Film Work

Performing in porn films involves performing sexual acts either solo or with other performers on camera. There are markets for many types of porn including straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. What a performer does on camera may not reflect their sexual orientation or tastes in their private life.

There are porn studios in many of the UK’s big cities, with a concentration in and around London.

Laws surrounding pornography have undergone several changes in the UK in recent decades. Performers must not only be over the age of 18 but also appear to be so – to possess an indecent image of anyone real or imaginary who is or appears to be under 18 is an offence. Films must be awarded a certificate from the British Board of Film Classification, usually the R18 certificate. This allows depiction of a variety of sexual acts, though with restrictions on acts the police may consider obscene. Such acts include penetration by objects likely to cause harm or threats or humiliation where not obviously part of a role-playing game.

R18 films may legally only be sold in licensed sex shops, not by mail-order from UK companies. However, companies in other countries can supply mail-order porn into the UK. The Internet is also booming as a delivery channel.

The porn industry in the UK is relatively small, and features mostly British performers. There is increasing competition however. There are around 60 production companies but countless individuals making their own films for distribution on the web.

Turnover of performers is high, with most careers lasting three months to three years. There is constant demand for new stars, particularly women. There is a more regular stable of male stars (‘studs’), who generally need to be young, good-looking, with a large penis and the ability to ejaculate on demand repeatedly in a short space of time.

Pay structures depend on the acts performed. Girl-girl scenes pay the least, rising to double-penetration (one penis in the vagina and one in the anus) paying the most. At the time of writing (2007) typical pay for a female performer is £250 for girl-girl, £300 for boy-girl, £350 for anal and £400 for double-penetration. Pay for male performers in boy-girl porn is £150-300, with slightly higher rates in gay male porn. A typical scene will take around four hours to shoot. Some performers supplement their film income with escorting.

Performers are booked through agencies, among the largest being Walpole and Liberation, or through websites such as The ModelsClub.co.uk. Producers get in touch with performers via these routes, though much relies on performers’ self-promotion. The agencies charge the producers a fee but do not charge the performers. Depending on the budget of the film, performers may provide their own costumes and make-up, or these services may be provided by the studio.

Many jobs are passed around via word-of-mouth and performers share information on forums and websites. They must provide two forms of ID. They will be expected to sign a model-release form at the end of the shoot, giving all the rights to the shoot over to the producer. Payment is usually by cash or cheque at the end, with the performer signing the model release to confirm they have received payment. Performers should be registered self-employed and pay tax.

Apart from for solo scenes, performers are required to produce an up-to-date sexual health certificate less than three weeks old. To work full-time, therefore, they need to be tested every three weeks.

Clinics offering specialist services to porn performers include:

The Indigo Clinic at Charing Cross Hospital (020 8848 1579) (free services are available)

Sunflower Clinic at West Middlesex Hospital.

Use of condoms is rare in straight boy-girl porn in the UK, though less rare in gay male porn.

In girl-girl scenes performers do not necessarily have any choice who they work with. In boy-girl scenes the girls can choose who they work with.

Issues
Many clinics offering STD testing to porn performers produce certificates that are easy to forge through basic photocopying, or even which are hand-written. Many also charge for the service (although The Indigo Clinic is free). Performers may work on numerous films in the space of three weeks, and STDs circulate around performers regularly. Until four or five years ago testing was not mandatory for performers in girl-girl scenes, though now has been introduced. There is perceived resistance from consumers to the use of condoms.

Within the industry British laws are considered too restrictive to allow the industry to grow, particularly with hardcore from around the world available to watch online. Any sexual activity involving a perceived lack of consent, even if clearly simulated, is illegal as are any ties or binding which may prevent the giving of consent, such as ball-gags. Also anything involving real or simulated pain beyond mild consensual activity is also prevented, which restricts fetish film producers. The UK is currently proposing laws to make ownership of what is perceived to be violent porn a crime. Groups campaigning against the law include Backlash (http://www.backlash-uk.org.uk).

There is more potential for damage and internal bruising in girl-girl scenes where hard dildos etc. are used. To compete with hardcore studios outside the UK, UK producers are trying to make their content as extreme as possible within the boundaries of UK law.

Performers may be under financial and creative pressure to perform acts they may not be comfortable with in order to earn the big money. However this then leads to a much shorter career than if they are able to take things one step at a time and create demand, for example creating a bidding war between studios for their first anal scene.

As it is almost impossible to control the proliferation of material in which you appear, and how long it may remain on the market, potential performers must think very carefully about any impact on their future careers in other fields or personal life.

IUSW Recommendations
Sexual health testing should become more rigorous, with proper certificates. HIV testing should incorporate the most up-to-date tests available to detect the virus as soon as possible (rather than only after three months, as many tests do).

Laws must not become any more restrictive than they are already, for risk of pushing the industry underground and exposing performers to less scrupulous producers.

At the time of writing (June 2007) the UK government is proposing stronger restrictions on ‘violent’ porn, making the viewing of such material an offence. The IUSW released this statement to support campaigning group Backlash which opposes the legislation:

“The IUSW strongly supports Backlash’s campaign against the proposed legislation against ‘violent’ porn. The proposed changes would scapegoat consenting adults while doing little to lessen the real threats of violence in society.

The proposed legislation breaches the Human Rights Act in ways that parallel the situation with existing laws on sex work. The new law would promote and encourage ignorance, in same way as current sex work laws do, with the greater potential for harm that such ignorance brings.

The proposed legislation has been formed around moral judgements, rather than on any basis of fact or proof of harm. Like anti-prostitution legislation, it has been prepared without consultation with those actually involved.

We strongly believe the State has no business interfering with the private lives of consenting adults, and stand with Backlash against this legislation.”

Getting into the porn industry
If you want to work as a porn performer, start by contacting an established agency such as Walpole. They will ask to see pictures and a working CV, then may call you in to meet you, and will be able to tell you pretty quickly whether they consider you suitable for the industry. They may then try you out on some photo shoots and solo films first. Even if they don’t take you on their advice will be invaluable.

Read the small-print carefully on all agreements and model releases before you sign, and ask for clarification on anything you do not understand. Do not sign any agreements you are not happy with.

On bookings, ask for references from producers you have not heard of, and check all the conditions and requirements carefully. Remember the finished film will be in existence forever, and that once you’ve signed the model release you have no say over where and how it is distributed. Never do anything you don’t feel comfortable with – and that’s comfortable with while stone-cold sober. Drug/alcohol use is common (although if the line is crossed to abuse the performer will stop getting bookings), and beware this temporarily swaying your views.

There are many independent porn studios setting up, particularly for distribution over the internet, where under current law films only distributed in this way do not need a certificate. Again, ask for references and follow them up.

Links
British Girls Adult Film Database – www.bgafd.co.uk (includes advice on getting into porn for men and women)

Backlash – campaigning against proposed legislation to make possession of extreme porn illegal – http://www.backlash-uk.org.uk/

Walpole Glamour Agency – http://www.walpole-group.com

Liberation Glamour Agency – www.liberationagency-uk.co.uk

The Models Club – www.themodelsclub.co.uk

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