Distributing feminist porn: who needs the old boys’ clubs?

Believe it or not, there are still members’ clubs that are reserved for men only. It is not just a lot of golf clubs… until a few years ago the porn industry was also an almost exclusively men-only affair, at least behind the camera.

When I tried to get my first-ever erotic film “Sexual Sushi” into the shops 10 years ago, I hit a wall of male resistance. I went to Europe’s biggest adult trade show, the Venus in Berlin, with my Palm Pilot in my pocket and every single business meeting I had was with a smug guy in a suit laughing at my concept of “art-core” porn. They did not get it: a porn film without major porn stars or money shots? An alternative porn that featured abstract, arty scenes as well as plenty of authentic sex between a couple that were clearly very much in love and blissfully unaware of the camera? They looked at me as if I was an alien before their eyes wandered off to the topless waitress serving us or one of the many live sex shows that surrounded us. I walked away empty-handed – no production or distribution deal. No further interest. They ticked me off as a curiosity.

I had a gut feeling that I was onto something though. I liked what we had shot. It was the kind of porn I wanted to see but had never come across before. I wanted to complete this pilot and create a feminist porn DVD – even without a production deal. A DVD felt like something tangible rather than just a pilot tape gathering dust on a shelf. I had no money to pay for the final post-production and DVD authoring.

But then I got help. Not from the adult industry but from one of my erotic photography clients, Emma. Emma and I got chatting about sex and porn after a shoot over a glass of bubbly and she loved my concept. She was a successful businesswoman and decided there and then to put her money where her mouth was and offered to pay for the DVD creation of “Sexual Sushi”. So with Emma’s help my first ever erotic film was completed, became a DVD and a few months after the master was ready, I received my first order of 200 units of “Sexual Sushi” by a major sex shop franchise in Germany. They had been shamed by a journalist due to the fact that they had no porn made by a female director on their shelves, so they decided to give my film a shot and offer “Sexual Sushi” next to the usual mainstream porn fare.

It was ideal timing that my DVD was ready for replication when they started to show an interest. To their surprise it turned out that porn consumers were ready for something new, something fresh and “Sexual Sushi” sold out within weeks. My debut alternative porn film caused a stir in the adult trade and mainstream press alike and suddenly more and more German dealers wanted this film they had previously shrugged at. The rest, as they say, is history – all because Emma believed and invested into me whilst respecting my artistic freedom. I will never forget this spontaneous and generous support I received as it changed my life forever and helped to establish me as an erotic filmmaker.

I continued to produce more alternative, feminist porn and the films continued to sell. The dealers realised that this kind of porn was not just a “niche product” but is catering to an ever-growing audience. Due to encouraging sales figures and continuing mainstream media publicity, the demand for alternative porn grew. I realised that I was now in a position to do for other women what Emma had done for me; to get their films published, and help them to generate an income which will allow them to produce more films and develop their art.

Through networking at film festivals such as the porn film fest in Berlin and also a lot of online research, I discovered more and more interesting erotic filmmakers and their exciting films. Whenever possible we met up, talked shop, and discussed ideas how we could support each other’s work and infiltrate the market with our sexy and subversive porn. Friendships grew, especially with Candida Royalle and Maria Beatty.

I came up with the “Her Porn” concept: a DVD compilation featuring short films by other female filmmakers from all around the world. I enjoyed curating this eclectic smorgasbord of erotica immensely. I shot interviews with the participating filmmakers, so they could reach the audience directly, talking about their work. I released the interviews as a bonus feature on the “Her Porn” DVD.

Her Porn Vol. 1” was a massive success and now the sixth volume of “Her Porn” is out, introducing lots of new emerging female filmmaking talents from all over the world to the European market.

I also distribute outstanding features by filmmakers who so far had only distribution in the US such as Marianna Beck and Maria Beatty. It makes me happy that I am now in a position where the distributers trust my selection of films and add any new films released under my label to their catalogue. I have opened up new markets to fellow female directors and over the years helped to generate a good income for them for their content.

Other filmmakers reciprocated: Candida Royalle brought some of my titles out under her label in the US.

Nowadays, DVD distribution is not as relevant as it used to be. There is online video streaming and many filmmakers offer their content in this way, but often they only reach a limited, local audience as the content does not even come up in search engines, unless you know exactly what and who it is you are looking for. DVD distribution reaches a different market than online streaming. A lot of viewers – including me – like hard copies of their music and films with the artwork, something that does not just leave a fleeting impression but claims its space in a visual library.

I have just spent the last six weeks working on the European release of Maria Beatty’s latest breath-taking feature “Black Widow”. As Maria celebrates 10 years in directing and producing her exquisite erotic films, I decided to create a deluxe double disc edition featuring both “Black Widow” and her debut erotic film “The Elegant Spanking” as well as an in-depth interview with her. I enjoyed working with my designer on the most creative cover we could design as well as a booklet celebrating Maria’s achievements and a series of social media images. I gave her film as much or even more love and attention as I give my own productions and am pre-paying the design of the artwork, DVD authoring and the replication as I truly believe in this project. It is worth taking risks as it brings innovation and growth. I am happy to be able to bring Maria’s film to a market that she might not be able to reach herself. I convinced my dealers that “Black Widow” is a fantastic film for any porn connoisseur – no matter what their gender and sexual preferences. Now I hope for Maria and me that the film will sell well, so that I can do my part in helping Maria enter another decade of amazing erotic films in her very own artistic hand-writing.

I intend to continue bringing the most exciting female-made porn to my audience in digital form when I will soon launch “Cinema Joy”, my own streaming channel that has been years in the making. This way all bases are covered and I can continue to use my “brand” in promoting work by other filmmakers I greatly admire. Maria Beatty will be massively involved in getting this channel off the ground.

As a porn viewer, you can join into this network too. We always welcome emails with feedback about our films, appreciate if you share top porn tips on social media and if you are happy to #payforyourporn, it helps us massively to shoot more films for your viewing pleasure. And who knows, you might be inspired to shoot your own porn. If you do, let me know. I might be able to help in matters of getting your film seen and distributed.

Who cares about old boys networks? The sisterhood network is alive and well!

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