The Juicy Cuts: Erika Lust on Funding Female Porn-Makers

Image courtesy Erika Lust

Image courtesy Erika Lust

My darlings, I am so happy to be able to present to you a full-length interview that I recently conducted with the amazing, talented, crazy-smart, gorgeous, utterly effervescent feminist erotic filmmaker, Erika Lust! I contacted her when researching my recent article about mentorship in porn, since she recently made public that she is offering €250,000 to aspiring female erotic filmmakers to facilitate the production of ten short erotic films! That is mentorship and sponsorhip writ large, folks, and it’s the kind of thing that the world needs.

So I asked her about her philosophy, her vision, and herself, and she blew me away. Alas, I had to cut out most of her riveting and beautifully phrased words for the article I wrote for MEL, so I am publishing our chat in its entirety here, for you, my dear readers.

Erika, your work as an adult filmmaker has been highly acclaimed in recent years, internationally. This may be a difficult question to answer, but what do you think sets your work apart from other erotic film? What makes it so distinguishable from all the porn out there?

I don’t think it is difficult to answer! Almost everything is different!

Mainstream pornography shows that women’s sexuality exists for the benefit of men.
Sex is something that women do for men and men do to women. The focus is on men’s pleasure and women are being used to satisfy others, but not themselves. Even if it seems there are many categories with all those tags and labels that caters to every whim and fetish imaginable, in the end it is all the same, just body parts served up in the same way.

I am part of a new genre made mostly by women that stands apart from mainstream, chauvinistic and male oriented porn. Part of the nouvelle vague of adult cinema that is trying to change the industry from within and create films that are artistic, realistic, help changing gender perceptions, and that positively mirror female sexuality. It’s also the salaries we pay to performers, the way we treat them, the lighting, the wardrobe, the make up, the music, the locations, the catering, the scripts, the contracts, the post-production, the color correction, the fact that we do not hide online, you can see who we are and talk to us, the cliches we avoid, the different body types we cast….

We have proved that erotica can be a form of art, paying attention to every little detail of a production and creating movies that are more stimulating and relatable. There are always four key elements in my work: women’s pleasure matters, adult cinema can have cinematic values, we need more body types, different ages and diverse races, and the production process has to be ethical.

My movies send out a positive message about sexuality and the huge range of different sexualities out there showing sex as fun and full of passion. They reflect my views on sex as a healthy and a natural part of life that we should celebrate. I show women and men as sexual collaborators and while doing this I try to make them as aesthetically beautiful and captivating as I can. Oh! And the performers have real pleasure, not loud faked orgasms!

I also make consent come through, not showing irresponsible scenes or anything to do with coercion…which is something that mainstream porn does not definitely care about! Just check the “fuck a teen” ads and pop ups around the Xtubes!

 Many female filmmakers pride themselves on having a different perspective in their films—“the female gaze.” How do you think this applies to porn? What do viewers experience in your films, and the films of other female filmmakers, that is different from the work of men?

The influence pornography has on society, specifically on our views on sex, sexuality, consent and gender roles is huge, and right now these views are dictated by one group of people: a specific demographic of white, heterosexual men, who are comfortable in dishing out the same, repetitive films every day. Repetitive gynecological shots of genitals bashing against each other with more extreme images every time is the norm now. That is just one perspective and a very narrowed one.  I am not saying that men are only able to direct that, but “that” is what they are actually doing right now.

It is imperative that women tell their own story and show their perspective and views on sex and sexuality. We are half of the world’s population. The female gaze is necessary for an equal society – for the benefit of all genders and sexualities. It’s no secret that young people have access to mainstream porn. So it’s important they aren’t just exposed to one version of the story. Furthermore, teenagers and men also need a cinema where they aren’t constantly being told that being a man or masculine consists of what they are shown in mainstream porn. In a time when feminism and gender issues are in the media more than ever and the conversation around female sexuality is happening all the time, we need a voice.

I would dare to say that what viewers experience with my films or other female filmmakers films is diversity on screen and that we care about female pleasure. They can watch different stories, different people represented, different ways of having sex and real sex! Not acrobatics! That normally includes real pleasure from the performers too! We show female pleasure! Women who have their own desires, sexuality and fantasies. Contrary to adult cinema made by men we show intelligent stories that make sense, characters that are relatable for the viewer. We show anticipation, how desire is born. We offer an alternative for the upcoming generations and we enable women to enjoy adult cinema while being empowered at the same time.

 You’ve decided to give back to the erotic filmmaking community by offering €250,000 to aspiring female filmmakers who want to make short films with explicit sex! This is majorly exciting! Why did you decide that you wanted to undertake this project?

I knew four filmmakers who were very talented, and had diverse ideas and visions. Performers and filmmakers Paulita Pappel and Olympe De G, photographer Adriana Eskenazi and film director and photographer Bruce LaBruce. I decided to invite them to direct four films for XConfessions.com. At first it was just something I felt like doing for their and my own pleasure. But the results were so amazing that I’ve decided to make this an open call! Three Guest Director’s films have been included in the last XConfessions Vol. 7, while Bruce LaBruce’s film is in post-production right now.

It was so fulfilling to have this contribution on the XConfessions.com project but at the same time I began feeling very helpless and angry to see that there are these talented people, especially women, who want to show their own perspective on sex and sexuality in film, but without knowing how to go about it or finance it.I decided to begin the global journey, to invest and discover new female talent, to create a space for this talent to take the spotlight in the next wave of adult cinema. I am just putting actions to the words I spoke in my TEDxVienna talk..

 You’re looking for ten different projects—what are you looking for in the films and in the filmmakers? How do people apply for one of the spots? Will you be acting as a teacher for these new porn makers? What sort of help will you be offering, aside from the money?

First of all, I want women that really want to change and improve the quality of adult cinema. Women that want to be at the helm of the female-led erotica.

They need to have creative minds, filmmaking experience (a reel) and a great idea! The filmmaking experience does not have to be related to adult cinema. In fact I prefer to give this opportunity to untapped minds that haven’t even considered making erotica before!

They need to source their own cast and crew, locations, and write their script. They will have creative control and my team and I will be their support in terms of legal aspects, documentation, information about working in adult cinema, finding appropriate performers and financing And finally a script, treatment and moodboard of their idea (the film can not be longer than 15 minutes), an explanation of their vision and a budget since the 250.000 euros are for the whole project, not per film!  They have to contact me with their proposal at erikalust@lustfilms.com

 What do you hope will be the ultimate impact of training or helping aspiring porn filmmakers and sending them out into the world? What’s the end goal?
We are in a more liberal 21st Century where equality of the sexes should be embodied in every part of world and I want that for adult cinema too, since its influence on society is crucial. Our voice right now is almost nonexistent. We need an increase in the number of female-directed adult films because there is a real and disturbing need for another discourse where we do take responsibility for what we show. There is a real need for women to take over the representation of their sexuality and not allow only men to dictate what it is. Because, how can they know as well as we do?!
I want more women in leading roles as directors, producers and scriptwriters, we need to make explicit films that are sex-positive, so young people and the coming generations can see sex in a light that is realistic and pleasurable. Where equality and consent are put into every part of a film’s production.

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