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Conversations with Jennifer James- final

Porn Valley- Dru Berrymore’s ArchAngel continues shooting the hi-def The Vampire Chronicles series this week. Except at the helm will be Cass Paley replacing Jennifer James. ArchAngel put out a press release last week announcing that James wouldn’t be available due to an illness involving a friend. Last December I had the following chat with James.

James was saying there are a bunch of people in the business shooting pretend hi-def at present but this series is the real deal. “We wanted to start a company that shoots only in hi-def and is condom-only,” said James. “Dru [Berrymore] has been in the business for a long time. I’ve been producing adult movies for 8 or 9 years, now. We wanted to create something nice. In our business we often race to the lowest common denominator. We all rush for mediocrity. And I wanted to create something a little bit nicer. I wanted to go back to an earlier time where you told a story and you made something nice. Where we celebrated sex instead of making it demeaning and humiliating. We celebrated beauty and love.”

Asked how he and Berrymore got together, James said she called Berrymore when she [James] was doing a movie for Adam & Eve about four years ago. “I thought she was really together- I liked her a lot. Something happened and she couldn’t make the shoot. And I remembered her when I did a movie for VCA and how nice she was. I gave her a call and we seemed to have a remarkable chemistry. That’s what it started on. She wanted to do some independent productions. I gave her a call and she came to do a scene for me with Herschel Savage. That was for VCA. Dru is a special kind of person. She’s a little different than most of the girls in the business. She’s smarter and a little bit kinder. We started talking and it evolved from there. I would not have anticipated it all but it makes an interesting partnership. A producer/director and a name talent.”

James was telling me that Vampire Chronicles was the first production for the company. James was saying it was a two-part series, but evidently, plans had been changed since our talk. “It’s a story that takes place over 100 years,” James was saying. “It’s a vampire love story. Basically we’re shooting the second part of the story first. I thought it would be fun to see when everyone goes, I liked Part 2, I wonder whatever happened to part One.” James was saying the first part of the story is titled the Demise and Rebirth of Nicolas Esteban [played by Nick Manning]. “We’re shooting the Rebirth of Nicolas Esteban and basically the demise is when he turns into a vampire. That takes place in 1899 New Orleans in the French Quarter. Shay Sights plays Domonique, an owner of the greatest bordello in New Orleans and also a vampire. She ends up seducing the night before he’s going to get married to Julie Meadows. It starts a trigger of events.

“The idea is to create a situation where you show a number of people,” James continues, “which often happens in life- they suddenly come together for unknown reasons- and each of them interacts. The idea with The Vampire Chronicles was to create a whole series of stories about vampires. Any of these story lines can go in another direction. This one is with Nick manning. The next Vampire Chronicles could be with someone else and a different story. But I like the ideas of the vampires living immortally and I like the idea of them being lovers instead of killers. We would be able to ell a lot of stories under the umbrella of The Vampire Chronicles.”

Asked how she got her start in the business, James explains that her father was a well-known stuntman and a second unit director in Hollywood. “I grew up in the business,” she says. “I had a regular production company. I directed music videos, infomercials- the last music videos, I did a series of three for Atlantis Records. I was working with a girl who was one of the original Benny Hill girls. She and I were packaging movies for independent producers at the time. You’d find the money, find the distribution deal for regular Hollywood. I decided it would be fun to write one for myself. So I wrote a story and took some money I had and spent about six months or a year trying to put it together. We got pretty far along. We had two million in escrow; we had a distribution deal. We had a number of good named talents signed. We were ready to shoot.

“We were in pre-production and the Asian money crisis hit,” James goes on to say. “I lost half of my budget money. I was thinking at the time if you’ve got a million dollars, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a second million. Never could find the second million. Basically, I was left with a little money and I said I needed to make some money. I had know some people who had done adult stuff. I said listen I need to take a shot, roll the dice and make a movie. Luckily I was at the right place at the right time. It was right when Playboy was signing their first distribution deal. Playboy didn’t know who was a good director and I was one of the first acceptable directors with Playboy. They had eight or nine of us that were signed on. I was one of the first that got in. I got lucky and I made the right movie at the right time. It was a movie called Business As Usual. It got a 4-star review in 1998.” James said it was strange making a porno movie the first time. “I met Peter Davy at Nitro the first time,” she recalls. “Peter gave me a copy of Bobby Hollander’s Leg Show. I looked at that and gave a copy to my engineer. Jesus, we can shoot that! We can do this. So the first time, we brought in some people and shot it. At the end of the shoot I go what do you think.”

James laughs because most of the recollections were of crew standing at a craft services table with naked girls. “There were a lot of people stark naked and we were all having a normal conversation. And it as all quite matter of fact. Before I saw Bobby Hollander’s Leg Show, I had never seen a porn movie.” James says some of her mainstream friends tended to be judgmental about her decision to go into porn. “But as Hollywood has moved to Canada, they have become remarkably friendly, and I’ve brought a number of them over. I’m a P.A.- I need to make something happen. For the big studios, they’re still shooting. But if you’re a crew member, if you’re a worker, you’re screwed. If you’re not a Canadian and not up their in Toronto or Vancouver, you’re not working. You’re done. Basically, this is a company town and I’ve watched as the permit boards, the insurance companies, the unions have slowly killed the goose that laid the golden egg. They’ve bled the companies dry. So you find a lot of little businesses that would never have done porn, are all over it. There’s nowhere else to go. So people who made fun of my decision at the time are now going, you know. maybe you weren’t so crazy at the time.”

James also sees the same thing happening to the porn business as regular Hollywood 10 or 12 years. “There was a real independent film market,” she points out. “You could go out, get some talent like a Sean Young and sign them. You could take their names and go to a distribution company in Germany. You could get a $100,000 funded for that name; and a $100,000 here. You could put together a couple of million dollars and make a movie. And there were independent distributors that would sell your movie. Now there’s only one independent distributor left. Ever and that’s Lion’s Gate in Canada. it’s not even American. There are no American independent distributors, so all the stuff about independent films- let’s go to Sundance- it’s all baloney.

“There is no where to go with it,” says James. “Miramix, the last big distributor was sold to Disney. So, now, if you want to make an independent movie, you hawk your mother’s house. You sell your children, get some money together, you shoot a movie, go to Sundance and pray that somebody will buy it from you. And I see the same thing happening in our business. The big companies said, wow, there’s $11 B to be made there. Let’s go in there and buy them. What’s happening are people like Larry Flynt- I bet you- in three or five years it’s going to look like regular Hollywood. You’re going to have big name companies with big name stars with their own vertical integrated monopolies with their own distribution arms.

“You’re going to see a Vivid and a Playboy and an LFP and a couple of others,” James predicts. “And all the independent producers are going to be in the same place they are in regular Hollywood. What I was able to do was take a little money, make a movie then go find some investors and make another one. Eventually, after 8 or 10 years, make a little bit of a name for myself. Nobody’ll be able to do that again. Now you see these companies getting started like Zero Tolerance and Red Light. What are they starting with? A million bucks and a couple of names of people who were in the business and had been there for a long time. Who’s going to be able to do that any more? Who can put that kind of money together? Now it isn’t a mom and pop business any more. Now it’s turning into big business which is kind of sad. I kind of liked it when it was mom and pop and a bunch of little people just trying to survive.

For her part, James’ production company has been making movies for some years now. “Unfortunately my private investors didn’t think it was worthwhile buying advertising money, so I had been making movies successfully and seven of mine have sold to Playboy,” says James. “That company has been going on for quite awhile but very few people know who I am.”

James laughs how one industry scribe always figured James to have been a pseudonym for James DiGiorgio. Then James goes on to talk about how hi-def will be the hallmark of ArchAngel.

“We’re going to shoot everything in full 1080,” she says. “In a year from now the FCC is going to mandate it and everybody will be shooting hi-def. Basically, the American television standard is not comparable to the rest of the world. if you compare image quality with us compared to Europe, they’ve twice the resolution lines as we have. So our product has been having trouble competing overseas with other peoples’ creative product. The FCC has been backed into a corner. And it’s been mandated that starting in 2006, you go buy a television, you make a television movie, you go sell something, it had better be shot on hi-def. Why do you think all of a sudden there’s these hi-def televisions coming up? And you’re going to see DVD’s that are progressive scan, hi-def DVD’s.”


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