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.