“Bad” Brad Berkwitt posts on www.newzbreaker.com –
“I love the creative process of writing – creating characters that a performer will later breathe life into.”—Jacky St. James
In the interview business, you never really know what you are going to get when the tape rolls and your subject in front of you starts talking. With that being said, when you get that feeling of amazement right out of the gate, it’s exhilarating. That was the case with Writer/Director Jacky St. James. To hear someone who has a passion for writing and seeing the industry she loves to continue to move forward while so many attack it, is very admirable.
Words are so important and something that no one has the right to stifle. Jacky’s are piercing because of the emotion she delivers in them. I think the ultimate compliment I can bestow upon her is the following: What Frank Sinatra did with an interpretation of a lyric of a song – Jacky does with the interpretation of her words in a script.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Ms. Jacky St. James…..
NB: Let’s catch the NewzBreaker readers up on what you are doing today?
I just wrapped production on an adult feature called “NORMAL” which explores many of the themes in the book “50 SHADES OF GREY”.
Although I was not a fan of that book, it can’t be overlooked the impact it’s had on a mainstream/conservative audience. For whatever reason, women, less inclined to buy pornography in media form, are suddenly enjoying it in literary form. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why that is, but part of that is likely the relationship between the book’s two lead characters and the love and connection that exists.
So, I set out to create a story that explored the BDSM lifestyle between two characters that have a strong connection to one another – with a female protagonist that was far more intelligent and confident than Anastasia Steele of “50 Shades” (who I found to be a horrible role model for the modern woman).
The objective of “NORMAL” was to take away the stigma of what people might see as deviant behavior…and to help people understand that it’s OK to pursue a form of sexual gratification that isn’t necessarily run of the mill (provided it is legal and everyone is consenting). I’m also working on a mainstream screenplay and a novel that I hope to publish sometime in 2013. I’ve been working on it for four years – it’s time to get off the pot and finish the damn thing! You could say I’m pretty busy.
NB: You grew up in my neck of the woods in Northern, Virginia, but you currently live out in Porn Valley, California. How did a Virginia girl make it out West?
I had gotten to the point in Virginia where the rat race was truly crippling me creatively. I was no longer inspired working in the corporate arena of Washington D.C. and moved to LA to escape from that. I left a high paying job, sold my house, and ventured into the unknown. As a writer it’s important to escape from ruts. Ruts stifle creativity and the move was the best thing I could have done at that point in my life.
I found LA the perfect environment to inspire the writer in me….and some of my best creative work has been done in this city. I stumbled into porn accidentally. I never actually sought it out. As an avid viewer of pornography my entire adult life, my male friends and I frequently exchanged links to porn scenes we found interesting, sexy, funny, ridiculous, and etcetera.
Anyways, one of my friends sent me a link to a film called, “THE WEDDING DAY” produced by New Sensations. I couldn’t believe that there were adult films in the market that were truly geared toward women in the way that that film was. The production value was high, the acting was solid, and there was an actual story. I immediately researched the company to find the names of other movies they produced and learned they were holding a screenwriting contest.
To make a long story short, I wrote “DEAR ABBY”(which coincidentally won Best Screenplay at AVN the following year), New Sensations picked it up for production, and the rest is history. To date I’ve penned over 7 adult films and have directed 3. It’s been a wild ride.
NB: Two of your films have won an AVN in 2012 and XBIZ Award. This is very impressive since you have only been in the industry since 2011. What did it feel like to get up on stage and accept your awards?
I’ve won two awards in my career to date. “DEAR ABBY” won the AVN for Best Screenplay and “LOVE IS A DANGEROUS GAME” won Best Couple’s Release at XBIZ. Unfortunately, writers are not given the opportunity to accept their awards on stage. Instead, those winners are announced via a scrolling screen during the award ceremony (you know, when everyone goes for a bathroom break).
Still, I considered both wins a huge honor and I would never have come so far had it not been for the people at New Sensations that really believed in me – the owner, Scott Taylor and director, Eddie Powell. They took a chance on a girl with absolutely no porn experience whatsoever (other than fandom) and it worked out in the end.
NB: You have written and directed adult movies. What is the thing you like most about both and the least?
I love the creative process of writing – creating characters that a performer will later breathe life into. Most aspiring writers never get to see their words produced into a film. I’ve been afforded that luxury (even if it is just “porn”).
For me, what I write and New Sensations produces, isn’t the cable guy kind of porn — we are reaching audiences that actually want a plot with their porn. Couples that want to get lost in the story, as well as the sex. In some way, I do feel like we’re making a difference and there is no greater feeling than knowing you helped create a more positive sexual experience for people.
What I don’t like about writing porn is how limiting it is. You have to take into consideration so many things – budget, an individual performer’s level of acting ability, etc. Budget is usually the biggest monkey wrench in the process.
A lot of people discount porn writing – assuming that it’s easy. Crappy porn is easy to write, but there is a whole new genre of filmmaking that is rich in story and those screenplays are extremely difficult to write. Imagine only having 30-40 pages to create an entire story arc and resolution with 4 sex scenes that must make sense to the plot.
Imagine having to tell that story with limited locations, limited characters, limited everything due to budget. Trust me, it’s not easy. It’s proven to be one of my greatest writing challenges to date.
Directing is awesome because I get to take the vision I wrote and put that into action.
Often when you write a script, handing it off to someone else’s creative interpretation can be scary…but when you have the luxury of directing, as well…you really can tell the story you imagined in your mind. I also love working with the talent on their performances. I have over 20 years of acting training under my belt so for me…it is incredibly rewarding getting adult stars to tap into more difficult emotional performances…and doing so believably!
The worst part of directing…is working with people who have no respect for the process. Typically we only hire the best of the best, people who have incredible work ethic and a passion for effective storytelling – but there are occasionally bad seeds.
So far, I’ve gotten pretty lucky with the talent I’ve had at my disposal. Some favorites being: Steve St. Croix, India Summer, Raylene, Remy LaCroix, Riley Reid, Penny Pax, Natasha Nice, Dana DeArmond, Xander Corvus, and Anthony Rosano. All of them are insanely talented, hard working, and give a crap about the final product.
NB: You and I had an interesting conversation over the phone recently when we got on the topic of who watches more porn between the two political parties in the US. You gave me an interesting answer with stats to back it up. Share that info with the NewzBreaker readers.
A Harvard Research study a few years ago showed Utah ranking as the top consumers of pornography. www.newscientist.com/article/dn16680-porn-in-the-usa-conservatives-are-biggest-consumers.html
I do think it’s something worth noting – that one of the most conservative states in America also boasts the most porn consumption. It can’t be ignored. The Mormon community, who comprises the majority of the population in that state, spoke out against these findings. But let’s be honest…if you preach about chastity and the sinfulness of sexual freedom, people will seek out other means of gratification. You cannot stifle what is innate and natural to the human experience.
NB: Also during our phone conversation, you enlightened me that porn movies actually do have storylines for the most part as they did in the 70’s and 80’s, but the porn clips watched on the internet are actually edited to just see the sex. If you would, elaborate on this for the readers.
Sadly, most people are watching their porn illegally so there is this assumption that the product they are watching is the same as what they would get on the DVD.
That is entirely false. It’s amazing just how little most porn consumers do know about the business and the wealth of pornography available to the public because they aren’t actually buying it. Some people have joked with me about the fact that I write porn dialogue…assuming that the content I’m producing involves pizza boys and cheesy sexual trysts. Most of the set-ups in gonzo scenes are improvisation, done by the performers- it isn’t scripted (although there are some studios that do script even their gonzo scenes).
I write feature length films that are geared more towards couples and women…in which there is an hour of dialogue and about an hour of sex. I am writing more of the gateway style porn and am trying to reach the market of people who are curious about pornography, but aren’t ready for the harder core stuff you often will find on the illegal sites. These are date night movies that DON’T fade to black when things start getting sexual.
NB: On your blog, you reamed Adult Movie Star Mr. Marcus for lying about the fact he had syphilis and was still doing scenes. What do you feel the Porn Industry as whole should do to him?
It’s infuriating when the only coverage the adult business gets is when someone does something as despicable as what Mr. Marcus did. It enrages me. There is so much good happening in the adult world, so much progress, so much creativity – but mainstream media prefers to only cover the adult industry in a negative light and Mr. Marcus was fodder for that.
As a whole, I think he should be banned from ever working in the industry and he should be fined for all the money lost as a result of what he did. The industry shut down for several weeks because of him…the effects were far reaching and thousands of people from studios, to performers, to small boutique shops, lost money because he deliberately doctored his test and continued to work while still infected with Syphilis.
He showed absolutely zero concern for the well-being of his fellow performers and zero concern for anyone other than himself. Most of the industry has blacklisted him, and I’d be floored if any of the reputable studios ever hired him again. I’m all for compassion and forgiveness, but what he did is truly unforgivable.
NB: Over the years I have interviewed ladies of the Adult Movie Industry, I am always amazed that your industry unlike the mainstream has any Union or retirement such as AFTRA or SAG. With all the money the Adult Industry makes, why do you think there is nothing in place for performers? With that said, do you back some type of retirement with medical and dental benefits for adult performers?
The turnover among performers is so high nowadays that it doesn’t seem logical to provide short-lived performers with medical benefits (few last in the industry more than a few months). However, I would love to see performers who have made a career in the adult industry, enjoy the same benefits as many are provided in mainstream professions.
I would fully support a performer/crew union in this industry — one in which adult professionals could be eligible for insurance if they made a certain amount of wages within a particular year, the way that SAG-AFTRA does.
The A-List performers in the biz work very hard for the success that they achieve…and unlike most professions, porn is 24-7. Whether you’re shooting films, attending tradeshows, interacting with fans, or working out to stay in shape — it’s not a job where one can find success by slacking. Those particular performers should absolutely be entitled to healthcare and some sort of retirement plan
NB: Another unknown fact I am sure to the viewers of porn movies is you guys don’t get any type of royalties when they take a scene from one movie and put it in a DVD of scenes in others. The distributor makes it looks like it’s a new scene, but in actuality, it’s an old one. Do you think there is any way to stop this?
I don’t think it is intentional that they are trying to make it look like a new scene. Any movie that is longer than 2 hours, is most likely a compilation DVD. This can actually be pretty awesome for people who want a sampling of several different movies. But if they are looking for a brand new scene that has never before appeared in a movie…stick to the 2 hour DVDs. But even 2 hour DVDs will often have “bonus scenes” which are pulled from another title.
NB: I know you are an advocate in trying to “bridge the gap” between porn and the mainstream industry. If you could say one thing to the “Powers that Be,” what would you say?
I know it’s hard to believe…but the majority of people in the porn industry are just like the rest of the world. They have husbands, wives, children, many them are pursuing higher education. What we are doing is a legitimate and legal business and there are people every bit as educated, intelligent, and talented as those found in mainstream.
Our business is not the sum total of every bad media bit done on our industry. It’s a lot more complex and multi-faceted than that. I would love to bring one of those Utah Mormons to work with me one day. I think they might be pleasantly surprised by how normal it all is…and how nice everyone is that I work with.
Porn is one of the few legitimate industries that people can legally discriminate against. And if the world is so concerned with the moral fiber of this nation…perhaps they should take a harder look at all of the corruption that exists in many mainstream corporations.
NB: Much of Hollywood mainstream actors are Democrats. Does that ring true with the Porn Industry?
I think most of the people I’ve met in porn are either apathetic about politics or Democrats. It seems like the obvious political affiliation, especially since Mitt Romney and other Republicans want to criminalize pornography.
NB: Who do you feel is the one Adult Movie Star that has moved the industry forward the most and why?
Probably Sasha Gray, although there are so many performers doing positive things today. Sasha is a good representation of our industry and she has effectively integrated into the mainstream world – nobody ever thought that would be possible (a porn performer transitioning into a career as a mainstream performer).
For the most part, she is taken seriously as a performer in the mainstream world and has earned the respect of many high profile directors (Steven Soderbergh being no exception). It’s funny though – mainstream media still clings to her porn roots, making a mountain out of a molehill when she decided to read a children’s book to a kindergarten class. Seriously? With all the debauchery going on in Hollywood by several mainstream starlets, that’s the story they want to cling to? Absurdity.
NB: What are your words of wisdom to the young man, or woman, that wants to break into the Adult Movie Industry?
I would say that it’s important that you have a solid sense of self and a tremendous work ethic. Porn isn’t about just sex…it’s about marketing, self promotion, and knowing how to interact with a variety of people from fans to executives. It is not an easy job…it can be physically demanding.
It’s important to think long term when venturing in front of the camera. You aren’t going to be young and hot and sexy forever. Like Hollywood, most performers have a very short lifespan in porn – so it’s important to think about your future. Save your money – you won’t have it forever. And unlike a decade ago, it’s far harder to become rich as a porn star nowadays. Make sure this is what you really want—it can be rewarding for the right people–but don’t go into it with grandiose visions of fortune and fame. Do it for the love of it – not because you want to make a quick buck. People who are only in this profession to make a quick buck are quickly weeded out and disposed of. Believe me, there are plenty of hot people all trying to make it in porn – and only the best of the best survive it.
NB: What is the one question to date, you have never been asked, but wished that you were?
I love this question. I would say, “Does porn have negative and long-lasting effects on relationships?”
NB: The floor is yours…
As with anything in life, all things must come in moderation. Obviously porn addiction exists – but addictive behavior is rampant in our culture (whether in drugs, sex, alcohol, food, etc.). When approached in a healthy manner, pornography doesn’t always have negative effects on relationships – in fact, porn can often save relationships.
I receive emails from countless couples, thanking our studio for the work we’ve done to create a type of pornography that does not feel threatening to the more sexually conservative female. Our films explore sexuality in a healthy way. When you are watching porn that promotes communication between two people, that can be an incredible thing. Porn can lighten the mood, can teach people some new tricks, and can help people relight a fire that has long burned out.
When you’re in a long term relationship, chances are your sex life isn’t as exciting as it was when you first got together. Porn can really add a new element to your sexual experience…and provided you purchase the right kind of porn for your relationship – it really can make a huge difference.
Anyone who is on the fence about this – visit: theromanceseries.com and check out our trailers. It’s a safe for work site with safe for work adult trailers.
NB: If you were stranded on a desert island, what is the one CD and movie you would like to have?
I love the movie MIRACLE about the US Hockey team defeating the Soviets in the 1980 Olympics – so I’d bring that. It’s an incredibly exciting story with some really inspiring messages. I love stories about the underdog prevailing – it leaves me feeling that anything is possible. Why wouldn’t I want to feel like that when I’m stranded on a deserted island missing everyone I love?
As far as a CD, that’s a lot tougher. Can I bring a CD I burned myself with songs from Led Zeppelin, Ella Fitzgerald, John Mayer, Pink Floyd, The Killers, and Taylor Swift on it? I like variety and am not sure I’d do well with the same style of music playing over and over.
NB: Finally, do you have a saying you continue to live your life by?
“Life doesn’t happen when you’re sitting around talking about life.”
Jacky wanted to add the following to our interview:
Visit my blog or follow me on twitter: @jackystjames. Anyone with questions, shoot one over through my website! I answer all questions asked, no matter how bizarre.
If you’re looking to get your talent interviewed for NewzBreaker.com, contact “Bad” Brad at firstname.lastname@example.org