For years, I shot in a studio, the first being Woody’s in KTown, near 7th and Vermont. Back then, I’d come to Porn Valley for a few days, shoot scenes for Blacks on Blondes and Gloryhole and Spring Thomas, sleep in a tiny room after we wrapped, then haul ass back home.
In fact, the whole second floor of that building was porno-rific: in addition to Woody’s studio, Nicky Milo had small place there, and Woody’s was huge, probably 7000 square feet, and it even had a huge “cyc” (cyclorama wall — Google it). When I first saw it, I thought to myself — ohhhh that’s how they do it. I was totally amateur; my camera was a simple point-and-shoot set to AUTO. I did know about white-balancing my videos, but even on my first few shoots, that was set to AUTO, too.
I shot a lot of porn at Woody’s. Then, in ’08, I moved my productions to a new, larger warehouse. It’s not easy finding a landlord who’ll rent to a smut peddler; in fact, the only thing worse than shooting smut was growing weed. My PA, The Minion, and I would make hundreds of calls and get hung up on most of the time. But we finally found a place.
One of the things I do, whenever I rent anything from anybody, is to ask around about the “anybody” I’m about to rent from. In this case, the landlord was an absentee landlord who lived out near Coachella. So I knocked on a few doors of my future neighbors. The general reply, once I told them who I was: “Oh, wow! You’re taking over where the artist used to work!”
Almost all of them said the artist like The Artist was some sort of big deal. Turns out, The Artist was kinda a big deal (Jason Rhoades), and being a huge art geek immediately researched his life: who he was, the art he made, and where he died…which, depending on who was telling the story, Jason OD’d right in the studio I had just rented. Two last words on Jason, for now…and yea, they’re ironic: Black Pussy (Oh…and you can see what the space looked like in Jason’s heyday). I stayed from ’08 until I was forced to leave six years later, after it was sold.
The toughest thing about managing a porno studio is keeping it “fresh” — the necessity to change out sets on a fairly frequent basis. Actually, you can’t change sets fast enough. It’s called being “shot out”, and not only does it apply to sets, but locations and models as well. Once it’s shot out, forget it. No one really wants to see it/them any more.
So, if it’s a set, you’re constantly changing out wall paint and flooring and furniture; if it’s a location/shoot house, I had to change it up maybe once every 8 to 10 scenes; and, if it’s a model, well…the average career span of a Porno Princess is maybe six months. By three years, they’re into “veteran” status, and anything past, say, five years, they’re in super-vet status. If they’re in the biz more than that, you’re talking about legendary status. For most, anyway. (Stunt cocks’ careers usually last much longer).
Around mid ’13, The Producer called. It was time to “up our game”, and get out of a studio and on to locations. This meant packing gear into a van and driving to pretty much any place in Porn Valley. Shoot houses, mainly. Every once in a while, I managed to secure a retail spot (everything from sandwich shops to laundromats to a fancy, lady’s boutique) — but most of the time they were houses.
And the houses varied in size and quality. Some were beautiful spots up in the Hollywood Hills: homes that might host a celebrity birthday party; others were modest, decent homes that sit in the middle of Porn Valley; and there were some that were dumps. It was all part of a new learning curve for me. I didn’t know what to expect the first time I knocked on a door, and most of the time the anxiety came from who opened it. Some of the homeowners were creatives (making music or movies or records — some of which you’d recognize), some were real estate hustlers (hustlers owned a bunch of homes and would rent them pretty much to whomever — from Air BnB’s to smut peddlers), and finally, some were just fucking perverts who liked the extra money.
One homeowner offered up his wife to my male talent. It was a 3 on 1 that day, and he assured me Wifey could handle all three dudes better than my Porno Princess had.
Some were ex-swingers.
A few were record execs whose income took a big hit with their income in the new streaming era. These were the guys who discovered bands or signed bands or managed bands or ran big labels. A&R guys. Shit like that.
Most just liked their side-hustle and didn’t mind the lube on their sofas nor the empty douche and enema bottles strewn in their bathrooms nor the DNA on their floors and furniture.
My goal was to always leave the place cleaner than when I walked in, and I never had a problem booking the place again.
What never made sense to me are the fans who pay attention to what’s going on in the background. As a porn fan, my focus was on the girl…not the sofa she was getting railed on nor the view out the window behind her. But fans really do care about things like that, and The Producer always told me sales went up when his smut was shot in a nice home.