As I detailed yesterday over at Lifehacker, I managed to finish my novel-in-a-month challenge. If you didn’t catch it there, here’s the cover (click on it for a bigger version) and the blurb for Shot:
“I’ve produced 219 adult movies. What have you done with your life?”
Mark Anderson is Australia’s most successful porn producer, responsible for the legendary Crocodile Cumdee series and for convincing two former Neighbours actresses to pursue a career in sex films. But how did a nice suburban boy from Beecroft end up as a porn king? Mark’s tale ranges from Vegas to the outback as he explains how to deal with porn star wives, when to tell your parents you’re a XXX mogul, why you should never appear in your own films and the importance of the dildo contingency plan. Because even when you’ve made 219 movies, life doesn’t always go the way you want.
And because people keep nagging me about it, here’s your chance to read the first chapter. Comments welcome!
Chapter 1: THE BIG SHOT
I’ve produced 219 adult movies. What have you done with your life?
In October 2008, I met Ben Parker at the bar in the Melbourne Qantas Club lounge. It wasn’t a planned meeting; we both ordered the same beer. Ben’s the director at an agency which hires out motivational speakers. We got chatting and I told him what I did.
This isn’t always a good idea, obviously. If I sense that someone is going to be offended because I work in porn, I usually just say that I’m in media production and leave it at that. I’m not ashamed of my job. I just can’t be bothered having arguments about it most of the time. I could sense an opportunity here, though, so I told the (ahem) naked truth.
Being honest turned out to be a wise decision. Ben readily identified himself as an occasional porn viewer, and it turns out that he’d actually seen my very first feature, Down & Dirty Down Under. It’s a reasonable guess that the beer might have helped in making him confess this so readily.
Having told him the rather weird story of how I’d entered into the business, I could sense Ben was getting excited. And not excited in the manner of a viewer of one of my movies; excited because he thought he’d spotted a way to make money.
“So Mark, ever thought about speaking at conferences? I reckon you’d be pretty good.”
Conferences as such aren’t a big feature of the porn world. The typical industry event involves a scantily clad “actress” (who everyone will have forgotten about in two years) cutting a ribbon before we all head to the bar to network. In this context, “network” is often code for “get sloshed”.
There are a couple of big XXX industry gatherings held in the US, and I usually head to those over the Australian summer. But I’ve never thought of speaking at them, and I don’t know how much insight I’d have to offer for the cash-hungry Yanks who dominate the market. “And our next speaker is Mark Anderson, the well-known Australian porn mogul.” I couldn’t quite see it.
But that wasn’t what Ben meant. He was thinking of the typical dull business event where accountants discuss tax law or IT geeks find out about what’s changing in software. In that context, I could see that someone talking about the production of Crocodile Cumdee 9: Ayers Cock would be an appealing change of pace.
Ben certainly thought so. We were onto a second beer by this time, the flight having been delayed.
“You’d need to tone it down a bit, of course,” he remarked knowingly. Corporate audiences wouldn’t be expecting to hear in-depth descriptions of preferred porn star positions. The fact that they might well end up sleeping with their colleagues after the inevitable drinks, dinner and dancing was, I gathered, beside the point.
“On-set stories would be good, but you’d need to come out with some business lessons, stuff which you’ve learned that can be applied to other industries,” Ben suggested. Having survived piracy, stoned actresses, an unexpected murder and fierce competition for a decade and a half and made a decent amount of cash into the bargain, I figured I could deliver that.
“There’s plenty I could say about useful business skills,” I said. “People management can be tricky when half of your employees are running around naked.”
“That’s the kind of thing. You want to titillate them a bit but not go overboard.”
The bottom line was that there was a constant demand for new blood on the corporate speaking circuit, so Ben reckoned that it might be worth adding me to the books. I knew all about novelty being important, and I was happy to try it out.
Indeed, the more I thought about the idea, the more I liked it. I’d always enjoyed debating and public speaking back when I was a teenager with time on my hands, and getting paid for it made the prospect much more appealing. And I’d always taken an analytical approach to the porn business, so it wasn’t like I needed a bunch of new ideas.
I came up with that ’219 movies’ opening line for my speech on the flight back to Sydney. Then I wrote my whole draft presentation one night the next week, in a hotel suite where we’d shot several scenes for the fourth instalment of the Jackhammer My Crack series earlier the same day.
Unfortunately, Ben’s offer came not long before the global financial crisis really hit. In one way, that could have been helpful. There was less money to spend, so companies that might have held out for a big name speaker suddenly had to think about other, cheaper options. Alas, it didn’t work out that way.
I did one speech for free at a pharmaceutical company convention, so that Ben would have something on video he could show to other clients. All that NovaCron had to pay for were my travel costs. It seemed to go over well, and the feedback forms were extremely positive.
That didn’t mean everyone liked it. I’ve known for a long time that you can’t please all of the perverts all of the time. Given the topic area, there were the inevitable angry screeds asking why a “Satanic smut peddler” (that’s a direct quote) was being forced on them at a professional event. I’d presented a fairly sanitised version of my life, heavy on the business lessons and light on the lube, so that seemed like a criticism issued on autopilot. I mean, I never even used the word “rimjob”.
Prudes aside, the overall reaction was positive. A couple of audience members even said they felt inspired to think about making their own movie. Good luck, I sniggered to myself when I read that. If people think they can build up a business with access to a cheap camera and cheaper genitalia, experience will disillusion them soon enough. But while it seemed everyone liked me, no-one wanted to hire me.
Ben thought the timing was just unfortunate. “Everyone is getting all panicked and conservative,” he explained to me a few months later. “No-one wants to stick their neck out by hiring a porn producer as a speaker, just in case they end up getting stick for it.” I noted that Getting Stick wasn’t a bad title for a future video, but I couldn’t argue with him.
Anyway, almost a year and a half has gone by and there haven’t been any other offers for paid work. A couple of companies tried to book me for freebies, including (to my surprise) a charity that specialised in offering computer access for the homeless and disadvantaged. I was almost tempted — I felt like the speech was going to waste — but Ben said that doing too many free gigs set a dangerous precedent if you weren’t already well-known and scoring a lot of paying work.
I’m still on the Speaker Easy books in a technical sense, but I suspect that Ben has moved on to pushing other clients. He sends me a friendly email every now and then and offers to take me out for a beer to “discuss prospects”. Nonetheless, it’s the former sports stars and the ex-board members who keep on getting the speaking jobs.
Sure, part of me is a bit disappointed. For a start, it would have been an unusual marketing opportunity. I’m sure that I’d have mentioned the names of a few titles I’ve produced, and I bet that least one person in the audience would end up renting or buying it out of “curiosity”.
More importantly, it would have been an extra source of income and a validation of my success as an entrepreneur. And let’s face it, no-one is entirely immune from the notion of being applauded by an audience.
But I didn’t really go into adult movies to become famous. After all, if I’d wanted to do that, even fleetingly, I’d have appeared in one of my own videos by now. And that hasn’t happened so far, even though I only got into this business because my girlfriend suddenly announced out of the blue that she really wanted to star in a sex tape.
Wanna read more? I promise I’ll keep everyone up to date on my editing, agent-hunting, publisher-pitching and ebook explorations.