Sunday, November 20, 2011
I remember the first conversations I had with my family about porn. Not just the subject, but the topic of my participation. There was shock, curiosity, affirmed suspicion, and - in some cases - severe disappointment.
Despite the worst of their reactions, I remain on good terms with each of my kin. Mostly, I attribute this to strong family bonds. In regards to my work, I’d say most every hostile sentiment has evolved to casual acceptance. At the very least, it’s given way to denial.
But if it weren’t for another part of my life, I wonder if the issue would be so easily smoothed over. I mean, doing porn sounds better when it’s just a means to an end. Fucking my way through college provides an “excuse” rather than a career choice. At the first sign of conflict, I can always draw on the same card: “But I’m just doing this until I graduate and make ‘real’ movies.”
Now it’s two years past graduation and I’m still spending most my time on the porn side of the fence. But other opportunities do arise. On occasion, I’m offered a “legitimate” gig, a chance to sit face-to-face with an esteemed member of the mainstream film industry.
Given that film-making is an actual passion of mine, it’s hard not to get excited when there’s an opportunity to work on a non-pornographic project. It just never ceases to amaze me how terrible a place that “other” side can be.
“We’ll just be few minutes,” says the director. “But pay attention. I want you to watch this.” Wait, there’s no need for anonymity. His name’s Michael Oblowitz and all of this is true.
“Have you seen Die Hard?” he asks. “What about Halloween?”
My girlfriend says she was in the XXX parody. I’m here, tagging along while she auditions for Oblowitz’s next feature.
“Well, he edited it.” Oblowitz is pointing to one of the men sitting in the room. One of the miserable-looking ones, which means all of them. Oblowitz says this and then starts yelling.
My girlfriend and I sit on the floor and watch them edit a scene. The director lowers his voice when he talks to us. “In porn, it’s all about the money shot. But with this, it’s the acting, the editing. Watch these kids. These are some of the best young actors in the world.”
We try to look impressed while staring at the monitor. Oblowitz continues, “See... They do the same thing in every take. I want you to pay attention.”
Now he’s yelling again (at the editors), and pacing. Forty minutes later, he takes us upstairs. “I just can’t stand ‘old people energy,’ you know what I mean?” Not that he’s ancient, but the man is definitely graying. He’s a peer to the men he continues to slander. “I have to keep those guys in line or they’ll fuck everything up. I mean, you saw what I have to put up with, right?”
We nod, smile, whatever. Then Oblowitz sits us down on a couch. “You’re a porn star too?” he asks me.
“That’s so hot. You two should do a show for me right here,” he says.
My girlfriend laughs as if it’s a joke.
“I’d like to have a couple of you. My own porn star pets.” I think he’s licking his lips.
Finally Oblowitz brings out his lap top. It seems we’re on to business.
“You’ve seen one of these?” he asks, dragging his cursor over several .PDF files.
I lean in to to catch a closer look. “What?”
“A script. You guys have scripts in porn?”
The question is perplexing because it’s delivered so sincere. If he was smirking, I could at least go along with it. But it’s as if Oblowitz believes our entire profession relies on improvisation and chance. As if pornographers never shoot multiple takes or write down what needs to be said. The man believes he’s teaching us by displaying words on a screen.
Never mind that we make movies for a living. My girlfriend and I are middle-class, twenty-somethings living in Los Angeles. Media is a part of our culture. To see a document so specifically formatted with scene headings, dialog, descriptions, and not understand what it is; we’d have to be dead.
Still, there’s an opportunity here for mainstream recognition. And my girlfriend is near invincible to patronizing, older men. She urges him to deliver something new.
“So what’s the movie about?” she asks.
“You guys make porn,” he says. “I make torture porn.” The words are worn like a badge of honor. “Here... Read this. It’s really cool.”
“The whole thing?” asks my girlfriend.
“Well, at least the last thirty pages. Make sure you read the end. I want to know what you think.”
We’ve already been here an hour and have no idea what the movie is about, or what role my girlfriend might be playing.
“I’ll be right back,” says Oblowitz. Before he actually leaves the room, he adds, “Oh, and read some of the beginning too. I want you to get a good feel for the movie.”
Once he’s gone, I’m saying, “If you want to go, I’ll be the asshole. I’ll make something up, say we have to be somewhere.”
“No, it’s okay,” says my girlfriend. “We’ve already gone this far.” She’s not exactly excited, but I respect her determination.
She browses through the last thirty pages. I look over her shoulder at a few of them. It seems like standard kidnap/torture stuff. I guess with its own spin.
Eventually Oblowitz returns. My girlfriend says, “Done.”
“You read it? Cool, huh? Did you see the last scene?”
“Where she cuts his dick off?” I say.
“Yeah,” replies Oblowitz. “See, I’m a feminist.”
I don’t want to tell him, but it’s the same gag from Hostel 2. “Derivative” doesn’t even cut it. The guy’s stealing scenes from Eli Roth sequels.
“So you read it too?” Oblowitz is looking at me.
“Yeah, it’s good.” I’m a guest, so I’m trying to be polite.
“There’s a young man in there. Could be you,” he suggests.
My girlfriend starts telling him how much she loves horror movies and I try to chime in with some of my favorite gore films. I guess we connect on our love for Ichi the Killer.
Then Oblowitz goes, “Let me show you some of my research.” We crowd around him on the couch so he can show us a collection of images - most of them low-res screen shots from a porn site called Water Bondage.
I spot a couple friends and point them out.
My girlfriend says, “That’s a Kink.com site. I work for them all the time.”
Oblowitz asks to see one of her scenes and she pulls up a trailer from Sex and Submission. After it’s over, he asks to see it again.
“Oh, that’s hot.” Oblowitz is now rubbing his erection through his pants. “Can I see you naked?”
“I thought that was gonna be part of it,” she says. My girlfriend stands up and flashes her tits and pussy.
“That’s it?” says Oblowitz.
She laughs and says something like, “You can’t get everything for free.”
“Oh come on.” She continues putting her clothes on so he looks in my direction. “What about you?”
“You want to see me naked?”
“Why not?” he says casually.
I look to my girlfriend and then take off my shirt. Oblowitz asks again if we can put on a show for him. When I ask if he’s kidding, again he says, “Why not?”
“We can’t for practical reasons,” I say. “We’ve both got gonorrhea.” I’m trying to gross him out so he’ll drop it.
Once we’re back on the coach, he goes, “What if I just get a blow job? Can I catch it from a blow job?”
“Yeah,” I tell him. “It could be in her throat.”
“I’ve had a LOT of sex. I mean, a lot of sex. And I almost never use a condom.” This is Oblowitz again. “I’ve never caught anything. I think my body’s immune to it.”
“Have you ever been tested?” asks my girlfriend.
“Yeah, I’ve been tested!”
“When was the last time?”
Oblowitz changes the subject. “I’d love to fuck the both of you.”
My eyes go wide.
“I want to take you both on a date. We’ll drive around in my sports car, go out to eat somewhere nice.”
“Like The Olive Garden,” jokes my girlfriend.
“No! Not The Olive Garden. I said somewhere nice. Maybe Japanese food.” He’s looking back and forth between us. “I’m really open-minded.” This leads to a monologue about his days spent in New York sex clubs, getting his dick sucked by men through a hole in the wall.
“We don’t really have sex with other people outside of work,” says my girlfriend. I’m glad she’s carrying this because I don’t really know what to do.
“Well, let’s make a movie. How do I hire you?”
She starts to give him her agent’s number, then goes, “Wait, seriously? You’re gonna show your face on camera? Can I use it for my website?”
“My face... Well, I can’t show my face. But yeah, whatever you want. Can I fuck the both of you?”
“He doesn’t really do that.” She’s referring to me and getting fucked in the ass.
“Yeah, I don’t bottom.”
“Okay, but seriously, we’re not going to have sex with you,” says my girlfriend.
At this point I’m holding on to her. We’re both backed into a corner on the couch. Oblowitz is rubbing his cock through his jeans. His other hand gropes at us.
“I’m really good at seducing people. Like, REALLY good. Obviously.” He’s actually saying this. “But I find porn stars are the hardest to seduce. It’s cause you fuck people all the time, huh?”
Oblowitz moves on to another story. This time, it’s about the girl he wrote the screenplay with. At least that she never wore panties around him. The point: he wants to fuck her. Also, that it somehow deems him “open minded.”
We’re two hours in and neither of us have read a line for the man. All he’s tried to do is get us naked and fucking. After a few more of his attempts, we get up to leave.
Outside, he throws his arms around us. It’s a forced group hug. “I’ve been bad, huh?”
“You know what you’ve been,” answers my girlfriend.
Still, the guy is smiling. “I love how he’s rubbing his cock against me.”
The director’s referring to me so I immediately let go.
“We’ll be in touch,” he says. I think. But it’s probably worded douchier than that.
The following afternoon I get a call from Oblowitz. I’m on set, so he leaves a voicemail: “Hey ****’s boyfriend, it was great meeting you two yesterday. We’ve all been looking at ****’s stuff over here and jerking off. Anyways, I was hoping you could get me the contact information for Kink.com. I’d love to talk to them about my movie...”
I stop listening and text him.
Me: No. You are one of the most unprofessional, condescending people I’ve ever met. I don’t want to work with you, and I’m pretty sure that none of my friends would either. So good luck on your project. Please don’t contact me again.
Oblowitiz: Wow!! I’m sorry if I offended you. I never mean to patronise; I don’t know what “professional” means, other then some boring, conformist, conservative, narcissistic form of behaviour. I’m sorry you cannot appreciate my art or the opportunity that I’m offering you. Obviously I should stick to working with the kind of actors I’m used to working with. I didn’t mean to dredge up any trauma. I had no idea I was being so offensive. Apparently we have massively different interpretations of open-minded. I seriously regret having let you read my screenplay. A massive character misjudgement on my part. Please know that all ideas contained in that script are copyright protected under the Writers Guild of America and any infringement thereof will be prosecuted under the full extent of the law. Good luck.
There’s a point to this story, and I’m sure I’ve made it before. Porn is just another job. And it’s filled with just as many sleazy pieces of shit as any other. In fact, the more I delve into the mainstream world, the more I feel like porn is a vacation.
I’ve had friends in film school who worked as production assistants for Transformers director, Michael Bay. They tell horror stories of being verbally and emotionally degraded on set. For terrible pay.
On a recent shoot, a fellow crew member explained how his admiration for Mickey Rourke disappeared once he worked on Iron Man 2. The actor would often show up two-to-six hours late, costing the entire production time, money, and effort.
A woman from the NBC marketing department complained to me one night at a party. She said that executive producers are killing the network’s budgets. “They take all the money and don’t actually do anything. And their coke habits... They’ll buy up to an eight-ball a day. I mean, I only buy one a week... And I share it.”
Even those I respect come off as mildly insulting. A director hired me to consult on his film, and then asked, “How did you get started in all this? You run away from home or something?”
Close friends from the mainstream world will tell me how they hope I can move on from porn some day. My family will too. And I guess when I look at myself, there’s a future in mind that exists beyond XXX.
After all, I’ve got an expiration date. One day, no one will pay to see me fuck.
In the meantime, there’s always something to consider. Unless I fall upon some amazing patch of luck, switching careers will likely mean I’ll work longer hours for less money, and have to spend more time with miserable people.
Of course, I’ll come across hard-working, dedicated, and interesting peers. But I’ve already got those. They’re the friends I’ve made in porn.
The pieces of shit in my industry will always be around. Though, if given the choice, I’ll take my brief interactions with them over months on set with a guy like Oblowitz.
In so many words, “Fuck you, Michael. But don’t worry. This blog won’t effect your career. To the average person, you’re still above me. Because you haven’t sold the footage of the people you’ve fucked.”