The smart and sassy Lisa Vandever took some time out of her busy schedule setting up the Cinekink 2010 touring show and getting ready for Cinekink 2011 to answer a few of our questions about what indie filmmakers can learn from indie pornographers. Here’s part one of her interview: Ready for part 2?
King is a Fink: Non-erotic indie filmmakers generally plan to take their films on the film fest circuit or start looking for distribution / VOD options early on in their filmmaking journey. Do you see this as the common trajectory for erotic / porn filmmakers as well? If not, what do they usually plan to do with their films? Also, do you think it’s easier for erotic / porn filmmakers to make money from their films than other filmmakers?
Lisa Vandever: A digression; this question sent me into a bit of an existential tail-spin, since it contains some very slippery words that I also use all the time:Â porn, erotic and indie. All of which, if you think about them too closely, don’t really hold any useful meaning.
But to plow on, I don’t really know that’s there a similar, common trajectory for erotic/porn filmmakers. There’s certainly not the same type of a festival circuit that exists for non-erotic/porn, indie filmmakers. Occasionally dubbed the “Sundance of Sex”, CineKink is the oldest of the sex-focused film festivals and there are several other great ones that have cropped in both the states and in Europe along with the Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto. But we’re still few and far between.
For those filmmakers who aren’t working directly with one of the many porn studios – “mainstream” (hmm) and otherwise – the best bet really seems to be to set up one’s own distribution. So most filmmakers will sell DVDs and, increasingly, downloads from their own websites.
But keep in mind that a top-selling porn DVD will number only in the tens of thousands of units. And the porn industry is so murky as a business, no one can even cite a reliably consistent figure for annual revenues as a whole, it’s hard to say if porn/erotic filmmakers make more money. I would guess that it’s easier to draw a particular audience, and porn consumers are more used to paying for (non-theatrical) content. Â There’s also, since there’s not as much emphasis on exclusivity/originality, the opportunity to sell content to what’s known as secondary producers, for online distribution.
KFink: Do you think there’s anything porn filmmakers can teach other types of indie filmmakers about distribution, marketing, promotion, etc?
Lisa: I know that when I think of DIY filmmaking, one of the first filmmakers who comes to mind is Tony Comstock, whose wonderful film, “Damon and Hunter: Doing it Together”, played at CineKink a few years back. He and his wife, Peggy, have been producing and distributing explicit documentaries for the past decade, and they regularly top Amazon sales lists for number of DVDs sold. Obviously, they’re doing something right – during a recent distribution/marketing panel I attended, Tony was tweeting me from a sailing excursion through the Caribbean, prodding me to ask the participants how many of them owned a yacht.
Overall, I think Comstock Films exemplifies how many filmmakers on the “porn/erotica” side have, largely through necessity, become proficient in getting their work out there and noticed once it’s been produced. Rather than waiting on the hope of some distributor picking them up, the need is there to reach out to an audience directly, bringing with it a front-running understanding of all the tools necessary to do so, especially staying on top of reaching out through the internet, including supreme mastery of SEO and finding ways to circumvent the many technical road-blocks that are intended to inhibit sexual content.
KFink: Who are the up-and-coming porn filmmakers that we should keep our eyes on?
Lisa: Not necessarily up-and-coming and overlooking many fine directors coming from definitely more of a porn mode, since that’s the emphasis of this column, there are several that we’ve featured in “Bring It!”, our adult cinema showcase competition,Â our most recent winner, Tristan Taormino, along with Madison Young, Carlos Batts and Courtney Trouble. Shine Louise Houston, Maria Beatty and Anna Span have also done some amazing work. Â And I’d love to see Porno Jim do another movie.
With even more of an emphasis on the narrative drive, my particular soft-spot, while still incorporating explicit sex, there’s Jennifer Lyon Bell, Erika Lust and Ovidie, whose feature “Stories of Sexe”, will be released soon in the US. And again, and though he keeps threatening to retire, there’s Tony Comstock for some beautifully explicit documentary work that focuses on the real-life sex of real-life couples.
KFink: What’s the next stop for the CineKink 2010 tour?
Lisa: We’re still pinning down our dates, but it’s looking like we’ll be up next in Boston, along with appearances in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago and DC. Â I’d love to work out Austin. Â And, fingers crossed, we finally seem to have landed a venue in elusive Los Angeles.
We’re still booking appearances for the rest of the season, which will run through October. Inquiries are welcome!
KFink: What’s one thing a curious filmmaker should know if they’re interested in submitting something to CineKink 2011?
Lisa: Don’t let the kink part of our name scare you off! Â It’s not uncommon for filmmakers to feel their work is too tame for us, though porn garners much of the attention, it typically accounts for a small percentage of the festival programming. Â Really, just about anything (see above) celebrating sex as a right of self-expression is fair game. Please send it along!
Our call for entries will go out mid-summer. Â If you’d like to subscribe to our list for first notice, the address is: http://www.cinekink.com/list/. You can also keep up with us on Twitter and Facebook.
KFink: Well, we wouldn’t think to miss Cinekink 2011. We had so much fun with you in Vegas. Thanks so much for answering our questions, Lisa, and here’s to the 8th year of Cinekink!
Our heartfelt thanks goes to Lisa for helping us out with this interview. We can’t wait to bring Cinekink to Chicago, and we’re already working on a short for Cinekink 2011. We wouldn’t even think of seeing another year of Cinekink pass without being a part of the fun!
Ready for our next interview? Meet Erika Lust.