I’ve just been reading over the press releaseabout the Cinekink Awards, which were given out last Sunday after the festival wrapped up. I’ve been thinking, once again, about what a magical event Cinekink is. The festival shows films that bring people together to educate them and give them a shared experience in an intimate and important way. Cinekink is about acceptance. Acceptance is about understanding. It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of. In the past few years, I’ve come to understand all sorts of people in ways I never would have if I hadn’t attended. And I love it
And yet, I happen to know that Cinekink runs, every year, on next to no budget. There is little profit in this venture, for anyone involved. It’s a labor of love from almost every person involved, from the organizers to the volunteers to the filmmakers. And it’s a shame; spaces for the education and discussion of taboo topics is essential, yet rare, especially in such an open, public context.
Watching The Opening of Misty Beethoven on a big screen in a packed theater this past Saturday night was eye-opening in many ways for me. Not only does the porno-chic film take place in a slightly “off ” world where sex takes place everywhere and at all times as kind of a menial task, but the film is a remnant of a brief yet wondrous time in American history–when explicit sex on film was “chic” and acceptable. The whole experience put me in the mind of, “Why the hell isn’t this the reality we live in?”
Juxtaposed with today’s climate of conservative politics, the policing of the female body, anti-porn rhetoric, etc., the film made me reflect on the other films I saw at Cinekink and the difficulties they face in not only finding an audience (which is what festivals like Cinekink can provide) but in finding compensation for the love, sweat, and tears that filmmakers put into them. Most of these films, many of which are groundbreaking, subversive, and absolutely necessary, will never find wide distribution because they deal with explicit sexuality, fetishism, kink, etc.
Things are starting to tilt toward a day when maybe these kinds of films could be widely appreciated–Sundance this year was a sex and porn extravaganza, and The Sessions and Hysteria both did well this year in widespread theatrical release. There is a growing clamor for films that might once have garnered an NC-17 rating to be made more available.
But the barriers to filmmakers getting recognition and payment for their hard work are not simply getting films past the ratings police or onto DVD or even posted online–there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes. Finding a way to distribute materials of an adult nature, online or in person, is nearly impossible unless you are willing to travel the well-worn porn routes. Big-time payment processors like PayPal, Amazon, and Google will not work with you if you want to sell your adult/sexy/kinky products. You instead have to travel the back alleys of a few payment processors who will handle your payments but take a whopping 10 – 15% cut of your sales. Banks will refuse handle your money if the name of your company even hints at sexual content. It’s virtually impossibility to find outside funding for adult projects because nobody wants their name associated with them. Basically, doing business in adult material, no matter how high-minded, activism-oriented, big-hearted, or socially worthy your project, is so difficult it’s almost not worth doing. Which is why there are so few stand-out companies like Good For Her, Good Releasing, Babeland, Feelmore510, IndiePornRevolution, etc., and so few filmmakers like the ones who show their work at Cinekink. Movies like “Krutch” and “Ritual” and “Remedy” and “Mommy Is Coming” and others will be seen at festivals and hardly anywhere else. These companies and studios are usually tiny, independent, and simply not possessed of the means to jump the hurdles that the world puts up in front of them to keep them quiet.
I mean hell, Matthew Clark, who directed the winner of Cinekink’s Best Dramatic Short, “Krutch,” and who is disabled, along with many of his friends and even the star of his film, cannot access the only theater in New York City where porn can be played on a big screen on a Saturday afternoon (thank you, Anthology Film Archives!) because it is not accessible for disabled patrons. Talk about jumping hurdles!
The truth is, people, that this is fucking bullshit. The people I meet every year at Cinekink and elsewhere are some of the bravest, most honest, sincere, hard-working, visionary human beings out there. They make art because they love it, and they rarely see more than a few bucks in return for the work they do because they can’t get good distribution or payment options set up. They scrimp and save and sweat and bleed just to make their products. It’s totally unacceptable, to me, that we live in a society that rewards black-hearted bankers for swindling millions out of their money and their homes but can’t help independent filmmakers bring the rest of us together with their hard work and huge hearts. We should be at least helping artists and entrepreneurs who want to expand our human experiences to earn a living instead of punishing them for having a vision.
I’m going to be doing some research on how adult companies and producers get their wares out to people in the next few months. I want to write a long-form investigative article and try to get it published somewhere mainstream, because I don’t think this is a topic many people outside certain circles know about.
I’m looking for people’s stories and experiences with making adult/difficult-to-get-out products and then trying to get them to consumers. I want to know how much of a cut your payment processors take, how hard it was to find them, what kind of obstacles you faced when you were starting up, etc. I want to know how you learned to operate in the underworld, or if you had to at all. I want to know if you make a profit, and if so, how. Please, please get in touch with me if you have a story to share!