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more than I can chew

Posted at 00:37 on 17 Dec 2009 by Pandora / Blake

Tags: learning curves, porn production, shoot writeups

I don't know where to start writing about the shoot on Monday. It was amazing, hot, exciting, successful and satisfying. It was also difficult, stressful, and triggered a massive anxiety response which is still dominating my memories of the event. I don't know how to start writing about the good stuff before I've processed the bad stuff, but I have too much vanilla work to do this week to take the time I need to process it, so the bad stuff is just going round and round in circles in my head.

Make sense? No, probably not.

Okay. Ever heard the phrase "biting off more than you can chew"? This could have been written to describe my attitude to making spanking porn.

Anyone who's ever heard me talk about this, any time in the last three years, will know what I mean. When it comes to making spanking porn, I am like a naive, over-enthusiastic puppy. I'm idealistic, ambitious and passionate, I'm willing to work hard - these are all good things. I have filled a database with upwards of 60 script ideas and I add more to it by the day. I have grand visions of making ethical, socially-conscious, politically-responsible porn - and blithely assume that if it's hot enough, I'll be able to sell it anyway. I write scripts that are incredibly fiddly and difficult to film and edit, even though I don't even know how to use my new camera equipment yet and am wholly reliant on the expertise of my technically-minded friends; even though the only video editing I've done in my life was with Michael Stamp sitting next to me and telling me what to do.

I know all this. I know that having highbrow ideas at this stage is silly. I know I should chill out, start small, not aim for too much too fast. But a combination of big ideas, optimism, confidence, hard work and good team-members has enabled me to work miracles in the past. I learn best by throwing myself in at the deep end. It's always a gamble, and more times than not it pays off. But things don't always go to plan.


Now, the way I'm working up to this, you'd think I'd have broken a camera over Zille's head or something. I can assure you that my models were only harmed in the ways one would expect on a spanking shoot ;) The problem is my head, and it's wholly internal. Before I explain what the whole mess in my head is about, let me just note down what actually happened on Monday:

- Tom, Zille deFeu, her partner Malc, the Mystery Minx and camera-wizard J all descended on Olivia Manners' beautiful wood-panelled flat for a day of debauchery.

- We made three films, all between 15-30 minutes in length, some more complicated than others.

- We also took lots of hot photos.

- It was really really hot. :)

- Then we all went out to dinner, where I proceeded to lose my grip on reality, fail to participate meaningfully in any of the fascinating conversations about politics and polyamory and academia and society going on around me, and very nearly fell asleep in my bowl of moules.

So what's the big deal? Well, see, I exclude any of my head-drama from the above precis because I know it's not a big deal, not really. Although my paranoid hindbrain is trying to convince me that everyone involved now loathes me for being an annoying unprofessional waste of space who should never be let in charge of a shoot again, I am choosing to proceed on the assumption that my paranoid hindbrain is incorrect.

I'm new at this. I have lots to learn. Here are some of the things I learned on Monday:

- If you're writing a script that involves multiple lighting setups, multiple rooms, shooting out of order, etc., the ONLY way to survive the experience without going insane is to create a storyboard. Attempting it without a storyboard will result in the loss of your morning / mind / all your friends.

- Also, it will probably take about twice as long as you think. Double your estimated time and add a bit extra to be safe.

- Do not assume that power points will be available wherever you need the lights to be. Bring spare extension cables.

- Do not assume that the lights/cameras/microphones will work properly first time. Schedule in testing and failure time at the start of the day to get everything working.

- Do mention to your camerapeople that you have spare memory cards, which they can record straight onto and give you back at the end of the day, thus removing the need for complex, time-consuming data transfers that may or may not work.

- Do not forget to get your models' ID shots at the start of the day, so that they have to politely remind you at 5pm.

- Before the shoot, do not get so involved in writing and re-writing elaborate scripts that you forget to do such basic things as, e.g. printing copies of the callsheet, release forms, etc.

- Even if you think your schedule is watertight, build flexibility into it officially. Don't write "we're going to do four clips" on the callsheet and mentally acknowledge that okay, if you need to drop it to three, you'll drop it to three (but you'd really rather not). Write on the callsheet: "we're going to attempt as many of these as we can, and it will take as long as it it takes. It doesn't matter if we finish two or three or four as long as we have fun". If possible, inscribe it directly onto your brain. Otherwise making the necessary, sensible, flexible, responsible decision to drop the last scene when you run over will feel, despite previous mental notes, like a failure.

- When you have only produced one video shoot for yourself before, and that a) only involved trusted friends, and b) happened nine months ago, do not massively over-reach yourself by trying to organise a big professional shoot with lots of people you don't know, before you're ready, just because you fancy Zille deFeu and can't wait until the next time she's in the UK to dive into all your complicated elaborately plotted scenes. If you are at the stage in your learning curve where what you can do well is straightforward roleplay scenes in front of a static cam, there is no shame in doing straightforward roleplay scenes in front of a static cam. Trying to do more and failing will not only make you feel like shit, it will annoy the professionals you've hired who have to work through the ensuing chaos, it certainly won't impress anyone, and people will probably conclude that you were trying to show off.


There's lots more I wanted to write about. I wanted to write about the scenes themselves, and how hot they were, and how they get hotter the more distance there is between now and my stress on the day. I wanted to write about Zille and Malc and how I am still glowing from the joy of meeting them, and how I want to spend another day (or week, or year) with them, when we're not working and I'm not a tired stressball of anxiety. I wanted to show you photos of my bruises, which have a similar quality to the ones I sported after my shoot with Pain4Fem, at least on my left cheek. I wanted to whinge about my physical fatigue, all the myriad aches and pains one collects during a 17 hour shooting day when you're already feeling run down. I wanted to write about the nature of responsibility as it relates to submission and modelling and acting and production. I wanted to write about money, and the emotional difference between being paid to be hurt on camera, and paying people to hurt you on camera. I want to squee about our outfits. I wanted to write about the last scene of the day, the hard caning that I didn't know I needed until I was crying very real and very unexpected tears after that agonising high stroke, and suddenly the tension inside me (that had been there since the first film took over four hours to finish rather than two) finally started to ease.

Right now, however, I am taking my tired, bruised self to bed, where I will hopefully fret less about everyone hating me for being a terrible producer than I have on all the previous nights this week. I did a long, tiring 1.5 days of invoicable work today, and my schedule tomorrow looks much the same. But I'll try and squeeze in another half an hour to write, if I can.


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