Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mafioso (Part 13)

     After a half hour the doorbell rang.  Boss leaped up and headed for the stairs.  He returned several moments later with Matthew Golan in tow.  Golan looked flustered.
     "Totally my fault," he said.  "I was messing around with the radio in that rental car and got distracted.  I started following a black Lincoln instead.  You were right, though, it was easy getting directions here."
     Bekka jumped off my lap and went to grab Golan a beer.  He'd never had Anchor Steam, and was duly impressed.  Then he fired up the tape recorder and we began talking.  Here's the article....

Thinking Man's Filth

A Peek at Pornographic Film Studio Inana Productions
By Matthew Golan, staff writer
Published 4/18/91

     I am confronted by a monster.  He has to bend down slightly to grasp the doorknob.  In his world, he gives what would be considered to be a friendly smile.  I interpret it only as a sign that I may not get my throat ripped out.  He says, "You're the man from Time, right?  Golan?  They're waiting on you."
     I am ushered upstairs by this behemoth --- who is introduced to me as Boss --- and am introduced to three people who I have met briefly.  The first is Skye Tyler, star of 'Temporary Pleasures,' a cheery blonde who seems to find a positive light in anything.  Next is the renowned Becky Page, Inana's premier star and darling of post-feminist sexual advancement.  She is sitting in the lap of her husband and producer, Lenny Schneider.  Lenny and I have communicated before,  but only by telephone, not on his turf, and on his terms.  Lenny Schneider runs a multimillion dollar video studio, and has written and directed adult features that have broken sales records.  Schneider looks like he should be selling quarter bags of heroin on 42nd Street in New York.  A punk rock thug.  Looks can be deceiving.
     "Hook this man a beer," says Schneider to Ms. Page.  She hops off his lap and aims in the direction of the kitchen.  I am presented with an Anchor Steam, a ritzy West Coast brand, which the others are drinking too.  I turn an eye to Boss.  He seems to find great mirth by my presence.  Ms. Page and Ms. Tyler seem to be sizing me up, judging me by my size and verbal stature.  I'm not feeling big.  I say to Lenny, "So, you said you could explain Inana Productions to me.  Please do."
     This is greeted by laughter by everyone but Boss, who looks as if he reserves laughing for special occasions.  I am told by Lenny, "Turn on your tape recorder.  This may take a minute."  What he said was this:
     "Inana is a fluke.  I started off as the still photographer, right?  They promoted me to a position where I ran everything.  What they didn't count on was that I hated porn, I thought it all sucked.  Okay, you've got loops, which is just s--k and f--k, but features were a joke.  I never saw one that wasn't garbage, a waste of everybody's time.  Then I find myself in the position to make them myself, and it struck me, why not make hardcore that was actually fun to watch?  Why should they be s--t?  I couldn't think of a single reason to not make porn that was actually enjoyable to watch all the way through, real movies, stuff that kept people interested no matter what was going on.  My first few tries were all right, then I rang the bell when I made 'Bewitched.'  With that one, I achieved what I wanted to, which was make a hardcore video that really captivated people intellectually.  When if was done, I sat back, watched the whole thing, and thought, 'I did what I wanted to.  This works.'"
     Becky Page adds in, "Lenny created the role of Ursula for me, an insane witch.  Given the depth of the character, I only hoped I had the skill to bring it off.  It's strange, Ursula only has two hardcore scenes in the whole movie, but the plot revolves around her.  Who had ever pulled that off in a hardcore film before, where the central character isn't constantly f------g?  My two f--k scenes have probably been more analyzed than anything in 'Citizen Kane,' people trying to find meaning and nuance.  It's scary.  Sorry folks, it's sex on video.  Some things are exactly how they seem."
     I ask, "So that is the big difference in Inana's movies?  Plot development?"
    Lenny answers, "And character development, and having performers with talent in front of the cameras.  We make full features, not just fodder for dudes to masturbate to.  I like to think our features are fully developed movies.  We have performers, both male and female, who portray the roles they're assigned.  And if you don't mind me tooting my own horn, I like to think I write scripts that work as movies.  While it would be hard, you could take away the sex from my scripts and still have a movie that works.  But that's what differentiates an Inana video from any other hardcore film.  With our stuff, the sex is integral to to the plot.  With others, it's just tacked on for the sake of itself, an excuse.  In an Inana video. everything flows naturally from one point to another.."
     Becky springs from Lenny's lap and announces it's time for cocaine and dinner.  I am hesitant, it's been a long time since I've used any drug.  Becky assures me that I'll be happy with what is offered.  She produces a large bag full of white chunky powder and chops out five lines.  As the guest, I am offered a rolled-up bill first.  I glance down and realize it's a hundred dollar bill.  I snort up the line and am in an instantly happier place, one where i am not bothered by giant motorcycle thugs like Boss or feel afraid to interact with world-class sexual dynamos like Becky Page.
     We go downstairs and pile into Lenny's Cadillac.  Boss, due to his size, takes the front seat.  Lenny insists I continue recording, "in case we say anything really embarrassing."  Lenny pilots us through the seaside town of Encinitas to a seafood restaurant on the beach.  He asks me if I've ever had had a good salmon steak before.  I say no.  He tells me to hang on to my hat, as this place has salmon shipped in fresh from Washington State daily and is "the bomb."  There is a pause before we go in: Lenny has to stash his gun underneath the seat, otherwise we will not be served.  He pulls his pistol (a Beretta 92, it is explained) out of a shoulder holster and tucks in under the seat.  "It's a long story," he says, and refuses to elaborate.
     Perhaps feeling emboldened by the cocaine, I ask Skye how she came to be where she is.  I am greeted by laughter.  "I come from a small town in Nebraska," says Ms. Tyler.  "I was a nice church-going girl who discovered her own clitoris around the age of seventeen, decided to act upon it, and got written off as a slut soon after.  I figured, s--t, if I'm going to be considered a slut, I may as well make a living off of it, and jumped on a Greyhound headed west.  Due to one thing and another, I ended up at the Inana studios, sleeping on the couch of the lounge for the first three weeks.  I sort of endeared myself to everyone while I was there, because I'd get up in the morning and make sweet rolls.  I've always been featured in loops and had parts in features, but 'Temporary Pleasures' was my first lead role.  It was harder than you'd think.  I had to play a complete ditz without being a cartoon character, Lenny and [director] Steve [Stillman] demanded I have a human side to Madison (Tyler's character).  But yeah, I'm just a corn-fed Midwest girl who figured out an honest way to earn a living with her p----y (laughter)."
     I ask the same question of Becky, and am rewarded with a throaty chuckle.  She says, "I was surprised as anyone to find myself doing porn as a career.  I started when I was twenty.  I'd dropped out of UCSD to help take care of my mother, who had contracted leukemia.  I needed a job with good pay and short hours, so I responded to an ad in the local alt weekly looking for adult performers.  Apparently I had what was necessary for the job.  After years of performing in loops, I was chosen to be the lead in Inana's first full feature, 'Lust Instructor,' and they've kept me in lead or second lead positions since.  My mother passed away my second year with Inana, but I didn't see a reason to leave the business, much to the frustration of my father.  Being cast as the lead in 'Bewitched' was what pushed me over the top.  When I first read the script, I thought I was being demoted, I only had two f--k scenes.  Then I realized my character is very active through the whole movie, I was being called on to play a fairly complex role.  Lenny poured his heart into that script, wanting it to be perfect.  We were newlyweds then, and I'd have to get up in the middle of the night to shovel him into bed, because he'd passed out at the typewriter.  Now, I can't criticize, because what he created worked so well.  At the time, I hated seeing my new husband beating himself to death over what I thought would be just another porn script.  Then I realized the depth of what he was doing."
     The  conversation shifts to a discussion of the new feature, 'Bewitched II: Stroke of Luck.'  Lenny reaches over and turns off my tape recorder, explaining he doesn't want any spoilers about the movie published before its release.  Much of the conversation revolves around male lead Eddie Steinberg, who is apparently rather, uh, well-built, even for a porn actor.  This is discussed in a matter-of-fact way, a basic facet of the work these people do.  I wonder if people at other tables are listening to this talk.
     Boss, the gargantuan biker, remains silent through this discussion.  I ask him what his connection to Inana is.  "Don't have one," is the reply.  "I'm just friends with Lenny and Becky, and I'm dating this little girl here," he says, reaching over to give Skye a squeeze.  She smiles and leans against him, sipping her wine.  I ask Boss how big he is.  He cackles, knocks back the rest of his Budweiser (the third since we arrived), and says, "Six foot seven without boots, and 270 pounds.  Yeah, I'm kind of a big guy."
     Our meals arrived.  Lenny didn't lie, the salmon was fantastic, it had no "fishy" taste at all.  As we ate, I mentally reviewed what I had learned so far....
     Inana Productions was first established in 1982 by cousins Angel and Vinny Morelli, one of six porn studios the two started.  (In 1982, the future leader of Inana, Lenny Schneider, was in junior high.)  The studio produced "loops," nearly plotless chunks of video lasting twenty to thirty minutes and compiled into two hour tapes.  Inana saw acceptable returns on its weekly releases.  In 1983 a college drop-out named Bekka Lucchesi became a performer, adopting the name "Becky Page" in honor of Fifties pin-up queen Bettie Page.
     Fast forward a few years.  A twenty year old punk, an acquaintance of the director and manager, gets the job of still photographer for the studio in 1988.  The punk, Lenny Schneider, says he got the job "due to someone's brains not working right.  I barely knew how to use an SLR."  Schneider and Page become fast friends (Page: "We were interested in the same chemicals.").  That fall a few important things happened: director/manager "Rick" (no last name given) was removed from his job under a cloud, being replaced in the front office by Schneider.  Cameraman Steve Stillman was elevated to the position of director.  Now the Chief Operations Officer of Inana, Schneider learned the business on the job, guided by Angel Morelli.  Schneider: "Angel took suburban white trash and built a businessman out of it.  He taught me how to run a business, and taught me the porn business.  Then he turned me loose to run the damn place as I saw fit."
     At about the same time, Schneider proposed marriage to Becky Page.  Ms. Page says, "I'd known Lenny loved me for about six months, and I knew I loved him.  But I'd been f--ked over in so many relationships that admitting I loved him, even to myself, was painful to do.  He'd gotten shot up when we were in San Francisco, saving a friend from a rapist, and that was when I realized that this was a rare man.  He would sacrifice all to protect those he cared about, and he'd made it clear that he cared about me.  I finally admitted to myself that I loved him, but I kept it a secret from him for a while.  There is no describing the joy I felt when he proposed to me.  I could show to him, and the world, that I loved Lenny."
     Most importantly, Schneider proposed to the Morelli cousins that Inana begin producing features.  "I convinced Angel and Vinny that we at least wouldn't lose money by putting out a feature.  It would break up the monotony of making loops, it would only take a couple weeks of production time, and I could write a script that would be cheap to produce.  That's how 'Lust Instructor' came into being, me figuring out how to redress the same sound stage over and over."
     "Lust Instructor" was released to positive reviews and acceptable returns.  Schneider was able to persuade the Morellis to split time between making loops and producing features.  "Wedding Party" and "Bad Babysitter" followed.  Then Schneider wrote a script entitled "Bewitched," a bold venture which he had to persuade Angel and Vinny Morelli would be worth it.  Schneider: "Convincing Angel to let me go ahead and make 'Bewitched' was a chore.  The film demanded special effects, and good ones.  Crap effects would have ripped the bottom out of the film, people would have just laughed.  Just finding an effects studio willing to work with a porn company was a chore too.  They all want a wholesome image, they want to be the next Industrial Light and Magic.  The company we finally went with agreed to work with us so long as we didn't put them on the credit roll, they wanted to be anonymous.  Given how 'Bewitched' turned out, I think they may have regretted that decision."
     "Bewitched" was released to rave reviews in late June of 1990.  Of particular importance was receiving a 100% approval from trade magazine Adult Video News.  A positive or negative review from AVN can make or break a feature in adult video.  AVN loved "Bewitched."  Between the intricate story line, the effects, and the genuine acting talent on display (not to mention the plentiful sex) all the adult magazines gave "Bewitched" glowing reviews.  Initial sales were good....  Then really took off.  "Every week our distributors are calling us with exponentially larger orders, begging us to get them as many tapes as soon as possible.  We ended up having contracts with five duplication plants, plus packaging, and were barely keeping up with demand.  At eleven weeks after release we hit the million mark for copies, which is just insane for an adult video.  And the sales were still increasing!"
     Not content to rest on his accomplishments, Schneider wrote and produced two more features.  "Rocker Girls" is a slice-of-life film about the exploits of the staff at a punk rock nightclub.  "Dangerous Desires" is a murder mystery, complete with shootouts and car chases.  Both garnered more rave reviews from the adult magazines and Adult Video News, and began generating more incredible sales numbers.  At this point, any adult video with the Inana logo on it will be snatched up quickly, the logo assuring viewers that its contents will both entertain and arouse.
     In March of this year Inana released its first comedy, "Temporary Pleasures," an office comedy revolving around a dizzy-minded temp worker.  With more glowing reviews and incredible sales, "Temporary Pleasures" may prove to be another break-out hit, creating as big of an impact as "Bewitched" did.
     I have viewed "Temporary Pleasures," along with several other of Inana's features.  In a way, they are confounding.  You are watching hardcore porn, but porn that truly engages as a movie, holding the viewer's attention no matter what is going on.  It is obvious a lot of thought goes into every aspect of making these features.  The actresses and actors all demonstrate remarkable talent, especially Becky Page.  Lenny Schneider's talents as a screenwriter is plain, all of his features are sharp, well-paced, and natural.  The script for "Temporary Pleasures" was co-written by Schneider and Eddie Steinberg, an Inana performer, and is more clever than a dozen episodes of "The Simpsons."  An office comedy, "Temporary Pleasures" is skilled and wicked satire, lampooning cubicle culture with an exacting hand.  If it wasn't for all the explicit sex, you would forget you're watching a porn video....  And even then, the explicit sex is done well.  Director Stillman does not rely on "gynecologist's view" close-ups of the action, instead capturing the motion and intimacy of two people having sex.  (Becky Page's sex scenes are amazing to watch.  She seems to communicate a closeness, an intimacy, that makes the viewer feel emotionally involved with what is happening.  Page gives a sense of two (or three) people making love, not porn actors and actresses going through the motions of sex.  And she manages to bring the viewer along for the ride.)
     After dinner we go into the bar for a few drinks.  This is a fairly chi-chi place, but Lenny and Bekka do much of their drinking here: it's one of two bars they know of where they can relax, undisturbed by autograph hounds.  Lenny, Bekka, and Skye order hard alcohol.  Boss and I stick with beer (Boss's sixth Budweiser).  I ask a question:  I have heard them use the phrase "Inana girl" a few times.  What exactly is an Inana girl?
     "An Inana girl is one of the sexiest, most talented performers in the whole lexicon of adult entertainment," explains Becky.  "You have to go through three interviews to be a performer with Inana.  All three help determine whether or not someone is really up to task.  You have to to prove you can work with a script, and that you have acting talent.  You have to prove that you can follow direction, and that you have no reservations about showing off your body.  And you have to demonstrate that you can be a sexual dynamo, someone who pushes the envelope of physical pleasure, and is capable of seducing through the lens of a camera.  Inana girls are sexual artists.  They are at the top of their game.  And when someone asks an Inana girl what she does for a living, she looks them in the eye and says, 'I make really good porn.'  Very few porn actresses, and even fewer regular women, have what it takes to be an Inana girl.  We are an elite."
     I ask Skye Tyler about her life since the release of "Temporary Pleasures."  As the star, had things changed for her?  She says, "While I haven't had the sort of massive popularity as Becky, I'm definitely signing autographs and shaking a lot of hands.  While 'Temporary Pleasures' may end up selling as well as 'Bewitched,' it will never carry the mystique of 'Bewitched.'  Becky's character, Ursula the witch, fascinated and intrigued people of both genders and all ages.  My character in 'Temporary Pleasures,' Madison, isn't that complex.  Working together, I like to think that Lenny and I gave Madison some depth, she wasn't just a cartoon character of a ditz.  But Madison will never have the mystique about her that Ursula the witch did.
     "In my personal life, well....  I'm up to at least sixty pieces of fan mail a day.  I could live with fewer Polaroids of guys' d--ks, though.  It's like some men expect me to look at these d--k shots, come across theirs, and say, 'Wait, that one's perfect, that's exactly what I've always wanted,' then write them back asking them to run away with me.  Overall, though, people just want to tell me how much they loved the movie, that I'm sexy and hilarious, and they can't wait for my next movie.  What else, uh....  Angel has sent me a couple bonuses for a job well done, that was nice.  He's a very generous man, I'll put it that way.  And I've got this man in my life ---" Skye snuggles up against Boss "--- who takes my breath away.  Boss has been my prince, sharing in my joy at having made a hit movie, comforting me when I was stressed, snapping me back into reality when I was being paranoid."
     And what did Skye have to feel paranoid about?  "The reviews.  I'd convinced myself that reviewers would hate my character, and hate me.  Madison would be loathed for being such a supreme airhead, and I'd be castigated for putting such a cardboard, two-dimensional character on the screen.  Like I said, me and Lenny worked at making Madison human and likeable.  I was afraid it wasn't enough."
     I turned to Becky, who is fiddling with a cigarette.  I ask her how her massive fame has changed her life.  She says, "Well, we're sitting in one of two bars I can go into without being harassed.  The other is a punk rock bar called the Pink Panther, but that's all the way down in Pacific Beach.  I jealously guard what little privacy I have left.  I've become wealthier than I ever dreamed I would in this business.  I've learned to legibly write my autograph in blazing time.  And I feel like I might be the most loved woman in the world, Mother Theresa could only hope to be as loved as me."
     It has been noted that a large percentage of her fans are young and female.  How does Becky explain that?  "I don't, not really.  I can give you hypotheses, but that's it.  Overall, it would seem that I have somehow become the post-feminist Wonder Woman.  I also represent genuine sexual liberation for women, I show that the bed can be a level playing field.  Beyond that, I also seem to encourage young women into both bisexuality and polyamory, along with being more take-charge during sex.  The major problem with all this is that people seem to think I purposely placed these ideas into my movies.  Nope.  You can read the scripts, we didn't plan anything, least of all for Becky Page to be a social and sexual revolutionary.  I love my fans, and I think it's wonderful they find so much strength in me.  But I have never consciously tried to raise anyone's self-awareness.
     "What I believe young women take away from Becky Page is that here is an independent, sexually aggressive woman who isn't a slut.  Becky is strong and confident in her sexual exploits, she always comes out on top in a situation.  Young women who are just starting out in finding their sexual identity latch onto that, because it's not an idea that anyone else has shared.  They've heard that society has the right to mold your sexual identity, that you should kowtow to men, that you should submit.  Here comes Becky Page, telling them it's okay to have multiple lovers, and those lovers don't have to all be men.  And you can hold your head up high while doing these things, you refuse to be ashamed of your own sexuality.  The message is original in its overtones.  Who else in pop culture can young women look up to as positive sexual role models?  Madonna?  Lil' Kim?  Please.  Dammit, I never asked to become an icon of sexual liberation, and I sure didn't plan it, but if that's how things are gonna be, then I am going to encourage young women to have self-confidence.  That sexual confidence will spread into other aspects of their lives, and we will see women entering adulthood with great amounts of strength and personal pride.  Go ahead, tell me those are bad things."
     I ask Lenny how he feels about his wife's fame.  He replies, "Like Becky said, I miss our privacy.  There was a rumor going around that I hated all of Becky's fans, which isn't true.  Becky and I both indulge her fans; it's hard not to when you see the look of pure joy on their faces that they're in the presence of Becky Page.  You talk to her fans, especially the younger ones, and they all seem to feel a personal attachment, as though they and Becky shared a private moment through a VCR, somehow.  It's frightening, some of her fans really do act as though Becky Page is a Christ figure, a demigod.  I've seen people with tears running down their faces because they were so emotionally moved by being hugged by Becky Page."
     "I like to hug people," adds in Becky.
     "The only fans I don't like are the stalkers.  Invariably men, they show up at the studio and creep around, they've followed her while we went out to eat, they staked out the car we were in.  I'd love to know what their ultimate goal, or goals, are.  They all want to get close to Becky, but....  Then what?  I have no clue.  I wonder if they know themselves.  I guess they think if they confess their love for Becky, alone and face to face, it will somehow carry a lot of resonance.  Becky will throw me over and run away with this total stranger who hid in our bushes for two hours to meet her."
     "I'll stop complaining about getting the d--k pictures," says Skye.  "At least with them, there's no questioning  what they're after."
     "And they ain't getting it," growls Boss.
     Turning back to Lenny, I ask him if he is aware of being an anomaly.  At the age of twenty-three, he is massively successful in running a multi-million dollar business with no previous experience.  He is heralded as a creative genius, the person who made hardcore pornography a valid form of entertainment, not just fodder for lonely men.  In his boots, black trousers, bleached hair, and tattered metal-spiked denim jacket, Lenny Schneider looks more like a criminal than a visionary, a punk rock thug whose idea of a constructive goal is to round up enough crank to last the weekend.  Does he have any thoughts about being such an anomaly?
     Schneider laughs.  "I'm suburban white trash," he says.  "I initially got my job because I happened to make friends with some dude I'd met in a porno shop at one a.m.  Then, I got promoted because the owner of the company was enough of a risk-taker that he'd entrust the whole shebang to a twenty-one year old scumbag who could barely balance a checkbook.  Along the way, I somehow managed to get the hottest woman in the world to fall in love with me, and marry me.  Then I convince the owners of the company to drastically alter their way of doing things and start making full features.  Why?  I was bored, and I wanted to prove that porn features didn't have to suck.  Now my beautiful wife and I are millionaires, we live in a house on the beach, and both of our careers are going wonderfully.  And through it all, I'm just a white suburban punk with all the class of a loud fart in a slow elevator.  Okay, I'm an anomaly, and I honestly don't know what to tell you.  I wouldn't call it random good luck, after all, I've been shot while doing this job.  To be frank, I'm just riding this thing out to the end.  I try to justify the trust people have put in me, and keep myself amused by making dirty movies that I actually would enjoy watching.  I'm a bum.  I'm fairly honest, but I'm still a bum."
     "Don't listen to him," said Becky.
     "Lenny, shut up," says Skye.  "You're always talking s--t about yourself.  Do you honestly look back at everything you've accomplished for Inana and not see anything of worth?  Please."
     "I know, I know," says Schneider.  "It's just my motivations have always felt wrong.  I didn't create game-changing adult videos because of any great artistic inspiration.  I did it because I thought all the other porn out there sucked, and I wanted something I'd like to watch.  I proposed to Becky because I couldn't bear the idea of having to share her heart with someone else.  And I do such a stellar job of running Inana because deep down, I don't want to piss off Angel, I don't want him mad at me.  Come on, I'm motivated by self-interest."
     Becky says, "Yeah, well, your self-interest has made a whole lot of f-----g people happy.  Your features are loved all over the world.  Get over yourself, pally, you're twenty-three years old and you've already changed the world in a positive manner.  Your peers are just out of college and still don't have a clue as to what they should do with their lives.  You're ahead of the game.  Revel in it a little, you a-----e."
     We leave the bar.  On the way back to their home, I ask Becky if her career has affected her marriage, or vice versa.  Becky laughs at this and says, "We get asked that all the time, and we explain that I was a porn queen when Lenny and I first met, I was a porn queen when we became friends, I was a porn queen when we fell in love, and I was a porn queen when we got married.  What happens between me and the studs Lenny hires is just performance, it means nothing.  What happens on the sound stages qualifies as sex only in the technical definition.  It certainly isn't making love.  No, what I do at work does not affect my marriage.  It's just a job."
     Schneider says, "Of course, I was the first dude you ever went out with that didn't eventually get bugged by how you make a living."
     "Oh yes," says Becky.  "Some guys built up a head of steam over the course of several months, letting their resentment build until they suddenly demand that I drop my career, I have to choose between them and work.  I'd choose work.  Some guys hated the disparity in our incomes, they hated that I always had money to spare while working sixteen hour weeks.  Of course, some other guys thought they'd found an ATM with a p---y.  A few guys turned out to be Jesus freaks who wanted to turn me away from my path of sin, never mind all the sex we were having.  And a few other guys were just plain stupid.  Pleasant, but stupid.  They hated Penthouse Forum letters because they used too many big words.  Yes, Lenny is the first man I've had in my life that is consistently gracious, but also has the stones to stand up to me.  I'm glad I caught him, they didn't build many like him."
     So what does the future hold for Inana? I ask Lenny.  He says, "As far as I'm concerned, we're going to keep turning out good features.  Sometimes I worry about running out of ideas.  The fact that we're doing a sequel to 'Bewitched' feels like a cop-out to me, like I'm just picking the bones of an idea I already had and used.  At the same time, there's a lot to explore in that universe.  Who knows, maybe 'Bewitched' will become a franchise, and we're knocking out a fresh one once a year.  And I'll scare up ideas for new features.  Who knows, maybe Angel will crack open the piggy bank and we can make a good science fiction epic."
     What would that cost?  "No clue.  Probably millions and millions, at least if I had my way.  You'd have to drop all that dough into the special effects.  Having cheesy special effects would result in people laughing us off the screen.  Yeah, sci fi would be a risky venture."
     How much have your features costed to produce so far?  "Up until now, we've never had a budget over $400,000.  'Bewitched II' has a budget of $650,000, and even that is flexible upwards.  Angel wants this one to be perfect, flawless, so I've got carte blanche.  We needed special effects besides just the lightning zaps and fireballs that were in the original, so that's gonna eat up more money."
     I consider the films I have seen, and am amazed at what Lenny Schneider can accomplish with $400,000.  I express my amazement to him and ask how he does it.  "A lot of the time, we just use what comes to hand.  We shop at Goodwill for set furniture and props, and reuse stuff when we can.  Another good example would be the chase scene in 'Dangerous Desires.'  Hollywood would have gone out and rented cars.  We just used what we had among ourselves.  That was Skye's Grand Am, and Becky's '70 Plymouth Sport Fury.  That we had the Plymouth was a stroke of luck.  It was perfect a a hard-boiled detective's car, totally mean looking.  Um, and it also helps that there is no union for porn stars.  The Screen Actor's Guild won't take porn performers, so we don't have to pay union rates, we pay a flat amount for the work done.
     Skye titters at this.  "Can you imagine the S.A.G. trying to come up with a pay schedule for porn?  Just imagine...."  She begins listing various sex acts, from the sublime to the crude, assigning prices to each one.
     "Hell, you get paid for what you do," says Schneider.  He explains the pay rates for female performers in loops: $750 for basic oral and vaginal sex, $1000 for anal sex, $1300 for a "double penetration."  Male performers are paid a flat $300 for their performance in a loop, regardless of the activity.  "And I pay $200 cash to the girls for taking a facial.  I point out to new girls who may feel gun-shy that they're basically getting gas and grocery money for two weeks just for getting their face sticky for a few minutes.  Inana girls like getting that cash from me."
     Becky adds, "They say [male ejaculate] is good for the skin.  And I always wrote off my clear complexion as the result of good genetics."
     Arriving home, I announce my plans to head back for Los Angeles.  I shake hands with all except Becky, who holds me in a tight hug, as is her wont.  She says to me, "However crazy you think we are, you're wrong.  We're much crazier than that."
     I fear they may be right....  But these are also the people responsible for bringing hardcore pornography out of the dingy, back-alley shop and into the forefront of popular entertainment.  Schneider claims that was never his goal, he just wanted to make pornography he didn't find reprehensible.  He wanted to make porn that would actually engage the viewer.  To have such a vision demonstrates the ability to look outside the boundaries of rational thought.  Leonard Schneider did it, and is now reaping the whirlwind.

No comments:

Post a Comment