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Ben Banks, formerly Steven St Croix discusses career choices with FilmIndustryNetwork; Here’s Another Guy Writing a Book

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A rumor has been going around that St. Croix is the boy toy of a very rich woman in France, hence, the opportunities which have opened themselves up for him.

from www.filmindustrynetwork.biz/ – Benjamin Banks talks to us about his artistic endeavors, his relationship with France and his past in the Adult Film Industry. As a man who always strives to do more to meet his high standards and communicate with the public, he is preparing for a film set in the South of France whilst also continuing to paint and write. During this interview we shall find out what is behind this versatile character, why he used the name Steven St. Croix and what he thinks about the closure of film download sites.

Michelle: With over 800 films during 18 years, you have been a very successful actor, writer, producer and director in the adult film industry. You also produced and acted in small independent films and became a contemporary painter… why so many different paths?

Ben: I think the idea that you have to do or be one thing in life is not accurate. I know of many historical figures who were many things at one time; painters, sculptors, writers, politicians, inventors. Acting, even in the adult film industry, is just another form of expression. To me, it comes down to a need to affect others emotionally.

Michelle: What inspired you to change career so dramatically after 18 years in the industry?

Ben: I just wanted more, I had matured and I wanted to be more creative. It may sound funny to think of the adult film industry as creative but regardless of what the end result is; filming is always a creative process.

Michelle: What are your current projects?

Ben: At the moment I am working on several projects. I am co-producing a film later on in the year in France with director Alexander Berberich. The film is about a wealthy woman who finds herself alone. She then meets a young man who represents everything that she wishes she could be. He gives her excitement. However, as the story unfolds, we begin to see the cultural and personality differences between the two drive them apart.

Another project is a docu-drama, which centers around different powerful characters involved in the adult film business.

Michelle: What inspired you to make independent films?

Ben: I have always enjoyed independent cinema. Shooting independently is a way of exercising more creative control both with the story and the process of filmmaking. There are fewer opportunities to convolute the story in the interests of trying to appeal to everyone.

The thing that motivates me in particular is the story and the characters that compose it; what they are going through, how they relate to the situation and the choices they make. This also explores people´s moral fabric, the human mind, how people handle situations and what the varying consequences might be of their actions. This is much more compelling to watch than mindless action films.

Michelle: Why have you chosen to produce your next film in France?

Ben: France and America have a special relationship that dates back many hundreds of years. French films definitely have a certain appeal to American audiences. On the one hand, American’s have a romanticized fantasy of life in France, but on the other hand, it is a country that offers a different perspective on living life.

On a personal level, I lived in France for two and a half years, and I opened my gallery in the historic part of Grasse. At the time, I was with a French woman and I was very focused on the relationship and pursuing my creative endeavors as an artist. The influence of that great relationship can be seen in my paintings as my style changed and I opened up creatively.

Michelle: Where is your favourite place to shoot films in?

Ben: I love to shoot anywhere in France but I would particularly like to shoot in Paris. I mean, I like shooting all over the world… Buenos Aires…. London… but Paris is my ideal destination.

Michelle: What is the difference between French and American independent cinema?

Ben: France has always had a great body of independent films. However, what really surprised me is that there isn´t a support structure or network in place for filmmakers. You have to do everything yourself; every project starts from scratch. There are no social or creative support groups for people in filmmaking here.

Michelle: What advice would you give to future film producers?

Ben: What I am learning right now is that the business has changed dramatically. Interactive and scalable content is what attracts people to a particular project. I would say that if you want to produce a feature film it is a good idea to make a proof of concept to show future investors that your project is viable. Shoot a two to three minute trailer. It then becomes real to your investors and they are more willing to fund you.

Michelle: What do you like most about the south of France?

Ben: I like the relaxed pace that people tend to move around with. Sometimes though, it can be stressful when you need to get something done right away.

Michelle: What differences do you observe between the two cultures?

Ben: There is a vast array of diverse, rich cuisine available. Sadly however, I am continually surprised to see the extent of how the fast-food culture has flourished here in France, it is amazing to me the amount of people that will eat this food. However, what I do like is the time that people take to sit down, eat and enjoy their food, taking pleasure in the gastronomy. They don´t live to work, they work to live.

Another thing I love is being able to go two hours north and being in an extremely different environment. It is fascinating to be on the coast during the week and then, on the weekend, find yourself in the middle of nature.

I also love the fact there is still an emphasis on culture; fashion, literature, philosophy. In America, culture is limited to what the media displays and it takes a different form: TV, Facebook or Twitter.
2nd dimension: painter

Michelle: Do you paint for yourself or for everyone else?

Ben: There is an element of both but I paint mainly for myself.

Michelle: How do you feel when you paint?

Ben: I feel a great satisfaction, the creative outlet is difficult to put into words but I generally feel fulfilled.

Michelle: What personal goals do you have?

Ben: I love being creative, I love writing, I love making films, I love painting… I love taking an abstract idea, materializing it and making it something that one when someone else watches it they connect with it and an emotional exchange takes place.

Michelle: Is the adult film industry similar to other industries in the sense that age becomes a problem?

Ben: I think I left before my moment came. Obviously youth is always an advantage. It is no different than in Hollywood: youth sells.

Michelle: How did you feel when you won the AVN awards? (The Oscar equivalent for the adult film industry).

Ben: It is always nice to be given significance with an award. It was great for the ego, but in terms of what it means to me now, it doesn´t mean as much to me as it did then. But at the time it felt great. I have been fortunate to have the career I did in the industry. I broke many boundaries and won many awards but I don´t let it define me

Michelle: What did you like about the world of the adult film industry?

Ben: Good money, the ego stroke. It also allowed me to travel quite a bit and see the world. There was always a desire in me to be in front of the camera. In my mind, it was better to be a big fish in a small pond rather than a small fish in a big pond.

Michelle: Do you see the adult film industry differently now from the outside as to when you were an actor?

Ben: Yes definitely, I realize what a limited view on the world I had and the choices I made. However, I must say that the industry itself has changed too; it is not what it was when I entered the business. Back then, it was a rebellious act, it was misunderstood and not much was known about the industry. Now it seems chic to be in porn.

Michelle: When you meet new people do you talk about it or is it something you prefer to leave in the shadows?

Ben: It is not something I bring up in conversation. When people recognize me, they sometimes take the liberty to ask a few questions about it. I try to be cordial but the adult film industry is something I don´t want to be defined by. I prefer to talk about what’s going on now.

Michelle: What is the origin of your stage name Steven St.Croix?

Ben: My uncle used this name to work undercover for the US Coast Guard in the Virgin Islands. I thought it sounded cool, so I used it as well.

Michelle: Recently the closure of film down load pages such as Megaupload has resulted very controversial. What is you opinion on this?

Ben: It is hard to say … filmmakers are still trying to find out what the role the Internet plays as a platform when it comes to getting their work shown and distributed. Studios here think that if you don´t see a film when it comes out at the cinema, you should wait for the VOD to arrive but times have changed.

“The question is whether losing revenue to a small percentage of illegal uploads hinders the studios bottom line. They are making huge amounts of money through the other platforms of distribution. It works to their benefit in the end because it expands the brand. The larger section of the audience still pays to view content. If money is not a problem, I think the filmmaker should not focus on the traditional way of distributing films. In my opinion, a good model is the “à la carte” option that iTunes has offered where you can find and develop an audience. YouTube has lost it´s impact for filmmakers: videos of piano playing cats are not selective. Online distribution is definitely the priority any young filmmaker should focus onto to get their films seen. There will always be a small percentage of loss as people will find a way to rip movies for illegal downloading, but we are talking about big budget films and TV shows. I don’t think it affects the small filmmaker the same way.

Michelle: Should download websites be closed down?

Ben: Studios have made a big effort to close web pages down because they are losing money. I think to some extent it is greed. If 10,000 people have viewed a film but only 9,200 have paid for it, the consequences are not always negative- maybe the non-payers will make the effort to see the sequel or at least they will talk about it and maybe their friends will go and see it.

Michelle: To finish off, any more surprises?

Ben: I am currently working on two books; my memoir of my experience in the adult film industry and another book answering questions people have about the adult industry but are too embarrassed to ask… it may come in use when it comes to inquisitive people!

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