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If it is so hard to be in adult movies, why do actors and actresses enter the business at all?

So porn stars tend to like their work?

Stacey Donovan hates porn?

Why do we always see men orgasm, but hardly ever see the women orgasm?

How long do actors stay in the business of making videos?

Do porn actors need to be members of the Screen Actor's Guild?

Why do hetero male performers last for years in the business, when the women seem to last only a few months?

How do you know when a performer has retired?

Are there actors turned directors?

How long does it take to make an adult video?

How long are porn scripts?

Sales and other related figures...

What is considered a big success?

What's the all time best-sellers?

After completing a project how much would a producer receive from a distributor?

How much does a distributor wholesale the video to a retailer for?

Perhaps you could differentiate between amateurs and features - shot on video or shot on film. Bottom line - where's the profit made?

What frustrates an editor most?

I have a dickens of a time knowing who's who in a porn film. Why can't everyone put a picture to a face?

Why is the sound so bad?

How do you shoot and/or edit softcore footage?

Why do they keep cutting to the guy's mug before the cumshot?

Do cameramen ever get in on the action?

If it is so hard to be in adult movies, why do actors and actresses enter the business at all?

Most are actors who didn't make it into the "big time". Jerry Butler, in his book "Raw Talent", says he got into porno so he could make a few extra bucks and get some experience in front of a movie camera. However, he didn't expect the stigma to follow him, and when it did, he found he had nowhere else to act, but in porn movies.

Now Jerry's may be an extreme case. Keep in mind that it acting is very hard profession to break in to. People who go to Hollywood to find their dreams often find themselves on waiting lists for jobs waiting tables. So it is a way to act and make some pocket money.

There are other reasons, too. Some are, unfortunately, supporting a drug habit; some are simply curious (as Hypatia Lee once mentioned in an interview); some figured if they were going to swing in private, why not swing in public and make a few bucks; and some just genuinely enjoy it.

Thanks go to Marc for this one...

So porn stars tend to like their work?

It's hard to tell.

Some are very supportive of the industry, and say so on talk shows and in major interviews -- Nina Hartley, Little Oral Annie, and Ashlyn Gere, for example. Others are very vocal against the industry -- Holly Ryder, Stacey Donovan, and others. Most remain guardedly neutral -- presumably they do it because it's a job, and like most jobs they neither like it nor hate it, it's just something to do.

Stacey Donovan hates porn?

Well, let's just say she did testify in front of the Meese Commission. There were rumors she did it for the money, but by doing so, she virtually ensured herself no warm welcomes back to the porn industry.

Peter van Aarle says:

On that same subject: Stacey was also the subject of a week long series on Los Angeles tv-station KNBC, Channel 4 in November 1986. It was a "hard-hitting piece" called "Confessions of a Porn Queen - a Shocking Report" with the "Queen" in shadows and her voice electronically distorted (but any porn buff could easily recognize her :-)

In reality the 5 part series was a piece of blatant sensationalism (par for the course for sweeps weeks, I'm told) with Stacey apparently being more than happy to tell how all the girls in the industry were being coerced.

Well what can you expect from a girl who has been quoted as saying: "Yechh. I hate sex scenes. All that silly grunting and groaning, and all that messy sweat. And hey, how would you like to have to put some wrinkled-up sausage in your mouth. God knows where it's been."

Roger P. Tipe says he "found the magazine with the final scathing interview from Stacey. It is in Erotic X Film Guide Aug. 1987."

Why do we always see men orgasm, but hardly ever see the women orgasm?

Nick Long says:

"In many cases the women are *not* aroused. It's tough to get females to respond *sensually* as well as sexually when surrounded by cameras, crew, shouting directors, cameras, light stands, hot lights, impossible positions, etc. It's just as tough for many of the guys, which is also one of the reasons there is not more variety in male performers. Many guys try, many love the thought of screwing all those gorgeous gals, but just can't cut the mustard 'on stage'."

"Note the word *performers*. It's just that - *performing*..."

Keep in mind that if the woman should orgasm, you will probably see it. As far as we know, no attempt is made to censor female orgasms.

How long do actors stay in the business of making videos?

It varies wildly. Directors stay a long time, because it tends to be a profitable sideline. Some of the photographers have been doing the work for decades. As for actors and actresses, it depends on the person. But, by and large, hetero males stay far longer than females. Male actors stay in porn, on average, approximately ten to fifteen years. Ron Jeremy and Joey Silvera, for instance, have been in porn movies for almost two decades. Eric Edwards has made videos since the 1960's. And Randy West has been in adult videos for almost ten years.

Females, on the other hand, switch very often. The average time spent in the business is a year, and it is a rare actress who stays in the business more than three or four years without some sort of hiatus.

Tim Evanson passes along that Jerry Douglas, editor of MANSHOTS, recently noted that most gay porn stars make about 3 movies and then leave--which means, usually, that they last less than 6 months. Some gay actors have lasted as long as 7 years. "Stars" like Joey Stefano or Matt Gunther often stay about 3-4 years.

Do porn actors need to be members of the Screen Actor's Guild?

No. The Screen Actor's Guild only concerns itself with "mainstream" Hollywood movies. Porn does not subscribe to SAG rules.

This is not to say that SAG performers don't appear in porn films. According to AVN, Ron Jeremy has been responsible for getting many a porn starlet her SAG card, by getting them small parts in SAG movies.

There *has* been one all-SAG porn flick, The 1974 flick "Sometimes Sweet Susan" starring Harry Reems, Jamie Gillis and Craig Baumgarten, who is now a major legit movie producer. It was advertised as the first SAG-approved all-union adult movie.

Why do hetero male performers last for years in the business, when the women seem to last only a few months?

I think it has to do with the perception that the average het porn viewer is more interested in fresh women than fresh men. While this perception may not be accurate, it seems to be catered to by the "powers that be."

Also, as has been mentioned, it is not so easy to be a male porn stud, and often some of the studs we see last only a short time because it was not what they expected... or their girlfriends told them to stop ;-)

There must be a demand for new males -- I mean, it is getting embarrassing to watch a 45 year old guy having sex with someone half his age, and it's not so appealing -- but most of the directors feel that the main focus of the videos are the females and they care little who the males are.

There are some new faces, but for every Michael J. Cox, there are 20 one shot wonders. Statistically, I would bet that 95% of the movies out there have at least one of the following actors: Ron Jeremy, Randy West, Joey Silvera, Mike Horner, Marc Wallice or Peter North. That's only six actors and they're in almost every movie.

How do you know when a performer has retired?

To paraphrase critic Bill Caits, "the only porn stars who officially have retired are dead." (Thanks to AFW editor Jeremy Stone for this one...)

Are there actors turned directors?

Sure are. While some actors supplement their income by directing the occasional feature (Derrick Lane comes to mind), others retire or quit acting to concentrate solely on directing.

John Leslie, Paul Thomas and Eric Edwards are three that seem to have made the cross into the director's chair, never to be seen again (except for the occasional cameo).

There is an increasing trend for performers to direct themselves in their own line of videos -- Joey Silvera, Rocco Siffredi and Tom Byron are standouts in this area. Ron Jeremy is also very accomplished, having directed 150+ video so far, tho his movies are not so much centered upon himself as the others are...

Steve Drake has also directed a handful of movies, and Randy West has now branched out into production and directing with his "Up 'n' Cummers" amateur series.

On the actress side, Candida Royalle stands out as being one of the first females having made the transition from acting to the production end. That's not to say that other actresses haven't directed as well, they just didn't quit acting to do it. Brandy Alexandre is the proud title holder of "only woman to act, direct and produce her own videos" (Cheeks 5: Cop a Feel and Best Butt(e) in the West). Sharon Kane and Sharon Mitchell have also stepped behind the camera at one time or another.

More recently Shane has enjoyed success with her self-helmed Shane's World and Pornological series. Same goes for Misty Rain and her "Misty Cam" series.

Some female performers have teamed up with their SOs and produced some successful videos: Teri Diver and SO Tom Elliot; Britt Morgan and SO Jace Rocker; Bionca and ex-SO Bruce Seven; Ona Zee and SO Frank Zee; and Gail Force with (SO?) Jim Powers...

Tim Evanson says that "more and more gay porn actors are also going behind the camera. One of the best known and the first to do so were Kristen Bjorn in the late 1980s and Gino Colbert in the early 1990s, but now Karl Thomas, Sam Abdul (who owns Forum Studios), Chip Daniels (who owns Minotaur), Johnny Rey (who owns Bacchus Releasing), Jamie Hendrix (who owns Hendrix Productions), Levvy Carriker, and Christopher Robin are also lensing porn films. Falcon Studios has even set up a "school" for gay porn directors, and many gay porn actors try their hand at this program."

How long does it take to make an adult video?

Brandy Alexandre says:

The average movie is shot in one day. Often two or three videos are shot in two days to save on costs so the directors can pocket more money out of the budget (highly common practice).

Depending on how long the editor takes to put it together -- usually three or four days -- the movie can be on the market as soon as the box cover is shot and the art is done. Of all the aspects to making a video the box takes the longest.

A recent issue of SAVAGE MALE (devoted solely to the making of gay videos THE OTHER SIDE OF ASPEN 3 and 4) notes that most gay porn films are filmed in about 2 days, with big-budget productions like TOSOA 3 and 4 taking over a week to make.

How long are porn scripts?

S. Andrew Roberts, an editor out there in pornland, says that some of the scripts for the features by Fantastic Pictures are four pages long. "If I'm lucky, someone will actually include the script in the box with the camera masters. If I'm very, VERY lucky, the performers will actually utter words similar in meaning to those written in the script... I don't often count on it..."

Tim tells me that Douglas' co-authored script for the award-winning Studio 2000 film TAKE DOWN in 1993 was printed in MANSHOTS magazine. In printed form (with photos) it ran only 7 pages. Several paragraphs of directorial instructions were included. The film was noteworthy for being dialogue-heavy, so TAKE DOWN should be read with that in mind.

Sales and other related figures...

Bill Majors, a producer himself, is best suited to field this one:

I will have to divide this into a couple of areas. First, for the past 4 years I have NOT been in the adult sex area, but have stuck to fetish since I KNOW that market and am one of the leaders in it. In our fetish market a sale of 1,000 units in the first year is average. In the hard core field an average sale might be between 1,000-2,000 units. Of course this is an average.

What is considered a big success?

In bondage and fetish anything over the 1,000 units. I for example have some tapes that have sold 3,000 units. In the hard core field that is tougher to say, anything over 12,000 units is probably a BIG success.

What's the all time best-sellers?

Well Ninn's "Latex" is up there... The John Wayne Bobbit ("Uncut") tape sold in excess of 50,000 units and is the biggest seller of its time period.

After completing a project how much would a producer receive from a distributor?

It depends. :-)

One thing is for sure, there's not much outright selling going on. Its more along the lines of licensing and distribution deals. Very few producers just produce something and try to sell it. Rather many do it on a budget. Sometimes the budget includes their work, and other times their cut is an add-on. Sometimes they sell all rights, other times they will reserve foreign rights and keep the raw footage. Sometimes two videos are made from one shoot, and/or a sequel.

Bill Majors says:

Each deal is very unique and unusual.

The average deal seems to be that in the world of hard core you can expect to reap a reward of between 1,000-10,000 bucks depending on reputation, budget, etc. The most dangerous way to make a video is to foot all expenses yourself and expect to sell it and/or self distribute it. It is such a funny business that I, for example, still have two hard core features that were shot and paid for, but never distributed. I don't even know WHO owns them now. Do I, for their storage fees, does the original producer who paid cash for the productions, etc.?

In the fetish area a full payment of $1,000-$2,500 is the total one can pretty much expect, unless you enter a royalty deal, and then the problem is getting an honest count.

We should add that the November, 1996 AVN reports that once a tape is distributed, re-selling the rights for compilations is also possible. Any tape older than 2 years old is usually considered "catalog" and can be sold for around $500 as comp footage.

How much does a distributor wholesale the video to a retailer for?

Ah, the heart of the business.

First you have two levels of distribution. Often the producer or company that owns the film is also a manufacturer and distributes their own and other products into the marketplace. The marketplace is very funny now. Some things go out at a total cost of $3-4 bucks. (I don't see how they can make any money but they do.) Many others go out at $11 from the manufacturer, the distributor tags on a "nickel" (5 bucks) and the store another "nickel" and that seems to be the average story.

Fetish tapes still seem to go out at about $18 which is why there are so many folks trying to enter this business, but they don't understand how to do it, and therefore usually have disappointing sales after their first few. (new names, and titles always seem to have a better than average sale)

After Tim Evanson spoke with several distributors, he reports that "it seems that the prices for gay porn--while often comparable at a wholesale level--also can rise much higher than het porn prices. For example, Falcon appears to wholesale its films to retailers at prices in the $30-$50 range, prices unheard of in het porn."

Perhaps you could differentiate between amateurs and features - shot on video or shot on film. Bottom line - where's the profit made?

Bottom line, profit is VERY hard to make in this business today. Most of the majors (myself included) are restructuring, trying to maximize profits, lower costs, etc. Amateurs and features, well there just is NO comparison, and while I did produce 50 (next door neighbors) amateur videos I did so when we were able to get 15 bucks each. Today the usual price is about 5-8 bucks out the door. As for shot on video vs. film... some producers still use film. Why? Well in the European market they like film, and also they are looking to the future and hoping that the extra quality of film will result in greater sales in the future.

What frustrates an editor most?

S. Andrew tells us it's not all fun and games on a porn shoot:

"...when a the "director" spends most of his time trying to get the dialogue just right. Never mind the story makes no sense. Never mind the story, at best, looks like a wrap-around for a bunch of sex scenes that have no relation to the story other than the fact the same characters are in them.

There's rarely enough footage to cut the now required soft-core version. And the sex scenes are so choppy with directors trying to "direct" the action that it's damn hard to associate two shots together smoothly.

Tim interjects: soft core versions of porn movies do not exist in the gay porn world. Soft core cable channels like Spice and Playboy do not have gay counterparts. Gay porn also tends to be labeled obscene more often due to its homosexual content than do heterosexual films, and so chains like Tower Records and video stores often will not carry it (even if soft core) like they will hetero porn.

Back to Andy...

Often there's so much off-camera direction that much good footage is rendered unusable. Examples like the director saying something profound like: "Transition now!" or the cameraman who'd rather interrupt a woman's orgasm to tell her to move her hand because it's blocking his close-up of her pussy, (Never mind that he could just as easily shift slightly to one side to get the clean shot or that the hand that's blocking her pussy from his camera is the hand that's rubbing her pussy furiously in order for her to have that orgasm. Never mind that what he really should be shooting is her beautiful face in the throes of an orgasm.) or the video tech who yells out during the middle of a shoot/pan/zoom/or other very artistic camera move: "IRIS!" blowing the concentration of everybody including the talent. After all that, I'm lucky if the real raw footage ratio of sex is 1 1/2:1.

Unfortunately, when the director asks the cameraman how much footage he's shot, none of those factors are considered and consequently I'm usually inundated with far too much good shots of dialogue and far too little good sex. *I* for one know that first and foremost, I'm making a sex movie and try to concentrate my efforts on making the best sex scenes from what I have to work with.

I have a dickens of a time knowing who's who in a porn film. Why can't everyone put a picture to a face?

Brandy says:

One of the reasons movies are so bad, in my opinion, is that there is not one person who sees the project through from beginning to end. The writer is never involved in the shoot and neither is the editor. And the director rarely participates in editing, he just delivers the camera masters. So it's up to the editor to know who is who or just throw up the names.

S. Andrew concurs by saying:

That's pretty close to the truth.

I'd like to think I'm a rare breed of editor who not only likes to research what the accurate stage names are but also try to place both the name and the performer's image on the screen at the same time so that new actresses are correctly identified. I also enjoy creating a title sequence to run the opening credits over. I feel it lends a movie much more production value than just running credits over a colored background.

Tim says that putting faces to names in opening or closing credits is a fairly common occurrence in gay porn. Although a trend among some low-budget studios and producers has been to stop doing this, for the most part gay porn films routinely contain such credits.

Why is the sound so bad?

T.H. Royal tells me that the budget, (or the lack of it) is the main problem. "The only way to mic a video or movie set is with a boom mic or wireless body mics. Obviously the latter present some unique problems in porn. And, [as was pointed out before] you just can't hand the lunch man a mic boom [and expect he would know how to work it properly]. Knowing how to boom a set requires knowledge. What is the best microphone for the acoustic conditions, where to place the mic for best audio and how to avoid boom shadows.

Post-production fix-up work is possible, but unlikely. "A lot can be done in post if you take the time and effort. But again that equates to budget. The problem with porn production today, with few exceptions, is that your biggest budget line item is 'Lunch at McDonalds!'"

How do you shoot and/or edit softcore footage?

S. Andrew Roberts, our editor in the field, tells us that while it's theoretically true that a second camera, positioned slightly differently from the "main" camera could conceivable capture soft- core footage at the same time, many variables come into play that usually spoil the added effort and expense.

  • Most sets are rather intimate. Small if you prefer. This is because the available stages are rather small overall and a variety of sets is required for each shoot. Thus the sets are small. On top of that, the area occupied by the performers is typically small, usually just a bed or sofa. Considering all that, there isn't much room for the main camera and a guy holding the "C" light and a guy with the microphone boom let alone an extra camera.
  • IMHO, there's only ONE good position for a camera to be in given a particular position of the performers. The second camera is relegated to a lousier shot. Worse yet, often times, BOTH cameras are capturing the SAME image. Or...both cameras are capturing hard-core footage because each feels that the best available shot at the moment. This is all because there's no communication between each cameraperson and the director. Since the director is likely to be onstage just outside the camera's view, he is not going to bother to talk each camera into any particular angle since anything said by him will be picked up by a microphone not far away. To move the director off the stage and into a sound proof room would also require a communications system which would add extra cables to each camera and yet another cost to ever shrinking budgets.
  • On a typical two-camera shoot, as one camera is in position capturing an image, the other camera is moving to a different position so as not to be in the way of the first camera and to attempt to get a different image. The result of this is almost constant noise on the set as people reposition themselves. If that's not bad enough, there is an added person who will also try to control the actions and movement of the performers by speaking at inappropriate times. The result is a soundtrack problems, ignored during the shooting with the usual solution: "We'll fix it in post." Well...I can't fix it in post because there is less good sound to work with and more instances where it's needed.
  • Some additional technical problems also arise during two camera shoots. Often, the camerapeople hired have their own cameras and each camera's video, chroma and hue levels have drifted to vastly different settings. No porn shoot hires a video technician with remote camera control units to adjust and maintain levels nor do they balance the cameras together on industry standard reference charts and dolls. The result is usually tapes that have different levels that may or may not be able to be matched in post. Guys like me who spend big bucks on extra playback decks, Time Base Correctors and Color Correctors can usually match levels reasonably well, but editors without these necessary components usually turn out products where the colors change at each edit point. Additionally, nobody bothers to lock the time code generator of one camera to the time code generator of the other camera. Thus, it's impossible to lock tapes together so that one can dissolve from one tape to the other at the correct time. Occasionally, you can find dialogue, noises or body movements to sync the tapes but the moment one tape pauses, the sync is broken and had to be manually reset. PAIN IN THE ASS!
  • The producers refuse to pay extra for editing even though I have twice as much footage I must sift through. They think the extra footage is a favor. It's not! It makes for more work and more fixes left to the editor. (Yes, this last reason is a very personal indeed and not objective at all.)
Some instances are made for two cameras. Multiple-girl gang bangs come out much better because there is action occurring simultaneously all over the set and one camera cannot possible capture it. That leads to a much longer shoot to get the necessary footage of all participants and the performers are usually losing energy long before sufficient footage is shot. Multiple cameras are best used in situations where the performers do not move around the set and the cameras can be locked-off on tripods. Bill Majors shoots his bondage videos very successfully in this manner.

Why do they keep cutting to the guy's mug before the cumshot?

Jim Gunn, director of the East Coast Sluts series, sez:

Actually there is very little hope of losing this common video technique. Looking at the finished product, one might think the inclusion of a man's cum face is a deliberate artistic statement by the directors. This is not true. The cameraman is not "panning" to the guys face at all. Usually you will see no real time camera movement from , say, the couple in the midst of fucking to a close up of the guys face. Besides, this would involve more than panning, but also quite a large zoom in by the cameraman and refocusing.

What you are really seeing is a classical "cutaway" shot used as a transition between the ending of sex action and the facial splash. Typically the sex scene ends in a medium shot that was being captured 10 minutes earlier, before the director yelled "Ok, we've got enough footage" and the male talent took a swig of water and mechanically jerked himself off onto the girls face in a very deliberate way for the all-important cumshot.

A cutaway cut just as easily be a plane flying overhead or a flowerpot sitting on the mantle, but the man's facial expression is just so much more logical. This is one of those instances where the whimsical desires of the fans is overridden by the mechanical needs of the actual production. So don't look for the cum-grimace to go away anytime soon. And no, it is generally not practical to ask the male talent, even the top talent, to climax spontaneously at some point during the coitus while the cameraman captures it, thereby avoiding the need for a 2-second transitional cutaway. The guys can't usually climax without the use of their hand and it would possibly ruin the setup of the cumshot to the girls face anyway.

Do camerament ever get in on the action?

Dave Cummings put it best:

In my experience and opinion, not much! Unless previously set-up as part of the "plot", it's a No-No for a cameraman (or any crew member) to "hit" on the girl---the word would quickly spread and the producer/director who allowed such activities on his set might have increased difficulty booking girls in the future.

Additionally, if a girl encouraged the activity, some guys might think twice about "working" with her ever again (this is because crew members don't usually have the required PCR/DNA test, thus possibly increasing the risk for the actor who subsequently works with such a girl---keep in mind that condoms break sometimes, so even using one is not 100% foolproof.

No, we can't contol what is done off-set and/or in a co-worker's personal lives, but we need to lesser our risks in those situations that we are indeed able to have a say in).

 

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