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Behind the Camera: What Is It Like to Work in Porn?

Getting paid to have (or watch open people having) sex….who wouldn’t want a career in porn? But what is it actually like?

The truth is that working in the adult film industry is not as simple or easy as you’d think. With long hours, hard work and some awkward moments around the water cooler, the reality of a job in porn can be pretty dull and is often not that glamorous.

In this feature, we take a look behind the scenes and what it’s like to work in the porn industry. From interviews with the stars themselves to the tell-all secrets shared on social networking sites about life in front of (and behind) the cameras, we’ll explore more about a career in porn.

Working in Porn: The Reality

Creating a porn movie from scratch takes a lot of effort from a lot of people and it’s often all too easy to forget the fact that the set of an adult film involves more than just the people you see on screen. For a big-budget production filmed by one of the larger studios, there is the director, camera crew, multiple technicians (sound, light, wardrobe, hair and makeup) and production assistants. The new technology of VR, UHD, 3D and POV filming may demand more technical expertise so you could be looking at a dozen of so people on set at any one time….and that’s in addition to the two, three, four or more performers waiting for their scenes.

making a porn film

Porn sets can be a busy place and not ideal for ‘shy’ guys. Image via Wikimedia.

Off-set there are writers, editors and other producers all working hard to put together something that will appeal to their audiences and maybe deliver a few gongs at the many adult industry awards nights.

CEO of Joybear Pictures was quoted in a recent interview claiming that up to 30 people work on an average film for his studio. However, to give their performers more of an intimate atmosphere when filming some scenes this is condensed to a skeleton crew of just four people (director, camera 1, camera 2 and the sound/production manager). Still far from your ordinary night in with the missus and a far bigger audience than many people would be comfortable performing for.

In truth, the reality of working in porn is far from the polished and flawless results that you finally get to see on DVD or through a premium porn channel. This is not an industry where you simply put two people together in a room and film the results.

Professionalism First

If making porn for a living is your job then it should come as no surprise to find that the industry is a very professional one which demands high standards from all involved. Some research undertaken by BuzzFeed in 2017 in which the site quizzed employees at the adult video hosting service ManyVids revealed that this is something that surprises many people who are new to the industry. One recent addition to the staff there commented:

“…the professionalism is very high, with top talent and excellent management. The owners at ManyVids are extremely respectful and nice people. I just did not expect that at all.”

When you think about it, it’s not that surprising and is both a result of an industry where the participants largely come from other careers beforehand combined with the fact that making money and keeping the crew and talent happy is important.

Likewise performers must be punctual and prepared as delaying a shoot could get them fired or at very least give them a bad reputation which wont help them find work with other studios.

Long Hours

In the popular AskReddit forum, a question was posed about three years ago asking the adult movie actors of Reddit to share their experiences of working in porn.

One respondent, pantyraid7036 (a producer and editor) shared his thoughts on the subject by confirming what we probably already knew but didn’t want to admit. There is a lot of pausing, a lot of laughing, a lot of texting, etc in between shots. 

One adult actress on the group (user name deleted) added:

“I know people say they know this- but viewers really don’t understand how LONG it takes to film a video and how FAKE it all is. I’ve been in over forty pornos, they’re usually half an hour or so long for each scene. But I’m on set for anywhere from 5-12 hours”.

Yes, scenes are not filmed in one continuous take and involve plenty of downtime for the cast and crew.

It’s not surprising then to find out from plenty of sources including pantyraid7036 that this method of shooting a sex scene is not that pleasurable hence there is lots of faking involved when it comes to those climax scenes. And not just by the girls. Yes, the guys are equally prone to failing to cum on demand and those money shots can be faked. From creampies and bukkake moments to plain old cum-in-face scenes, what you see on screen could be as elaborate as a rigged tube behind the actor’s cock or as basic as a milky lotion being fired off-camera.

secrets of making porn films

There are dozens of secret ways to fake creampies in porn films. Image via Public Domain Pictures.

The fact that a porn movie can take many hours to film with quite a lot of inaction in between takes means that there can be some interesting continuity errors for the eagle-eyed porn fan. Although the editing team try to splice together a film that hangs together well, there are often cutaways where something is amiss including previously sweaty performers appearing bone dry for the cum shots. It’s actually quite common for some directors to film the cum scenes first which, apparently, means the male lead can keep an erection for longer during the rest of the takes.

Calvin DeHaze, a former porn producer, added:

“Men have to keep hard between setups, so a lot of the time they’re just standing there jacking themselves off, or feeling up their co-star.”

According to the British pornstar Kiki Minaj, sex only accounts for around 30% of her time on set with much of the rest of her day being spent just ‘waiting around’.

Awkward Moments

Whilst many of the top porn stars have a ‘list’ of people that they will work with, most performers, particularly up and coming actors, will be asked to get down with whoever has been cast opposite them. This lack of choice can be awkward and stars like Samantha Bentley have commented that the small talk on set, pre-cameras rolling, can be a little strained.

In the same interview, Bentley went on to detail a scene she shared with an attractive male actor who she had been looking forward to working with:

“…(he) sweated profusely and insisted on licking me all over like a dog and consistently slapped me round the face for 40 minutes”.

Relationships can also develop off-set between co-stars and it is not unheard of for two porn actors to become romantically involved, or even married. The problem with this is that if a date or relationship doesn’t work out then the next time you meet up on set could be more than just regular awkward!

porn star couples

Porn star couplings are common like Manuel Ferrare and Kayden Kross, now married. Not all couples can share the same love of their work…Image via txxx.

Hygiene

Some surprising feedback came from other members of the Reddit group which was familiar to many professionals involved in porn. Ready? Once you’ve heard this, there’s no going back…..

Yup….the smell on set can sometimes be pretty appalling and it was pantyraid7036 who concurred with other Redditors:

“…some shoots smell great, some smell pretty awful. I shot an all anal 4 way.”

For this reason, enemas before an anal are commonplace with many stars also opting for the full wax and bleach before exposing their rusty bullet hole to the cameras. Some performers even go so far as to fast  the day before an anal scene to ensure there is no poop in the chute. Despite these precautions, porn editors point out that it is this area of the body which is often where they place the most emphasis when ‘touching up’ a scene post-production.

An interview with Joanna Angel has also revealed that some new porn actresses arrive on set without the courtesy of having cleaned up properly ‘down there’. Angel burst the bubble of some porn fans by admitting that if she is required to dine at the Y of such a woman then she’ll simply stick her fingers inside and then put them straight into the girl’s mouth….”if I have to taste it, you do too“, she said.

In a recent interview for Cosmopolitan, popular porn stars Tanya Tate and Samantha Bentley also shared their experiences:

Sometimes I can get away with avoiding the area. But, when it comes to an unclean vagina, I’ve stopped a scene in the middle of filming and told them to go clean themselves again, including wiping their bum.Tate

“I once worked with a girl with hygiene that was so bad I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to finish the scene.” Bentley

tanya tate working in porn

British porn star, Tanya Tate, pulls no punches when it comes to hygiene. Image via Wikimedia.

Certainly, there are some professionals in the industry who strongly believe that if porn movies offered smell-o-vision then the market would suffer a huge downturn.

As DeHaze himself commented about working on a porn set, “sex is really gross if you’re not involved”. This is particularly true when it comes to the camera operators whose work requires them to get quite close to the action and the former producer also revealed that “if you’re a cameraman in porn, you will eventually get something on you’. Nice!

Of course, we should point out that poor personal hygiene for some does not make it an industry-wide epidemic nor does this in any way correlate to sexually transmitted infections. Most porn stars are screened every 14 days as part of an ‘honor’ system before being cleared for more work.

Reality vs Porn

Some of the things we see in porn are so crazy that they are clearly left to the professionals whilst other stuff can inspire us to attempt some new things at home. There is some good advice from the performers who reiterate that:

“If it looks like we’re holding that crazy fucking position for five minutes- it’s more like thirty second clips I’ll ask for a cut, go smoke a cigarette, stretch, slap some lube on and get back in it.”

And the men have a similar problem. Porn demands that sex goes on for much longer than it takes in real life and many male performers use some form of supplements or injections to help them maintain an erection for longer. Owner of Immoral Productions, Dan Leal, who also performs on camera, said in an interview with Fortune in 2016:

You have to be, and any guy who says he isn’t is lying. In the real world, you don’t have sex for this long; that’s the reality.”

Joybear CEO, Justin Ribeiro dos Santos also revealed in an interview with Cosmopolitan that sometimes the sounds are added post-coitus:

“Rerecording sex sounds with the actors just standing around (and probably texting) is always quite entertaining”.

Of course, there is another point to be made here about reality vs what we see in porn and that is the fact that the performers on screen are paid actors. Whilst they are actually having sex and, for the most part, probably enjoying it, they are playing a role of ‘horny college graduate’ or ‘cuckolding MILF’. Sure, some have chosen to enter the profession for a love of having sex, because they love sex, are exhibitionists or for the money but working as a sex performer (or filming one) does not make you a sex addict or nymphomaniac.

Many people who work in the porn industry clock off when the shoot (or edit) is over and go home to their pretty normal lives. Some have families…partners and children…and live in suburbia. In some cases, their neighbors and extended families do not even realizing what it is they do for a living.

Another myth is that porn stars are promiscuous people but nothing could be farther from the truth. Adult film actors are often far less sexually active than you would think.

on set catering porn film shoot

Life on a porn set is much like any film set. Location caterers prepare lunch for the cast and crew in San Fernando Valley. Image via Wikimedia/The Naughty American.

Hard Work

The simple truth  is that, combined with all the hours you are on set just waiting for the scene to be wrapped up plus the amount of time spent having sex, making porno films is hard work. Seriously.

And its not just the performers who have a lot to do. Working with smaller and smaller budgets the crews of a porn movie are often tony compared to a mainstream film set which means more jobs for fewer people = hard work for everyone. And the crew don’t even get to have sex as part of the benefits package!

The Money

There is no doubt that there can be good amount of money to be made in the porn industry and you can find our full feature of the ROI of Porn here which details how much you could make from an adult film. However, the myth that all  porn performers are raking it in is just that; a myth.

Just like in Hollywood, the top stars can be making a small fortune but a lot of the industry has a more modest budget when it comes to paying their performers and crew.

Fetish and niche porn studios tend to pay well for specialist scenes due to the fact that fewer people are prepared to do them and, due to the fact that there is less content of this kind, audiences are prepared to pay more for it.

rich porn stars career

Reportedly worth more than $15 million, Tera Patrick is one of just a handful of porn stars earning millions. Image via Wikimedia.

What It’s Like to Work on a Porn Set

Visiting a porn set is very similar in lots of ways to any traditional film set.

Performers and the crew are introduced to one another and then the actors will be taken through a position run through by either the director or the production manager. This is just a brief tour of what they will be expected to do on camera, where they need to be and who the other people in the scene are. It is normal for the director and the performers to work through some camera angles during the walk through which are set up in position but whilst the cast are clothed.

Some films are loosely improvised around a script, whereas others (notably big-budget films and especially those from the porn parody genre) have a full script with a writer who is on-hand during filming to make changes where required.

Once the run-through is over, the cast will head to hair and make-up to get screen-ready (yes, even some of the guys) and then it’s on to the photo shoots.

As premium site porn fans will know, adult movies come with a gallery of still images to add value to the content being offered to subscribers. These photos are generally shot before the filming begins.

taking pictures on a porn film set

The photos are taken in a separate shot to the main filming. Image via Wikimedia.

Once the photos are out of the way and the director and crew are happy with the plan then the cameras can roll.

Of course, things don’t always go to plan and filming can be halted for any number of reasons from a technical hitch to more personal reasons, ‘Cut’ can be called by anyone at any time….irrespective of where the scene, and the action, is up to.

And then there’s all the waiting around time to be had. Whilst some studios film scenes almost continuously with little input from the director once the cameras are rolling, most involve a lot of stop/start action. In fact, with the big budget films, there is plenty of this kind of hold-up to the sex as they will have extra things to consider like dialogue, exterior shots, interior shots and panning.

Part of the process for making a porn film is all about the paperwork and this can be done on the day on set and involves the signing of disclaimers, waivers and contracts. It also involves cast members exchanging their latest STI screening test results with one another. This is an important distinction between Hollywood movies and those made in the adult industry. As stated above, porn actors usually get tested every couple of weeks and will not perform with a fellow adult movie star unless they can prove they are clear of any infections or diseases.

Lastly, and something you wouldn’t fathom from all your years of watching porn (yeah, we know you’ve put in the research), porn sets are hot….and not just because of the sex. They often don’t run air-conditioning as the noise can interfere with the sound quality of the production so those sweaty bodies are not just a result of the amount of effort being put in. The bottom line is, you put half a dozen people in a room with lots of stage lighting and ask a couple of them to get physically active and you basically wind up with a humid and sweaty environment! Remember what we said about the smell…..yeah, according to sources on-set, it can get pretty fusty on a porn shoot. Maybe that’s why the genre of outdoor sex is doing so well….

A Day in the Life of a Porn Star

To illustrate what it’s like to be a porn star, the adult film star Siri posted a Best Case day in the life of….on Quora in 2013:

  • 9 am – Wake up, get my suitcase together.
  • 10 am – Drive 30 mins-1 hour to set, arrive for my 11 am call time.
  • 11 am – Do my paperwork, get in hair/makeup for 1.5 hours.
  • 12 pm – Shoot a set of solo stills, which usually takes about an hour.
  • 1-2 pm – The male talent arrives between 1-2 and does his paperwork while crew re-sets lights.
  • 2 pm – Shoot intro video for scene, may take up to 2 hours depending on complexity of scenario and set-ups.
  • 4 pm – Shoot boy/girl sex stills.
  • 5 pm – Shoot boy/girl video, including cum shot.
  • 6 pm – If there is a softcore version to be shot, then we’d shoot the softcore photos and videos now. That would take another 1.5 hours.
  • 6:15 pm – If there is NO softcore stuff, then we’re done for the day, talent collects their checks if it is same-day pay, otherwise the check is mailed after 2 weeks.

How Has Working in Porn Changed Over the Years?

In some ways, working in porn has changed enormously whilst some other aspects will be as familiar to the stars of the 1970s as they are today.

First of all, you might have noticed how we have so far managed to cover a career in the porn industry without mentioning the role of a ‘fluffer’. This infamous job, reportedly undertaken by production assistants or wannabe porn stars, was to ensure that the male performers had an erection by the time they were called on set. Whilst the role most certainly existed, the current word from the industry is that fluffers are no longer a thing. We suppose that the advent of performance enhancing stimulants (injections, sprays and oral drugs like Viagra) means that there is not much call for fluffers anymore.

Calvin DeHaze can certainly debunk the myth of the ‘fluffer’

“…fluffers don’t exist. I’ve heard that they did when they used to shoot porn on film, and the setups were longer.”

role of a fluffer on a porn set

The role of a fluffer to keep the male stars at full mast is now defunct. Image via MaxPixel.

Another big difference in the industry is one of the male/female power balance. In a world that has long been dominated by men, more and more studios are employing women directors and producers as well as those studios that are all-female. Certainly, the shift of the last few decades has been on creating environments that are respectful, consensual and professional with a particular bias on female-friendly porn. After all, without women in porn where would we be?

The money being paid to the stars of adult films reflects this and women are routinely paid around twice as much as their male counterparts. Arguably, there is good reason for this as the women are often on set earlier (for hair and makeup) and have the hardest job to do.

In the ‘Golden Age’ of porn and into the 1990s, it was reasonably common for female performers to be treated with little or no respect and, in common with the mainstream media industry, reports of sexual (and forms of) abuse were common.

With the advent of the internet, the porn industry benefits from faster and cheaper distribution costs but suffers more from digital piracy. However, the technology has allowed far smaller and more niche studios to compete for an audience. As a result, working in porn these days offers more performers more choice and diversity than it once did. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the adult film industry was dominated by either California or one of a handful of European studios. Now, performers can work with a huge range of producers.

niche porn studios working for the adult industry

The rise of fetish and niche porn studios mean that there are lots of places for porn stars to find work. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Speaking of comparing the 1970s/80s with the modern industry, the rise of safe sex has also changed the way porn works. Back in the day, all scenes were shot bareback and there would be no screening required for STIs. Naturally, the women were all using some form of contraception and this was before HIV/AIDs was even a thing. These days, a lot of professional porn studios do use condoms but those that don’t tend to have screening in place. In gay porn that specialize in bareback porn, this can be extremely vigorous.

A Career in Porn?

Working in porn is not for everyone but there are plenty of guys who believe that they’ve got what it takes. But before you rush headlong in to a career getting paid to screw beautiful women on camera, you should know some of the downsides of opting for this profession.

The first is an obvious one and affects both male and female performers and that’s the stigmatization of working in the adult industry. With just a few exceptions, the career of a porn star is usually pretty short and the chances are that you will end up needing to find work elsewhere in the future. Not only does ‘Porn Star’ not cut it on your CV for most employers, the fact that there is footage of you doing the dirty readily available online could make it tricky for your future professional and personal life.

real life as a porn star

Fancy bringing up your work in porn during your next interview? Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Which brings us to another big negative; the affect that working in porn can have on your personal life. There’s a reason why a lot of romances blossom on set between adult movie performers and that is one of affinity. They both understand the industry and the work they do and that having sex on camera is not the same as being in a relationship. It’s true that the vast majority of people could not cope with the emotional side of being involved with a partner who had sex with other people as part of their job.

As for whether you think you’d be cut out for a life in porn, we’ll leave you with the words of Australian porn stars, Ryan James from an interview he gave in 2015:

There seems to be an inverse correlation between how cocky a guy is about how well he would do in porn and how good he actually turns out to be”

So, if you think you’ve got what it takes and are not cocky but all cock then what are you waiting for?

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons.

Staff Writer

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