Anna Span, the feminist porn director, on Sex and Money

from www.inside.tv.com – In line with Current TV’s provocative new documentary Sex and Money we caught up with one of its stars, the award-winning Anna Span, the UK’s first, feminist female porn director, to find out how she’s made sex pay.

Q: So firstly, what made you want to get involved with the Sex and Money documentary?

I was approached by Current and they said they were doing a series of films that were looking at different angles of the sex industry. I thought it would be very interesting to see because they were generated by the public and I thought it would be good to be part of something where new voices were getting through in regards to what’s really happening in the sex industry. I went to a day where they showed all the films and a lot of them were very interesting.

Q: In the show we see you directing porn films, what do you think makes your films different to those directed by men?

Lots of things, there are lots of details that make a difference. For example, we use the fittest guys and show their personalities, we dress our models in trendy clothes or realistic costumes to add to the feel of reality, our camera angles show a lot of the guys body and face, not just the women and we don’t typecast the porn stars.

Q: Obviously the documentary is looking at people who went into the industry mainly to make money from sex, is this why you went in to the business?

Basically I wanted to make something that was there for women. I was anti-porn when I was a teenager and then I realised that actually my anger was jealousy, as there was nothing out there for women. So once I finished my film degree I thought it would be better to make something for women to enjoy rather than spend the time complaining about men having porn. So I just wanted to do that and to update porn a bit as well because it was all sort of quite cheesy when I started.

Q: Since you’ve started working in the industry do you think more women have done the same and now think it’s an acceptable avenue they could go down?

Yes there are more women in the industry now since I started over 11 years ago. We started are own female director line called Women Love Porn and we encourage other directors to come under our label.

We distribute for other female directors as well and interestingly we just managed to make a change in the British Censorship laws to allow for female ejaculation in DVDs. We were fighting because we thought it was sexist that you could show men ejaculating but not females.

I ran a competition on Women Love Porn aimed at female directors in the mainstream film industry and asked them to make one scene each. The winner, Katy Cox, went on and made another porn DVD called Apocalypse Angels, so we do encourage it. There aren’t that many female directors in the industry still though, which is a shame.

Q: Is it mainly women who are working for you in your production company or do you let men get involved too?

Oh yeah there’s definitely a mixture. We tend to keep female staff on the shoot days just because women find it more relaxing, but to be honest my husband helps out a bit. It’s just about choosing the personalities really more than just whether they are women. They need to be easygoing people that aren’t there just to letch really. Women relax a bit more when its just women around and I’ve heard guys say that they don’t feel they have to compete with the director to get the women’s attention so its easier for men as well.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who says: “I’m going to start making porn because it’s an easy way to make money”?

Well its not an easy way to make money, you can make money from it, but it’s a very flooded market for a start. There are lots of people making porn at the moment but I would say it’s very difficult and very competitive. Only do it if you want to do it anyway, because you’re not guaranteed to make money straight away. I went through thick and thin to get where I am because I was really driven to do it but that made all the difference. I’ve also made a book called Shoot Your Own Adult Movies, which shows you how to do it.

Q: What barriers have you come up against?

There are lots of barriers in the industry because for instance there’s pirating and people don’t expect to have to pay for their porn. They send it on to their mates and there’s all this file sharing and that’s a big barrier to quality in the industry. But also its difficult because the infrastructure isn’t there in the industry; you’ve got to do everything to set it up yourself and you’ve got to be somebody who knows an awful lot about different areas like striking deals and selling and also the creation and making the stuff yourself. So you’ve got to be a really talented person to succeed in the industry.

Q: When you first wrote your dissertation about porn did you see yourself going down this route or did it all just sort of happen?

When I wrote my dissertation at Central Saint Martins in 1997 I wrote about what would turn women on, how porn could be better and different if it was for women, and what makes a film sexy. So yes, I was planning to go down this route but it’s been an interesting ride, it’s been different, but kind of what I wanted to do.

Q: And what reaction did you get from your friends and family?

Friends were fine about it, my mum and dad were a little bit shocked, as you would imagine. My mum wasn’t too chuffed for the first few years but then every time I was in the newspaper, like they did a big piece in the Observer about 7/8 years ago, she’d take that into work and be like “ooh my daughter” and I sort of pointed out she couldn’t have it both ways. So she was pleased in the end and I think we sort of agree to disagree, but everyone else is very supportive.

Q: Why do you think its important there is porn made by women?

Because it is important sexuality isn’t just defined by men and that women come out and show that. I always say if a man and women can have sex together and enjoy it they can watch a porn film together and enjoy it if it’s shot in such a way. But I think all the little differences and tweaks make a big difference. At the end of the day its sex and you’re watching acts and the eye for detail and context is very important. We need to be showing men that we are just as good if not better at it, there’s a lot of variety to be had.

Q: So when people say porn is all about exploitation, your take on it is that it doesn’t have to be like that?

Yeah it doesn’t have to be like that. I’m not saying that all porn is female friendly – some of it isn’t, but any argument to ban porn for women never really answers the point that there are a lot of female performers that love their work and aren’t hooked on drugs and do it because they enjoy it and its an easy way for them to make money. Also a lot of women buy porn and consume it with their partners, so any anti porn arguments aren’t going to reconcile those facts. It doesn’t have to be exploitative either. Everyone that comes on my shoot knows that they are respected and paid well and everyone’s got health certificates and that’s as much as you can do really.

Q: What sort of money are you looking at if you take part in a shoot?

It starts from anything from £300 to £500 a scene; a scene would take half a day. It depends on what you do.

Q: And how many films do you make a year?

I shoot a couple of films a year but we distribute other women’s stuff. I’ve shot about 250 scenes over the years at least, so I’ve done quite a few.

Q: So you don’t run out of inspiration?

(Laughs) No, not really, I can always think of something new.

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