Behind The Scenes at Vivid-Alt
Something interesting is going on in Porn-valley and while it may not revolutionize porn as we know it, it's sure to have an indelible impact on the way that adult films get made and who makes them. Earlier this year Vivid signed emerging director Eon McKai (Neu Wave Hookers) to an exclusive deal, giving him his own label and complete creative control over what gets produced and who produces it - a pretty huge step for a company used to having very tight control over their contract talent and one which acknowledges the need for fresh voices and new ideas in porn.
There has been a lot of buzz both positive and negative over Alt-Porn. Some see it as long overdue attention and support for making adult entertainment differently, while others have responded with harsh criticism calling it all "marketing hype." I decided it was time to check out this whole 'Alt-Porn' thing for myself and see why it's beginning to get so much attention, what kind of impact it'll have on adult entertainment, and exactly who the people making this stuff are.
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My travels into the world of 'Alt-Porn' brought me on to the set of Girls Lie, the first feature directed for Vivid-Alt by Eon McKai. Girls Lie (set for release in September) isn't the first film to be released by Vivid-Alt; that honor goes to Rebelle Rousers directed by Octavio Winkytiki. "I wanted to step back and help bring up other directors under the Alt-Porn label," explains McKai. "It's not all about me and my movies. It's about a group of directors doing their own thing, together." Eon's excitement about doing something different with porn is contagious and not just confined to the stable of directors working with him. Through the shoot he'd often refer to work done by D-Cypher, Jack The Zipper, Robby-D, Kimberly Kane, and even Rob Rotten (who, despite a recent spat in the adult trade press, he considers a friend). "The whole Alt-Porn thing is a lot like being in a band," describes McKai. "I play drums in this band, guitar for this one, and sing for another. I want this movement to bring everyone up."
I joined the production for Girls Lie as it was rounding out the final few scenes of the film. Rather than shooting with a large crew, Eon and company shoot with a very small and tight-knit team (Eon McKai, Octavio Winkytiki and Malachi Ecks). These three are all directors in their own right, but they put any egos aside and work as a team filling in the other key production rolls on each other's films. If it wasn't for the naked people fucking, you might easily mistake this team for an independent film production, with one key difference - absolutely no chaos. The first day on set, the location was a beautiful home in the Hollywood hills overlooking the San Fernando Valley. Under a tight schedule at a location with an extremely strict location manager, the team had their first challenge right off the bat. "Hello, I need a replacement actor," Malachi calmly spoke into his headset. "Mr. St Croix is the proud owner of chlamydia." Malachi muses about a new reality TV show for Showtime which is set to follow Eon and company and his concern that there is far too little drama on their sets. "They call me the Whore Whisperer," he jokes, "because I just seem to have a way to calmly solve porn shoot problems."
If there is any drama on the Vivid-Alt sets, more often then not, it's source is the deliciously insane (in a good way) and animated Octavio Winkytiki. A veteran of the music business, Octavio Winkytiki has garnered critical acclaim for his portrait photography. "When I worked with him on the set of Atomic Sex Vixens, I just knew I had to work with Octavio," exclaims McKai. Octavio, who is half Filipino and half Chilean and refers to himself as "Chilipino," has an often bizarre and hilarious sense of humor. Octavio will, in the same conversation, muse about Tiki dildos, best practices for HD lighting techniques, anal fisting, identity theft, and how the porn industry can work better. Rarely have I met someone so entirely animated and creative and, yet, so grounded and knowledgeable. In a completely ironic turn (and perhaps one which typifies the impact of Alt-Porn), last year Octavio was chased out of the Vivid booth when he was trying to take pictures; now he's one of their key directors.
Both days I spent on the set of Girls Lie were for scenes staring dot com phenom Dana DeArmond. Bubbly, zany, and extremely sharp, DeArmond isn't your typical porn star. "I like to think of myself as the Punk Rock Jenna," muses DeArmond. If there's anyone who represents the "Alt" in Alt-Porn it's DeArmond, an emerging performer who has completely circumvented the traditional route to performing. Without any manager, and not attached to any studio, DeArmond has used her online network to connect with the directors and productions she wants to work on. "I've got my little DeArmond-Army online," explains DeArmond. "Myspace is such an amazing thing." Also defying the image of a party hard porn star, DeArmond is completely 'straight edge' and doesn't drink or do drugs. "I'm a pretty shy person and I get really nervous before each shoot, because I want it to be really good," says DeArmond. Acutely aware of her fans and what they like DeArmond seems to take a great deal of pleasure in making good porn. After a particularly hot scene with Joey Ray, DeArmond glows about a foot job she gave in the scene: "My fans are going to LOVE that." DeArmond is a refreshing alternative to the current mainstay of performers.
The future is quite bright for the Vivid-Alt team. Rebelle Rousers, directed by Octavio Winkytiki, is set for release on DVD later this month, followed by Dave Naz's Skater Girls, and in September by Eon McKai's Girls Lie. The team then turns their attention to Dana DeArmond Does the Internet directed by Malachi Ecks (whose film The Inception will also hit DVD soon from VCA) and the reality TV series for Showtime. Then later this year will come a highly anticipated remake by Eon of the classic Debbie Does Dallas (tentatively titled Debbie <3 Dallas).
With their team approach to producing adult films, their indie film sensibilities, and their complete embrace of new media (almost everyone checked in with their Sidekicks or Laptops between takes), the Vivid-Alt team is poised to make a real impact on the adult industry.
- Chris Thorne
Photos courtesy of Octavio Winkytiki
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