Pillow Talk: Aspiring Pornographer Alexis Zmoke
Getting into porn can be a surprisingly easy and quick process. Various websites offer the opportunity for amateurs or newcomers to supply images and videos and then get a cut of the profiles from the sales of those. However, if you’re interested in producing porn that is edgy, genderqueer and ethical, you’ve got a whole different situation to deal with.
There are a handful of producers and performers creating sex-positive porn and it is a growing genre. Sexlife Canada recently discovered and chatted with Alexis Zmoke, an aspiring porn creator based in Calgary, who is looking to slip into the industry.
SLC: Why do you want to start producing porn?
AZ: Short answer: sex ed. Anyone I've talked to has said that they learned most of their sex from porn. I want to show safer and hotter sex on screen for people to see. Sex ed in schools is pretty miserable, and I want people to be safe and know what they're doing. Also, because I'm unsatisfied with the porn that's out there, for the most part... So I want to make it for myself, too.
SLC: From what is out there, what do you see that you do like and what elements do you not like?
AZ: You know, I haven't seen a full length porn movie in a long time. I've been jumping around websites and looking at clips, checking out styles, but not doing super in-depth research. So I can speak to you in general about trends, but not specific films or filmmakers yet.
I like that the genre of queer porn is slowly growing. There's a lot more visible safer sex there, more negotiation can be seen on camera, and people are definitely enjoying themselves. Different body types, ethnicities, and gender presentations are slowly getting shown together in the same films, though I would like to see a lot more of that.
A lot of "ethical porn" features interviews with the actors at the end of the movie, or available separately, so that the viewer can understand more of their experience, decision-making, consent, etc. Ooh, I also love that there's more and more instructional video stuff happening. Tristan Taormino's guides...Nina Hartley, I believe, has being doing instructional porn for a long time...
What I don't like, is that in comparison to mainstream porn, the sectors I mentioned are still very small. With queer porn specifically, everyone is telling me not to quit my day job. I want to figure out how to change that.
Back to what I don't like, I don't like non-consensual porn, porn that uses people that have been trafficked and are forced into it. Porn where people don't talk, porn with bad actors, porn that's super awkward (and not in a hot way). Porn with fake lesbian sex (two or more women with long fingernails and no gloves? Come on!) Porn with bad background music or horrible, mismatched audio overlay.
There's a long list that encompasses most mainstream porn out there! Haha.
SLC: Do you have worries about getting into the porn industry?
AZ: Hmm. Well, this week leading up to our chat I had a bit of an identity crisis. I had lots of questions I had to sort out. For example, if I want to be genuine and honest about sex, is it fair for me to take on an alias? My politics are pretty in-your-face and queer. On the other hand, an alias is pretty standard in the porn industry—not to mention the good old saying of ‘don't put all your eggs in one basket.’ Then, if there is an alias, will I be able to go by it all the time? Will it feel fake or fragmented? I've sorted these things out now, but I think these questions are pretty important and will probably remain with me for a long time.
I have more concerns about my specific project and how I'm going to get it done than the porn industry in general.
SLC: What is your project, and then maybe you can address some of those concerns for us?
AZ: My project is called Enthusiastic Yes! The complete business name will probably be Enthusiastic Yes! Entertainment and Sex Ed Studio. As the name suggests, the goal is to create erotica (through different media, though at the moment I am most interested in film) that integrates ‘hot’ and ’safer’ sexuality.
It's pretty broad, because I want it to be community-focused. I want my collaborators to be part of the creative process, to be passionate about the projects we make and present to the world.
Most of my ideas surrounding porn are specific things that I haven't seen before, so I'm excited to get these things from my mind and the collective subconscious and into a work of art. I want political, smart, sexy, weird, queer, feminist, kinky, musical, and real in all sorts of combinations with each other.
My concerns are having a limited skill set, no money, and as of yet no committed collaborators. I have folk who are interested in helping me on a very casual basis, which is great, but making porn happen full-time all by myself is not sustainable. I want lots of passionate, lovely people involved. A community can create art that is so much more vibrant, I think, and has so much more impact.
I need to do a lot of research into legal aspects of the industry. I need to figure out a way to get experience in the U.S. (San Francisco and Bay Area have so much going on!) I need to figure out whether I'm working for profit, without money concerns, or as a registered not-for-profit organization. I need to either learn web development or get a web developer that's willing to volunteer to make a kick-ass website.
I need to figure out how to turn the queer porn industry into an industry that can make money—where people can make that their full-time job without dropping down to poverty.
I have to laugh at my ambition, but I've got to aim high to get anywhere.
SLC: Ambition is needed in everything, but if you're gonna half-ass porn-making, well, better to not try at all.
AZ: Why do you say that, Jon? I agree with you, but I'm curious as to where you're coming from.
SLC: I think poorly produced porn, of any genre, comes through to the viewer and, especially in porn, if you're making it a business, you're going to instantly lose that customer. It would be like finding someone ridiculously attractive, making a connection, going home together and then have the most boring, unsatisfying sex. I think people want to think of their porn as a 'partner.' Which is why I am excited at what you're hoping to offer!
AZ: Hahaha, that is a fantastic explanation. I love that! And thank you for your excitement.
Actualy, now that you bring up the partner concept, I've definitely thought of making interactive porn as well... Maybe, to start, you put on headphones and someone is whispering in your ear, you know? There are so many paths to take with that!
SLC: Absolutely. Now, in the research you've done, who have you found that you're inspired by?
AZ: Okay, well Nina Hartley is the love of my life. I've watched porn clips where she is teaching the art of feminine domination, though I'm not sure that was the exact phrasing of it. It was so hot, and she is so gorgeous, luminous, sassy, patient, and obviously wickedly intelligent. She also had a video on how to play with a clit without a vibrator—and do it well! These clips were the first porn of my life that I appreciated on a different level, not to mention that my masturbation sessions got way better! The clips were what made something 'click' in my mind. Something like: porn can be worth it.
Then there's Jiz Lee. I kept seeing their photos pop up on tumblr, until I finally checked out their website. A genderqueer porn star? What? It was amazing. It was another ‘click’ moment: I can do this.
Incidentally, Nina Hartley and Jiz Lee just made a porn together through CrashPadSeries. I am very much looking forward to watching it... maybe even full-length!
Then I saw The Advocate for Fagdom, a documentary about Bruce LaBruce. He makes artsy films with lots of politics, queerness, punk, and very hardcore pornographic scenes in his films. He's amazing. I want to be doing this in his ‘plane’ or level, but my way.
Bren Ryder of GoodDykePorn is also very willing to help and meet with me, so she is a source of inspiration in the sense of the way community should be.
There are other "icons" I have contacted, spoken with (including Drew DeVeaux, Jiz Lee, Charlie Spats, Buck Angel), researched, etc., but those are the people that get me really excited about getting into the industry.
SLC: Would you consider launching a website first, with the hope of making some capital for a film?
AZ: Maybe. Porn is easily pirated, so to me it's more about figuring out how to make money on and offline while accounting for reality. I would also need a lot more film experience before I dove into a feature film... but, who knows! Ideas happen, opportunities open up, anything is possible.
Certainly, any money made will be funneled back into Enthusiastic Yes! It's just a matter of determining what comes next once that money is there.
SLC: So you're hoping for a more professional approach, not the amateur model (I'm thinking about Zack and Miri Make a Porno)?
AZ: Hmm. I haven't seen the film, though it's high up on my list. But yes, I'm looking at producing quality stuff. And whatever feature films I may make in the future, the feeling or ‘zing’ of the shorter videos will be similar, I think.
My friend is an entrepreneur and thinks I should sell ‘improve your sex life’ starter kits to folk in relationships where the sex has dwindled down... But it's hard for me to think of that target population as a whole, though she is right in that it would make more money. I'm interested in more edgy stuff, so I'm going to have to follow my queer heart there. Is this answering your question? I feel like I'm not up on the lingo of professional vs. amateur...
SLC: Oh for sure. The lines of porn are so blurred now and there are so many sub-genres. The ‘improve your sex life’ market is huge, vast...though I can't say I'm familiar with much that is edgy or queer. Imagine if you put out something called ‘How to Avoid Lesbian Bed Death’!
AZ: Hahaha. You know, that's a good combination of those two aspects!
A friend of mine asked me about non-capitalist forms of porn production. So part of me keeps thinking about that, about the communities I identify with, and how the folk in those communities don't have much money to spend. Part of me thinks: that's so bourgeouis, so middle-class, so suburban to be catering to people who would buy something like that. I don't know how to reconcile that, actually. I need help on that one!
SLC: Any community-based project is, at best, challenging and, at worst, a potential disaster. Do you think you'd find performers and other helpers to produce a community-based porn project...without getting paid?
AZ: Community-based or not, that's really the only choice I have now, until I generate any income at all.
SLC: Fair enough. Personally, I think you will readily find people willing to help out. If they are treated well, treated ethically, you'll find good people to work with
AZ: I hope so. I have to. Calgary is an interesting city, to say the least. I'm interested to see who I can find here, and what I can wring from Canada's Texas, porn-wise...
I'm also the kind of person who loves to cook for people and eat food together, loves to listen, to laugh, to have fun. I would have a lot of respect for anyone who has even 1/10th of the passion to put into this that I do.
So that's my plug for people from Calgary that are reading this: come work with me! It'll be fun, sexy, and I'll feed you!
SLC: Would you consider relocating to make this happen?
AZ: Well, part of the idea is that I'm sort of ‘stuck’ in Calgary for the next three-four years, so I want to make things happen here to make the city more tolerable for myself and others. To nurture things.
I'm a full-time student here, and my little sister lives here. She is very important to me!
On the other hand, I really don't know how long I will survive here. I'm always open to offers and opportunities, as I mentioned before. I'm definitely interested in shooting when I travel, and making things happen in other locations that way as well.
I was just in Toronto and New York last month, checking them out as potential cities to live in. I've met people out east that are very dear to me...So, who knows!