WEST HOLLYWOOD — The XBIZ 2020 adult industry trade show at the Andaz Hotel on the Sunset Strip started its second day with four panels on topics ranging from consent issues to paysite revenue streams.
In the panel “‘Yes’ Means Yes: Making Porn in the #MeToo Era,” Kink.com’s Alison Boden and her guests — Fivestar, Lance Hart, Lotus Lain and “The Pope” John Paul — anchored a frank, candid discussion about consent and adult filmmaking in the #MeToo era.
Hart was frank: “This is film,” he said, adding wryly, “I don’t know if you know this, but in Hollywood action films they’re not really punching each other. We can fake stuff.”
He and the panelists agreed that directors and producers must be flexible with their plan for a day’s shooting. “A detailed plan or shot list can be your worst enemy,” said the Pope, and potentially lead to consent violations in a misguided rush to capture the perfect shot.
Fivestar recalled a moment while working as a production assistant when a performer approached them with misgivings about their agreed-upon shoot. The model was afraid to share their concerns with the director. “I had to do something. I had to go to the director and broach the topic,” Fivestar said. “The model was just too worried to go up against their director.”
Fivestar spoke of another moment when they felt a model’s consent had been crossed. “I put down the camera and called [an end to] the scene. The director wasn’t too happy with me.”
Those anecdotes, and others shared by the panelists, underscored a crucial component for any kind of adult shoot: “Empower your crew,” said the Pope.
“Empower your whole crew to call a ‘code red,’” said Hart, who often works as a performer besides producing and directing. “I can’t see everything, especially when I’m in the scene.”
Pope acknowledged that he can come across as intimidating and performers may feel reluctant to broach sensitive topics with him. “Every single person on your crew has the ability to say something. The models, too. I tell them, ‘You have as much power to stop this as I do.’”
Lain joined the other panelists in a debate about the “fluidity” of consent. Nevertheless, she said, “Consent violations happen when people aren’t considerate.”
They discussed the concept of “rolling consent” when a producer or director checks in regularly with a performer and the pros-and-cons of having prospective models cross off a checklist of before filming.
In the Performer-Turned-Director panel, Holly Randall hosted the first-ever live edition of her podcast, “Unfiltered,” with guests Lena Paul and Whitney Wright.
Wright spoke about the differences between directing for Gamm with scripts and scenarios already written, and for MissaX, where she writes as well as directs.
“It’s a lot less work,” she said of directing for Gamma, though she added that it’s fun to write her own scripts and express her own creative vision. She did hedge a little, however, about getting too creative and forgetting that what she’s writing is, after all, “for masturbation.” She specifically pointed to a fauxcest script she wrote in which the stepmom kills her stepson at the end of the scene.
“Lovers of the mother/son genre do not like it when the son dies,” she said, laughing.
When Randall asked about how starting as a performer informs directorial choices, both Wright and Paul agreed that it helps with empathizing with what a performer is willing to do and how far they’re willing to go in a scene.
“You can put yourself into their shoes,” Paul said. “You can recognize discomfort and know you can push for one thing but no further.”
“I come from performance, so I emphasize performer safety,” agreed Wright. She also added that because she comes from performance, she prefers to cultivate a happy atmosphere on set, giving positive encouragement to her cast and crew as they shoot.
In the panel “Paysite Pros: Seasoned Players Explore Ancillary Revenue Streams,” YourPaysitePartner’s Kenny B led a standing-room-only session which took a deep dive into the topic at hand. Kenny B had the audience members introduce themselves, one-by-one, which created a collegial atmosphere to begin the discussion.
“I just want to learn,” explained one audience member when Kenny B queried him about his goals. Another audience member, a newcomer to adult, was also succinct: “I want to see what the future will be,” he said.
Kenny B praised the mix of newcomers and seasoned industry players in the crowd, among them Maestro Claudio, James Deen, Steven Grooby and director Billy Watson, among others.
“With clips, performers now have power,” Kenny B observed. “But paysites are still around and doing well.” He revealed that cam sites “bring the most revenue.”
The remainder of the session was a detailed, informative and rousing discussion among audience members about the most up-to-date tips and tricks for exploring various revenue streams.
In the panel “Vantage Point: From The Director’s Chair,” Wicked’s Brad Armstrong, Adam & Eve’s Kay Brandt, Deeper’s Kayden Kross, Severe Sex Films’ Dee Severe, All Media Play’s Will Ryder and Mile High Media’s Ricky Greenwood were all asked about their directing style, from how they choose their crews and performers to how hands on they are and how much they delegate on set.
“I feel I’m very hands-on,” said Kross. “I want to control everything down to the smallest detail.”
She allowed though that because she wears so many hats on set, she puts a lot of trust in her cinematographers.
Ryder spoke about how he and producing partner Scott David started in the industry without knowing anything about it and learned how to shoot as they went along.
“I didn’t know anything about how to use a camera but I was the cameraman by default because it saved me $500 for a DP,” Ryder said. “Now I bring in a DP and everything looks so much better.”
Brandt and Severe both agreed that their pre-adult backgrounds in guerilla filmmaking helped with being able to shoot features in a short amount of time and on a low budget, with Brandt in particular discussing how much it helped to be able to mimic a big budget feature in two days.
Greenwood said the key for him was just to ease up and have fun on set and treat his crew like family.
“Your crew is your backbone,” he said. “You have to trust your crew. I’ve been working with mine for 10, 15, some of them 20 years.”
In the “Piracy to Profits: Turning Content Theft into Publisher Revenue” panel, Lukas Taylor and a colleague from DigiRegs discussed the most current and effective methods for combatting — and monetizing — content piracy.
Taylor previewed a new digital tool that would empower customers to act as anti-piracy “vigilantes” on behalf of their favorite content providers. “Thirty percent of piracy is peer-to-peer,” Taylor revealed.
The afternoon panel’s audience was largely content owners on the hunt for better, more effective tools for fighting piracy. Audio content, such as original compositions and dialogue, is the easiest to digitally fingerprint and track, Taylor said.
During the panel “Screening Q&A: MissaX Presents Whitney Wright’s Directorial Debut, ‘Endless,'” technical difficulties that prevented the title from being properly screened led to a rollicking Q&A session with Wright and cast members Lacy Lennon, Ana Foxxx and Avi Love.
All four enthused about the opportunity to really show off their acting chops in the full-length movie.
“I love doing features,” said Lennon. “I get to actually act, and really learn the character.”
“The sex was fantastic, as well,” she added.
Wright spoke about the importance of really caring about the content she was creating, and how that care helps her stand out among an industry of mostly male directors.
“I feel like women directors, if they’re not already established in such a male-dominated industry, need to stand out,” she said. “I feel like I want to hold my own.”
For “Twistbox Presents: Mobile Monetization in Today’s Market,” Brian Elkan of Affil4You and Ler Khodaverdy of Twistbox led an informative session on the benefits of engaging audiences on-the-go who have developed the habit of viewing content on their phones.
“We started with flip phones and direct deals with carriers. It’s a whole different landscape now. Mobile is everywhere,” Khodaverdy said, “but every country has its own regulations and rules. Even different carriers within a country — take Spain for example. Telefonica, Orange, Vodafone, they all have their own different rules.”
Researching the various countries and carriers and their requirements requires diligence and patience, but the potential payoff can be huge.
“More people are on mobile than on desktops in many markets,” said Elkan. “Know your audience. Where are your customers now? For example, you may learn you have a good amount of traffic coming from Germany. What time of day are they visiting your site? With that kind of information, you can build a very specific [customer] profile.”
And with that profile in hand, notes Khodaverdy, content owners have “a variety of targeting options” available to them. “Focus on conversion and look at your traffic, look at your audience. All these things matter,” he said, when seeking greater conversions.
In the “Social Media Strategies: 2020’s Top Tips” panel discussion, 7Veil’s Alex LeComte hosted Ginger Banks, Amberly Rothfield, Alix Lovell and Tana Lea in a standing-room-only studio discussion about how best to master a social media presence.
“I came to social media late,” said Rothfield. “I made money without it, and now I’m kicking myself for how much I could have made.”
She added that now she spends a minimum of 30 minutes every day scheduling her social media output, but also makes time to be interactive with her followers.
Lea talked about how she uses the over 1 million followers she has across her various social media platforms to build an email mailing list, to which she sends her newsletter. She then uses that to sell advertising geared toward fans she knows will read what she sends.
Lovell added that it’s important to maintain your brand and to continue posting consistently across all platforms, otherwise a drop in output can lead to quick loss of followers.
At the start of “Trans Talk: Stop Giving Away So Much for Free!” Steven Grooby interrupted his own session, co-moderated by Grooby Productions’ Kristel Penn, to take advantage of the presence of several adult industry lawyers in the room and addressed the urgent topic of California’s new AB5 law and its ramifications.
Gill Sperlein and Larry Walters answered questions from producers and content creators in the group, while Grooby pressed several attendees to offer details about how they’re adapting to the startling new legal landscape.
“We’ve been through Ashcroft and 2257 regulations,” he said. “Every few years there’s a new law that affects us. We’ll adapt and get through it together as an industry like we always do.”
Moving on, Grooby revealed his company recently began an experiment. Starting in November 2019, they changed how they promote their own content on Twitter. They excised most explicit content from their teases and promos to see if it had any adverse effect on click-throughs and conversions.
The results to date? “No change yet,” Grooby said. The experiment continues, however, and he invited other companies and creators to join them.
Other self-producers in the room talked about creating only sensual, teasing content for Instagram Stories, not on their regular Instagram feed, where one is more likely to be flagged and banned.
Penn enthused about creating short vignettes focusing on interviews, humorous moments and other potentially viral clips that serve as a traffic driver.
For the remainder of the panel, Grooby and Penn led a lively discussion about whether showing explicit content in a two- or three-minute tease siphons off potential conversions. “They’ve already seen everything!” exclaimed Grooby. “What incentive do [customers] have to pay to view the rest of that scene?”
For “Street-Smart: Effective Self-Defense Techniques for Talent,” presented by Lance Hart and Kink.com, John Johnston and Melody Lauer of Citizens Defense Research led a discussion of the proper pepper spray.
“The really nice thing about pepper spray is that it reduces the need for higher levels of force,” said Johnston, likening it to being able to hit someone while they’re still far enough away not to be able to hit you back, and making them too blind and in too much pain to effectively counterattack.
Johnston also broke down the different forms of spray on the market, from mists that cover a large area and work immediately, to aimed sprays that take a couple of seconds to do their work but cause less collateral damage to anyone who happens to be near, including the sprayer.
He also taught about using one’s thumb to spray with, sighting along the thumbline. And he cautioned against buying pepper spray gels, as they take upwards of 35-40 seconds to be effective.
In the “Expanding Revenue Streams: Maximizing Your Cash Flow,” which included NMG’s Megan Stokes along with Catjira, Romi Rain, Ana Foxxx, Lena Paul, Abigail Mac and Charlotte Stokely, Rain spoke at length about the importance of social media.
“I love social media,” she said. I think it’s really changed the way we all interact with each other. It’s changed the way people look at adult entertainers because it’s humanized us. It allows us to promote ourselves the way we want to, show off the way we want to, produce and sell content the way we want to, so for me it’s been, I think, the most valuable thing in my career.”
Charlotte Stokely added that there are a lot of cam sites where you can link all of your social media.
“So when I’m on cam, I can say ‘Hey guys, I’m gonna get off, check out my links down below!’ I get more Amazon gifts, I get people who say ‘Oh, I want to watch her, I’ll buy some of her clips on this site or that site.'”
The final panel of Day Two of XBIZ 2020 was “State of the Industry,” Gunner Taylor of Cams.com, who led a panel including Flirt4Free’s Greg Clayman, MojoHost’s Brad Mitchell, NMG’s Megan Stokes, SegPay’s Cathy Beardsley, Chaturbate’s Shirley Lara and Kink.com’s Alison Boden in a discussion regarding the current state of the industry.
Clayman spoke about California’s volatile legal landscape, including AB5 and FOSTA-SESTA, and how they siphon away precious time that could be spent in business development and growth.
Mitchell talked about security threats to websites, and how one of the most cost-effective things anyone running a website can implement to protect themselves is a web application firewall.
Lara discussed how companies need to stay relevant and stay on top of online trends on all the different platforms, and what users are gravitating toward in order not to fall behind the industry.
As the day concluded, the crowd moved to the Panorama Rooftop Deck in various forms of sleepwear, from sexy to comfy, for the Winter Wonderland party sponsored by Playboy Plus and ManyVids.
DJ Darcie Dolce spun dance music while the industry let their hair down as the open bar did a brisk service.
The industry’s top agents chaperoned their talent and studio heads mingled with adult entrepreneurs. All in all, it was an enchanting, lively way to end the day’s work at the Andaz Hotel.