In May D and I attended a new and exciting event for the UK kink scene - a producers-only dry run for the British Fetish Film Festival. This brand new film festival is being co-ordinated by our friends Hywel Phillips and Amelia Jane Rutherford to showcase the latest developments in fetish film-making. They write:
With a few honourable exceptions (hello, Secretary!) fetishes and alternative sexual identities have not been tackled by mainstream film-makers.
Enthusiastic fetishists like us got fed up with this lack of interest and starting making their own films, funded by website sales.
That's awesome, but sometimes showing movies on the web can be like broadcasting into the void.
Nothing beats seeing your film on a large screen with a sympathetic audience.
The dry run was an interesting and enjoyable day kindly hosted by Paul and Lucy of Northern Spanking. Sarah of Spanking Sarah wrote an excellent report here, which showcases the films shown by other spanking producers and summarises the nerves I think many of us felt at showing our work to other producers.
I learned a lot from seeing my own film in a new context and from watching other people's contributions, and thoughts have been percolating ever since in my mind about pacing, storytelling and visual narrative. I learned that humour is the single best quality a film festival submission can have. I also learned that the maximum length before it starts to never-ending is 15 minutes, and that 5-10 is better if possible.
Since then I've been experimenting with tighter edits of my web updates, and have been thinking about ways to tell stories in different ways than the classic dialogue exposition dump. Visual storytelling involves more planning and storyboarding, and takes longer than a point-and-shoot roleplay scene, but it doesn't have to break the bank if you choose your shots carefully. Hywel has a really interesting blogpost on cinematic shooting techniques here, and I came away from the zeroth fetish film festival inspired to branch out and try new things. I've been exploring these ideas in a custom film I've recently produced for a private client, and am looking forward to applying them to future Dreams of Spanking productions.
I very much hope there will be another British Film Festival, open to the public this time, and it's exciting to think about having the opportunity to share my work with a wider audience. Still, I make films for myself and for my site members, and so showing them to a new audience with different expectations is inevitably challenging. The requirements of a good film festival submission are different to the requirements of a good paysite update. One solution would be to shoot something specially, or at least edit an existing film to be shorter in length, with less screen time devoted to spanking, and more time spent on character development, humour and story, to try and make it appealing to as wide an audience as possible, whatever their kink.
However, there won't be a public British Fetish Film Festival unless the organisers can get permission from the council to hold it, and as such they have solicited statements from the producers who took part in the dry run, stating why we think this is an important and positive event to have. It's not just because it gives us the chance to promote our work - after all, as I mentioned, most festival audience members will not be spanking fans, and so probably aren't potential customers. It's our shared goals, as producers of porn that honestly expresses our own sexualities, however unusual, of tolerance, acceptance and understanding. Here's what my statement said:
I'm Pandora Blake, and I'm an adult performer, pornographer and feminist. I run the fetish paysite Dreams of Spanking, and enjoy acting and modelling in other people's productions. I've been kinky my whole life; some of my earliest memories are of daydreams arising from an early fascination with spanking and corporal punishment, which started as young as four years old. As an adult, I started exploring these fantasies with likeminded friends and lovers and discovered I loved the reality just as much as I'd always imagined. I took my first foray into fetish modelling while I was a student, and when I was invited to perform in a spanking video I found that the experience expressed something profoundly true about myself. I quickly fell in love with the creative side of writing and producing kinky films, and almost immediately started laying the groundwork for launching my own production company, which finally became a reality in 2011.
It is my firm belief that sexual preference is ingrained in each of us, and that we cannot help what turns us on any more than we can help being straight, bisexual or gay. Sexuality may evolve and develop over time but sexual fetishes are not necessarily triggered by any real life event, and are certainly not an outward symptom of trauma or something going "wrong". Human sexuality is beautifully, infinitely varied, and the best thing we can do is to accept ourselves, whatever our kinks and fantasies. I also believe that as long as all participants give enthusiastic and informed consent, there is nothing wrong with adults acting out their sexual fantasies, or capturing those explorations on video. Even violent or extreme fantasies can be played out in a responsible, empowering way between consenting adults.
In an age where there is still a lot of fear, misinformation and ignorance about fetish and alternative sexuality, a film festival such as this is a fantastic way to raise awareness, promote transparency and give sexual minorities a platform to express themselves. Fetishists are often misrepresented in mainstream media, but our own creative self-expression is the best way for us to show the world what it is we like and why. I believe that a lot of hostility towards extreme or kinky porn arises from ignorance, and that many antis would be surprised by how harmless, playful and overtly consensual the reality really is. A festival like this not only helps normalise alternative sexualities and lifestyles in a way that may be reassuring to those who feel worried there might be something wrong with them because of their sexuality, it will also hopefully educate and inform others. I also hope it might promote solidarity and mutual understanding between kinksters who may have wildly differing tastes, but a common cause of social acceptance.
I have for several years been politically active on issues including feminism and equality, civil liberties, sexual freedom and better sex education. The mainstream porn industry does not represent the myriad diverse, imaginative and beautiful films being created by small, indie producers, and I think that the more public discussion we can have about alternative approaches to sexuality, the better.
After her behaviour at the last Rotary Club dinner, Mila's father decides to punish her before this one as a pre-emptive measure. He visits her in her room before they leave, and explains what is expected of her. Twelve strokes of the cane will drive the message home. She might not have done anything wrong yet this evening, but sitting down on a sore bottom all night will remind her to behave.
This was Mila's last spanking video of the day, and we wanted to make it count. Mila loves spanking but has very little experience of the cane, and is very frightened of it.
That fear combined with Mila's genuine tears and Paul's quiet, intense, paternal scolding, turned this simple concept into a memorably intense scene. This might not be the most physically severe caning on the site, but in terms of the emotions and anticipation it's incredibly powerful.
Be sure to watch the behind the scenes videos, which include some lovely out of character moments between Paul and Mila, and give you the chance to get to know this remarkable and beautiful young lady a little better.
Real life has been far too busy lately. After a hectic July that left me burned out, I'm taking a couple of weeks to recuperate and rest ... relatively, anyway. That's why this blog has been a little quiet, but I'm starting to catch up. Here's a scene that went up while I was away at the end of last month.
Alex has been keeping a cat in her new flat against the terms of her tenancy agreement. Her landlady is scheduled to visit later, but to Alex's horror she arrives a few hours early. The cat is hastily bundled into the bathroom, but Alex doesn't have time to tidy anything else up - and when the landlady finds a cat toy under a cushion, the secret is revealed.
Alex begs her not to kick her out, and instead the landlady decides that some old-fashioned discipline might do some good. She fetches a heavy wooden spoon from the kitchen, and Alex bends over for some stinging swats over her denim jeans and on the bare.
In this scene I asked Alex if she'd be willing to help me re-create an experience from my real life, with her playing me, and me playing the role of my landlord (or landlady, in the case of this film). Apart from the spanking, this actually happened. I hadn't obtained permission for my cat when I moved into my new home. I planned to ask about it at some point, pretending I was getting the cat for the first time, but before I did so my landlord paid me a visit to fix a broken blind.
He'd said he'd come round later that afternoon, and I was planning to hoover the place and set the cat up nice and comfy in the shed for an hour or so in time for his arrival. He showed up in the morning, however, and I barely had time to shove the cat and her litter box in my bedroom before letting him in.
One of the first questions he asked me was, "So where's the cat?" Turns out that without having hoovered, the cat fur everywhere was a dead giveaway. What can I say - she sheds a lot.
The dialogue in this is pretty much true to life, apart from the fact that in real life he let the matter drop, fixed my blind (when we picked it from where it had fallen onto the floor, the catnip mouse was on the carpet underneath it, plain as day; that would have been obvious even if I had hoovered, but he didn't mention it), and went away without saying a thing about it. He still hasn't called me on the fact I was blatantly trying to hide the fact I had a cat, but I felt guilty about it for weeks.
Initially I thought I might re-create this scene with me playing myself and enjoy a bit of catharsis for my misbehaviour, but we needed a domestic scene when I shot with Alex at my place, and I decided to go with this one. It meant that Alex got to star in a video alongside Fatface, who is her favourite spanking performer ever. It also gave rise to this superlative image, which is possibly my favourite photo of all time and which still makes me laugh whenever I see it.
Alex and Fatface formed a close connection during filming and are now bonded for life. No cats were harmed in the making of this video.
Two very different scenes for you this week - one grown-up and glamorous, the other exuberant and silly. First, we have a sensual boudoir photogallery of me completely nude, and secondly a playful puppy play scene with Michael Darling as sexy and submissive as you've ever seen him.
Step into my boudoir, and enjoy some sleepy, sensual photos of me lazing and stretching in my bedroom, fully nude and bathed in early morning sunlight.
These photos are the first set from a recent photo shoot with D, myself and new photographer Matt Christie. Matt is an amazing photographer who specialises in glamour, boudoir and art nude, and to my delight he was comfortable with shooting fetish as well.
It was a full day and we shot thousands of photos, including lots of spanking, glamour, bondage, dominance and submission and some ruder activities too. You know D and I by now, so this shouldn't come as a surprise. I'm looking forward to sharing the rest with you.
At the other end of the spectrum, our latest video stars Nimue Allen and Michael Darling as a kinky couple indulging in some puppy/mistress roleplay. (Or should that be puppy/mummy? I've always felt like the relationship with a pet is closer to "parent" than "master"...)
Puppy roleplay isn't really my kink, although I have enjoyed pet play before. However, it is a huge interest of Michael's and of Nimue's, and I'm always interested in shooting the scenes that genuinely get my performers excited. As soon as they started playing, I began to realise what I'd been missing. Puppy play is awesome. Just take a look at this trailer:
Michael wants some puppy time, and Nimue is happy to play with him. Whether the game is fetch, tug-of-war or sit up and beg, the rules are simple: good puppies get treats, and bad puppies get punished.
I wasn't sure how this scene would turn out, but the shoot was so much fun it had all three of us laughing out loud, and the resulting video is adorable.
Mikey is the cutest happy puppy!
Check out those big puppydog eyes as Mikey lifts his paw to be smacked...
And really badly behaved puppies have to drop to all fours to be punished more severely.
The appeal of puppy play is right there in the name - more than many fetishy activities it is about play in the most direct sense of the world; playfulness, fun, silliness and physicality. Here's what Michael has to say about this aspect of his kink:
Puppy play has been a favourite roleplay of mine for many years. I love how it incorporates elements of BDSM (training, discipline, collars, cages...) but at the same time there's romping and bounding about, scritching and belly rubs and playing around with other puppies. There's a fun and wonderfully tactile sensuality to it: when I'm in puppy headspace I feel incredibly centred in my body and want to run, sniff, lick and explore, and for doing so I'm rewarded with petting, head scritches and enthusiastic cries of "good boy!" It's a playful way of exploring master/pet power dynamics through the eyes of a fun-loving puppy dog.
In many ways, running Dreams of Spanking has been much as I expected. It’s a lot of work – definitely a full time job for one person (although it takes a few years to build a site up enough that it can pay a full time salary!)
It’s also great fun - particularly shooting, which is still one of the best things I ever get to do. In fact I love it so much that I shoot far more regularly than I need to, and already have enough footage in the bank to last into 2014 – and I’m about to shoot again in September, for a week!
I knew both these things before I started, so no surprises there. However, it’s been a steep learning curve with plenty of mistakes along the way – and some things I didn't expect.
Here are the top ten things I’ve learned since launching Dreams of Spanking in December 2011…
1. People don’t really buy porn on a Monday. I don’t know why. The busiest days of the week for new signups are Friday and Saturday, with most people sitting down to indulge in a bit of kinky porn when they’re off work at the weekend. For the same reason, public holidays see a spike in memberships too.
2. Few things have improved my life as a spanking video producer more than setting up my own printer at home. It sounds silly, but it’s true. All those release forms, call sheets, props lists… I used to have to go to the stationery shop with a pen drive, pay a few quid and hope they wouldn’t look too closely at what I was printing. Now I can print at home, as late at night as I like, and every time I do it feels like a liberation.
3. I hate making trailers. Editing video is great fun, but for some reason preview videos are the thing I put off doing more than any other. It just seems so complicated, fiddly and off-putting – even though I’ve been making a trailer a week for the last 20 months. I don’t make it easier for myself by trying to create cinematic trailers for every single web clip, but when it comes to promotion I generally think the more previews, the better. Weirdly, I find making long trailers easier than making short ones. My ideal would be a pacy, dramatic 30-45 seconds per trailer, but I seem to struggle to cut them down below 1-2 minutes. Still, the folks on SpankingTube never complain!
4. Switch scenes are surprisingly popular. Yes, including male/female switch scenes … which I hadn’t realised no-one had ever done before. I’ve accidentally invented a new genre, how about that? Plenty of people have told me no-one wants to see men and women swapping roles in the same scene, but my members love it – and so do I.
Likewise, I was pleasantly surprised to learn how many people appreciate my attractive, youthful male performers with good acting abilities. It’s not just ladies and gay men – straight male viewers enjoy their contribution too.
5. Casting is both more important, and harder than I expected. You can be working with the most talented actors in the world and if you cast them in the wrong role, they’ll feel awkward and you won’t get their best performance. Which roles people feel comfortable playing can be difficult to predict, even if you know your performers well. Sometimes scenes I thought would be hard to direct flow brilliantly without any input from me; other times as soon as a scene starts, I can tell an actor isn’t enjoying their role.
Spanking video is pretty much all improvised, and so the comfort and confidence of your performers is paramount. When someone really feels at home in a scene, it shines through. If I’ve hired great actors and the dialogue isn’t flowing smoothly, the problem isn’t them, but a bad casting decision on my part.
Writing and casting are complimentary skills; if you write a great scene, you need to cast it right or it’ll be wasted. But if you come up with the right premise for your performers, sometimes you barely need to do any writing at all – the scene will write itself. Trust your intuition, your knowledge of the performers, and what they say they’re into. Still, there are never any guarantees. The silver lining here is that sometimes scenes that seemed average on paper can explode into life during filming, and end up far exceeding your expectations.
6. Performers aren’t often late, but when they are, it makes me furious! I put a lot of time and work into producing a shoot, and take care to always be ready on time. When you’re all set up with a tight schedule ahead of you and lots to get done, nothing is more frustrating a cast member who turns up an hour later than agreed. It wastes the time of the other performers and starts the whole day on the wrong foot. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen often.
I’m ashamed to admit that before I ran my own site, when I was modelling for other spanking sites, I wasn’t always perfectly punctual. Now I know how it feels from the other side, and when I work for other sites these days, I’m always early!
7. The scenes you spend the most time preparing and planning are often the ones that don’t go to plan, or turn out different from how you expected. The ones that happen spontaneously are often the most natural and successful. Be flexible, don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your performers, and embrace the unexpected.
8. I was surprised to find that that female fans are much more likely to compliment my porn, leave comments, write blogposts and retweet links than they are to pay for it. In other words, women will promote my work, but they’re much less likely to actually buy it. This surprises me because I’m making films expressly for a female audience, based on my market research and on what I myself want to watch. My female membership has grown over the last year, and I appreciate each and every one of my female subscribers. But it's never gone above 25%.
I get the impression that when it comes to internet erotica, some women are simply shy about becoming paying customers. But ladies if, you enjoy watching porn from time to time, why not treat yourselves and pay for it? You’ll get better porn, you’ll be supporting the producers you like, and you’ll send a message to producers that you are a market share worth catering to. It’s a positive feedback loop that will result in more sites making the sort of porn you want to see. What’s not to love?
9. There is simply no better way to learn than editing your own footage. This is true for all the jobs involved in shooting spanking video – performance, camera work, production – but for me it’s especially true of directing. There’s nothing worse than reviewing footage and cringing to see yourself communicating ineffectively with your performers, getting stressed, or bickering unprofessionally with your other half.
Staying calm and cheerful, retaining your sense of humour, and communicating instructions clearly, accurately and courteously, is a big part of a director’s job. Managing your emotions and manner under pressure is harder than you think. There is no sharper learning curve than sitting down in the editing suite and having to watch yourself get it wrong. You can guarantee that next time you’re shooting, you’ll take care not to make the same mistakes again.
10. You don’t need loads of expensive equipment to create quality spanking video. You can pick up a HD video camera for under £200 these days (mine are both Canon Legria HF200s). When I started out I only had one, plus a £100 pair of softbox video lights, a standard home PC, and some friends who are good at photography.
You don’t need to spend thousands of pounds on camera equipment to get good results. What’s important is creative storylines, an eye for attractive locations, and above all, good performers. That means both being able to spot people with potential, and being so fun to work with that they want to come back.
I think this might be my number 1 tip for aspiring new producers:
Your performers are your most important asset. Treat them accordingly.
Earn their trust. Be organised and efficient – don’t waste their time. Go out of your way for them. Feed them well. Consult their preferences, write scenes that match their tastes and interests. Respect them, and give them space to express themselves.
Never lie to them, try to manipulate them, spring surprises on them, or ask them to do anything that will make them feel uncomfortable. This is important not only because it’s basic good manners and ethical business practice, but because it will improve the quality of your product.
Treat your performers like gold, and your videos will be golden.
This article was originally published at The Cherry Red Report.