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August 01, 2018

Lansky Inc. — Meet the Man Who Made Himself A Brand

This article is the cover story of the August 2018 issue of AVN magazine. Click here for the digital edition. Greg Lansky applies one common principle to everything he does. Call it the Lansky Rule. “One of the first things I tell people that work for me is I say, ‘Don’t be boring,’” Lansky says. “That’s just simple. It’s OK if we fail. It’s OK if we try but don’t quite hit the mark. Just don’t be boring.” The 35-year-old founder of Vixen Media Group hits his mark more often than not, whether he’s producing, directing or leading a growing adult entertainment empire that’s on track to hire its 100th employee by September. Powered by a splashy marketing campaign that comes to life on Instagram and Twitter, a natural talent for self-promotion and an ambitious vision to challenge the public’s perception of what a porn company can be, the former high school dropout from Paris, France, has already rattled the multibillion-dollar industry. But according to Lansky, “I’m just getting started.” “I like to look at porn as a fluid, ever-evolving beast,” Lansky says. “I like to look at things like, ‘How can I disrupt that market a little bit?’ And we’ve been really successful at it by not doing what everybody else is doing. Sometimes that angers people and makes them jealous, like, ‘Oh, you’re doing things different.’ No one says we couldn’t. “My goal is to continue to expand the brands that we have and to do it in a way that’s unconventional.” Wearing all black underneath a charcoal blazer on an 80-degree afternoon in the San Fernando Valley, Lansky is sitting in the immaculate postmodern kitchen at his Studio City, California, headquarters, eating a late lunch of grilled chicken, mushrooms and hardboiled eggs. It’s 3:20 on the third Tuesday in June and the three-time AVN Director of the Year is making final preparations for a three-week business trip to Ibiza, Spain, and Mykonos, Greece, where he will meet with his European production teams and shoot new scenes with his 2017 Vixen Angel of the Year, Kendra Sunderland. “The currency I have the least of right now is time,” Lansky tells me. “It’s all about time management. So I get these pre-prepped meals. “When I started I was not the way I am right now. I didn’t really have anybody.” But so much has changed since Lansky and his two partners—fellow web entrepreneurs Steve Matthysen and Mike Miller, who co-own PornTube—launched Blacked in May 2014, Tushy in June 2015 and Vixen in July 2016. With Lansky at the helm they have revitalized the paysite sector en route to building three of the biggest porn brands in the world, combining a glamorous, high-fashion aesthetic with exquisite cinematography, luxurious locations and beautiful performers—without compromising the sexual heat. The trio of imprints, along with Lansky himself, have accounted for 39 AVN Awards since 2015—making him one of the winningest porn producers of the decade. Lansky & Co. started their fourth brand in October 2017, introducing a gritty offshoot to Blacked called Blacked Raw, which features interracial sex captured with a harder edge. A fifth website is on the way in 2019. “The brands have grown to the point where there’s a lot of people now that know about Vixen that don’t know about Greg Lansky—I mean outside the industry,” Lansky says. “The brands have gotten to be a monster on their own. … For me, the performers are also the brand ambassadors. Not just the ones we have under contract—all of them. “Honestly, right now this is the year where I feel like shit’s going to get next level very soon.” That next level will involve Kendra Sunderland, who won the 2017 AVN Award for Best Boy/Girl Sex Scene for her performance with three-time Male Performer of the Year Mick Blue in Natural Beauties, a Vixen production that was the first professional scene of her career. The 23-year-old performer, who gained national notoriety when a video of her getting topless on webcam in the Oregon State University library went viral, was named Lansky’s first Vixen Angel in August 2016. The monthly honor has turned into a status symbol due in part to the prize package—each of the 23 Vixen Angels has received a diamond ‘V’ Tiffany necklace, custom Christian Louboutin heels, bespoke Vixen lingerie sets and an editorial-style photo shoot that is the centerpiece of the studio’s trend-setting marketing campaign that month. That’s not to mention being anointed with a champagne toast in a first-of-its-kind ceremony broadcast on Instagram Live to tens of thousands of viewers. “Greg is really hard to explain but I feel I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Greg,” says Sunderland, the curvaceous blonde whom Lansky also named his first Vixen Angel of the Year in January 2017. “He definitely helped me build my name and the exclusivity around my name,” Sunderland adds. “Greg has treated me like family since the very beginning. Words can’t describe how grateful I am for him.” Because of his remarkable rise and reputation for quality, a Lansky production has become a sought-after booking in today’s industry. Several A-list stars—such as Riley Reid, Lana Rhoades, Kendra Lust and Brett Rossi—have performed their first anal scenes for Tushy or their first interracial for Blacked; and it’s no secret that Lansky will pay a premium to shoot certain performers doing first-time scenes. “We don’t charge him any more than anyone else, unless it’s a ‘first’ something,” says porn super agent Mark Spiegler, whose boutique talent agency has represented five of the past six AVN Female Performer of the Year winners. “He has a relatively unlimited amount of money, so he can pay whatever he wants to get what he wants. “A lot of people don’t want to spend anything and they get crappy product and then they complain. He has more of a forward-thinking way of doing business. You do something really good, spend a lot of money on it, and it will draw people to come and pay.” The approach not only has led to shelves stacked with AVN trophies, it also has generated industry-leading sales figures. Lansky in late May had the first (Black & White 12), second (Blacked Raw V6), third (My DP 4) and fourth (Threesome Fantasies 3) best-selling DVDs at Adult Empire, one of the largest online retailers in the country. Colin Allerton, vice president of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based firm, tells AVN he has been working with Lansky since Blacked released its first DVD through Jules Jordan Distribution in August 2014. “His product has been consistently some of the best-selling content since the very first release, and he normally has numerous items in the Top 10 best-sellers,” Allerton says. “Right now, he has six of the Top 10 best-selling DVDs. “Having his four different studios producing the Top 4 selling DVDs—each with a different style—is really impressive and speaks to his appeal across different genres.” Allerton notes that Blacked is Lansky’s No. 1 studio on both DVD and VOD at Adult Empire; and the No. 1-selling DVD of 2017 was Kendra’s Obsession from Blacked, which featured the Salem, Oregon, native in every scene. “There’s a strong demand for all of his brands spread across all regions of the country,” Allerton adds. “His attention to detail on the outfits, lighting, location and making the girls look their best appeals to lots of different consumers. Greg, his team, and the Jules Jordan team are all really passionate about their work, and they’ve raised the bar on what consumers expect in top-quality content.” One of Lansky’s signature movies—which he calls “a turning point” for his company—was 2015’s Being Riley, featuring 2016 AVN Female Performer of the Year Riley Reid in her first anal and double-penetration scenes. Both the encounters won AVN Awards, while the movie also captured the Best Star Showcase and Best Girl/Girl honors in January 2016, when Lansky and his studios dominated the 33rd annual show with 16 gold statuettes.  Lansky’s right-hand man is 20-year vet Mike Moz, a native of Tampa, Florida, who started in the industry as editor of Nightmoves magazine, moved into public relations for more than a decade, and then transitioned into sales and marketing with Digital Playground. As Lansky’s producer, Moz presides over perhaps the busiest shooting schedule in porn, supervising the production of about 35 scenes a month in multiple countries. Each of the four sites updates every five days—or six times a month—so Team Lansky drives a minimum of 24 site updates every 30 days. “I’ll look at him more times than not and I’m like, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing, but I know what you’re doing,’” Moz tells AVN. “I don’t see things like he sees things. But he’ll be like, ‘We’re going to position ourselves like this and we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that.’ And I’m more like a consigliere.” One of Lansky’s most valuable leadership qualities is how he always considers the perspectives of his inner circle, according to Moz. “He listens to the people around him,” says Moz, who joined forces with Lansky in 2013. “Because I’m not that in tune with the pulse of what people are into. I’m very thorough. I can see things done. But he’s definitely the idea guy. “When Blacked came about he was, ‘We’re going to do a paysite.’ Everybody else was like, ‘That’s probably not a good idea.’ He’s like, ‘I know this part of the market isn’t being filled properly. There’s people out there that want this who are not getting what they want.’” Moz admits he used to think Lansky was “nuts.” “I’d go look at locations and he’d be like, ‘The main room needs to be facing west and ba-ba-ba. And I’d be like, ‘What the fuck are you talking about?’ But he would know. He would know,” Moz recalls. “At the beginning I wasn’t resistant to what he was saying, I just didn’t understand what he was saying because I had never worked with anybody like that. But after all this time you learn that there’s a method to his madness. There really is. The guy’s like two steps ahead of everybody. He knows what’s gonna be hot.” So does Lansky’s longtime girlfriend Jennifer, a former fashion designer for Guess!, who is the junior creative director for Vixen Media Group. A native of Miami with a degree in fashion design from Otis College of Art and Design, an elite private art school in L.A., Jennifer met Greg in 2010 and has become an influential part of the operation. “She’s helped a lot with shaping the vision and the aesthetic of the brand,” Greg tells me. He refers to Jennifer as his wife—and she even uses his last name. “We’ve been together for so long, technically we’re married already,” Jennifer jokes. In the pre-Blacked days, Jennifer would sometimes assist Greg with selecting photos in addition to consulting on everything from wardrobe to set design. But when he decided to start his own brand, not only did Jennifer encourage him, she also knew it was time for her to increase her role. “That’s when I started to come on board full time,” Jennifer tells me. “I told him, ‘You’re going to need my help.’” Now she styles the Vixen Angel photo shoots and contributes to the overall look and feel of all of the brands. “I help with the artistic vision,” Jennifer says. “I work with the photos editors, video editors, directors—everybody in general—just making sure we’re all going the same direction with the path that Greg has laid out for us.” When Greg wanted to do a retro Miami Vice-themed photo shoot for his August 2017 Vixen Angel Amia Miley—it included a 1987 white Ferrari Testarossa (which Moz found)—Jennifer tracked down 20 pairs of vintage Carrera sunglasses for Miley to wear. For the November 2017 Vixen Angel shoot with Lana Rhoades—a red carpet meets the paparazzi affair that was themed “Awards Season”—Jennifer ordered up the ’80s-style black tuxedos for the male models. “I always knew Greg was a genius,” Jennifer says. “I always knew he had such an eye. He could take somebody in two seconds and do a beautiful photo and video with them. He gets better and better every day. “He just does everything so quickly, too. To compare him to somebody else, he just gets things right away. He gets where the light is, the angles, what’s cool and what’s happening, and he plays off of that.” Some of Lansky’s most talked about performer “firsts” include two-time AVN MILF Performer of the Year Kendra Lust’s first anal in Miss Tushy; 2015 Best New Starlet Carter Cruise’s first IR movie Obsession; and Abigail Mac’s first IR scene, which led to the 2016 AVN Award for Best Boy/Girl Sex Scene for her session with Flash Brown in Black & White 4.  Mac at press time was starring in a showcase directed by new Lansky collaborator Kayden Kross for Tushy—a movie that he says will be one of his two most elaborate productions of 2018. “The beautiful thing about working with Greg is that it’s not work at all,” Mac, who was crowned Vixen Angel in May 2017, tells AVN. “We create, innovate and push past the stereotypes of ‘porn.’ He is setting the standard for a new era. Being on set with Greg inspires me not just to be better, but to be the best.” Lansky has also produced the first anal scenes for Ariana Marie, Anya Olsen, Chanell Heart, Cherie DeVille, Samantha Rone and Whitney Westgate, among others. “I think he’s kind of elevated the business as a whole,” says agent Spiegler, who has been booking his girls with Lansky since 2006. “Either you have to rise to the top or you’re gone. A lot of people are jealous of him either because they don’t want to put out the effort to compete or they can’t afford to. “Also Greg has been smart with not just the videos themselves but the metrics behind the scenes—the social media. What I believe he’s trying to create is a new lifestyle brand, like Hugh Hefner did.” Without question that’s what Lansky intends to do, and in the process his own name is becoming a major brand itself. “We just happen to do porn but we’re a lifestyle brand, and in my opinion we sell the hardest product that you can sell,” Lansky reasons. “First of all because we compete with free, which isn’t easy; and second, we create prestige where you normally don’t see it. “People who don’t normally look at porn see this and they’re like, ‘Wow, that’s a great visual. It’s hot; it’s cool.’ And by the time they realize it’s a porn company, it’s too late. They already like it. They already think it’s a cool picture. So what I did is I’ve challenged the bias that they have.”  ***** ‘WHATEVER IT TAKES’ Lansky employs a diverse group of creative and tech professionals spread across Barcelona, Montreal and his two-level space in L.A. that was formerly occupied by actor Will Ferrell’s production company. A sense of quiet intensity pervades the office during my visit as about two dozen Team Lansky members are stationed behind large flat-screen monitors immersed in various stages of pre-and post-production. Each time someone else enters the kitchen, Lansky compliments them. “Matt [Forrest] is the art director and also does the fantastic graphics we have,” Lansky says. “The key is to get people that are more talented than you.” People such as Emily, he says, introducing his in-house counsel. “She looks very nice but she does all the suing for us,” Lansky reveals. “She’s a copyright blackbelt and she’s the one who helps us enforce our copyrights all across the United States—another smarter person than me in the company. “I’m telling you, it’s all about surrounding yourself with smarter people than yourself.” Often surrounded by stunning models in exotic places on his larger-than-life Instagram feed, Lansky has cultivated a polarizing public persona that keeps him squarely in the adult industry conversation. But when he’s in the office he likes giving credit to his staff that’s grinding with him behind the scenes. “It’s not about him all the time,” producer Moz assures me. “People have a lot of misconceptions about him.” Moz adds, “As far as I know, he hasn’t stepped on anybody. He hasn’t bullshitted anybody. There’s no shenanigans. From the inception of this it was, ‘Let’s do things the right way.’” Not unlike the sports and entertainment world’s most notorious personalities, porn’s resident Instagram Bad Boy isn’t afraid of the spotlight or the scrutiny that comes with winning. “I’m a whatever-it-takes kind of guy,” says Lansky, who drives a silver Aston Martin Rapide S. “I knew that in order for me to take our brands forward I needed to be at the forefront. So I don’t give a shit. People live in the belief that they’ll get noticed for free. That’s not the way it works in any business. You’ve got to give a piece of yourself, and I surely fucking did. I put myself out there. Yeah, I wear fucking Versace shirts. I get helicopters—all that shit. But they noticed. They fucking noticed. They talked about it.” Indeed, Lansky knows people are talking—and that’s the point. “There’s nothing worse in the world than essentially being ignored. Now everyone knows Greg Lansky. No one’s ignored it. Some people like it; some people don’t like it. And that’s fine. But, you’ll never get noticed for free.” *****‘MR. POSITIVE’ Lansky experienced bitter disappointment at a young age. As the eldest son of a stay-at-home mom and a father who worked in the real estate business, he enjoyed a comfortable, even privileged childhood for the first 12 years of his life. That ended when his father suffered massive losses during a slumping real estate market in France in the mid-’90s. “When I was around 12-13 years old my dad lost all his money and we were left with practically nothing—my mom and my brother,” Lansky explains. His brother, who also lives in L.A. and is working to pass the bar exam, is eight years younger. “There was a real estate crash that definitely was very heavy in France at the time and all throughout Europe and that led to my dad’s real estate company just sort of unraveling. We had to sell the apartment we were living in. “I still remember as a kid all our stuff taken away. Like the debt collector coming in and taking all your furniture away. And by law in France—it’s a funny law looking back at it—they have to leave you one chair. I don’t know why. So they just took everything and left one chair.” One day when Lansky got home from school, law enforcement officials—accompanied by France’s equivalent of the IRS—confiscated the boy Lansky’s bed, desk, his collection of pro basketball team hats, his Nintendo and even most of his clothes. “I had this feeling like this shit is not happening to me,” Lansky recalls. “We found ourselves having to sleep at friends’ houses for several years until my mom could afford an apartment again. That was not an easy time. I don’t have great memories of that time, put it this way.” Lansky says his father never fully recovered from financial ruin and the family’s money struggles led his parents to divorce. “My dad passed away last year in a very painful and sort of a semi-humiliating way, which was difficult to watch,” Lansky continues. “And this is why, when people say, ‘You’re so positive. What’s up, Mr. Positive?’ Because I’ve seen the devastation of being a depressed person and I don’t want to be part of that. “And when I look at all the people that are more successful than me—and there are many—I’m not jealous. I’m not envious. I’m not hating on them. I don’t think they’re cheating me. I don’t think they’re taking away from me. It motivates me. It motivates me to do better. And that’s truly the life I want to live.” He remains close with his mother, who along with his brother is “very supportive” of his career. “I have a fantastic relationship with her,” Lansky says. “She likes to take every article written about me and translate them using Google Translate. And sometimes it doesn’t translate right and she’s like, ‘What was that about?’”  He admits he wasn’t the most studious kid. In fact, he went against the grain as a matter of routine and got kicked out of more than one high school until eventually he stopped going altogether at 17, about two years before the graduation age in France. “I didn’t feel like I really belonged in high school. I didn’t feel like I was learning anything,” Lansky says. “I’ve always had a problem with authority. I don’t like following rules. I don’t like being told what to do. … “I feel bad for my mom. I was just a fucking delinquent little kid. I was just a rebellious kid. Of course I am assuming that what was going on in my personal life had something to do with it. The divorce, the feeling of losing it all.” When Lansky quit school he went into full hustle mode, making a few inroads in the Paris nightlife scene. “I was trying to get parties together and trying to do deals with clubs,” he says, explaining that people over 16 can get into clubs in France as long they don’t consume alcohol. “They don’t really care about any of that in France anyway,” he says. “But it was interesting because my first lesson in life … I quickly noticed that the clubs that were the hardest to get into were the ones that people wanted to get into the most.” Lansky continues, “I realized that the people that were inside felt special only because there were a lot of people outside. That was one of the first lessons I learned about exclusivity. And I feel like I’ve carried that a long time, even through my brands. People have this vision that they’re so inaccessible and I want it that way.” During his nightclub phase Lansky talked his way into the EFAP Paris School of Communication, where he enrolled in a couple of classes in TV production. Though it was a four-year course, Lansky had spent less than a year there when his instructors suggested he do an internship at a production company called Cellcast. “They said, ‘They’re looking for people kind of like you.’ And when they said, ’kind of like you’ they actually meant hustlers,” Lansky says. “And I actually learned a lot there because I can safely say I saw—from the first row—the birth of reality TV.” It turned out Cellcast did a lot of business with Endemol, a Dutch media giant that is the originator of several reality show franchises worldwide. “Endemol is the pillar of reality TV,” Lansky says. “They invented almost every single format—Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Fear Factor, Temptation Island, Big Brother.  … They own all those formats and from there they just license it around the world. And I went there and I worked a little bit in Amsterdam, going there with Cellcast, negotiating licensing rights for reality TV in France and then adapting them to the French market. “It was interesting to see because reality TV was all about who could be as outrageous as fucking possible and I liked that.” *****MAKING MOVES The guy in the porn business whom Lansky has known longest is Mike Adriano, the performer/director who won the 2018 AVN Award for Best Web Director. Adriano has created his own successful sites, TrueAnal.com and Swallowed.com. The two met when they were 12 in Paris, bonding through—what else—their love of porn. “Because I had accumulated a great collection of porn magazines and he had accumulated a great collection himself, too, of porn and VHS at the time,” Lansky says. “So we started trading immediately.” When Adriano moved to Spain with his parents, the two drifted apart but Lansky still considered him a friend. The odds of him running into Adriano on the street in Paris were slim, but that’s what happened. “It’s a really, really big city,” says Lansky, who to this day still marvels at how random their encounter seemed. The old friends decided to catch up over coffee; Lansky told Adriano he was in the TV biz, and Adriano said he wanted to get into the porn business. Lansky recalls, “And I was like, ‘I would love that. I’ve got all these connections that I’ve made through TV.’ He’s like, ‘I want to get in on that.’” Adriano was heading back to Spain the next day so he invited Lansky to visit—their goal was to shoot a porn movie. “So we kind of reconnected immediately,” Lansky says. “I met him in Spain a week or two later and my girlfriend at the time was like, ‘Oh, you’re going to go to Spain and shoot all that porn.’ She was like, ‘If you go there I’m breaking up with you.’ I was like, ‘OK bye.’ And I went to meet Mike in Spain. “And we spent the first part of the summer thinking about how we can do this and then we spent the second part doing it.” Through his connections, Lansky eventually met a man named Fabien Lafait, who shot amateur porn in France and had a network of contacts that included a French-born performer named Manuel Ferrara, who had recently won the first of his record five AVN Male Performer of the Year awards. Ferrara wasn’t able to work with Lansky, but he did help the wannabe director land another star. “Why don’t you try my friend Steve Holmes?” Ferrara told Lansky. Holmes, who made his porn debut in 1996 and has performed in more than 2,500 movies, remembers he was living in Budapest when he got the call. They wanted to book him for a 10-day stretch but couldn’t shoot him every day, so he asked them if he could bring his own camera gear and get some POV scenes done on the off days. They obliged and Holmes met Lansky and Adriano in Marbella, Spain, where Adriano used his personal connections to arrange for shoot locations. They hired Lafait to do the videography and Holmes even loaned them his wide-angle lens, offering technical pointers wherever he could to the porn novices. Lansky produced and directed, and Adriano performed along with Holmes. “I had production experience a little bit from TV but I had never shot a porn,” Lansky says. “It was so bad, so much fucking stupid shit happened. But I had the heart. I still do. I still have heart. “And this is why when I interview people working for me I always take heart above skills. I always take passion above diplomas. Always. Maybe I’m biased to it but I see a lot of people with diplomas and this and that and they never quite have the same drive.” Holmes remembers how green Lansky and Adriano were on that set. “They were relying on Fabien and me,” Holmes tells AVN. “Mike was kind of shy; he was in front of the camera and he wanted to fuck the girl. But when I told him, ‘Let’s DP her,’ he was like, ‘Oh, no, no.’ And I was like, ‘Come on, it’s easy. I’m gonna anchor. I’ll put her in a good position, you just come and stick it in.’ So we did his first DP together. “And Greg was directing, but of course he was depending on the input we gave him—Fabien and me. So actually we had a good time. We got along very well. They treated me super nice. “So when we finished the production they were very worried what to do next. So they said, ‘What do you think? Is it good?’ Fabien was shooting camera so I couldn’t tell how the footage looked but I knew the scenes were all pretty OK. “So finally when the production was over they were like, ‘What should we do next?’ I told them, ‘You edit it and then you sell it,’ that’s obvious. But they had no clue where to start.” Holmes took a liking to the hungry pair and told them they could stay at his place in Budapest and use his editor to finish the movie. “They came here, edited all the stuff, put a nice trailer together and then they had their first movie and then they said, ’What should we do next?’ I said, ‘Now you sell it.’ [They said], ‘To who, we don’t know anybody?’ “That’s when I told them, ‘It’s close to the Venus Show in Berlin. I will be there anyway. If you want, come with me, walk with me. I can introduce you to some people.’” ***** SKIN IN THE GAME When Lansky got to Berlin for the Venus Show in October 2005, he believed it was a do-or-die situation. “With the flight to Berlin and the cost of the hotel room I barely had any money to eat. It was that bad,” Lansky says. Adriano came down with food poisoning and couldn’t make it to the show on the first day, so he had to go it alone. “So I get there and I remember my mindset when I got into this convention was like I don’t care what it fucking takes, I will sell this fucking movie. I was like I’m not leaving until I sell this movie. And I did,” Lansky says. Holmes made a few introductions for Lansky during their first hour on the show floor, including one to Wolfgang Embacher of EroticPlanet. “Wolfgang always liked me for his movies,” Holmes says. “He booked me for a lot of his movies. So when I stopped in I said, ‘Hey, Wolfgang there are these friends of mine, they shot a movie in Spain. I’m in all the scenes. Let’s have a look.’” After Holmes introduced him, Lansky said, he proceeded to give Embacher “the most ambitious sales pitch of all time.” “It was a crap movie, which I oversold,” Lansky says. “… And I pretend that I have all these offers. I can’t even buy myself ramen noodles for tonight if I don’t sell this shit. And finally he’s like, ‘OK, yeah how much do you want for it?’” Lansky says he doesn’t remember the exact dollar figure, “but I can tell you that I remember the total profit for the movie was something around five-thousand dollars for four-and-a-half months of work that I have to split with Mike.” “So 2,500 for four-and-a-half, five months of work. Not great. Below minimum wage. But I really didn’t care,” he adds. “At this point I felt so alive. I didn’t care what the profit was because I felt I was exactly where I wanted to be. “You hear people say, ‘Oh I want to be a mainstream director and I want to be this.’ I don’t want to be anything else. I want to be Greg Lansky. I want to be me. I am exactly where I want to be and I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing.” The next day they returned to the show, where Holmes brought Lansky and Adriano to meet Scott Taylor, the president of New Sensations/Digital Sin. “I told Scott the same thing because New Sensations books me all the time,” Holmes says. “I told Scott, ‘There’s a movie. I’m in every scene. These are my friends. They shot it. They already sold it, but if you like it they can shoot something similar for you.’” Lansky says he had to come back several times before getting anywhere with Taylor. “He was really busy,” Lansky says. “He wasn’t trying to be difficult. I came back five times that day—five times. And he was like, ‘You never give up, do you?’ And I was like, ‘Never.’” It was nearing the close of the show when Lansky finally got to pitch Taylor on directing for him. “He’s like a very cool, chill, laid-back rock ’n’ roll dude,” Lansky says. “So he’s like, ‘Alright, listen. If you come to L.A., I’ll give you a movie to try out.’ And on that promise, I moved my entire life.” Two months later, in December 2005, Lansky and Adriano took the same flight to L.A. They were roommates at first, living at Bella Vista on De Soto Avenue in Woodland Hills. Lansky says he moved to L.A. with 350 dollars and the hope that Taylor would give him a chance. Taylor tells AVN he’s grateful to Lansky for always pointing to that moment in Berlin. “A lot of people embellish and forget facts and say whatever behooves them. … Some wrote me out of the script, but Greg has been—from everything I’ve read—pretty dead accurate,” Taylor says. “That’s a blessing. It’s really nice. I think often times he tries to credit me too much.” Taylor remembers the sample movie they showed him was underwhelming—“but the passion these two guys had.” “If somebody is coming out to L.A. from Europe, you’re damn serious about this,” Taylor continues. “It was like, ‘All right, you’ve made a movie. I know you can make a movie. If you’re that passionate about coming over and doing something, then I’ll give it a shot.’ There were no promises beyond that.” Taylor has given opportunities to numerous established directors early in their careers, such as Jonni Darkko, Nic Andrews, Nacho Vidal, Lee Roy Myers and Jacky St. James. “I’ve been a part of a lot of people’s start-up and it worked out for me really well. I benefited from the work they’ve done and I managed to hang on to a couple great guys,” he says, referring to Eddie Powell and Paul Woodcrest. Lansky and Adriano’s first movie for Taylor was the 2006 release Slut Diaries, under the Digital Sin imprint. Adriano performed in every scene; the only female cast member still in the industry today is Lisa Ann. “Greg has quite often come back to me years and years later, even up to Blacked and said, ‘I really appreciated what you did for me,’” Taylor says. “I find most of the time people just kind of forget where they came from. I have very little to do with the director he’s become. It’s nice when someone that reaches these kinds of heights is humble enough to step back and say, ’Thank you very much’ regularly.” Lansky and Adriano would go on to co-direct about a dozen movies together for New Sensations in 2006-07, including four volumes of the Fresh Outta High School series, two editions of Prying Open My Third Eye and Rich Little Bitch (which starred Sasha Grey). Less than two years after moving to L.A. together, Lansky and Adriano began going their separate ways. Lansky says even though he and Adriano realized early on they had different visions, they remain good friends. Lansky says he and Adriano joke about how they got started “all the time. … It would definitely make for a good movie, that’s for sure—and the story’s not even over yet.” *****REALITY CHECK By late 2006, Lansky observed how influential the Reality Kings network was becoming as the industry continued to migrate toward paysites. “And by digging a little bit in that world because I was very interested, I saw this monster. These guys were just the absolute domination of that market,” Lansky says. “I do my research like I always do and I come across these guys and I’m like these guys are fucking beasts.” But not much was known about the online porn behemoth. “They were in Miami and they didn’t even really want to talk to anyone. And at the time they were not shooting in L.A. at all, or they might have but they didn’t have anyone in L.A. shooting for them. And I was like, that’s my in,” says Lansky, who remembers people saying he was “an idiot” for wanting to shoot for an internet company in relative anonymity. They would say, “You’re never going to get credit for it, you’ll never win awards,” according to Lansky. “I almost was like in Star Wars—The Force was calling me. I don’t know why, I wanted to work for these guys. Not by the image they were broadcasting, because the image they were broadcasting was nothing. They didn’t want anyone to know about them. They were super discreet. But if you knew a little bit about the affiliate business and the volume, they were owning the internet. It was insane.” He finally got a hold of one of the principals through a girl he knew. “And all my life it’s been about nailing a couple of big meetings. That’s what I tell people. I say, ‘Do your fucking homework.’ We live in a time where people are so fucking entitled. They think they’re owed something. You’re owed to prepare. That’s what you’re owed. You’re owed nothing. Come prepared,” Lansky says. “A lot of times I’m not smarter or better, I’m just more prepared.” Lansky says he met with Mike, one of the principals of Reality Kings, at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in January 2007. “And that was that moment where something tells me this is the right thing to do. Because everyone was doing the same thing in Porn Valley,” Lansky says. “Everyone was like, go get a budget as high as possible. Then shoot five scenes—because it was five at the time, not four—as low as possible and then pocket the difference. Easy. Then rinse and repeat. For as many times as you can with as many companies as you can. “I was like, I don’t want to do that. It sounds boring. I quickly get bored.” Lansky rocked his Reality Kings meeting at the Venetian “because I was prepared.” “I was like, ‘Hey, man, this is the problem you have and I’m the solution,’” he says. “I was like, ‘You’ve got that many sites. The sites look like that. I can do better than this. I can do it faster. And I can do it in L.A. And I’ll give you no fucking headache and I’ll deliver the movies.’ He was like, ‘OK, when can you start?’ We shook hands. And by next week I was shooting for them.” Lansky put everything into his first few Reality Kings scenes because he knew he was being tested. “Again all my life I’ve always looked at those key moments, where, when you’re given an opportunity, don’t fuck it up. Don’t try and make money on those first few scenes. To impress them I made no money on the first three or four scenes. They looked so fucking good that I almost lost money on them,” Lansky says. “I think I did lose money, actually. But they looked at them and said, ‘Whoa, this guy fucking rocks.’ And I made sure every fucking detail was on point. I didn’t just fill up an order, I made it special. So when they saw that they were like, ‘OK, there’s something about this guy.’ “So they give me more work and by mid-2007 I was directing for most of their stuff. By 2008 I had my own production company and I was handling 80 percent of their stuff. By 2009, 90 percent.” RK taught him to think bigger.  “Their vision was like every site needs to be a home run,” Lansky continues. “Every site needs to be a brand. Every site needs to be changing the game.” ***** STEPPING UP Lansky remembers the moment in 2013 like it was yesterday. “I was driving on Hollywood Boulevard and I look at my wife, Jenn, and I was like, ‘I really want to do my own thing.’ And she’s like, ‘Yeah, I think it’s time for you to do it,’” he says. “And we’re at the light. And I was just like, ‘It’s the worst time possible. No one wants to lend money and there’s so much piracy. I talked to so many investors. No one wants to invest money.’ And then she grabbed my hand and she’s like, ‘Everything you touch turns into gold. Just do it.’ And that’s a true story. That’s exactly how it happened. I can visualize it.” It turns out Lansky had already bought the domain for Blacked and had shot a few scenes. He also happened to meet Steve Matthysen and Mike Miller through a mutual friend when they asked Lansky if he could do a promo photo shoot for PornTube. Lansky says at first he told them he was too swamped, but they kept talking. “And these guys were really persistent,” he continues. “I was like, ‘OK, fine, I’ll do it. I’m telling you it’s going to cost you a lot of money because I’m very expensive.’ I said something along those lines and they’re like, ‘Fine, fine. We really want you to take photos of Riley Reid and Dani Daniels.’” Lansky went all out for the assignment—he even made personalized PornTube gear for it without anyone asking. “It was a really cool little photo shoot I did for them,” Lansky says. “I didn’t think of them as partners. I thought of them as maybe down the road we could work together so again I wanted to nail it. So I prepared. “I went above and beyond and they were impressed. They were like, ‘What the fuck, this is the best shit that someone’s ever done for us. What are you doing now?’ “I remember this conversation vividly. … I’m like, well, ‘As a matter of fact I’m launching my own paysite. And they were like, ‘Can you share [what it is] with us?’ And I’m like, ‘Well that’s a little confidential.’ So I shared stuff and the conversation goes on. And they’re like, ‘We want to partner with you.’ Smart move on their part. I gotta give it to them.” The trio inked their deal during the Phoenix Forum in March 2014—and two months later, Blacked was born. ***** WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND Lansky’s ascent has given him perspective. When he was still a rookie shooter trying to make a name for himself at the 2007 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, Lansky walked the show floor trying to find directing gigs. “Everybody turned me down, and you know what the funny part is? I’m not going to say the name of this person but I went to this booth. And this is a funny story of how life goes through a cycle and I feel that—and I don’t mean to get too philosophical. Life is really a matter of what you put your mind to,” Lansky explains. “And I feel like sometimes humiliation can be something that puts you down or you can transform it into a driving force.” Armed once again with his directing reel on a laptop, Lansky was told to “come back later” more times than he could count as he tried to sell himself at the big studio booths. “Some people were very nice about it and some people didn’t give me a meeting. But one guy makes me wait for about two hours. I’m not kidding,” Lansky says. When he finally got 10 minutes with this studio exec, he says he received an assurance that he would get a movie. “I was so happy. And the guy shakes my hand, he looks me in the eyes and he says, ‘We’ve got a deal. When you come back to L.A. call me back one week after AVN.’” Lansky called the guy a week later but his secretary told him he wasn’t available. “And this goes on for a week,” Lansky says. “This is a funny lesson. And I’m just trying to get an answer out of this guy. A week later I call again for the sixth time. Again, the guy doesn’t even pick up the phone for me. The secretary is like, ‘Oh yeah, there’s no point in calling again. He’s not interested in doing a movie. So yeah, just don’t call again.’ And I’m just like, I was devastated by this. “The fact that he had his secretary tell me that he was going to break his word made it sort of even more painful. “Ten years later, this guy’s asking for a job—the same guy.” Lansky says the exec who gave him the runaround a decade ago texted him, pitching himself for a position. “It’s funny how in the moment you have all this resentment, you feel humiliated. But then when you’re put in a position of power yourself you look at it and you’re like, ‘Would I do that, too?’ I didn’t. I just never replied to his text. And I consider sometimes that no reply is a reply,” Lansky says. Now after being only the second person in porn history to win the AVN Director of the Year award three consecutive times (2016-18), he says he has switched his focus. “I’m not trying to be Director of the Year a fourth, fifth and sixth. I won it three times in a row. It’s fantastic, I’m very grateful for that. But my focus now is on mentoring other directors and expanding my company, which is a lot harder than doing it myself,” Lansky says. “I don’t physically do a lot of it anymore myself. If you look at a lot of the work it says ‘By Greg Lansky.’ The reason why we said that is because it’s by me and my name is kind of a staple in this industry. So yeah, the branding is me, the cast is me, a lot of the art direction is me.” As we move to his minimalist office, furnished with a sleek black leather couch and chairs, we run into the AVN Award-winning performer turned director Kayden Kross, who is enjoying a breakout season behind the camera. “She’s directing a masterpiece right now. It’s going to be pretty fucking big,” Lansky says. He’s referring to a yet-to-be-titled star showcase for Tushy featuring Abigail Mac, whom Lansky considers “the most underrated” woman in porn. “We have one really big role that’s non-sex,” Kross tells me. “So we had casting for it and it’s an actual [mainstream] actor and he’s great. It’s going to really push us into a more believable space.” Lansky adds, “I love her attention to detail. She’s so hard on herself. … She’s such a perfectionist. Working with artists like her makes all the difference.” Kross has become a regular shooting for Blacked, Vixen and a couple scenes for Tushy. She tells me she likes her Blacked stuff the best. Recently, she shot a Blacked scene with Bree Daniels and contract stud Jason Luv, but the Abigail Mac project is on her mind. “I’ve never done anything this size,” Kross continues.    ***** NEGATIVITY BLOCKED  Lansky prides himself on being able to control his thoughts. “I see a lot of people complain. ‘Why am I not this? Why am I not that?’ My favorite book in the world is As a Man Thinketh,” he says. The self-help book by James Allen about the power of positive thinking was published in 1903. “I read that book almost every day for the past eight years. If I give a gift, it’s that book. It says, ‘In a universe of power, individual responsibility must be absolute.’ That says it all.” Lansky points to his daily routine of meditating as “the single biggest outside factor” to his success. “I meditate about 50 minutes a day for the past five-and-a-half, six years. I never miss meditation,” he says. “It’s been incredible.” “I’m still a pretty intense guy and I react to things and I’m passionate. It’s not making me more calm, but it’s expanding this muscle,” he adds, pointing to his head.  Without question, one way Lansky stays mentally strong is his commitment to blocking out negativity. “I honestly think my ability to focus my energy on the positive and not let all the people dictate their negative energy on me has given me the ability to do what I do and what I continue to do,” he says. “When you’re nobody, you’re not a threat. When you’re not a success, then it doesn’t matter. But when you become successful then you remind people of their own failures sometimes. “I get so many emails and messages and DMs from people in the industry—sometimes people that are just doing Clips4Sale—saying, ‘You motivate me so much. Thank you for saying what you’re saying.’ Whether they’re performers, or producer-performers, they love my message. They love my motivation. I like that. I like to elevate people around me.” He continues, “If you look at my life I’m not really controversial. I’m not out there being like, I hate this or I hate these people. But my success alone is what’s controversial. … I knew that this was the price of admission and I’m willing to pay it. And I will defend and I will continue to do whatever I think is best for our company. “You choose the people you surround yourself with, and one of my strong suits is my ability to do two things: get better at ignoring the people that don’t get my message and get better at connecting the people that do get my message.” ***** GOING GLOBAL Lansky wants his brands to penetrate overseas markets, starting with his home continent, Europe, where Vixen is already making significant strides. Before he initiated the current European expansion he flew his production team from abroad to L.A., where he delivered a two-week “master’s class” on the standard he was looking for and what his expectations would be. “I want us to shoot everywhere. I don’t care if it’s New York or if it’s Ibiza or Greece; or if it’s in the Bahamas, Tahiti, Italy, Spain, Croatia, England—the whole world—wherever of course it’s permissible and acceptable and it doesn’t offend the local communities,” he says. “I want to kind of create the Vice of Porn. It’s really my deeper vision of it long-term. I want to bring us as many new talented directors and photographers as possible and all express their vision within the high-end stuff. If you look at Kayden’s stuff, Kayden has such a different style than me. And I love that. I don’t want people to do like I did. “Everybody has copied our website; everybody has copied our style of shooting. Everyone’s copied our style of social media with giving the girls an avatar and a background. We were the first ones to do that. “But we’re innovators and sometimes we miss, but sometimes we strike. It’s because we shoot that we get to strike a lot. It’s because we take risks. We’re a risk-taker and we’re a game-changer. And I think that attracts talented people.” He says his team made a conscious effort to maximize Instagram, where at press time between his four brands—and his own personal feed—they had accumulated almost 3 million followers on the platform. “I thought about it two years ago and I told my team we’re in the image business,” Lansky says. “We’re good at making cool images. With Instagram, the rules of engagement are simple. Whoever makes the coolest images gets to the top. Let’s get to the top. Let’s make cool images. “It’s a simple strategy but we’ve worked really hard on social media and having a very strong social media presence. And our audience and our engagement is next level. We get more engagement than even some of the oldest brands that have been around—because we care. Because we want to do remarkable visuals.” Jared Rutter, the former chairman of the X-Rated Critics Organization, who has worked in the adult industry since the early ’70s and still is a senior contributor to AVN magazine, considers Lansky’s movies “the gentrification of porn.” “Maybe not all of it but certainly two of its once most transgressive genres—anal and interracial,” Rutter says. “Back in the day—40 or 50 years ago—interracial and anal movies were rare. Later, they proliferated but never really lost their ‘down and dirty’ brand. Lansky came along and aestheticized anal sex (Anal Beauty), turning it into an art form (The Art of Anal). “He simplifies everything with his trademark white-on-white sets. He disarms critics with his voiceover intros that pay at least lip service to political correctness.” Rutter continues, “Just as gentrified neighborhoods can retain some of their funkiness, Lansky has never forgotten what he learned from shooting for Reality Kings. Heat matters. Beauty is a must—men as well as women—but so are passion and expertise.” Lansky says that his mantra that “adult performers are artists” is part of a larger picture of how he sees things. “A lot of times I like to make the parallel between the adult industry and art because it’s something that wasn’t done before—something that elevates,” he explains. “Any initiatives I do it’s good for our brands, but I also like to think it’s good for the adult industry.” Images courtesy of Vixen Media Group

 
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