State of Affairs: Porn Production Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic


LOS ANGELES — As the entire world makes preparations for minimizing the impact of the COVID-19 (popularly known as “coronavirus”) pandemic, several of the largest stakeholders in the adult entertainment business are making their own plans for what is sure to be a major disruption to their production businesses.

XBIZ spoke to studio heads and others with direct on-the-ground knowledge of porn production, who shared their approaches to this unprecedented public health crisis.

The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) referred to the crisis as a “pandemic” today during his briefing, and

“Europe has now become the epicenter of the pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China,” WHO director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this morning.

Although the adult industry has more experience with shutdowns and moratoria than other sectors of the entertainment business, due to the PASS system of regular STI testing coordinated by trade group the Free Speech Coalition (FSC), the general agreement is that the unusual circumstances of this global pandemic will need to be addressed by all production outfits.

Wait and See

Wicked director Brad Armstrong, a longtime vet of the porn industry, told XBIZ that, although he was supposed to be shooting the second week in April, “as of now, we have not made decisions one way or the other.”

“I’ll wait and see how the industry decides to move forward,” Armstrong told XBIZ on Thursday. “Of course, anyone who feels uncomfortable shooting, I would respect that decision and certainly don’t hold them accountable either way. It’s the same for the industry as other shutdowns — but this might be a little longer because we are not in control of it.”

Armstrong also explained that although some might be thinking about the impact on the marquee names (talent and companies), production assistants, makeup artists, other crew and even location owners are also going to have their livelihood affected. “With any shutdown, there’s always a wide variety of people that get harmed, not only performers,” he said.

Deeper’s studio head and director Kayden Kross told XBIZ that she is currently “continuing on as if it’s business as usual and planning for a moratorium at the same time.”

Veteran director Mike Quasar agreed with Kross. “I don’t see any valid reason to halt production at the moment,” Quasar, known for his no-nonsense opinions, told XBIZ on Thursday evening. “A porn set isn’t like the gathering at a sporting event. There are maybe ten people on set, max, and yes, they are obviously in very close contact — but so are the people in front of you in line at Ralph’s hoarding toilet paper.”

“Obviously if someone from either cast or crew tested positive for it, we would follow the protocol that every other entity is following at the moment: self-quarantine of everyone involved for two weeks and a moratorium while that is taking place,” Quasar added.

The director also pointed out that it is still “regular flu season” and the odds are much higher that someone would exhibit symptoms of that as opposed to COVID-19.

“As of right now, I have no plans to halt my productions,” Quasar concluded.

Some European studios, though closer to the current viral hub of Italy, continue to do business as usual. “I met with the owner of Brill Babes, which is the largest agency here in Hungary along with the owner of Talent Testing Service and we all agreed that as of now there is no reason to shut down production,” the Budapest-based American producer Dan Leal told XBIZ.

Actively Monitoring the Situation

Evil Angel’s founder John Stagliano, one of the longest-serving industry players, explained that his company “met at the beginning of last week, over 10 days ago, and figured out a plan for as many people as possible to work from home.”

Stagliano also said it was decided to redesign on-set signage, to make basic hygiene instructions like “washing hands, not touching door knobs and using hand sanitizer” much more prominent.

The note of caution was also stressed by Adult Time head and Gamma Films partner Bree Mills, who told XBIZ that the company and their third-party producers are “actively monitoring the situation in real-time, alongside the rest of our industry and society at large.”

“We are committed to providing a safe work environment for all of the performers and crew members who work on our sets and will be prepared to take the necessary actions to ensure their health remains the highest priority,” Mills added.

Kink’s Alison Boden told XBIZ that, after careful consideration, the company had asked all Kink.com employees “to work from home for at least the next two weeks, in order to protect themselves and limit potential community spread.”

“While Kink.com no longer produces its own content,” Boden added, “we recognize that the health and safety of our suppliers, their crews and all performers is priority number one. Kink is continuously working with our vendors to determine the best course of action as the situation evolves.”

The BDSM-specialized company, known for progressive measures like their pioneering “consent forms” and in-house talent advocates, has “posted a notice on the site alerting members that regular updates on individual channels and the site overall may be slowed due to voluntary or mandatory production holds.”

Ensure Model Safety

Director Chi Chi LaRue, an acclaimed producer of all-male content, told XBIZ that both of the brands he oversees, Noir and Icon Male, have taken several steps to ensure models’ safety.

LaRue explained that the two companies have “sent out very specific information on coronavirus, what symptoms to look for, and ways to keep yourself safe as outlined by both the Red Cross and Centers for Disease Control.”

“We encouraged all models who are traveling by air to contact their airline to understand the safety regulations that have been put in place, and we have also urged all models to continuously wash their hands and not touch their face while traveling,” LaRue added, recommending that “if models are feeling ill or symptomatic, we have asked that they stay home from their shoot to get better because we care about their safety — that is our number-one priority and we wish to keep everybody on set healthy.”

Noir Male and Icon Male, said LaRue, have made “a variety of health and sanitation products available on-set, and have posters on the importance of hand washing and cleanliness. Our goal is to continue production safely and with the health of all models and crew in mind.”

Agencies, which depend on percentages of model bookings for their income, are also making preparations with talent, producers and studios. “I have been receiving several calls from talent and producers with questions surrounding COVID-19,” said ATMLA owner and agent Mark Schechter. “I have heard from several out-of-state producers who have made the decision to halt production for up to thirty days,” he told XBIZ, adding that the combination of several factors led them to decide that “it made sense to halt production.”

Locally in the Los Angeles area, where ATMLA is located, Schechter “heard from a few who are refraining from production. I have also received numerous proactive notifications from producers reminding all of us to be mindful of our own personal health status. If you are experiencing any symptoms, and you are scheduled to work, then cancel immediately.”

The ATMLA agent said he would “urge all performers and production personnel who have recently traveled in from foreign countries, and even domestic travel, to refrain from any production work for up to two weeks to avoid any further potential exposures.”

Like other stakeholders, Schechter said he would assume the coming few days and weeks will determine if any further measures within the industry will be necessary.

“I believe if we all continue to be proactive with ‘social distancing,’ and mindful of our own personal health status when it comes to working closely with another person in a sex scene, we will avoid any drastic measures that will have a huge effect on all of us,” Schechter concluded.

No FSC Call for a Production Halt Yet

Yesterday the Free Speech Coalition updated their advisory to explain that after consulting with experts, they had decided to hold off on calling for an industry-wide production halt, though they warned producers to make swift preparations for one.

The FSC’s Thursday afternoon update pointed out that, while the trade group did not know of any COVID-19 cases among the adult industry, and while the number of non-industry cases in major production hubs such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Miami remain low, they were asking the adult industry “to be extremely vigilant about symptoms and tolerant of those who choose not to shoot.

“This is a difficult time for both performers and producers, and we know that many are concerned not only about the virus, but about lost income in the event of a long production hold,” the statement read. “FSC is consulting with performers, producers, and other industry stakeholders to discuss strategies and concerns, and provide real-world guidance as to how to best proceed.

“We are not yet calling a production hold in the adult industry, but performers and producers should be actively planning for the possibility of one in the future.”

In the meantime, the FSC urged individual producers and performers to “make their own decisions about whether or not they feel comfortable continuing to shoot.

“This is a quickly evolving situation that affects us all.” The FSC also urged everyone in the industry to “be understanding and accommodating during this time.”

Among the major companies as of Thursday evening and this morning, Girlfriends films, specialized in lesbian content, stood out by calling for a self-imposed production halt.

Yesterday, the head of the Valencia, California-based company, Moose, issued a statement to explain that “after careful thought and consideration for the safety and well-being of talent, crew, and everyone involved with producing our films, we have made the decision to hold production for thirty days. Until then, we encourage everyone to follow protocols and stay safe. We look forward to seeing all of you back on set when the threat has subsided.”



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By XBIZ