I’ve always had a thing about the term “porn actor.” The phrase never felt accurate when applied to my work. Sure, some of the on-camera talent in pornography thinks of what they do as acting, but I don’t. I think of my day job as performing.
Yes, many of the scenes I’ve done during my career contain what we refer to as “set-up” or dialogue. This precursor to sex is usually treated as secondary and the more vocal consumers often express derision for it. The shooting conditions rarely allow for more than a handful of takes per angle. There’s no rehearsal.
The actual sex scenes are easiest to do all in one take. Every pause or stop reduces the energy. They’re more like a feat of athletic prowess. The bulk of the story—a very simple one that focuses on physical sexuality—is told with the body, not the mouth. This makes performing in porn more like dancing to me than acting.
So then why am I talking about acting? I’ve done some.
A couple of years ago I went to Serbia to make a movie. (Lazar Bodroza and Dimitrije Vojnov’s Ederlezi Rising, releasing 2018) I’d agreed to do the project based on a five-page treatment. It sounded like a challenge, and I like Serbia.
Securing the funding took years. There were rehearsals and coaching and screen tests before the actual shoot, and the actor I’d initially worked with was replaced.
Just before we began principal photography, we had another week of rehearsals. We tried each scene multiple ways, with different sets of blocking. I had to learn a few simple martial arts moves, and how to safely perform them, so we drilled that all week as well.
We shot an average of two scenes per day. When we thought we’d gotten the shot, everyone would gather around the monitor to watch it. One time I noticed that my hand was contradicting both my statements and the rest of my body language, so we re-did the scene.
Days were almost exactly twelve hours. There was a single instance of overtime at the request of both the lead actor and I, and we were only granted one more take, so only a few minutes. Everything was precise.
From late October to late November, I was in a play. (Ian W. Hill and Dean Haspiel’s Harakiri Kane or Die! Die, Again!!) It started with a reading in Phil Cruise’s living room so Dean could hear the play out loud. Then Phil asked if I’d participate in a public reading. Apparently these things are useful for feedback.
Later, around the time Ian decided to direct the show, they asked if I’d be interested in doing theater. It sounded like a challenge, and by this point I liked the people who were involved.
I read with potential lead actors during casting. We did another private reading and rehearsed. About a week and a half before the show opened we did a run-through as a group. That was when I realized I was about to be in a play, in New York City, with a bunch of experienced and well trained people. I started to get nervous.
See, there’s no doing it over or checking your script in live theater. There’s no “let me try it a different way since the timing didn’t quite land on that one.” There’s no “oops, when do I talk?” You have to remember your lines, blocking, which emotions change at what points, and—the most difficult for me—to project your voice.
A few minutes before the house opened for the first show I started to feel the physical symptoms of nervousness—the dizziness, pounding heart, sweat. They stopped when the show started. Weirdly, they came back about 15 minutes after I got home. Like the adrenaline of showtime had given me a pause but not a reprieve.
I started to relax around halfway through the ten show run. The last show, of course, is where I did my best work.
It turns out there’s a commonality with all three types of work (pornography, video acting, and stage acting) of being in the present moment, in the little bubble contained by the viewer or lens. If they can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.
I was surprised by the differences between video and stage acting. Stage is much more difficult, but the sense of accomplishment is stronger and occurs after every show. There’s a stronger connection to the audience and there’s immediate feedback. Both can be very fun with the right people.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I don’t tend towards flowery speeches of gratitude. I am grateful to every person who came to see the show. A full house that is engaged with what they’re seeing makes the experience of performing that much better. An audience that participates—gasps, cringes, laughs—is the best reward.
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Also published on Medium.