XCritic Interview: Bree Mills
Taking Taboo Seriously
Like a lot of avid porn watchers, I was extremely intrigued and curious during the lead up to launching Gamma Films' Pure Taboo. I watched the first scene as soon as it was available, and was conflicted as to where I should put my hands... covering my mouth in shock or a little further down south? I am absolutely in awe of what this studio has created, and was very excited at the opportunity to catch up with the woman behind the twisted madness, Bree Mills.
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Why Pure Taboo? Why push the boundaries of what is typical in adult currently? Are the things you are shooting what YOU fantasize about?
I often feel like a bit of a rogue when it comes to our industry. It’s true that I’ve spent the last decade working in adult but, when it comes to actual production, I’m still an outsider … a newbie to the establishment and bureaucracy of porn. I’m too artistic to be a suit and too optimistic to be a veteran at this point, so it allows me to approach my studios with a perspective that is different. I rarely even think about “porn” when I write and direct projects. I think about making interesting movies and must-see series … and the fact that I can include hardcore sex makes the work even more interesting. I push boundaries because I don’t feel that adult content should be dumbed down or stigmatized from within. We are an industry full of incredibly talented people and we can make challenging, erotic, thought-provoking, beautiful, and entertaining work. With Pure Taboo, I wanted to take the definition of taboo (that which goes against social norms) and use it a literal guide to try and challenge the status quo of what porn should and shouldn’t be. We break and bend every convention that exists: from our writing, to our tone, to our cinematography and editing. Most importantly, we focus on the acting and dramatic character development, allowing our cast to really get behind the people and situations we present. I’ve always personally been fascinated by the psychological drivers behind sex. So yes, you could say that a lot of the fantasies we create, are stories that come from somewhere deep inside myself. They probably exist within many of us.
You present things in a way that is both highly erotic and naughty, and yet still feels safe to me. I trust you. The themes you play with I would be opposed to coming from other directors, but from you I want more. I want to see how demented of a ride you can take me on. Care to comment on that?
Well, first, that’s very flattering. Thank you. My relationship with my cast is paramount to this project, as it for all the studios I produce. I like to surround myself with performers who enjoy dramatic work and pushing themselves creatively. We create a kind of safe space together, through our mutual focus and appreciation for what we’re doing. A day on set with me is like a day of theatre camp and, when you fully embrace your character and lose yourself in their world, you become much more open to trying things. My favorite time on set is when an actor tells me they want to push themselves further because that’s what their character would do. That’s when I know I’ve set the stage properly.
In opposition to that, do you feel that it is safe and healthy to explore things such as questionable consent, blackmail and murder in pornography? Are you at all concerned about the theory that viewers will need harder and more extreme content to get the same rush?
I personally believe that that theory is absolutely true, but I don't see our content as dangerous. Maybe because even in scenes where girls are being taken advantage of, I don't think they're actually being taken advantage of.
I don’t feel that I am tackling subjects that aren’t already available in adult content, it’s more how I am tackling them that may feel a bit dangerous. Controversial subject matter is much more digestible when presented as a joke. But, I don’t want to make taboo a comedy. Fans of taboo content are generally not interested in a laugh. They want the drama, the backstory, the complexity of the relationships. There are also many viewers who enjoy their sex mixed with suspense. There is a reason why ‘Law & Order: SVU’ is one of the most popular programs on television. The dark sides of sexuality are very intriguing, mostly because they are not widely accepted. That’s what makes it taboo to watch. And, while I like to play on certain boundaries and show situations that aren’t often explored in adult series, I am still very aware and respectful of the lines I will not cross, particularly within a sex act itself.
Can you tell me a bit about your crew? You seem to use the same people all the time. I'd like to know about the difference between using a tight knit group and day players.
I have partnered up with Craven Moorehead, an AVN Hall of Fame Director and Producer, to lead production on Pure Taboo. I write the episodes and we co-direct them alongside our award-winning cinematographers, dedicated crew and editing team. The Gamma Films crew is made up of some of the most talented people in the industry, including Craven, Stills by Alan, Billy Visual, Matt Holder, Lisa Sloane, Curious Judas, and AJ Bucks, who oversee the LA based production of our main studios: Girlsway, Pure Taboo, and Fantasy Massage. They are my second family and a tremendous creative collective. I would never be able to do what I do without them.
You're able to take actors that we've all seen do horribly cheesy stereotypical porn scenes and pull these incredible performances out of them. How do you do that? What's your process as an actor's director?
As I mentioned, a day on set with me is like a day of theatre camp. I write detailed, improv scripts for each episode and am very particular about who I bring on set. We spend time discussing the characters and establishing their backstories and relationships, before working through each sequence together. I’ll provide my vision, allow the actors to ad lib, and then rehearse together to turn their improv into a polished dialogue-driven sequence. Craven, myself and our lead cinematographer will work with them to essentially choreograph each part of the story so our cameras can move seamlessly through each sequence as if flies on the wall. It translates into incredible performances and minimal cuts … so the viewer feels right inside the action and often forgets that what they are watching is fiction. I am a firm believer that our industry is ripe with acting talent … it’s just often ignored. All I do is set the stage and provide the context. Our cast does the rest.
Are there any stories from set or scenes that really stick out that you would like to talk about?
The production of our first feature, ‘Half His Age’ was a great experience from start to finish. It was 5 straight days of theatre camp with the same cast … so it really felt like we were putting on a production. I did a lot of theatre growing up so the experience felt nostalgic. My whole cast – Jill Kassidy, Kristen Scott, Charles Dera, Small Hands, Cherie Deville, and Xander Corvus – were so incredible to work with and so willing to go down the rabbit hole with me. They’ve got a special place in my heart and really helped to prove how powerful acting in adult can be.
If budget wasn't an issue, what would you shoot?
It’s less about budget and more about time. If I had more time, I’d shoot feature stories all the time. I love being able to tell stories over multiple episodes.
How do you choose your talent? Or, how would one go about getting booked by Bree Mills?
Obviously, what we shoot is not for everyone and that is totally ok. Acting experience and interest is a must for me. I do shoot all types of performers but tend to cast younger females (18-22) the most, since we feature teen characters in almost every episode. If you are interested in acting and showcasing your dramatic work, the best thing to do is get on our radar. Hit me up on Twitter. I can’t shoot everybody but enthusiasm is always noted. Once we’ve worked together and had a positive experience, I am much more likely to bring you back as a recurring cast member. A large portion of the Pure Taboo cast will return to play different characters over time.
What do you want people who are new to viewing your content to know?
With Pure Taboo, what you are watching is different from the average porn – and that’s ok. It should feel different. It is different. We’re here to challenge what adult should and shouldn’t be. So, watch our episodes, get to know our characters, and I hope to leave you equally shocked and aroused.
- Interview by Jay Taylor