Having milked all the money I could from seven cheap-ass, shot-on-video porno features, I had to make a choice:
1) Invest the $ in mutual funds, certificates of deposits, etc., quit the hassle-haunted world of porn and become a “respectable” filmmaker…
2) Respond to customer complaints about skimpy story lines by shooting a slam-bang gorgeous, elaborate exemplar of erotic excellence on par with such stellar, star-studded movies as Sex World, Behind the Green Door and The Opening of Misty Beethoven.
It was 1981. I was 35 years old, still young enough to salvage a “legit” film career, but old enough for my first coronary–they were endemic among career pornographers.
My girlfriend Shelly wanted option #1. So did I. I’d seen enough “wet shots” for one lifetime.
But my general manager, Joe Farmer (a nom de porn) wanted option #2. (Of course that would save his job.)
(Passages from SKINFLICKS are in italics.)
“We could shoot a feature on videotape as good as any 35, for under ten thousand,” Joe Farmer said. “With the accounts we’ve acquired, we could sell enough pieces to make our production costs back in a couple months. Then we could shoot another and do it again. The whole thing would snowball: The more titles we accumulated, the bigger our volume of catalogue sales would grow. Look at all the new stores still opening. And we haven’t begun to tap the foreign market. Look at cable. Dave, we don’t have any idea how big this industry is going to be. This shouldn’t be an ending; this should be a new beginning!”
All the adult video manufacturers I knew agreed that the market was not yet big enough for a 35-type feature without 35 millimeter theatrical distribution. Several articles about the adult video industry in l981 carried TVX president Dave Friedman’s declaration that an “A”-line feature would gross $350,000 in theaters and $35,000 on tape. Subtract a couple of months overhead and cost-of-product expenses from that latter figure, and making your $10,000 investment back seemed a long-shot gamble.
“I’m tired of crap-shoots, Joe,” I said. “The sane thing is to just put the money in the bank and live a normal life for a change.” But part of me felt that would be a cop-out. Was this how the whole thing would end? With neither a bang nor a whimper?
Joe Farmer sensed my indecision. “I think you’ll really be missing the boat, Dave, if you don’t give it a shot.”
One night in late July, I dreamed the story line of an elegant erotic movie. When I woke up, I wrote down every detail, including the title: All the King’s Ladies.
I decided to roll the dice one more time.
Next post: Shooting All the King’s Ladies Part 2: Terrorizing the City of San Francisco.