2012 AEE Report--XCritic Speaks to the Visionary Owner of Girlfriends Films Dan O'Connell
By Rob Perez
In existence for 10 years, Girlfriends Films has risen from a small niche studio to become a powerful force within the industry, earning critical acclaim and accolades usually reserved for the more established brands. The man responsible for serving an underrepresented market and literally changing the way lesbian porn is forever produced and marketed is Dan O’Connell. It is his vision that has transformed lesbian porn—once considered just an afterthought—into smart, compelling, solid, erotic story lines that has earned raves from critics and its core lesbian audience, couples and young men, the latter being the key demographic studios most heavily target. O’Connell and his Girlfriends Films staff have ingeniously tapped into what arouses and titillates each unique demographic and keep them coming back, virtually an impossible feat. Making female friendly porn in which men would ultimately discover and enjoy, plus making films that continue to break new ground in the lesbian genre, is what has earned Girlfriends Films Studio Of the Year honors from XCritic.com. With countlessXBiz and AVN award nominations and wins in just over the past month alone, O’Connell spoke with XCritic on the AEE floor to discuss the company’s plans for 2012 and what has made Girlfriends Films one of the most exciting andsuccessful studios in the adult industry today.
It’s an honor to speak to you. First of all your films are among the smartest, best written scripts in adult today.
Thank you. I actually do all the writing myself. I drive the shoot truck . . . it’s just two girls and myself who go out and crew the films, and we do about 30 productions a month because we have to feed our website as well as the DVD market. We’re now doing two talk shows that we’ve put on our websites. So that’s fun. That’s exciting.
I wasn’t aware of the talk show. How did the talk show come about?
We’vebeen wanting to do pay site, membership site for a while, so we finally got that up. One of the things I wanted to do on the membership site was to have two talk shows—one is called The Vault. We always have one of the girls in as a guest, so it’s Elxis Monroe, Candy Girl is on camera and myself who are sort of the hosts of the show, and then we have an actress in. Then we show their clips. That’s once a week on our site, Monday nights. On Friday nights we have the Kinky and Creepy Show which is no clips, there’s no nudity. It’s very much a talk show like anything else. They’re all three-camera shoots the talk shows. We have a dedicated studio for it. We had Max Hardcore in recently to discuss things. We’ve also had Diane Duke and Paul Fishbein and so on to discuss various things about the industry. But the girls are so bright, the girls we use, the girls I have experienced with are so bright and so interesting that I always wanted to show them off. Our industry has a horrible public image and the public thinks the girls are on drugs, that we’re human trafficking, they think the worst about us. So I like to show off the girls and put them in the best light. That’s why we came up with the talk shows. Also, our product our company has always catered to a—I’d like to think we cater to a higher intellect.
Who would you say are the girls that really carry the studio; the ones that are most identified with Girlfriends Films?
We have two contract stars. One is India Summer who just won best MILF Award atXBiz. We also have Prinzzess. They’ve been under contract I think three years now doing movies. Then there are the others. Zoey Holloway and Lily Carter lead our Please Make Me Lesbian series which I know has done very well with you. There have been other girls. Kara Price has been good for our new reality series, Reality Sex. There are a number of girls I like using. There are so many girls in the industry right now, unfortunately I’m not able to shoot as many of them as often as I would like.
Prinzess, India Summer
What’s the secret to Girlfriends Films success? I’m a fan but more on a personal level. I love lesbian porn. Why do you feel the studio has caught on?
I think it boils down to two parts. Part one is the movies and we always get girls or we try to always get girls who are either bisexual or lesbians and who really like girls. If they’re quote unquote gay for pay straight girls, then they’re not going to do as well as they would otherwise. Also there’s the marketing behind it. You can see here at show we got one of the biggest booths, and we’re one of the only US companies to exhibit at Venus Berlin last year. It cost us $50,000 and most companies wouldn’t do that. I never not do any piece of marketing just because it’s going to cost us too much money. Moose, who is our marketing guy, if he brings me something that we should do we invariably do it. I don’t feel like I have to make every last dime out of the business. That’s part of it but also we’ve built a good fanbase with our forum and our newsletter. So it’s just attention to detail I always say.
I noticed in the beginning Girlfriends Films targeted the lesbian market but it seems to have changed. Am I wrong in saying that? Have you more recently begun aggressivelytargeting male consumers?
No. It’s an interesting comment. I may be too close to the movie-making process to see it but no. Our movies have evolved. I always say if our last 10 movies looked like our first 10 that we would be out of business. We have 300 movies and why would anyone keep buying our movies if they all looked alike. I think we try to up the ante a little bit with better dialog. I’ve really liked thedialog in Please Make Me Lesbian. We haven’t consciously tried to move more toward girls or boys. Our original filmmaking model which is still the same today is to make films for women and the men will follow.
Who would you say are your biggest consumers—men, women, couples?
Single men followed by couples and lesbians. We really have no market research in this industry because the consumers don’t like to report on their consumption habits. The only real hard information we have is, we have our own site where we sell DVDs to the consumer. So based on that and who comes to talk to us at these shows it’s probably about, I’m going to guess 25% girls, 25% couples, and 50% guys.
I’ve also notice the films have become darker. When you do hear back from the lesbian market do you get any sort of backlash such as, “This isn’t real,” “This doesn’t occur in the lesbian community.”
We don’t. I do think the lesbian community is always skeptical of quote unquotepornos. For years you can always tell they’ve been sort of contrived scenes. There’s three people on our sets. There’s me, there’s Candy Girl who does camera, and there’s Sabrina who does camera. Both those girls are lesbians. They’re my quality control experts as far as lesbians go.
Do you have a personal favorite series?
I like Please Make Me Lesbian. I write that series; also I think Imperfect Angels, although we haven’t done one in a while I think that’s gangbusters series. Also our new one which is a reality series where the girls talk about sex (Lesbian Sex). You get to meet them, it’s sort of like the ultimate behind the scenes movie. I like that. We tend to use girls that are pretty high-powered and are friends. As far as the market goes I would say the Mother/Daughter Exchange Club has been the hottest thing.
I love that series more so for the taboo angle of having these much older women with younger girls. It’s something I’ve always fantasized about and I thank you for being pioneers in making that a reality.
I appreciate you saying that. It can be difficult to find younger girls that want to work with older girls, even older girls that want to work with younger girls. Typically, the girls will want to shoot with someone of their own age. I would do those all week long but we’re always very careful about who we pair up in the Mother/Daughter Exchange Club or our Lesbian Seduction series.
I especially am a fan of Magdalene St. Michaels and Zoey Holloway. More of them please.
We love Zoey. We found Maggie here four years ago at this show. She was coming by this booth and I asked her if she was a model, and she was very flattered that I would even ask her that. She’s very attractive of course. I had a couple of meetings with her back in Los Angeles. But thanks very much to XCritic too. You guys do a fantastic job of writing good reviews. I read your reviews and sometimes I reviews elsewhere and I can tell they didn’t watch the whole movie but you folks are very good writers and very introspective. You understand the movies. You look at them from a more intellectual aspect than a lot of writers do and thanks very much for the XCritic Award. Do you know how much that means to me?
Zoey Holloway from Please Make Me Lesbian 5
I was going to ask how much it means and to be named XBiz’ Man of the Year?
Well they both are huge because I pour my heart and soul into this company. You can imagine with 30 productions and running the company, its 24/7 for me and it has been for years now. We try to treat everyone fair and you’ll never hear any shit about us out in public. We treat the customers well, we treat the girls well. The homeowners in the homes we shoot in we treat them well. We try to be a good company and be recognized for it is very important because we’ve been doing this for ten years. We tried to do the best we could for everybody. It’s huge to get the XCritic award and get that recognition, and supports what we’vebeen doing. I’d be doing it even if the awards weren’t there. But my god that was a huge award. Between that and Man of the Year, they came in about a week apart. My goodness. I’m still flying high on both of those.
You deserve every accolade, every award you’ve earned over the past year.
Thank you. We do try hard and everybody in the company tries hard. As far as Man of the Year I’m always quick to note that we have about a dozen people back in the office and they all work to make me look good. Nobody has ever quit or retired from our company. We do try to be the best outfit we can be. Thanks to XCriticfor being out there. If someone were to ask me, “Where can I go to get the best movie reviews,” I would direct them to XCritic. I think you’re very good at what you do. Porn.com does a very good job with its membership sites but you’re very much a credit to the adult industry. I love seeing people like XCritic who are doing a good mainstream, high level type job.
I’m a great supporter of the industry. Our product is there solely to make people happy and to make them satisfied. We don’t hurt people, yet we’re always fighting against the public’s perception that we do bad things and who would want to deny somebody happiness? So it never makes sense. I just feel it’s important to go out there as a studio to present our best public image. You won’t see us go on other forums or even our own forum and saying crap about people and that sort of thing. We’re about goodness I feel.
I think it’s true. Your films are not violent, they’re well produced films. It’s quality product that even people who are not fans of the lesbian genre will have to admit Girlfriends Films are excellent films in terms of the quality of the production.
We don’t do violence, I don’t believe in violence. I’m not a violent person at all. It always makes me wonder, “How can you sit kids down in front of a TV set when they’re five, six, eight-years-old and have them watch murders but when they get older you’re afraid of having them watch people making love. Also we don’t do smoking in our movies because there’s too much of a connection between smoking and illness. So we don’t do violence or smoking.
You’re a credit to the industry. There should be more studios like Girlfriends.
Why thank you. I appreciate that. That’s a golden comment.
Thank you for 10 years of great lesbian movies.
We’re going to keep them coming. I’ve got bigger plans yet. So stay tuned for this year.
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF GIRLFRIENDS FILMS.
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