My dearies, I’m so excited to bring you the juicy bits of an amazing interview I conducted with the tirelessly brilliant Madison Young, a pornographer, performance artist, author, and sex-positive Tasmanian devil who is one of my favorite humans! When I recently began work on an article for MEL Magazine about leadership in the adult entertainment industry, I knew I had to talk to Madison. She’s not only been involved in the industry for fourteen years as a proud feminist and fiercely orgasmic force, but she’s also been teaching the next generation for a while in workshops, lectures, performance art, The Erotic Film School, and, most recently, books. Sadly, most of the interview we did had to be cut from the finished article, so I’m showing you all the amazing stuff that got snipped! Madison’s thoughts are too uplifting and mind-expanding and generally great not to share with the world!
Hi, Madison! I want to talk about the Erotic Film School that you run! I know that it was a yearly tradition for a few years—are you still at the helm of this project?
Yes! This March, 2017, will be our third year of Erotic Film School which I facilitate and run here in San Francisco at the Center for Sex and Culture. Prior to Erotic Film School, I had been teaching one- and two-day DIY Porn Making intensive workshops. The first DIY Porn Making workshops that I facilitated were back in I think around 2007. Those started out as just one or two hour workshops that I taught at different sex toy stores, feminist conferences, kink events, and things like that. I kept finding that I needed more time with the students. One or two days just wasn’t enough to cover everything (and when I was just given an hour or two I had to zip through material and give a very basic overview of porn making). Our three day program is quite comprehensive and leads students through the entire process of erotic film making from developing a script for your film and a vision for your production company to filming and working with performers, and editing and screening their collaborative film to industry professionals at the end of the intensive. We bring in guest presenters like Jiz Lee and Annie Sprinkle and also each day offer panel discussions and Q&As with filmmakers and performers. I walk the students through each step of erotic film making, give them my own personal insight, and then guide them through creating their own film collaboratively as a class. There isn’t anything else out there like it.
How did you decide that you wanted to do the Erotic Film School in the first place? What did you see in the porn world that you hoped to change by affecting new filmmakers?
Well I started offering sexuality workshops back in 2004 and continued to add to the workshops that I was offering over the years. Once I started directing films myself in 2005, then folks started asking me to offer workshops that opened up my process as an erotic filmmaker. I thought that was a great idea so I developed my first DIY Porn Workshop. It was always one of my most popular workshops and I would always run over in time and could never fit in all the information that I wanted to share with folks into the time of a workshop, which was generally between one and two hours in length. That’s just not enough time! So eventually Erotic Film School was born.
I believe making art and making porn is as much about the conversations that come out of it as the actual films. Art and film should make us feel something, make us question things, create space for us to see things in a different way from a different perspective, and Erotic Film School was a way to bring together folks who wanted to create films that address and document sexuality and have conversations about how we can create an impact, a difference in the world utilizing the medium of erotic film or pornography. As a DIY artist and pornographer I’ve always learned through doing and I’ve been fortunate enough to have amazing mentors along the way. I wanted to share what has worked for me. What hasn’t. How to make a career out of erotic film making and how to get your films out into the world. It’s been really so inspiring to see folks come from all over the world to this film school and they are all so motivated to create erotic film and to learn and to make an impact in the world with this medium. It’s inspiring. I love it.
This past year Elite Daily came in and made a really cool documentary about EFS. There is just nothing like it out there. We are gearing up for our 2017 course now and I’m going through applications and it’s really very exciting to see the range of students applying for the school.
What kinds of students do you get at the Erotic Film School? Young/old? Novices/experienced? What is the breakdown?
The students are so diverse. We have young queer trans and genderfluid folks who are motivated to create greater visibility of queer and trans sexuality and sexual desire, and then we have older students as well. One gentleman who was a part of this past year’s EFS was a theater historian and director of staged productions and he was interested in creating Bard-Core Films that uncover the sex scenes and overt sexuality present in Shakespeare’s writings. Another student wanted to dismantle racism through erotic film. Other film makers are coming from a sex ed point of view and hope to use erotic film as an educational medium for their viewers. Some are artists interested in creating more of a postmodern erotic film. Others are interested in creating documentary-style erotic films. There have been folks from the feminist, queer, poly, theater, film, sex worker, kink, trans, sex positive, and arts communities who have been students at Erotic Film School.
Many of them have never made films. Some have experience with photography but have never made a film. Some have been a performer but have never been on the other side of the camera. The thing that they all have in common is that they all have an interesting perspective and want to create something new and innovate and transform the way we think about erotic film. We have about 50% women, 30% men, and 20% genderqueer and trans folks attending our program. We also have a scholarship program and work with students to make the program as accessible as possible.
How do their visions align, or not align, with the existing “categories” that exist in porn, which we see repeated over and over again on tube sites? Are they looking to make, as you’ve called it, “fast-food porn”?
Most of the folks that apply are interested in creating something new, something innovative. Sometimes they have a concept around creating something like docu-porns or art house porn or porn from a queer or feminist perspective and they are unaware that there are artists out there that have been making similar work. So I try to connect them with films and filmmakers that are making work that I think they will resonate with. I think it really helps to know that you’re not the only one that thinks about porn and art and sexuality in a particular way. That there are so many independent filmmakers that are creating erotic film and to find work that inspires you. But EFS isn’t really a good fit for folks that are looking to create fast-food porn. It’s much more about how to create new innovative erotic film, create social change, make an impact in the world with your work, explore and develop skills around this art form and how to connect with your audience. It’s not really the best program for learning to just create commercially driven content. There is nothing wrong with more commercially driven content but it’s not really what this school focuses on. We are looking for students that see the world differently and that are willing to explore and develop their voice as an artist and erotic film student.
How do you shepherd the students along their paths? Are there specific things that you try impart to them about quality porn-making, or are you there more as a facilitator for their visions?
A huge part of that is just holding space for them to talk about and discuss the films they want to create and to really think through the steps they need to take to manifest their films. This involves everything from script writing to working with performers to finding a location to shoot in. We break the program into three days of programming. Day 1 is focused on pre-production, Day 2 [is] production, and Day 3 is post-production, distribution, and marketing. I definitely instill in my students my feminist ethos and not only teach the nuts and bolts of porn making but how to really create work that creates an impact and how to hold space for your performers to express their sexuality openly and authentically in front of the camera. I think that is such a huge part of erotic film making is creating and holding that space for performers.
If the school is still under way—how can people apply?
Yep it is definitely under way! Folks can apply at www.EroticFilmSchool.com. There is also an application there for scholarships.
Let’s also talk about your DIY Porn Handbook! Is this a sort of take-home version of the Erotic Film School?
Yes! I’m so excited about this book and it is required reading for all of my students. DIY Porn Handbook [has] much of the information that I share with my students in Erotic Film School, plus a lot of personal history of my experiences in creating erotic film over the last 11 years. It’s also just a great book to read if you’re an artist of any medium and interested in creating an impact with your work and looking for innovative ways to both market your work and build community. It addresses a lot of my inspirations in erotic film making and the DIY art movement that inspired my film making as well as a lot of erotic film history. I’m really very excited about this book and I think it will have a big impact in inspiring folks to create their own films and documenting their own sexuality.
How thorough is this book—does it cover everything from inspiration to distribution?
Yep! We start off with creating your vision statement and a vision board as well as addressing why documenting our sexuality is important, how we can create an impact with erotic film, and the history of DIY porn making. And then I usher the reader step by step through making their film—creatively, how to fundraise for your film, how to make a film budget, how to market your film, how to distribute your film, etc. There is a comprehensive list of distribution outlets and erotic film festivals as well as other erotic film makers for networking and community building. It is the book I wish I had when I started out as an erotic filmmaker.
Are you encouraging everyone to make their own porn?
Definitely. I mean, if that is something that they are interested in doing. But I think it is something that can be super empowering—to document your own sexuality, even if it is just for yourself or your partner. Your voice matters. Your pleasure matters. Your desire matters. We document other aspects of our life that are of great importance, so why not our sexuality, why not the way we orgasm or how we experience pleasure?
How do you think more DIY porn could change the landscape of erotic film around the world?