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Conversations with Jeff Mullen

Porn Valley- With a background in music and a home town of Milwaukee, it’s easy to see how Jeff Mullen could have wound up in a polka band. Instead, Mullen and Scott David run one of the smartest operations in the business- All Media Play which specializes in marketing and p.r. If the name Britney Rears strikes more than just a faint, amusing note, that was Mullen’s brain child and one of the more colorful success stories in recent years.

Mullen was laughing about taking a holiday trip home last week and how friends dragged him out to a strip club in Juno, Wisconsin- which wound up being a 2 hour stretch limo ride.

“I’m sitting there freezing because the limo doesn’t have any heat,” recalls Mullen. “It’s the opening night of the strip club, and it’s packed. There’s a lot of chicks there but the club itself is all dudes. Isn’t this ironic we drove an hour and half to get in a roomful of dudes? But I couldn’t act like an asshole. This was their big night but to me and to you this is boring. Of course when a couple of the girls found out I was a director of porn, it made me a little more popular.”

Otherwise it was great just taking time off and relaxing with the family, says Mullen.

“Our company is very new and we had a phenomenal year for 2006,” Mullen continues. “We couldn’t have had a better year. I heard all the reports and it’s just a cycle of the industry. We’re coming to the end of a delivery mechanism and we starting to see the beginnings of a new means of delivery. And nobody really has control over it. It’s a scary time for some people. We’re embracing it. We’re excited about it.”

So much so that Mullen and David are staying in Vegas through Internext to cut some deals with the right players in that arena. Mullen’s original goal, though, when he first got into the adult industry was to produce movies.

“Then I realized there was a million movies and there’s no reason I should be doing that- there’s too many on the shelf.”

At the time, Mullen was working for New Sensations and would go to the National Warehouse and be overwhelmed by rows and rows of titles.

“That was our original goal, and what I did, I got into the adult business by doing p.r. for New Sensations and Digital Sin,” he continues. “I had a great run for a year and a half with Scott Taylor who I think is one of the great guys in the industry.”

At the time, Mullen, still in the music business, was looking to make a temporary change because, according to him, it was in a downward cycle.

“I was very taken aback by a lot of decisions the record companies were making which were affecting my acts.”

Mullen was touring with different pop groups over 15 years as a keyboard player and living the life of a rock star.

“I came off a couple of major hit projects in the world market, then I came over a disastrous one and wanted to make a switch.”

Mullen was with the Boyz II Men tour and worked with the Backstreet Boys, All For One and the MC Hammer tour among others.

“That was my life,” Mullen sums it up. “I did a lot of things in the music business but my life was partying, chicks and playing concerts. It was that way for years. At that point I had never really worked a job in my life.”

Mullen laughs now recalling how his father fired him from the family restaurant business on three separate occasions.

“I was always a musician- I still am – and that’s really what I am.”

As the music industry went into the toilet, Mullen thought to himself that he needed to try something else. With buddies who were doctors or financiers and doing well in their own professions, Mullen gave himself five years to re-invent himself.

“I like music and naked chicks- those are the two things I like most in life,” he says. Mullen’s options seemed pretty clear given those designations. He made acquaintance with Chris Comacho who was working at New Sensations.

“He told me there was a job. They were looking for somebody for a marketing position,” Mullen recalls. Mullen then went to meet with New Sensations’ Scott Taylor, and with Comacho’s recommendation, yet with no experience in porn to speak of, Mullen landed the job.

“I guess I impressed Scott Taylor enough,” Mullen muses. Mullen saw the next year and a half as a vast learning process in the industry.

“I couldn’t have learned about the adult movie industry from anybody better than Scott Taylor. They had a great team and a lot of people over there are still my friends.”

Except Mullen’s the first to acknowledge that he’s his own thing kind of guy, so he eventually went on to start his own company, All Media Play, with New Sensations and Digital Sin being his first clients.

“Then it took off really well and at one point everybody seemed like they were a client,” continues Mullen who says, frankly, doing p.r. never occurred to him and then having a company like All Media grow as it did.

“I wanted to make movies, not talk about ’em,” he insists. “But it was definitely a way to build our company until we really knew what product we could make and how we could make a dent in this insanely crowded marketplace.”

With a subtle reminder, Mullen came to a realization that everything pretty much had been done in porn.

“To get anywhere I thought I’d have to come up with a really fucked up title like Fuck Sticks,” he recalls. “But it was already done. This guy threw that very title on my desk. So I realized there was nothing I could do that was original. So I bided my time and learned the business from Scott Taylor and started my own company. I enjoyed it but it wasn’t my passion, though I took it very seriously.”

In all of this was Mullen’s goal to be able to promote his own product.

“We are almost at that position now,” he acknowledges. “Of course we’re in a transition of the industry. People are complaining that it’s in a major league recession, yet porn has never been more popular. With that said, we’re in this period and people who are going to survive are people that figure out this transition and how to deal with it. The only way we know to survive and thrive is by having product that doesn’t blend in with the masses- just a little bit different from what other people are putting out there.”

Mullen also recalls how no one wanted to take a chance on the Britney Rears idea.

“Nobody wanted that movie- nobody wanted to touch it,” he says. “Everybody said it wouldn’t sell.”

The Rears momentum began when Jessica Sweet walked into Mullen’s office. She was with the Lee Bang agency.

“I made a comment to her that you could pass for Britney Spears’ little sister,” Mullen says. “She said a lot of people say that. I went home that night trying to think of ideas. I thought maybe we could capitalize on the whole Britney Spears phenomenon with a goofy parody and have a title that would sell a little bit more than the average movie. I racked my brains figuring out what to do. I couldn’t think of a title and in porn the boxcover and title are everything. Then 4 o’clock in the morning I came up with Britney Rears- I bolted out of bed and that was it.”

Mullen tried the idea on a couple of companies with no success. After much “cajoling” with the folks at Hustler and equipping himself with fake press releases to show how he’d promote it, Mullen convinced the executives to give it a shot. He was told by Hustler while they didn’t want to own the movie, they’d be more than glad to distribute it.

“We were forced to either do the movie on our own finances or not do it at all,” Mullen remembers. “So Scott David and I decided to do the movie. We made the movie and it went to become the biggest selling movie of the year for Larry Flynt. From then on it was off to the races.”

So now Mullen’s on the fourth volume and Britney Rears is up for a Best Continuing Series award. A new volume is scheduled for release in April.

“It really hit a chord with people and this series has gotten so popular now that it’s not reliant any more on Britney Spears,” says Mullen. “At first it was a complete parody of Britney Spears’ career. Now it’s much like a Shane’s World- it’s become its own entity like after Shane left. We hope that the Britney Rears series is known for fun and goofiness, wild sex and a good time and not to be taken too seriously.”

On the flip side of the porn coin, Mullen’s been marketing the very dark Corruption on behalf of Sex Z Pictures and its owner Bo Kenney who Mullen describes as “a maverick”.

Even with the notoriety, and probably because of it, Corruption has been the biggest seller in the history of Sex Z Pictures.

“Rumors got around that some people were shaky about it,” Mullen states. “Family Video at first didn’t want to buy it. They have since purchased it which is very surprising. Some companies had a lot of questions about it- this was a very highly publicized title. But this is a very solid piece of work that pushed the boundaries of where adult movies can go. “But it really didn’t do anything that hasn’t been done before, though it did so surprisingly considering the times we’re in right now. I think that’s what took me off guard. But Hillary Scott delivered a tour de force performance which in my opinion hopefully cemented her as female Performer of the Year. There’s good competition for her this year, like Jasmine Byrne, but with Hillary’s body of gonzo work, she’s going to be hard for someone to beat. She’s pretty much the girl.”

“This is the year of Sex Z Pictures,” continues Mullen. “Bo wanted to take a major league step up and make something that was undeniably topical and undeniably topic-worthy. This movie hits on all points although it’s not for everybody. But those who are tired of the same old, same old, I highly recommend a viewing of this movie.”

Growing up in Milwaukee, Mullen was a wrestling fan who went to the matches with his brother and father at The Old Milwaukee Auditorium.

“I grew up pretty normal and a baby-boomer,” says Mullen, noting that his mother used to casually date Eddie Matthews, the Hall of Fame third baseman from the old Milwaukee Braves.

“I still have a signed 1957 baseball,” Mullen notes. “She knew all those cats. My mom worked for Miller Brewery and was Fred Miller’s secretary. Then she met my father and they became a typical post World War II family with the nice little house and lawn. I grew up in a great area of town.”

As a kid, Mullen also took piano lessons and was embarrassed about it.

“I didn’t want anyone to know but I didn’t want to quit,” he laughs. “And I got decent grades. I was never any trouble but it was my brother who was a little more problematic for my parents. But I was a pretty good kid, I think.”

While kids his age were locked into marriage and the domestic way of life, Mullen’s instincts took him to a larger world. His piano teacher, who’s in his hundreds, traveled the world and studied abroad. And Mullen was exposed to all his travelogues which his teacher delivered with the proverbial slide projector.

“When you see somebody going to all these places you realize what’s out there,” Mullen states. “I wanted to see some of it- and in my circle the only way to do that was by joining the armed forces. My father’s a WWII 101st Airborne Division paratrooper and he didn’t want us to go into the military.”

With music as his alternative ticket, Mullen eventually got hooked up in Los Angeles.

“There were a lot of unemployed keyboard players in Los Angeles- it wasn’t because I was the best, but because I was the most accurate,” Mullen recalls. “There were guys in California who blew me away. They grew up in church and they could play their asses off. But I could play exactly like the record. Apparently a lot of the producers and a lot of the music directors wanted it exactly like the director. Concerts nowadays sound exactly like the records and we gave them the record. And that’s when I got to travel the world and go to all kinds of places.”

Mullen’s shot in LA came after a number of earlier failures to make a dent in the recording industry. The first time he came out here was in a Toyota pick-up truck.

“I thought I was great- I got out here and fell on my face. I didn’t exist out here. I couldn’t get in the door and nobody was willing to talk. I high tailed it back to Milwaukee after nine months.”

Mullen tried his luck a few years later and had a similar reaction. A friend suggested going to Minneapolis where there was a whole music scene headed up by artists like Prince.

Between jobs plowing snow to make an income, Mullen tried his luck there.

“We had a little more access to the top musicians and studios- we had a local band and got the attention of Janet Jackson’s producers,” he says.

Mullen then hooked up with a relatively unknown soul singer in the US but regarded by experts as one of the top five of all time, Alexander O’neil.

“He wasn’t famous in the United States as much as he was known world wide,” Mullen notes. “I got the privilege of being in his band and being a keyboard player for three years, learning the dos and don’t of the music industry from a very ghetto perspective. And I was the only white guy on stage. And once I was in that group, I got requests from people to come out to LA and do this tour or that show. I ended up finally moving out here. It’s crazy.”

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