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.