Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Writers can't find work in adult entertainment

As if it wasn’t hard enough to make a living as a screenwriter these days, now another market is apparently drying up. According to a front-page article recently in the New York Times, the porno industry is cutting way back on scripts for their features.

Sidenote: What does it say about the state of the newspaper industry when this is on page one of the Gray Lady?

Due to the internet the average attention span of adult entertainment viewers is three to five minutes. (Attention span or task efficiency?) Not that every story needs to have the complexity of THE WIRE but five minutes is a little thin for a feature length movie even by porno standards. You don’t have to lay out the real estate agent’s backstory but you do need to explain why she’s showing a house nude. Incredibly, audiences don’t seem to care.

So screenwriters who might otherwise make a nice living in pornos are forced to lower themselves and write mainstream studio films instead.

At one time the adult industry was all about making movies with plots. The success of films like DEEP THROAT and BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR created the illusion that porno films might be suitable for more general audiences. Decent people like you and I might be able to justify purchasing a XXX-rated film because it’s not a feature about a gangbang and hot girl-on-girl action, it’s a study of lust in the old west. Porno producers had this fantasy that women would be drawn in as long as there was a plot. Women love a good story they reasoned and what could be a better one than a 21 year old horny housewife letting in a hunky tatted-up pizza delivery boy?

But now porno production mills are gravitating toward just sex scenes (“vignettes" they delicately call them) strung together by a loose theme, like “girls in glasses” or “sluts of the Vatican”. Free YouTube-type porno websites are showcasing small clips. DVD sales have taken a nose-dive. The adult industry is scrambling, looking for new profit opportunities. Their best avenue to date is mounting websites that people must subscribe to. And this requires new material updated daily. So these studios are just cutting to the chase, going right to sex scenes. Who cares why a smoking hot Asian girl is a cantor?

And thus a long-standing art form is soon to go by the wayside. Gone will the subtlety, the nuance, the spellbinding narratives we’ve come to expect from skin flicks. And it’s not just writers who are suffering.

The Times article quotes reputed porn star queen Savanna Samson who laments the plight of actors. She claims she took her acting seriously and used to prepare studiously for her roles. An example is the rich multi-layered character she portrayed in 2006’s THE FLASHER. She played a psychotic who became a flasher and had hardcore sex in public due to mother issues. You just don’t find good roles like this for women.

Hopefully, the pendulum will swing. I’d hate to think my original notion about a psychotic pool boy who has sex on diving boards and doesn’t change the chlorine often enough will not go unsold, or worse, be adapted for Dane Cook’s next summer studio comedy.

30 comments:

Joe said...

You'll get notes about the diving board.

D. McEwan said...

"Girls in porn movies"???

WHAT are you talking about?

I've seen thousands of porn films; I have a fair-sized collection of DVD porn. (Which has been including less and less plot for years now. The big thing is "all-sex" videos, which don't even have a context, let alone a setting or a story, just wall-to-wall sex.)

But I have NEVER seen a GIRL in a porn movie! Ew! That would ruin them! Sometimes there's a drag queen doing comic relief in a comic, plot-heavy one, but that's it. The whole real point of porn is to transport me from my barcalounger into that alternate universe where there are no women, just hot guys who never say "no."

Wait! I stand corrected. I have seen a woman in a porn movie once. She played the "wife" duct-taped, FULLY-DRESSED, to a chair, and forced to watch how much her husband loved getting done six ways from Sunday by the hunky burgler.

But that was the only one ever.

Girls in porn movies: what a weird idea. It'll never work.

Patrick said...

In response to D. McEwan ...

Hi, I'm from a small town in Kansas, and having just read your post, I'm left wondering if maybe I just don't speak the same language as you - although it would appear to be English ... very odd ...

But if you don't mind me asking a personal question - I don't mean to be so forward, and I really mean no offense at all, but ... are you by any chance gay?

I completely understand if you don't want to answer. I realize that some folk would prefer to keep such things to themselves. Although I see no shame in sharing ...

Anyway, I thought it couldn't hurt to ask.

Anonymous said...

I'll show you a pendulum that will swing, heh heh... (after all, the art of writing for porn is all done to catching those linguistic games...)

Rory L. Aronsky said...

"I realize that some folk would prefer to keep such things to themselves."

What do you mean "some folk"? Is that like "you people"? ;)

sephim said...

As a comedy writer, no doubt you are familiar with James Gunn's PG-Porn?

These have been consistently brilliant and damn funny.

J S Swanson said...

" Their best avenue to date is mounting websites that people must subscribe to. "

Mounting, eh?
Gives a whole new meaning to cyber-sex .....

Nathan said...

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

(Sorry, too obvious huh?)

Mike Bell said...

But STILL I get charged for the whole movie I "accidentally" ordered at the hotel. Even after I explain to the desk clerk that it took me ten minutes (okay, three) to figure out that "Nalin' Palin" wasn't a documentary about the "drive-by media's" quest to screw, um, get the former Rep. VP candidate.

estiv said...

Once I saw a Heckle and Jeckle cartoon that had no setup: when the action starts, they're already on the run, heading into a slaughterhouse on a conveyor belt or some such. Made me realize how much Chuck Jones et al. actually worked on plot, not just gags. So maybe Terrytoons is doing porn now?

Sean said...

Not much to say on the topic, but had to post since the word verifcation was fittingly...

dingl

Sad part about going from "plots" to "scenes" is where does this leave the the guys who came up with the titles based on current and classic movies? After all, "Backside to the Future III" and "Ghosts of Gangbangs Past" imply there will be a plot stringing things together. Why bother when you can just slap "Redhead Asian Sluts" on the box?

John said...

Sidenote: What does it say about the state of the newspaper industry when this is on page one of the Gray Lady?

Don't forget the Gray Lady's offices are now located directly across the street from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and on the former site of a bunch of peep show parlors that bit the dust (or sucked the dust, or bit something) during the Giuliani Administration. I'd say they're just channeling the spirits of their block's former residents.

And as far as eliminating the writers goes, it's just one step from when the industry really gets CGI perfected. Then they're eliminating the actors in favor of digital ones with, ahem, more enhanced attributes (with the appropriate Pixar related play-on-words titles, like "Up...and Up and Up")

Tom Quigley said...

I once tried to write an adult film script. The people I showed it to told me I needed to flesh out the story some more...

Emily Blake said...

I think the big money now is in custom porn. You call up some porn people and say "Hey, I like vomiting. Can you make me a story where a girl vomits all over a dude's penis?" And there you go. No studios, just this one producer for hire.

Yes this is a real thing.

Mary Stella said...

Women love a good story they reasoned and what could be a better one than a 21 year old horny housewife letting in a hunky tatted-up pizza delivery boy?

How about a 51 year old horny housewife fulfilling every cougar fantasy with a hunky, tatted-up pizza delivery guy who gets the reference to hide the pepperoni?

Tom W said...

"Who cares why a smoking hot Asian girl is a cantor?"

That's what I asked everyone in shul, but they fired her anyway. And I haven't been back since.

Ted said...

The one good thing about porn stars is they are dumb enough to sleep with the writer.

bevo said...

"...tatted-up pizza delivery boy."

Besides the tattoos, which are simply disgusting, do not forget the actors who are completely shaven, the chicks with the malformed faked breasts and the dudes who spend too much time at the gym ('roids for everyone!).

I prefer '70s porn where people still had hair on their bodies, tattoos were as rare as an anal scene, and guys left their white tube socks on during the entire scene.

Aaliyah said...

This was an interesting read, still pondering. The comments were just as entertaining as the read, except for this boring one I just posted...lol.

LeeFranke said...

I just wanted to voice my approval on the image selection for this article.

Anytime you want to share more adult industry stories (with appropriate eye-candy), feel free.

D. McEwan said...

"Patrick said...
In response to D. McEwan ...

Hi, I'm from a small town in Kansas, and having just read your post, I'm left wondering if maybe I just don't speak the same language as you - although it would appear to be English ... very odd ..."

I'm terrible sorry, Pat; I thought they spoke English in Kansas also. What languauge is it you speak there? Anyway, you write English very well for someone for whom it is a second language.

The fact is, the closest I've ever been to Kansas was 35,000 feet above. I didn't realize people actually landed there, let alone LIVED there. Are you being held against your will? I mean I've seen it in movies, and the place is black & white, and is full of homely old farm folks and mean old ladies on bikes who kill children's doggies. And it's nowhere near an ocean or a good gay district. I also remember seeing another movie about Kansas, IN COLD BLOOD, and after seeing what life for the Clutters was like in Kansas, I expected that when they caught Dick and Perry, instead of executing them, they'd have given them an humanitarian award for putting the Clutters out of their misery. Talk about Life in HELL!

"Patrick said...
In response to D. McEwan ...
But if you don't mind me asking a personal question - I don't mean to be so forward, and I really mean no offense at all, but ... are you by any chance gay?"

Why would asking if I'm gay offend me? Do you think there's something wrong with being gay? Its not like being a Republican.

Anyway, my congratulatuions on your superb deductive reasoning. I'm impressed. Have you thought of becoming a consulting detective? There's a family named Baskerville in Dartmoor being troubled by a mysterious hound who could use your help.

***
I once saw a porn film with no dialogue, no setting, and no story whatever, which still had a "Written by" credit in the titles. I've also had a porn producer (I know lots of different kinds of folks) tell me that a script for a feature-length porn film should never be over a single page long. And there's nothing quite like a porn blooper reel (Yes, those get included on the DVDs sometimes) showing some gorgeous young man trying to remember a line like "Hello" and requiring 37 takes, or watching take after take of a line like "Shut up and bend over!" where the director is trying to get an understandable reading of it from a guy who's been out of Croatia now for about 45 minutes.

"bevo said...
Besides the tattoos, which are simply disgusting, do not forget the actors who are completely shaven, the chicks with the malformed faked breasts and the dudes who spend too much time at the gym ('roids for everyone!)."

Man, you gotta see some better quality porn. I mean "chicks"! Was it a farm setting? And if you're buying fake breasts, why not go for well-formed ones? Why pay for malformed ones, unless you're into them?

I just watched "Hairy Guyz III" two days ago, and there wasn't weren't any "actors who are completely shaven" in it at all. In fact, there were no "actors" period, just porn performers (they are NOT actors, just future California governors.), and believe me, they were NOT shaved ANYWHERE.

Man, this topic is so much more interesting than baseball, although without baseball, there would never have been the all-male classics THESE BASES ARE LOADED (I, II, and III. It was a very successful franchise), LITTLE BIG LEAGUE, DAMNED YANKERS, and MAKING THE TEAM (I, II, III, and IV), all of which were set in the dugout and locker rooms. They never show the dull part out on the playing field. (and they seldom rent an actual ballfield either.)

WV: biabore, as in "Why biabore when you can rent?"

Second WV (First didn't take for some reason): pooglo: A substance that makes defecating under a blacklight really trippy.

D. McEwan said...

PS (Like that post wsan't long enough)

"bevo said...
and the dudes who spend too much time at the gym ('roids for everyone!)."

Bev, I don't know about straight porn (Ew.), but there are NO steroid users in gay porn. Steroids make your willy get all shrivelled and tiny. A steroid user would never make the cut in gay porn, and I can't see how they'd be much use in straight porn either.

blogward said...

Emily's spotted the trend - reality porn. How long do you think Western civilisation has got? Forty, fifty years? Maybe a couple of hundred.

Mike Bell said...

Well, we've been viewing un-reality porn for years, so what they?

(and by viewing I mean for research purposes only. You know, for a book or pamphlet or something)

playfull said...

Not porn script writing but...


Whilst doing a little late night drunken web surfing a few years ago i came across (no pun intended) a Japanese porn site. The ‘Engrish’ translations of the descriptions of the porn DVD’s were bizarrely incomprehensible and so very, very, funny. As i was drunk i emailed the sites webmaster with some of the more obvious corrections and was surprised to receive a very friendly reply thanking me the next day. The Japanese webmaster apologised for his poor ‘Engrish’ and asked if i could help with any of the other descriptions! Over the next few weeks he sent me his best efforts at translations and i tried to make sense of them, which given his poor English and the very weird nature of Japanese porn, was not always easy.

This was great fun and I enjoyed telling everyone i knew that i was a copywriter for a Japanese porn site. Not sure i should put it on my CV though...

Anonymous said...

That would be great! I'm sick of this modern porn where they have dialogue and acting and stuff. My fast forward is wearing out more than usual. Just put some people with chemistry, film them having sex. Like with any other form of entertainment, it's all about the chemistry between the players.

randy said...

"Who cares why a smoking hot Asian girl is a cantor?"

An hour later you want to see her do the Kol Nidre again.

spmsmith said...

Obviously the answer is to fill the gap (heh heh) in the market for more upscale porn - I would recommend movies based on classic and modern works of literature. For the first entry, you could film the memoirs of a well-endowed young man called "A Jawbreaking Work of Staggering Penis."

(I've wanted to use that for a while... thanks for providing the venue, Ken!)

Anonymous said...

They use scripts in porn films?!?!

It had to be said ;-)

Ken Houghton said...

Sigh. Dead market.

That said, I checked IMDB for _The Flasher (2006)_ and there is no listing there.

I'm going to try Netflix next, but I'm starting to believe you're suggesting that IMDB ignores an entire market.