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Accessibility and audio descriptions at the London Porn Film Festival

The London Porn Film Festival

Last weekend was the first ever London Porn Film Festival - a weekend of queer and feminist porn organised by queer community Wotever World. I managed to catch four out of five screenings, and attended three Q&As to accompany my films that were showing. I really enjoyed myself, and would love to write in more detail about some of the amazing porn I saw - keep an eye on my personal blog, and hopefully I'll post some reviews and recommendations for new hot, kinky, ethical porn when I get the chance.

They accepted two Dreams of Spanking films: Please May I Come, Mistress, and the new fast-paced edit of Bitch, which I renamed Queer as in Fuck You. In honour of its screening I've released it for free on Dreams of Spanking, so if you couldn't make it to the festival, you can watch it without a site membership here!

Screengrab from Queer as in Fuck You

There was a lot of warmth and love for me in screening my work to my home community, a roomful of lovely queers many of whom I already knew. I think everyone else was feeling the love too, because the audience reception to both films was far and above the most positive response I've received so far. Everyone laughed at the jokes, got the little asides and comic moments, and enthusiastically applauded at the end - and I got lovely comments afterwards too from people who'd enjoyed the films. Perhaps it's a Londoner thing - all four performers in the films are from this city, and maybe there's a common sense of humour. But whatever the reason, I appreciated it.

Zak Jane Keir noticed it too, and has written a lovely blogpost about her experience seeing herself on the big screen for the first time

The other factor that seems likely to have made it easier for the audience to get the jokes was that for the first time, both films were subtitled, and we were screening to a roomful of native English speakers. Dreams of Spanking films are often dialogue-heavy, and these two are no exception. Neither has particularly good audio quality; Queer as in Fuck You was shot before I upped my game and started using external mics to enhance sound quality, and Please May I Come, Mistress was an unexpected and spontaneous shoot when I didn't have my usual equipment. A couple of German speakers in Berlin told me that they found the rapid, quiet speech during the interviews hard to follow, so I was very happy to subtitle it in French for La Fete du Slip in Switzerland.

London Porn Film Festival were even more on the ball with language and accessibility - in fact, they were the most accessible porn film festival I've ever been to. Filmmakers were asked to submit English subtitles and audio description files for every film, to improve access for hearing and vision impaired members of the audience. The audio description was to be "exactly the same length, down to the frame, as the video file, and match up with it".

When I first got the email asking me to create those resources, I was fascinated to observe a short, intense ableist response flare up in me. Rather than admiring the LPFF for their strong stance on accessibility, my immediate reaction was frustration, feeling that this extra, unpaid work would be fiddly, tedious and unwelcome. Particularly around the audio description, I felt something along these lines: I've already created this film in my preferred medium to tell this story, it's done now. I don't want to have to go back and retell it another way, a way I never designed it to be told, having to comply with someone else's specifications! It's going to be unrewarding, and screening films at film festivals is meant to be about MY creative satisfaction, damnit!

Writing it out now, it sounds ridiculous - and in fact it didn't take long for me to get over myself and realise that of course creating accessibility materials was part of my job, and it was an honour to help my work reach a wider audience of people who were interested in viewing it, but wouldn't normally be able to. In fact, providing these sorts of materials was probably something I should be doing as a matter of course. So I made a conscious effort to shake off the ableist and self-involved reluctance, and got down to it. There was only one problem: I had never made an audio description file before, and I had no idea where to start. 

The more I thought about it, the more confused I got. Surely an audio description of the film would take significantly longer than the film, as visual information is communicated more quickly than speech? Should I use the original dialogue and music to retain the voices of the performers and add mood and atmosphere - but then, that wouldn't leave many gaps to insert description?

Luckily, the lovely folks at the London Porn Film Festival were ready to answer my questions. They explained that audio description is transmitted at the same time as the film with a loosely-fitting headset, so whoever listens to the AD will hear all the film sound, including music and dialogue, as well as all the sound in the AD. Not all visually impaired people are blind, and many can see part of what's going on on-screen, which is why the timings need to match up, so the AD makes sense with the visuals they're seeing.

In fact, the advice they sent me was so valuable that I asked their permission to repost it in full. Since I was new to this, it occurred to me that other filmmakers might be, too; and so this guidance might be useful to others who want to make their work more accessible to visually impaired people.

The AD file should be just voice. Of course, not being able to describe everything is frustrating. But a lot of the personalities of Zak and Charlie can be picked up through their conversation, and their relationship is discussed in detail - perhaps their physical appearance is secondary? Very often, you go after what gaps are available and fill those with what seems right at that time, and that's as good as it's going to get.

I work professionally with AD scripts for mainstream TV, and I prioritise in roughly this order, with everything above taking precedence over everything below:

1. Not running the script over any dialogue or plot-pertinent sound effects, e.g. doorbell ringing

2. Stuff that's mentioned in dialogue but not explicity, e.g. someone points at a chair and mentions it without saying "chair", at which point the AD would say "Jim points at a chair" or whatever.

3. Characters present. Names if they've been introduced, brief descriptors if not.

4. Location.

5. Actions.

6. Description of setting.

7. Description of characters' appreance and (non-plot-essential) clothing.

I'd say that in the majority of AD scripts I do, I rarely get below level five, and even then many actions that happen during dialogue will have to be excluded.

Armed with this information, I sat down and began the process of watching the films while noting down brief descriptions of actions every time there was a gap in the dialogue - and with these two films, there aren't many! I then did a second pass, reading my AD script aloud while playing the film again, and deleting anything that didn't fit. Once I had the wording down I set my mic up on my desktop, with the film soundtrack playing in headphones, and recorded the audio description at the same time as listening to the film audio. Finally, I laid the film soundtrack as a second track in Audacity and went through the recording and tweaked the timings of the audio description to make sure it didn't overlap any of the dialogue. Then I deleted the film soundtrack, and exported the audio description file complete with gaps in all the right places.

For two films, it was a long job, and sadly I don't have the resources to offer it as a matter of course for all Dreams of Spanking scenes. But it was an illuminating process. It enabled me to connect with my films in a new way, and perceive them as aural experiences, learning how they come across differently without the visuals. And it was fascinating to think about how visually impaired people might enjoy porn, and how pornographers might approach their work differently in order to create multi-sensory experiences that work on different levels for different types of viewer. It would be so cool to create a film that was just as effective an erotic experience if it was enjoyed aurally, or visually, as well as the combination of the two.

I'll upload the audio descriptions of Queer as in Fuck You and Please May I Come, Mistress to the scene pages, so you can try them out if you want to - and there are subtitle files for both films too, including both English and French for the latter. Plus, of course, if your sight doesn't permit you to fully enjoy Dreams of Spanking films visually, you would probably enjoy our audio spanking stories.

In the end, after a bit of a reluctant start, I enjoyed creating the audio descriptions for the London Porn Film Festival. And I was delighted when after the screening, someone came up to me after overhearing me talking to someone else, and recognised my voice from the audio description. They told me they'd really enjoyed it and they thought I'd done a great job with it. At the end of the day, that makes it all worthwhile.

S'il vous plait est-ce que je peux jouir Maitresse

La Fete du Slip is a gender and sexuality film festival in Switzerland (I think it's slip as in panties or underwear). It's been running for a few years and has gained prestige in the international porn community, and Dreams of Spanking is joining them for the first time this weekend.

I first tried to take part in La Fete du Slip in 2015. After Houseboy won the Berlin Porn Film Festival short film competition, I felt encouraged to submit it to other festivals. But sadly it seemed that it wasn't to La Fete du Slip's taste. I figured that I was unlikely to make a better film than that any time soon, so perhaps my work just didn't suit them. I didn't think it would be worth trying again. But I was pleased and surprised in Berlin last October when Stéphane, one half of the brother-and-sister organising team, found me after the Fetish Porn screening to tell me that she'd loved Please May I Come, Mistress, starring Charlie J Forrest and Zak Jane Keir; and that she wanted to screen it at La Fete du Slip. Well!

Charlie and Zak in Please May I Come, Mistress at Dreams of Spanking

So here I am, on the Eurostar to Paris, where I'll change trains and venture to Lausanne - my first visit to Switzerland. I am curious to discover whether the home of milk chocolate and cheese fondue will have vegan food I can eat. I'm sharing an airbnb with porn friends Livia and Parker Marx, and I'm so looking forward to catching up with them both, seeing other international porn fam, and immersing myself in queer, sex positive community.

When I watched Please May I Come, Mistress in Berlin I was pleased by how it came across, despite the appalling picture quality. (It was a DIY porn shoot; I hadn't intended to shoot porn that day, didn't have lights, and only had my oldest camera with me. If you don't know the story of how I came to shoot spontaneous porn at Eroticon with two brand new porn performers you can read it here.) But it was noticable that it was hard to catch what Charlie and Zak were saying. They both speak quite fast, and I hadn't had a proper audio recording setup; despite my best efforts to boost the dialogue, it was still hard to make out. So I'd already decided that I was going to need to create English subtitles for it at some point.

Charlie and Zak in Please May I Come, Mistress at Dreams of Spanking

For La Fete du Slip, however, I needed French subtitles. I ran my English transcript through Google translate, but was well aware how lacking the result would be. I turned to Twitter to see if I could recruit a native French speaker who wanted to help with the translation in exchange for free porn. Big thanks to @bdsmfreq who valiantly stepped in. Did you know that the French for "come" is jouir? I do now.

Despite BDSMfreq's generous support, turning the French transcript into actual subtitles was a different ballgame. La Fete du Slip prefer hardcoded subtitles, and I would have liked to have had that much control over the aesthetic, but when I tried to use Premiere's built in subtitle feature the formatting and positioning looked terrible, and I couldn't work out how to fix it. Free subtitle software was equally frustrating. In the end I created a .srt file and hand-noted the timecodes for each line of dialogue, which the organisers kindly accepted. But this was my first time creating subtitles, and I'm nervous that I haven't left enough time for each line to be read. I'll be watching it on the big screen with my heart in my mouth to see if anyone can follow what's said.

Hopefully my efforts will be legible. But even if not, the bondage, spanking, teasing and orgasm control is still pretty hot.

Charlie and Zak in Please May I Come, Mistress at Dreams of Spanking

Shooting in a cinematic style - the story behind our new film 'Houseboy'

Our new film Houseboy is a departure from the usual videos on Dreams of Spanking - and most other spanking sites. This is our first attempt at a cinematic short film, aiming for a higher standard of cinematography and storytelling than we are usually able to achieve. I wasn't planning to shoot this way from the start - it came about from a convergence of factors that created the perfect opportunity to try something new.

Casting Tai Crimson

It started last year, when I met an enthusiastically kinky and ridiculously cute young person from San Francisco. He was gorgeous, he loved spanking - he could certainly take it - and he expressed an interest in shooting for Dreams of Spanking. He wasn't old enough at that point to perform in porn, but I said that once he turned 18 I'd be very happy to work with him. We made plans to shoot together when he was next in the UK - which happened to be May 2015, less than a week after his eighteenth birthday. How's that for a coming-of-age celebration?

Houseboy - a new cinematic short fetish film by Dreams of Spanking

I normally prefer to work with kinksters who are a little older, simply because I value emotional maturity and experience in the people I shoot with. I think the common fetish for "barely 18" performers in porn is partly based on the idea that young performers are vulnerable, and so it's easier to take advantage of them and push their limits. I find this sleazy and totally unethical, and I'd always much rather work with older players who know their own minds and are able to look after themselves. It's important to me that the performers I hire can take responsibility for their own limits and communication, are experienced enough players to know their bodies and their preferences, and are secure in their decision to appear in fetish porn - because once you've done it, there's no going back.

When I met Tai, however, he exploded all of my preconceptions. Although a teenager, he has a rock solid sense of his kinky identity, and he's been exploring his interest in private for years. He is calm, confident, intelligent, self-reliant, and very emotionally mature. So at eighteen and a few days, Tai officially beats Talia Lane to the position of youngest performer on Dreams of Spanking - and yes, we do have his ID on file to prove it!

We put a date in the diary, and meanwhile Tai and I exchanged emails discussing his interests and preferences. But by March this year, when I needed to start firming up plans, I already knew that ATVOD were investigating Dreams of Spanking and that I was likely to have to stop updating the site for a duration of several months while my appeal was underway. I had lots of scenes already shot starring Fauni, Mike, Talia and David and others which I wasn't going to be able to publish, so there was absolutely no point spending money and energy shooting more material that might never see the light of day.

Towards a cinematic style

Meanwhile, I'd attended the British Fetish Film Festival in February and the Berlin Porn Film Festival last October, and I'd been thinking an awful lot about shooting styles, production values, and the budget and time constraints under which I was shooting.

Over five years I have developed a shoot style that produces one 10-15 minute spanking film per hour, in a remarkably stress free environment, with plenty of breaks. This is based on improvised scenes filmed live by one or two handheld camera operators, with perhaps some close-ups or cutaways to enhance anticipation in the build up to the spanking scenes, but otherwise shot with as few cuts as possible - unless the performers themselves need to cut. Lightweight, consumer-grade cameras make handheld shooting manageable without the camera operators getting too tired, and using auto-focus allows us to get visual variety by roaming around the scene shooting different angles, rather than stopping the action to reset each shot.

This non-disruptive shooting style allows the performers to get into an immersive scene space and stay in character, which helps the roleplay flow more smoothly, and also helps the bottom stay in their headspace and makes the spanking itself easier to take. It's a system that Nimue and I have got down to a fine art, and I was pleased that we'd reached a point where we could create nice-looking films within budget, while maintaining a relaxed and fun shoot environment for everyone involved.

The downside of this low-key shooting style is that the resulting films would never achieve the cinematic quality that I was seeing at the film festivals I was going to. I'd had a couple of films rejected from international festivals, presumably because the videography, audio quality and storytelling wasn't up to scratch. I found myself wanting to level up, and see if with a bit more money, time and effort, I could raise my production values and put Dreams of Spanking on the map as a credible producer of cinema-quality films.

Houseboy - a new cinematic short fetish film by Dreams of Spanking

So rather than hire Tai for a day shooting a number of improvised ten minute website updates, I decided to use him to do something different. I booked amazing boudoir photographer Matt Christie to help out with the videography - he'd expressed an interest in shooting video last time we shot together, he has a commercial-grade camera and he also had access to an amazing location perfect for the scenario I had in mind.

I started penning ideas for a single 10-15 minute short film. Not five films, or six films, or seven. Just one.

Developing the story

With Tai, I had an articulate and gorgeous masculine-of-center performer with a submissive streak a mile wide, who loved being spanked. I thought about the films I was seeing at festivals, and the lack of beautifully-shot female/male BDSM films shot from a female perspective, with a male submissive who is both beautiful and interesting, and not just a cipher propping up a sexually objectified female dominant. Instead of this I wanted to make Tai the lust object and protagonist of the film, focussing both the lens on his body, and the story on his character's journey.

I started with a fairly traditional plot - a young man applying for a submissive role in the household of an established mistress. I brainstormed ideas for visual storytelling, thinking about ways to focus the storyline on the tension and anticipation Tai's character feels before he takes the plunge towards fulfilling his submissive desires. I considered ways to create an interesting power dynamic between his character and mine. I quickly realised that I'd need a third performer, another submissive serving the mistress - someone to make his arrival at the house feel more formal and more intimidating.

I'd already talked to my friend Eliza Grey about having her on set as a shoot assistant, helping out behind the camera (she had planned to be with us on our shoot in November, but had sadly been unable to make it). I realised she'd be perfect for the role of a bitchy receptionist, enhancing Tai's nerves before his interview with the Madame... and once I'd cast Eliza, the rest of the story fell into place. 

Houseboy - a new cinematic short fetish film by Dreams of Spanking

Writing the script

Ten days before the shoot, I was hurrying to finish the script on my laptop on the train. I'd never written lines for characters to say before, and I was finding it surprisingly difficult. I'd write a line, then agonise over it. What if Tai doesn't feel comfortable saying that? What if that's not what Eliza would say? I've always made a political point of not putting words in my performers' mouths, and suddenly that was what I was literally doing. At the same time I was all-too-aware that they were going to need to memorise their lines, and time was running out.

I closed my eyes, wrote some lines telling myself they were only placeholders, and sent it off with an apologetic email saying this was a very rough draft, and inviting them to make any changes they wanted. But my anxiety proved unfounded. In the end, bar one wording change, that script was the one we used - and Tai and Eliza rocked it.

Working with a storyboard

A week before the shoot I was on D's sofa after a fetish party, scribbling a 'storyboard' in biro on A4 paper from his printer while my friends chatted around me. After writing the screenplay I had a strong visual image in my mind's eye of what most of the shots would look like - now it was just a case of creating a visual reference so I could communicate my ideas to Matt on the day. I'd visited Matt's location a week ago, so the rooms were fresh in my mind. It was a useful exercise to think through camera angles and compose the shots, but I'm pretty sure it was the crappiest storyboard anyone has ever worked from. The most hilarious of my terrible stick figure drawings was this sketch of Eliza being spanked over my knee and feeling sad about it:

Professional production all round, innit.

The day of the shoot

The shoot day approached. I bought food and props, looked up travel options, packed suitcases, selected implements, printed scripts and release forms. Shortly before the day I realised that I'd inadvertently booked our shoot on the same day as the London Marathon, and the location we were using was only one block away from the route. That meant that not only would transport potentially be disrupted, but the exterior shots would all have a huge amount of background noise. Still, at this late stage there was nothing to be done about it. I booked an 8am taxi, the traffic at that hour was fine, and I was on set at 9am. Matt and I drank coffee and looked through the storyboard, then Tai and Eliza arrived - and it was all go.

Shooting from a script was a totally new experience for me, and a steep learning curve. I'd worked out the best shooting order, shooting the story in as close to chronological order as possible while minimising room and lighting changes. After that it was just a question of staying calm, following the callsheet and taking it one shot at a time.

Houseboy - a new cinematic short fetish film by Dreams of Spanking

I was using an external mic for the first time, and was grateful to have Eliza helping out and sharing the responsibility for making sure the mic was a) close enough, b) not in shot, and c) recording each time. She was also an absolute star helping out with moving lights, checking camera batteries and memory cards, making tea and tidying up behind us. A+++, would work with again. Plus it turned out she could seriously act...

It was a full day, perhaps a bit too full - nerves started to fray after a few hours, and everyone was feeling tired by mid-afternoon. The shoot would definitely have been easier with more camera crew or fewer scenes to fit in. After a few hours, Matt noticed a round smudge in the middle of the lens, and wiped it off - but of course there wasn't time to go back and re-shoot the shots we'd already done. By the time we came to shoot the confrontation between Tai and Eliza in the kitchen, everyone was so tired that that scene took about seven takes. Some of the shots ended up out of focus, and we got through so many cans of tonic that I was worried we'd run out!

Editing the film

Still, despite all that, when I came to look at the footage I was pleased to discover that most of it looked how I'd expected. There were a few surprises in the edit - such as that moment when I realised the reverse shot in one dialogue scene crossed the line and was therefore unusable, and was suddenly grateful that we'd shot three angles of that particular scene, even though at the time it felt like overkill. It was a monster of an edit, but satisfying too, sorting through all the footage, plugging it into place, and seeing how the scenes I'd envisioned in my mind played out on camera. 

Houseboy - a new cinematic short fetish film by Dreams of Spanking

Choosing the music was another daunting prospect - I knew I wanted to avoid re-using the same creative commons soundtracks that you hear time and time again in indie porn, and that meant spending money. But how to start looking? First I worked out where music was needed - in the intro sequence, the montage, and the closing credits, which meant I needed two or three pieces in total. Then I did a rough edit of those sequences so I had a vague idea of how long the music would need to be. After that, I set a day aside to browse SoundDogs, typing in different keywords and playing pieces with my eyes closed, visualing the film, until I hit on a genre that felt right. I realised that for this story my usual taste in piano and cello-dominated classical and film score music wouldn't work - Tai's character needed something moody and masculine, guitar-led, energetic and driving. Finally I whittled down a selection, downloaded some samples and started laying them over the edit to see what worked.

Primarily, this film was intended to be screened at film festivals - which meant that the narrative would have a different structure than standard spanking films. In a film intended for someone to watch while having a wank, you need a carefully paced build-up and pay-off that sustains uninterrupted shots of climactic spanking action for long enough for the viewer to reach orgasm. In a longer film, there might be two of three of these build-ups and climaxes, separated by character-driven story. But at a film festival, the audience are watching to have their minds stimulated, not their genitals. Fast-paced editing is preferable, providing lots of new visual information with every shot. Explicit sequences need to be edited down to the bare minimum necessary to develop the characters and progress the story. So that was a new challenge: cutting the 15 minutes of high quality spanking action in, for instance, Tai's audition scene, down to the three minutes earmarked for it in the festival edit. The only way I was able to do it was by promising myself that I'd release the full, uncut scene as an extended edition on Dreams of Spanking later. But meanwhile the deadline for the Berlin Porn Film Festival was June 30th, so I had to get the shorter edit finished first...

In the end, thankfully, it was finished in time to submit to Berlin, and I'm hopeful that they'll accept it. I'll be submitting it to various other film festivals over the summer as well. I'm really happy with the finished film, and completely honoured to have been trusted with Tai and Eliza's porn debuts - and thrilled that they had a good time.

Houseboy - a new cinematic short fetish film by Dreams of Spanking

And that's a wrap!

It was a really long shoot day. We finished the scheduled shots around 7pm, 10 hours after I'd arrived on set. But then we cracked open the champagne and ended up chatting and buzzing on a total high, which led to another two hours shooting performer interviews, and even a behind the scenes caning for Tai when he confessed he still didn't think he'd been spanked enough...

By the time we finally turned the cameras off, sat down for some supper and tidied everything away, the sun had gone down - and it was 11pm before I finally got into a cab. Matt and I had been on set for fourteen hours, Tai and Eliza for thirteen. I am so grateful to the three of them for their enthusiasm, dedication and professionalism. It was a long fucking shoot and everyone put in so much energy and creativity it was kind of overwhelming. Overall, this production cost ten times as much as an average Dreams of Spanking video, but even so I still came away feeling like I hadn't paid people enough for the amount of work they'd put in.

In conclusion

Overall, this was a very satisfying project, and I'm really happy to have it under my belt. But it also taught me a lot about the trade-off that arises when you move towards a more cinematic shooting style. My previous method gave my performers more breaks, less stress and a much more satisfying kink experience. Shooting Houseboy, we did the bare minimum of spanking needed to get the shots I wanted - and stopping to move the camera, check the focus and lighting, consult the storyboard every few seconds made it hard to get immersed into a satisfying spanking headspace. I'm glad I hadn't scripted any particularly hard spanking scenes, because I think severe corporal punishment would be much more emotionally and physically challenging to take in this context.

I hadn't realised it before, but shooting in a more amateur style results in a much more rewarding experience for the performers - with more opportunity for top and bottom to develop an in-scene chemistry, focus on each other rather than the camera, and time for the bottom to sink into a yummy submissive headspace, without constant distractions.

So what can I take away from this? Well, I've learned that shooting in a cinematic style is something I can do, and that's good to know. I've learned that it's hard work, at least ten times as expensive as my usual shooting style, and considerably more time-consuming to produce and edit. It's also exhilarating, exhausting, and very creatively satisfying. I'm glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and gave it a go, and I'm hopeful that the finished film will be screened in Berlin this year. But I've also learned that I don't want to start shooting this way every time. Perhaps I might be able to put out one cinematic film a year, but this experiment has restored my faith in my usual low-key way of shooting, which it turns out is preferable experience for me and my performers - and a much better environment to ask people to take hard spankings in. Our standard Dreams of Spanking shoots emphasise process over product, and trying something new has re-affirmed my faith in that process.

You can watch the long-play trailer for Houseboy below - and if you're a site member, please watch the full film and tell me what you think - and make sure you also check out the extended editions of Tai's and Eliza's spanking scenes, performer interviews and Tai's off-the-cuff behind the scenes caning.

Free spanking videos to fight censorship

In January, to protest the ridiculous and damaging new UK porn laws that were brought in on 1 December 2014, making it illegal for anyone in the UK to distribute videos online which would not be classifiable with an R18 rating by the BBFC, I ran a fundraising campaign. To generate cash for Backlash, the UK organisation dedicated to defending our sexual freedoms and providing legal support for those affected by laws like this, I pledged to take one hard cane stroke for every £10 raised.

The fundraiser was a runaway success, and even with Nimue Allen standing with me, we quickly reached our self-imposed maximum of 50 hard cane strokes each and had to recruit additional bottoms to help us out. Luckily, I know quite a few people willing to bend over and take a caning for a good cause.

Free caning video: Ariel Anderssen takes a judicial punishment caning of 24 hard cane strokes

Our team of brave volunteers included Ariel Anderssen, better known in the spanking scene as Amelia Jane Rutherford. She pledged up to 25 strokes - which were sponsored within hours! - and she and her husband Hywel Phillips also offered to donate a free caning video as a stretch goal reward. Ariel's Judicial Caning was produced as a custom film, and they were planning to release it as exclusive members-only content on their glamour bondage site Restrained Elegance. To support the cause, they promised to publish it free online instead if the fundraiser reached its target.

Alongside Dreams of Spanking and Nimue's World, Restrained Elegance is also hit hard by the new laws - when and if the law is enforced, they will have to take down substantial amounts of content featuring full bondage of both hands and feet with a gag, or perhaps stop trading entirely. Hywel and Ariel's site is an authentic depiction of their erotic and romantic lives, and all their films are safely and consensually produced by experienced bondage enthusiasts. It's a crying shame that this sort of positive, couple-oriented adult content stands to be taken offline in the name of "protecting children", when fetish porn can provide such a necessary role in helping young people with marginalised sexualities feel less desperate and alone.

The good news is that thanks to a surge of support from the kinky community, our fundraiser raised more than we ever expected - the final figure was £3836. As promised, Ariel's Judicial Caning was released last week. It's beautifully shot by Hywel on high-end cameras, and the film really captures the anticipation and tension of a severe caning, particularly Ariel's nervous body language as she strips for punishment. The marks are gorgeous, too.

Free caning video: Ariel Anderssen takes a judicial punishment caning of 24 hard cane strokes
Free caning video: Ariel Anderssen takes a judicial punishment caning of 24 hard cane strokes
Free caning video: Ariel Anderssen takes a judicial punishment caning of 24 hard cane strokes

As if that wasn't enough, we've been proud to host another guest update this week, too: Knowing by Michael Stamp and Zoe Page.

Knowing - a study in the anticipation a submissive feels before she is punished. By Michael Stamp and Zoe Page.

Mike and Zoe are a real life kinky couple, and for years they worked together on Mike's membership site Bars and Stripes, a female-submissive spanking series set in a women's prison. Bars was one of the first sites I worked for when I started out as a porn performer and along with their good friends Northern Spanking, with whom they often shared shoots, they set the gold standard for ethical production and taking care of their performers. When I worked for Bars, I was given the opportunity to write my own character, contribute scene ideas, and the shoots were tremendously good fun, with lots of cameraderie on set, yummy food and drink and post-shoot evening parties. Playing a recurring character allowed me to get really immersed in the roleplay, which made for a more satisfying shoot experience - and allowed us to go deeper and further in terms of the intensity than if we were less invested in the narrative. Working with tops who would quickly become close friends, including Mike, Northern Spanking founders Paul Kennedy and Lucy McLean, and later Zoe Page when she joined the project, made everything that much more enjoyable.

So I was really sad to learn that, as a direct consequence of the new UK laws, Mike had sold Bars and Stripes overseas, along with all his unedited content. Northern Spanking have done the same thing, and are now based in California. This is happening everywhere I look: producers selling up, relinquishing control of UK projects that had a hugely positive effect on the UK porn industry. When the shining examples of ethical, performer-driven production shut up shop or move overseas, where does that leave UK porn?

I'm getting increasing numbers of enquiries from porn performers looking for fetish or spanking work in the UK and wanting to shoot with safe, ethical producers. More and more sites are moving their production overseas, and there are fewer and fewer producers I am able to recommend to new performers.

Not to mention that UK sites closing down or selling up will reduce the amount of good content available to UK viewers, and the influence ethically produced fetish porn can have within the UK fetish scene. If ATVOD go ahead with their long-term plan to ban all overseas content that doesn't comply with their regulations from being viewed from within the UK, by blocking it using the UK internet filter, then eventually people in the UK won't be able to view this sort of content at all.

Which is why, when Mike and Zoe produced a new sort of spanking film, which premiered at the British Fetish Film Festival last month, they wanted to help our fundraiser any way they could. Mike no longer has editorial control of Bars and Stripes, so he couldn't donate any site memberships or members-only films as stretch goal rewards. But he did offer us this film.

Knowing - a study in the anticipation a submissive feels before she is punished. By Michael Stamp and Zoe Page.

Knowing is a short study in the anticipation a submissive feels when they know they are about to be punished. Created by husband-and-wife team Michael Stamp and Zoe Page, this shows a side of the normally dominant Zoe that we have never seen before. It's a beautiful piece of film-making, and I love the way sound is used to heighten the emotional tension. There's also something thrilling and teasing about the way that it ends just as a normal spanking film would be about to get started. I think it's beautiful, and I'm very grateful to Mike and Zoe for releasing it.

Knowing - a study in the anticipation a submissive feels before she is punished. By Michael Stamp and Zoe Page. Knowing - a study in the anticipation a submissive feels before she is punished. By Michael Stamp and Zoe Page.

I hope you enjoy Ariel's Judicial Caning and Knowing. I've posted them as guest updates this week because all my time and energy at the moment is going to producing and editing the sponsored caning videos which we pledged in our fundraiser. I'm also doing a lot of activism, organising and media appearances - to raise awareness of the new laws, and fight for the right of porn performers, producers, and all sex workers to do the work they choose without being criminalised and stigmatised. The Backlash sponsored caning films will all be released on Dreams of Spanking as soon as they're ready - the first one shows me caning Amelia Jane Rutherford, and will go online this Friday.

Meanwhile, thanks again to everyone who contributed to the fundraiser - the money will be invaluable in helping Backlash support producers who are targeted by ATVOD and forced to comply with the new regulations. You can still donate to Backlash here if you missed your chance before - and legal fees are expensive, so please give as much as you can afford.

While I'm focussing so much energy on the campaign, I could also use your support. Please help me continue to do this important work by joining Dreams of Spanking. For only £20 you can own our extensive archive of exclusive, members-only scenes - which are all available for you to download and re-watch as often as you wish. Behind the scenes videos, out-takes and performer interviews are also included in the same price (an idea I can credit to Northern Spanking). Please help us keep UK spanking porn alive and thriving, despite the efforts of the government to shut us down.

The British Fetish Film Festival

The British Fetish Film Festival

D and I are currently on our way to the first ever British Fetish Film Festival - a new UK festival run by Hywel Phillips and Ariel Anderssen, screening adult fetish films to a sympathetic audience. A couple of years ago we attended the "zeroth" festival - a dry run for producers to screen their films to each other and test the format. That was my first ever experience watching my film on a large screen and I learned a lot from it.

Two years later, I'm a bit less of a nervous newbie. Last year I attended several porn screenings, including at the Feminist Porn Awards and the Berlin Porn Film Festival - as well as an excitingly official screening of 'Silver Shoes' by Blue Artichoke Films at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. (Feminist porn! On a mainstream cinema! In London! I think we can call that progress.)

The film I submitted to this one, the British Fetish Film Festival, is Instructed, which I've already seen screened in Berlin. I didn't hate it on the big screen - in fact I thought it played well, mostly thanks to Ms Naughty and Luke's gorgeous videography and Ms Naughty's editing. Now that I've already watched myself push a lubed-up butt plug into my arsehole in front of a few hundred people, I feel like a veteran, and this time I don't think I'll need to hide behind a cushion as my film is screened.

The version I submitted is a new edit by me, drawing heavily on Ms Naughty's pacing choices which I thought worked so well in Berlin. It's going to be the first time I've watched this film on a big screen with D there, which will be a happy thing. 'Instructed' not only uses his words and his voice, but it tells the story of an important moment in our relationship, in which he surprised me from across the ocean with a loving gesture of support for my porn career, that left me feeling affirmed, dominated, and very loved. I'll always be fond of 'Instructed', and I'm looking forward to showing it to my fellow UK producers.

The festival will also include a couple of workshops, including one I'm leading on the new UK porn laws, and one Hywel is leading on making films more cinematic. I plan to use my workshop to incite a worker-led porn revolution against government censorship. No, seriously. I'm planning something. Let me know if you want to get involved.

But the thing I'm most nervous and excited about is Sunday, when I'll be taking a 50-stroke sponsored cold caning as part of our fundraiser for Backlash UK. Last month I ran an Indiegogo campaign pledging to take one hard cane stroke for every £10 raised, and Nimue Allen joined me in putting her arse on the line. I was astonished by the rate at which donations flooded in, and we quickly reached our self-imposed maximum of 50 strokes each. By the time the campaign ended, we'd raised a staggering £3836 for Backlash, with a total of ten volunteers willing to take a hard caning to help fight porn censorship. Every penny of the total is going to Backlash to help them campaign against the new porn legislation, and to help provide legal support for those affected by these regressive laws.

Nimue took her caning yesterday, and Ariel Anderssen and I are taking ours on Sunday after the festival. In fact, I'll be administering Ariel's beating before D gives me mine, because there's no better way to get me in the mood for a caning than to dish one out. The canings will all be filmed and the videos will be released for free online - both as a thank you to the 105 generous contributors who made the fundraiser such a success, and as a Creative Commons project to raise awareness about the unjust censorship of our freedom of sexual expression in the UK. Watch this space!

Dreams of Spanking goes to Berlin!

After a busy summer involving lots of travelling while back home my workload stacked ever higher, I was ready for an autumn of quiet industry in London, battening down the hatches and tackling the backlog. I was even looking forward to it. But the universe had other ideas.

I got an email from Ms Naughty telling us that our collaborative feminist porn film Instructed - her edit of which she had submitted to the Berlin Porn Film Festival - had been accepted, and would be shown on the big screen in front of a cinema full of people!

I realised that out of four festivals my films have been submitted to so far - Bikesmut in 2012, the Feminist Porn Awards and Cinekink in 2014, and now Berlin - the only one where none of my work was screened was also the only one I've been to. Bikesmut and Cinekink, as US festivals, were a little harder for me to get to. But Berlin is only a train ride away. Really, there was no excuse.

So it was that I found myself emailing the organisers to find out that I would be granted a free filmmakers entry to the festival... and started the somewhat intimidating process of sorting out accommodation and transport with only a month's notice. 

I feel intimidated, delighted and a bit overwhelmed by the havoc this will wreak on my carefully-worked-out October budget. (If anyone feels moved to help me get there, please consider booking a 121 spanking session - or ask me for my Playpal address...) But mostly I'm excited. It will be wonderful to see all the friends I made at the Feminist Porn Awards this year again - all the queer porn stars, Zahra Stardust and Ms Naughty, Jennifer Lyon Bell and another feminist porn director whom I was overjoyed to meet when she visited London this summer, Gala Vanting.

Instructed: a feminist porn film by Ms Naughty and Pandora BlakeIt's also going to be a totally new experience to watch my work on the big screen... particularly given that Instructed is my most explicit film to date. If watching you finger yourself at the cinema in high-definition closeup isn't a porn performer's baptism of fire, I don't know what is. I don't know if I'm going to be surprised, embarrassed or hiding behind my program, but I think it will definitely be a once-in-a-lifetime excuse for a selfie!

A part of me is sad that I missed the deadline to submit any of my own film productions to Berlin this year. Ms Naughty was kind enough to list me as a co-director and collaborator on her edit of Instructed, but it's still her version of the film - and the only reason hers is being included rather than mine is that I didn't send them anything. I had the deadline in my calendar, but I would have wanted to edit a tighter, shorter cut of anything I submitted, and I simply didn't have time. Which makes me all the more determined to manage to submit my own freshly edited work to Cinekink and the FPA next year, as well as the other 2015 porn festivals. But it's also, perhaps, a good thing that my work as a video editor won't be up for scrutiny this year. Appearing on on screen as the solo performer is, perhaps, exposure enough without the vulnerability of being judged on my editing technique as well. There is always time for me to take that particular plunge later...

So I'm going to Berlin - and so is Dreams of Spanking. I'm not currently planning any shoots there - I don't have the space in my budget - but perhaps if some more trade or collaboration opportunities present themselves, I might fit something in. As a method of working, it seems to have been pretty successful so far!

Ceremonial flogging for the magician's new apprentice

You remember I blogged a couple of weeks ago about submitting a couple of films to Cinekink? I was absolutely stunned to hear that one of them was accepted!

Click to view trailer for My%20Inner%20Little%20Girl

My film about feminist submission, self-pleasure and spanking fantasies, My Inner Little Girl, will be screened at the Cinekink festival on Saturday 1 March, at the Anthology Film Archives in New York City. I won't be able to attend the screening but if you want to go and tell me how it went, you can register a ticket here.

Meanwhile, I've got a gorgeous new photo gallery to share with you: the second part of The Magician's Apprentice, with photographs accompanying original spanking fiction by Adele Haze.

Now that Sophie is also a magical student, she must learn the same lesson as the other apprentice... Now that Sophie is also a magical student, she must learn the same lesson as Giles...

The Magician's Apprentice (Part 2)

Two young lovers find themselves caught in flagrante delicto by a master magician - and he isn't impressed. After thrashing his apprentice for failing to rein in his passions, Master Finlay informs Sophie that she has untrained magical ability, and must learn to control it or she will put herself and others in danger. He offers to take her on as his second apprentice. Sophie can't believe her good fortune - her old life was not worth clinging to, and she accepts the opportunity gladly, even though it means undergoing to a painful initiation ceremony.

Now that Sophie is also a magical student, she must learn the same lesson as the other apprentice. Now that Sophie is also a magical student, she must learn the same lesson as the other apprentice.
Now that Sophie is also a magical student, she must learn the same lesson as the other apprentice.

I've always loved the idea of sacred or ceremonial kink; the use of blindfolds, restraints, whipping and flogging in magical ritual. There's something deliciously objectifying about being a ritual object or a sacrifice to the gods, body mortified to raise power for a higher cause.

On the other hand, blindfolds and flogging can play a part in an initiation ceremony or a rite of passage, where the focus of attention is very much on the celebrant - as with the ritual conducted to mark Sophie's initiation into the path of magical learning. Either way, this is about using pain and sensory deprivation to achieve an altered state of consciousness.

Now that Sophie is also a magical student, she must learn the same lesson as the other apprentice. Now that Sophie is also a magical student, she must learn the same lesson as the other apprentice.
Now that Sophie is also a magical student, she must learn the same lesson as the other apprentice. Now that Sophie is also a magical student, she must learn the same lesson as the other apprentice.

Now that she is officially subject to the magician's authority, Sophie must learn to control her passions and her powers. To teach her this lesson Master Finlay straps her bottom soundly with a razor strop of worn, thick leather. 

Now that Sophie is also a magical student, she must learn the same lesson as the other apprentice. Now that Sophie is also a magical student, she must learn the same lesson as the other apprentice. Now that Sophie is also a magical student, she must learn the same lesson as the other apprentice.

But even the pain of Sophie's punishment - or the chores she is set afterwards - do not diminish her joy at finally finding a place where she belongs. 

Now that Sophie is also a magical student, she must learn the same lesson as the other apprentice.  

Cinekink and feminist porn

Since hiring AJ I've had more time to devote to promoting Dreams of Spanking and the campaign for ethical porn, and all of a sudden life has become very interesting. So far this year I've appeared in an FHM feature on woman-friendly porn, a forthcoming Guardian article, and a TV shoot last week for a BBC3 documentary on young people and porn, alongside Nichi Hodgson of the Ethical Porn Partnership, with which I'm also getting involved.

The Feminist Porn Awards: I <3 Feminist PornAs if all that wasn't enough, I've accepted invitations to speak at Eroticon 2014 in Bristol in March, and - most exciting of all - the Feminist Porn Conference at the University of Toronto in April. I'm a bit overwhelmed by this news, as I'll be presenting alongside some of my idols, pioneers of feminist porn including Shine Louise Houston, Ms Naughty and Courtney Trouble. I'm also getting a bit starstruck at the idea of meeting queer porn superstars like Jiz Lee, on whom I defy any individual with a heartbeat not to have a crush.

The Feminist Porn Conference takes place in conjunction with the Feminist Porn Awards. In 2013, to my delight, Dreams of Spanking was nominated for best website, and I've submitted us to that category this year as well. A bit more scarily, I've also submitted six films for individual consideration to the main awards. This would be less nerve-wracking if I wasn't planning to be there, but the idea of having to watch one of my films screened amongst that illustrious company of established producers is frankly terrifying!

Cinekink: the kinky film festival

Despite my nerves, I've also submitted two films to the sex-positive kinky film festival in New York, Cinekink. This was an interesting experience; the submission process was geared towards mainstream, high budget productions, and I had to fill out pages and pages of a form asking me to name all different sorts of crew, technicians and other members of a normal Hollywood style production team. Our films are on a radically different scale, and there are usually only 3-6 people involved in the creation of any one video. I found myself entering my own name dozens of times, and feeling more amateur by the second!

The films I submitted were My Inner Little Girl and Pandora's Belt Whipping Fantasy, retitled "Dreaming of Daddy". (I would have called it that originally, were CCBill less stringent about the words we're allowed to use.) I was asked to write a covering letter accompanying each submission, and finding the words to articulate my reasons behind creating each of these films was another interesting experience. Here's what I wrote.

My Inner Little Girl

My Inner Little Girl

I've been wanting to make a film like this for years. My adult paysite is named "Dreams of Spanking", and right from its inception in 2011 I knew I wanted to make films about sex and masturbation that showed the fantasies of performers. In my case, those fantasies almost always involve spanking.

 

As a director and business owner, my sexual submissiveness creates a potent paradox. I might fantasise about being helpless, but in real life, I couldn't be more in control. But this isn't a senseless contradiction. My submissive fantasies provide escape and relief from the pressures and responsibilities of adult life. The more successful my career, the more satisfaction I receive from letting go in fantasy.

I love being spanked. It's not just a sexy idea for me - it's solace, therapy, meditation, both as a fantasy to enjoy on my own, and an activity to enjoy consensually with my chosen partners.

This is my first ever real solo masturbation scene on video, and my first orgasm on camera too. I'm nervous and excited to share it. This film expresses something true about my life and my sexuality, and my hope is that other women who share my fantasies will see it and relate to it - and perhaps feel affirmed that it is possible to enjoy fantasies of submission without it compromising our power and independence.

For the other film, I found I had even more to say.

Pandora's Belt Whipping Fantasy Pandora's Belt Whipping Fantasy

Dreaming of Daddy

In a candid interview, Pandora confesses one of her edgiest fantasies: a dark domestic punishment that involves age play, struggling and resistance, and a severe whipping of over 100 very hard strokes of the leather belt.

Together, she and Thomas, her long-term romantic partner in real life, collaborate to make her fantasy reality. They negotiate, and discuss details of the scene they are about to enact. Pandora expresses concerns that Thomas might be uncomfortable with her calling him "daddy". They talk, and finally agree.

The following roleplay is violent and intense, and the remorseless whipping of Pandora's bare bottom and thighs raises vivid welts, and brings her to real, cathartic tears. Afterwards, we see the lovers reconciled as they discuss the extreme experience they have just shared. This is what happens when dreams come true...

Statement by Pandora Blake:
I recently had the opportunity to realise a huge personal fantasy - a particularly edgy domestic discipline scenario. The key element of the fantasy is severe, perhaps excessive punishment from an angry paternal figure; I might kick, struggle, cry, say I'm sorry and beg him no, but the whipping continues regardless. In my fantasies the punishment takes various forms, but when I had to choose one to immortalise in video I opted for a severe belt whipping of at least 100 strokes, delivered nearly full force without a warm-up.

This scene includes lots of kicking, struggling, and begging, and the whipping proceeds regardless. It continued past the point where I was saying "please, no", and past the point where it broke down my resistance and I started to cry. This was a hugely cathartic and satisfying experience for me.

The floodgates opened about three quarters of the way through. I'd stopped trying to struggle and fight back, and had reached that point in the whipping where I was just knuckling down and trying to get through it. Even though I'd surrendered, even though I was sorry, nonetheless Tom aimed a particularly hard stroke low on my thighs. Rather than feeling indignant at the unfairness of it, it just tipped me over the edge. I accepted the pain without argument. It enhanced my awareness of my own helplessness. I broke out in genuine, gulping sobs, and tears poured down my face. The punishment continued remorselessly, which is of course exactly how I wanted it.

I know that this sort of edgy scenario can be problematic for viewers. I find the idea of helplessness, severity and punishments that aren't necessarily fair or consensual incredibly hot, but as a viewer of adult films I struggle to enjoy videos telling this sort of story unless I have absolute, cast-iron certainty that the spankee was privately enjoying the experience. One of my main aims with this website is to solve the problem of how viewers can tell that a dark, severe or edgy fantasy video was produced by performers who not only consented, but did so enthusiastically, and had fun with it.

Behind the scenes videos are one way of showing this, as are blogposts and comments from the performers. There has been some debate about portraying rape fantasies in porn in the UK this year, and one criticism was that if videos are taken out of context, it can be very hard to tell the difference between good acting, and a shoot that was genuinely unpleasant for the submissive. I had the idea of bringing some of the behind the scenes material into the video itself, so that as well as seeing the fantasy, you also see some of the making-of before and after.

As an adult filmmaker I'm very much in favour of showing real negotiation of kinky scenes, including communication before and after, as a way to make production more transparent, and perhaps provide some examples of healthy communication in kinky relationships.

From my personal experience I can testify that it is absolutely possible to realise a severe, edgy, violent and boundary-pushing fantasy in a safe, responsible and enjoyable way - but a lot goes into it beyond the roleplay itself. There's preparation and talking beforehand, choosing positions and implements, negotiating limits and details. There's breaks, if necessary, during the scene; and there's aftercare and cuddles once it's over.

I like watching videos of rather nasty things happening to consenting people, and as a pornographer I think it's important to produce them in a way that's empowering for the "victim". I'm interested in showing that part of the process as well as the fantasy itself.

This film opens with me talking about this scene beforehand, what makes it hot for me, and how I feel going into it. We then videoed my chat with Tom in which I told him about the scene - I hadn't shared some of the details with him until this conversation and I wanted to show the negotiation, and his responses, live as they happened. We agree various specifics, and then go straight into the roleplay. Later, after the punishment sequence is complete, the camera keeps rolling as we drop out of character and react to the scene.

Personally, when dabbling in extreme kinky fantasies, I'm much more comfortable if it's an experience that's led and initiated by the submissive rather than imposed on them. In my films you can guarantee that any scene in which I am spanked is one I sought out for myself; and since launching my adult paysite Dreams of Spanking I've enacted more of my fantasies than I ever imagined. Films like this one provide a safe space for me to explore my darkest fantasies; and hopefully a safe space for others to enjoy them, too.

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