at $39.95 -- rather than produce videos, perhaps investors should become distributors or buy adult bookstores (though there's an argument that says that Internet Video-On-Demand, streaming video, and video sales online might eat into the profits and viability of adult stores in the near future??

"New" producers/investors sometimes mistakenly think they will make a lot of money, when they actually are merely contributing to the already huge glut of product while waiting to eventually realize that they are not going to make a worthwhile profit, let alone become rich! (And, as far as the "fantasy" that every adult actress can't wait to fuck every guy/producer/crew member they see, forget it!)

Script writing seems to be centered in a few select insiders, while most directors prefer to either write their own script or come up with their own "set-up", often just minutes before filming begins. In spite of increased numbers of productions, I've not noticed even a slight increase in the demand for scripts; instead, I hear of scripts from want-to-be writers being routinely trashed by producers, directors, Production Managers and companies without even reading them. I also hear that in those few cases where a relative/friend/writer provided a script, the pay for it was less than a thousand dollars.

Directors seem to prefer using the same experienced crewmembers they've previously used. Additions to crews usually come from recommendations from other directors, the production company, or present crew members, thus proving a basis for experience and professionalism instead of someone who might make mistakes or "hit on" the girls while working on the set---and, no, the girls do NOT have wanton sex with crew members or others on the sets! I've noticed that even the experienced and dependable crew members have to hustle to find work. There's no shortage of qualified crewmembers.

Incidentally, all performers must have a not-older-than-30-days PCR by DNA HIV test before they are allowed to participate in a sex scene. Unlike the somewhat basic Elisa test that most physicians order under routine situations, we get a VERY expensive state-of-the-art test every 28-29 days.

Just like I know of NO Adult Industry company which will give auditions to guys wanting to be porn actors, there doesn't seem to be a need for investors, producers, directors, writers, or crew members either.

The above is my personal opinion, and even though everyone might not totally agree with me, I'm confident that it's pretty much right on target. I wish I could be more encouraging for folks wanting to explore alternative ways to get into the Adult Industry, but I have to be truthful.

What's all this talk about licensed agents?

Nick Long says: "Agents are licensed in California by the Department of Labor. Others in the biz are classed and represent themselves as managers and/or business managers, and any other associated description. An 'agent' is treated under California law as if they were an employment agency and have specific reporting and record-keeping requirements, as well as needing an annually renewable license and a bond. This allows an agent to collect fees for talent, deduct their fee, and pass the money along. In 'practice' it doesn't work that way. Virtually *all* talent is paid directly by the company and the agent 'bills' for his part of the service."

"As in any 'licensed' status, there is no problem until the state receives a complaint about an individual, and then they will perform an investigation and proceed accordingly against an 'unlicensed' individual/company, just as they would on a complaint against an unlicensed building contractor, etc."

So, who are the hetero agents?

Nick Long provides us with this easy to use chart. The determinations are his own, as I don't know these people... Phone numbers you can get on your own ;-)

World Modeling (Jim South)

Jim handles just about everybody. He is one of the two licensed agents.

Pretty Girl International (Reb Sawitz)

Reb is the other licensed agent.

Beautiful Models International (Regan Senter)

Regan is also somehow currently affiliated with National Productions. Regan has been around for almost 2 years now and does actually do some 'footwork' in getting work for his talent. He is *not* a licensed agent and has received attention in AVN during the past year+ in a negative tone, for many valid reasons. Regan actually tries to represent himself as a 'casting director' to avoid the implication of needing a license. Peter van Aarle tells me that "the reports in AVN that I remember make the guy seem like a complete sleazebag. His latest ploy seems to be having girls who want to get into the business to shoot a 'screen test' with him. This means he (or 'director' Randi Detroit) fucks them on camera, and he uses the footage in his Hollywood Starlets Adventures series."

Lucky Smith

I don't believe Lucky is a licensed agent, but rather a 'manager' or 'business manager' for which a license is not required. Lucky has a far better reputation and handles talent selectively, usually affiliated with top names in the biz.

Star World Modeling (Rob Spallone)

Rob really gained notoriety by befriending Luke Ford. Luke would often go to Rob for quotes or help or whatever and give him quite a bit of press. This, in fact, is how I heard of Rob Spallone. I point you to Luke's site for more information on Star World.

Eden Rae passes this along:

There is only one porn agent other than myself in the business licensed as a talent agent, and this is Rob Spallone at Starworld. Jim South is NOT a licensed talent agent and has never been such. He is licensed as an employment service, similar to a temp service.

There were is not provision in CA state law that states that a different license must be made for an adult industry talent agency vs. a mainstream talent agency. They are licensed in the same way, by the same licensing board, with the same rules governing the issuance of said liscenses. I am a licensed mainstream talent agent, with an adult division, which is perfectly acceptable by state laws in all states in which I operate. I have 4 offices in 4 states at this time, and the busiest for adult casting is in Hollywood CA, and can be contacted at:

888-699-2705 or
Eden Rae Entertainment
PO BOX 2732
Hollywood CA 90078

Who are the gay agents?

AVN thoughtfully provided a list of agents representing gay porn performers. I cannot begin to rank them, aside from noting that David Forest seems to be pre-eminent. Here's the list, with the lead agent in parentheses:

ATO Entertainment (Joe Romero)

Romero mainly represents himself and model Mark Brody. He may branch out as he is intent on leaving porn.

Brad's Buddies (David Forest)

Forest represents some of the biggest names around: Johnny Hanson, Ken Ryker, Tom Katt, Ryan Idol, J.T. Sloan, Scott Baldwin, Sonny Markham, Josh Sterling, and Kevin Kramer. He also handles some stars for dance tours only, such as Chi Chi LaRue and Adam Hart.

Con Merten Agency (Con Merten)

Merten specializes in young guys. He also represents dancers who can get hard and put on a show. He has represented Alex Austin and discovered Gianfranco. He is planning a comeback for Domino.

D&D Entertainment (Dan Byers)

Byers started 17 years ago, and got his start when Scott Masters and John Travis convinced him to get his stripper/dancers to do video. He has three tours of dancers on tour constantly, and represents Bo Summers, Jeff Hammond, Chad Connors, Cort Stevens, Logan Reed, Cody Foster, and Wes Daniels. He helped discover Ken Ryker.

Falconi Men (Giorgio Falconi)

A former porn star, Falconi represents a diverse array of men, including Chase Allen, Max Grand, Nick Manetti, Patrick Ives, Jack Simmons, Peter Phoenix, and J.D. DeMarco. He landed Chance Caldwell only half a year in the business.

Jump Start Casting and Production (Raul Rodriguez)

Jump Start represents Colt model Steve Kelso, and mainline stars such as Daryl Brock, Eduardo, Chad Knight, Adriano Marquez, Eric Stone, Peter Dixon, Karl Thomas, Chance Caldwell, and Danny Sommers.

Red Dragyn (Fred Dragyn)

A long-termer in the business, Dragyn represents young guys who have not been in the business long. He has a huge number of performers under contract.

Show Boys Entertainment (Johnny Johnston)

Johnston manages the "Showboys" -- David Thompson leading and choreographing, with Kurt Young and Dino Phillips (and sometimes K.C. Hart). Johnston began his business in 1988, but discovered John Holmes back in 1967. "Body, then face, then buns," he says.

Southwest Management (Peter Scott)

Scott discovered Tom Steele in 1988 and still represents him. Based in Las Vegas, Scott manages Hal and Vince Rockland, Blue Blake, Luc Russell, Jim Bentley, Ryan Block, Brad Hunt, Matt Badshaw, Marcello Reeves, Bryan Kidd, and Trent Reed. He's represented stars such as Grant Larson, Devyn Foster, and Travis Colt as well. He focuses on the "Falcon" look.

Sports Models USA (David Crowell)

Originally from Washington, DC, Crowell represents Ty Fox, Derrick Thomas, Brock McKay, and Mike Branson.

Steele Productions (Troy Steele)

A performer and gay rights activist, Steele represents Erik York. He represents mostly new guys, and isn't afraid to represent men with tatoos or piercings. He likes men in their 20s and 30s, smooth, young, and butch. He often works with Italian porn companies, representing European models in America.

Your Fantasy Productions (Johnny Rey)

A performer himself, Rey grooms models for his Bacchus Releasing videos. He also books dance tours in America and Europe, and looks for performers who can dance as well as fuck.

Do you think I need an agent?

Not necessarily, but it doesn't hurt. Nick Long tells me that "many of the managers deal with Reb and/or Jim, and they can also cut deals directly with the producers and companies. Can't speak for Lucky specifically, but I know Lucky has worked with Jim in the past. I'm sure he also deals direct."

Nick goes on to say: "There are also a few companies who will *not* deal with *any* agent. If they hire the gal direct through there own contacts, they will not pay any agent a fee, manager, agent, or otherwise. A lot of the gals act as 'independents' and get their own work. No, they don't get 'extra' for not being with an agent, they just prefer to make their own deals."

OK... How about getting into gay porn?

This is what Tim Evanson has to tell me...

Becoming a gay porn star is easy. Go to any big gay porn city; DC is one, too, cause Bob Jones Productions is here. But any big city will do, if it has a big gay population, lots of gay dance clubs or bars, and (better yet) gay strip clubs (doesn't have to be nude, just g-string will do). The key is to get to a place where someone close to the industry can find you.

Many gay porn stars (like Dave York or Brad Stone, my friends in the industry) were once strippers, so it's useful if you can strip or do exotic dancing. That way, people can see what kind of dick you have, and what kind of body. And they can tell that you have ZERO problems flashing it in front of 100 people. My friend Todd tried to do porn with his 11" cock, and he couldn't. He took FOREVER to get hard (bigger guys do -- I know, my bf is 9"), and he couldn't keep it there because he was uncomfortable being watched by 10 people and having a cameraman thrust the camera into private areas of his body and having to start and stop the sex all the time so they could adjust sound, light, angle, etc. Anyway, if you strip or dance, and if you go to EVERY event where gay porn stars show (like gay pride, gay marches, gay rallies, special book signing events, AIDS fundraisers, "porn star night" at strip clubs, etc.) you will get auditioned at any rate. TALK TO THE PORN STARS! My friend Dave York got in only because he just pushed EVERYONE aside one day and talked to Blade Thompson when Blade (who is also from Montana, like me, but not from Great Falls) was stripping here in DC two years ago.

The other way is to go to New York or LA and audition. Get the gay Los Angeles newspaper "Frontiers." Most B.Daltons and Crown Books and some Brentano's and Barnes & Noble bookstores will carry it, although I'm not sure if they do in Boise! :) In Frontiers, the gay porn studios advertise ALL THE TIME in the yellow "sex" pages. Go audition.

It's that simple.

Once you get an audition, it's common for the industry insider to ask you to come to some apartment, go into the other room, strip, come out naked, get a hard on, and masturbate to orgasm. They want to see if you can do it in front of a total stranger, for one thing. They want to see your body, what you look like naked, if you are embarrassed being naked, what your cock looks like hard, and how you cum (fast, is there a lot, does it shoot far, etc.). Then they'll tell you to clean up and get dressed. You will be interviewed as to tastes in sex (will you rim? will you bottom? will you top? will you do enemas? will you do leather? will you suck cock?) and ability to have sex and experience having sex. Then it's "see ya later!" and they will call if they like you. The infamous "casting couch" is not common in the gay porn industry, although some second- or third-rate producers will do that. (Robert Prion, anyone?) If the guy DOES want to have sex with you, it will be as himself and NOT as the industry rep.

Eager performer-wanna-be's can also try breaking into the business "cold." I am acquainted with four gay porn stars who either mailed a letter and photo to a studio, or e-mailed a studio and attached a JPG or GIF. Although this is hit and miss (miss more than hit), it helps by-pass the strip circuit.

Are there any secrets to gay porn success?

Tim Evanson tells me that gay porn is caught up by fads. In the early 1980s it was the muscular gym rat. In the mid 1980s, blond twinks. In the late 1980s, natural frat boy types. But almost all gay porn actors have to have a few tools:
  1. Be a top and a bottom on film. Although a few actors such as Ryan Idol and Joey Stefano have made careers out of being one or the other, directors want versatility and the chance to make chemistry work between actors who've just met. That means being versatile in bed.
  2. Have a dick that looks at least 7" to 8" long. Most men, of course, have cocks only 6"-6.5" long, but since the average height of gay porn stars is only 5'8", a 6.5" cock will look 7.5" long. Being uncut can help in the 1990s, but this is a fad for the most part.
  3. Have 5% body fat and work out regularly to achieve extensive definition. Although many gay porn stars are VERY muscular (Tom Katt or Ryan Idol) and some still have their baby fat (Jeff Browning and Joey Stefano), for the most part gay porn stars need strongly defined and often large pectoral muscles, highly developed abdominal muscles, and strongly muscled legs.
  4. Shave your body. If you are hairy, shave the hair off. If you are smooth, keep it that way. Shave your balls and shave your ass.
  5. Get a strong tan.
  6. Learn to moan and scream.
  7. Learn to get an erection on command and to orgasm on command. The look of most gay porn stars is often the same, so don't try to stand out. Tatoos, non-standard haircuts, body piercings (even earrings), moles or birthmarks, and scars are decidedly unwelcome. You have to learn to have sex with anyone they put in bed with you, under horrible conditions, and with maybe 5 minutes to get acquainted and learn your lines.
Gay porn is not pretty! It just looks that way on screen.

Do porn stars get recruited?

If you have dreams of being Lana Turner sitting in Schwab's and being asked to fuck Kaitlyn Ashley, think again. Mike South says:

Directors, as a general rule do not recruit, they hire talent from Jim South or Reb. I am a bit of an exception here as there are no agents in the SE.

The agents recruit by running ads in local tabloids and underground papers.

Stories do exist, however, of cases where a director has seen a particular model on the road, in a store, or at the beach, handed over a card, and gotten a contract signed. But it is *rare*.

How much do porn stars make?

Jerry Butler in his book "Raw Talent" discussed the inequity of pay for porn actors versus actresses. He claimed that actresses made in the $1000-1500 range as their day rate, which the male actors made about a third of that, $300-500 a day. Of course, considerations for number of scenes and star power were made for the women. Rumors had Savannah making $10,000 per film and Seka allegedly wants $100,000 to do another film. Neither of these figures have been verified.

Frontline's 1987 documentary of the Shauna Grant suicide, "Death of a Porn Queen" mentions that actresses got as much as $1,000 a day for making videos.

Brandy Alexandre says:

Video performers are only paid the day they shoot the video. There are no royalties for sales or rentals, and there are no extra payments when footage is used in another feature like compilations of facial shots, or "Best of..." titles.

Most movies are shot in a single day. Most of the time they are shot in twos - two movies in two days - to cut down on equipment rental costs. The men are paid between $250 and $400 a day and women are paid $300 to $700 a day. The variations depend on what is called for in the individual scenes and how many scenes you will be doing that day.

Girls make much more money on the road dancing. A great number of actresses today are doing movies just to enhance their marketability as strippers. I do not have plans to go on any dance tours. I wish I could just come to your area and sign autographs at a book store or do those "chat booth" things. Those are a lot of fun. :)

An adult film star who asks not be identified says: "Females make from $300 to $1000 a scene, unless they are under contract, in which case the price jumps considerably. But contract girls only work a fraction of the time of freelancers, and won't make as much in the long run. Guys make from $200-$500 a scene, unless they are under contract, etc. (i.e. Steven St. Croix and Jon Dough)"

Jim Gunn, producer/director of the Strap-On Sally series (among others) down at Pleasure Productions has this to say:

Most actresses get paid by scene. Pay anywhere from $200-1000 for a scene depending on who, what, to whom etc. Anal, D.P., Gangbangs, 'Big Stars', all get paid more.

Scenes do not take all day typically. Several hours is common, and many performers are watching the clock to run to a second set that same day. Only certain contract girls may get paid per movie. Each of these deals are unique of course. Many movies are shot two at a time over a two-three day period with the relevant performers only sticking around while they have upcoming scenes. Again, this depends on the scale of the movie (big budget with acting or one- day-wonder) and the performers.

Are people fired on set ever? Man you can't believe the shit that's occasionally happened on my sets. No-shows, late shows, no i.d. documents, o.d.'s on drugs (once); fistfights, etc. Not usually, but sometimes things happen. Most shoots run smooth with some performers complaining and allowances are made to accommodate people who must leave early, get special food, and the like.

I'm sure that it's the same in Hollywood...

It's probably safe to say that there is no set pay scale and you get what you negotiate.

Tim Evanson passes this along:

In gay porn, actors usually make more money than their male hetero porn counter parts. According to statements made by gay porn stars in Dave Kinnick's SORRY I ASKED, the average gay porn star in 1993 made about $500-800 per film, whether it's one scene or several. Some gay porn stars, such as Joey Stefano and Ryan Idol and Jeff Stryker, have claimed to make up to $1,500 per picture due to their star drawing power. However, problem performers often earn at the lower end of the spectrum: According to the book WONDER BREAD AND ECSTASY, Joey Stefano's drug problems depressed his salary under the $500 mark at the end of his career.

Newcomer gay porn stars say that salaries for newbies in gay porn now run around $1,000 per picture, and the Adam Film World Gay Video 1997 Directory says that Ryan Idol commanded upwards of $20,000 for his last film, IDOL IN THE SKY.

How much do porn directors make?

This is a tough call, and no tried and true answer holds. From what I've read, a director is given a certain amount of money to make a movie with and whatever is left over is his salary. While I would imagine he needs a minimal amount as a salary just to take the job, it probably isn't an unusual practice.

Directors are usually employed in two ways: Some are on salary at studios, while others work as independents and sell their movies to studios on "spec." Although it is unclear how much directors on salary make, most "indie" directors who sell their movies on spec usually only cover their costs.

What I really want to do is direct!

S. Andrew Roberts, our editor behind-the-scenes, offers this perspective:

It's really rather easy. Just convince a company that you can produce and direct a movie that will make them money. Get a promise that they will buy it from you when you're done. Then...hire the talent and crew. Book a location. Get a script. Actually, don't bother with a script because the talent doesn't bother learning lines much prior to the time they sit down at the make-up table. Hope to hell everybody shows up within four hours of the call time. Pray the males will get wood, keep it for an hour AND pop on cue.

Then hire an editor to cut the movie and a composer to supply music for 15 minute long sex scenes. Hope to God the cameraman has actually shot SOME softcore footage or you may have a problem getting the company to accept only one version.

Then... sit back and count the profits. Oh... BTW, the company will only pay you $10,000 when you deliver. If you deliver. Did I happen to mention that they want it shot and edited on Betacam SP?

Think I'm pulling your leg? Think again! I had another phone call yesterday from a typical porn producer asking if I'll cut a full-length, five scene feature for $850 bucks (maybe a grand!). I've got $100,000 tied up in equipment and he's trying to convince me to work for peanuts.

Want some real advice? Here it is: Forget about "directing movies." Doesn't happen in this business. A "director" is somebody who can deliver a finished movie (and I use that term loosely) on time and for a pre-determined price. Actual "directing" only gets in the way of being a hard-nosed producer capable of making impossible decisions. Start out by shooting an "amateur" and see if you can make a profit. Then try increasingly bigger projects if you find yourself liking it.

Good luck! Let us know what nom de porn you will be using so we can look up the reviews in AVN!

So, maybe mainstream is not where I want to be... would you tell me about amateur?

Amateur is a stepping stone for actors more than directors, but that is not to say that you're work will go unnoticed. Most jobs in the video/film industry (except at the highest echelons) are done by showing off your "reel" which is a bunch of stuff you have edited together to show yourself off -- a video resume if you will. You could use some amateur stuff to show off how well you could capture performers having sex.

Tim Evanson says, "One way to break into directing is to become an amateur director, and sell your movie to a studio. Enough sales, and you could be hired! I am personally acquainted with the attempt by amateur directors VidKid Timo in New Orleans and director J.H. at Capitol Productions in Washington, DC. In these cases, the director financed, cast, filmed, and edited the films themselves. Many amateur directors first try to sell their videos via the Web, but most cannot compete at this low level of sales--or recoup their costs fast enough to keep the bill collector at bay. These two directors eventually shopped their video around to distributors, who then picked up their titles. The directors then received a portion of the profits. In other cases I know of, directors outright sold the rights to their movies for a specified amount of money (usually enough to cover costs)."

What kind of budgets to amateur productions have?

I believe the average pro video has a budget in the 12-15,000 range. Amateur productions are MUCH less, often done on no budget and then paid $1000 or so by a company for the rights to distribute their tape. The actors and actresses usually go unpaid or get a pittance for their work.

What kind of equipment do I need?

Most people are shooting digital these days, and the three-CCD cameras are the weapon of choice. That's not to say the standard run-of-the-mill DV camera won't suffice, but the higher end cameras will obviously give you a better picture, etc. You can find the 3-CCD cameras for around $3000.

You could also look in your Yellow Pages under Video Services and see if you could find a freelance cameraman to shoot the scene for you. However, be prepared for up to $250/day plus expenses for a pro, plus make sure you discuss UP FRONT the fact that you'll be shooting explicit sex. That may be a dealbreaker.

What about editing?

If you look at most of the amateur stuff that is shot in someone's house, there aren't many cuts, and what cuts there are almost seem to have been done "in camera."

A cinematographer friend passes along:

"With non linear equipment getting cheaper by the day I would think AVID MC XPRESS, Media 100 and the latest, cheapest that I know of is Draco's Casablanca. A friend who runs a film lab in New York said that digital video was made for porn since there is a lot of in camera editing and the VHS dubs as well as DVD copies are first generation. I began my career in the 70's shooting, editing and working as a projectionist in a porn place. This was due to the fact that I was young at the time and no one but this one guy who owned a theater chain and a small production facility wanted to turn me loose with equipment. It was 16mm to super 8 for loop peepshow projection then. The bigger stuff was 35mm."

What about legal issues?

Ah, the curse of the pornographer.. John Law.

There are record keeping requirements that need to be strictly adhered to. These are outlined in the "Legal Stuff" part of this document.

Suffice it to say that you'd better consult with an experienced attorney and be prepared to keep strict records of your performers.

Okay, so maybe directing is not the thing to do... who writes the songs that those people fuck to?

Brandy sez:

It's usually friends of people in the industry that have a keyboard and stuff. They get probably $300 and the music is used over and over and over (and most of the time doesn't even suit the scene.) John Stagliano and I have another person we like to use who will originally score the video. He costs a lot but I think it's worth it. We have re-used the music from time to time but only bits and pieces and we give him a few dollars more.

Tim Evanson points out:

Costello Presley, a mainstay in the gay porn arena, once did an interview in MANSHOTS magazine that proved highly instructive. Presley, a long-time LA studio musician, noted that most composers get about $250 per film because the director knows that the score will probably only be a rehash of themes and music heard previously in other porn films. Top-notch studios will pay more, say $500, if they have a guarantee of a totally new composition. But Presley noted that the reason why most starving artists do gay porn is that they are beginners who fiddle with themes and music and beats, and their experiments litter gay porn.

It should be pointed out that most composers are keyboardists; full bands need not apply. Composers should not think that they are indispensable; producers are perfectly willing to dump a composer and just rip off some techno music.

There's also an interview with porn composer Rock Hard archived in the r.a.m.e. reading room.

Well, how about some other tech job? How do I become a videographer? An editor?

Most studios hire videographers because the director or studio head knows the cameraman, not because the videographer is the most skilled person around. Yes, this leads to problems with framing, angle, etc. But porn is "closed" partly because studios don't want camera people spending their time drooling over the performers rather than doing their job, and partly because filming porn is such a unique process.

Occasionally, a studio or director will advertise at film schools for new camera operators in order to infuse new blood into the framing, angles, shots, etc. It also keeps costs down; a 10-year porn veteran will want more money than a hungry newbie fresh out of UCLA's film school. Once in a blue moon, an independent cameraman will impress a studio with his work in porn, and get hired. But again, don't count on this as your way into the business.

Most studios have their own in-house editing facilities. They also sell their services to other studios who do not have editing equipment themselves.

Usually, porn is edited by an editor working alone or by the director in cooperation with the editor. The world of editing in porn is even more closed to outsiders than is photography, so don't get your hopes up!

What about more mundane jobs in the adult industry?

In late 2000, a site opened up for people looking for work in all facets of the adult industry -- AdultStaffing.Com is carving a niche for itself as the jobseeker board that caters to the adult industry.

Some job classifications they list are: Adult Video Performer, Adult Video Production, Bookeeping/Finance, Club Dancers, Feature Entertainers, Gay/Lesbian, Graphic Artists, Internet Models, Magazine Staff, Massage Personnel, Phone Sex Operators, Private Dancers, Sales/Marketing, Security/Drivers and Spa & Body Care.

Good luck!

How much can I make if I write adult movie scripts?

You're assuming anyone wants to buy an adult movie script.

According to Brandy Alexandre, 99% of the director's write their own scripts and if they are so inclined to buy one, they rarely pay more that $100 (if that).

She also states that "Unless you want to give away your scripts there is really no one that would be interested in them. The directors usually write their own due to the poor budgets. I sold one once for $100, but that was more of a professionally courtesy between John Leslie and myself."

Other advice she offers "is if you *do* want to simply see your work produced you should write the complete script, not just 'storylines and situations', make sure that the action takes place in the in a minimal number of locations, and do not 'script' a sex scene. Special actions, activity, and even clothing will get you 'filed' in no time."

Jon Erikson chimes in: "To expand on that: as with any business, find out what the customer needs and wants. It would do you no good to write porno version of "Gone with the Wind" if most directors/producers couldn't even come close to doing it justice in terms of sets, costumes, etc. What directors need is not a script, but a screenplay. If you could come to me and say "Hey, we can take that idea you have, and given the studio and sets you have, do the story like this, with shots like this to convey this particular feeling, etc.". I'm sure you're aware that most porno directors leave a bit to be desired in the artistic arena, and many could use a lot of help implementing their ideas. Of course, selling that to a director is one hell of a task."

I have heard from some other sources that Paul Thomas paid $250 for a treatment and then botched the script. The quote that sticks out the most in my mind is "... there's no money in it. You put up with exactly the same bullshit as the 'straight' industry, but for peanuts. Fuck that shit."

Back in the just-post-golden age, Hart Williams wrote scripts for porn-Hollywood:

When I began writing them, a script went to 30 whole pages (way down from the 80-100 page scripts of the film days) for $500, down to 13 pages (for $300), down to 10 or 11 pages (for, maybe, $200 or $150). The more I sold, the less I made, and I began to hear complaints that it was TOO LONG at that length. And, very quickly, directors' girlfriends began rewriting us, and, finally writing them without needing actual writers. I can only assume that when they broke up with their girlfriends, they just wrote them themselves, or, as J.D. used to say: Like anybody's gonna fucking care if the boom is in the shot!

Jon Erikson says:

I agree 100%. Budgets often also dictate the location, props, etc., which then dictate a lot of the script. We always generate our own scripts, which are typically designed to take advantage whatever sets we have in our studio. It's pretty tough to buy a pre-written script, and then try to gather the necessary props, sets, and locations alluded to in that script when your budget is peanuts. If we come across some inexpensive/used equipment, furniture, props, etc., you can pretty much bet our next scripts will reflect it. We're quite involved in computer 3D animation, so we can generate realistic buildings, space ships, etc. on the computer and write a script around that. One of the pleasures a director gets is having a hand in turning his idea/fantasy into a finished production. Buying a script would take much of that away.

Tim Evanson says that gay porn director/producer Jerry Douglas noted in MANSHOTS magazine in 1993 that most gay porn scripts are at most 5-7 pages long. Many directors use in-laws or friends to write scripts, or do it themselves. Some low-budget studios only use outlines, and improvise dialogue or cut it out entirely in favor of "mimed" action story-telling.

Are there any books I can read about the subject of porn production?

There are few books written about the porn industry and its product. Some good reviews of porn related books can be found in the reading room. Some notable "academic" studies of porn, courtesy of Prof. David Austin:

Robert Stoller and I. S. Levine, COMING ATTRACTIONS: THE MAKING OF AN X-RATED MOVIE, Yale University Press. Hardcover: ISBN: 0-300-05654-0 (out of print); Softcover: ISBN: 0-300-06661-9

which is an ethnographic study of the making of the video "Stairway to Paradise", and then to watch the video itself. On subsequent viewings, refer back to relevant parts of the book.

Also useful is:

Robert Stoller, PORN, Yale University Press, 1991, Hardcover: ISBN 0-300-05092-5 (available in many public and university libraries); Softcover: ISBN 0-300-05755-5

Stoller, a psychiatrist and prominent gender theorist, offers chapter-length interviews with several people involved in the industry, including William Margold, Kay Parker, Nina Hartley, Merlin the S/M King and Jim Holliday.

Also, check out:

Annie Sprinkle's Post-Modern Pin-Ups, Pleasure Activist, ISBN 0-9638129-3-9, Publisher : Gates of Heck

Back to Top


Newsgroup problems: e-mail rame-request@rame.net.
Website problems: e-mail webmaster@rame.net

Questions about adult movies should be posted or mailed to the newsgroup rec.arts.movies.erotica. The staff at the above addresses cannot answer your questions; the folks in the newsgroup probably can.