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April 16, 2019

All Grown Up: Adult Time Moves Beyond Porn

Above, Bree Mills (center) in the Adult Time booth at the AVN Show. From left, Serena Blair, Kenna James, Shyla Jennings, Kristen Scott, Mills, Cherie DeVille, Whitney Wright and April O’Neil. Photo by Jeff Koga. LOS ANGELES—Timing is everything. And with the rollout of AdultTime.com, Gamma Entertainment and Bree Mills are gambling that the moment has come for a new kind of adult entertainment, delivered on a new platform. The site officially launched in January, but today marks the debut of its “second iteration”—and anyone who's curious about this “specialty streaming platform” can sample it with a free seven-day trial. It’s a bold claim to say that Adult Time aims to be “the Netflix of porn" (as a Daily Beast article put it), but it's a goal that Mills seems to have been working toward since 2015, when she launched Girlsway.com, a site that offers stylish lesbian erotica served up in episodic storylines that cater to members’ fantasies. Since then, as head of production for Gamma Films, she’s gone on to produce hundreds of episodes for Girlsway and sister site PureTaboo.com. And all of those series and featurettes—along with thousands of other titles from other adult brands that Gamma has acquired or partnered with—will now be available to subscribers of Adult Time through an interface that offers the same sophisticated customization that one finds on mainstream platforms like Netflix and Hulu. In a long, enlightening interview, Mills talked about the creative goals she has for Adult Time, and the reasons that the time has come to move beyond porn into something that is smarter than the ocean of free smut on the internet and sexier than mainstream entertainment. First off, Mills is clear about what Adult Time isn’t. It is not focused on what she calls the “DVD-first distribution mindset” of older studios. Nor is her focus on the traditional goals of online companies: leveraging e-commerce and traffic generation strategies. “When you look at a lot of that content—not to say it’s not compelling or interesting, but you can see where the focus is. And the focus is on the ads, not on the content itself. The content itself is quite secondary to their traffic generation ambitions.” Instead, the Adult Time team wants to move beyond porn. “You’ll start to notice increasingly that we’re going to start leaving that term completely behind. Because we don’t want to create porn. Porn as it’s become today is not what adult content and adult cinema and pornography used to be back in the day. It’s really become its own disposable commodity. It’s becoming harder and harder to monetize. If you’re below the age of 30 … porn equals what you can get on the internet to jack off for free. That’s what it has become.” But in addition to being crystal clear about the aspects of adult entertainment that she wants to avoid, Mills also believes that compelling, creative erotica is ideally suited to current trends in the mainstream, where digital consumption is becoming the primary way entertainment is consumed. This shift to streaming services has created “a new playing ground for content producers,” she explains. “If you look at the stuff that’s being made on Netflix now, it would never be able to be made on cable television. ... Some of the most ultraviolent, transgressive, hypersexual programming in the world right now is on these digital streaming platforms. And that’s because that’s what people want to see. So Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime and all those digital streaming sites are able to push the envelope—but they’re only going to be able to go so far.” And with Adult Time, Mills hopes to go much farther. “What if we could give you something that was almost if not as entertaining as that show you’re watching on Netflix, except we can actually include sex. Which we can. That’s one loophole that we have. It’s a way to create a different kind of programming. It’s not creating the porn that you see out on tube sites for free. It’s really creating ... a specialty streaming platform for people who want adult television: uncensored programming the quality of any other programming you would watch, but with sex included.” Above, Alison Rey, Whitney Wright, Judy Jolie and Ivy Wolfe in "Nerds Rule!" from Girlsway.com Channel Surfing So how does Adult Time work from the consumer point of view? One can either enter through the front door—the AdultTime.com page—or get in through one of the channels, or series, such as Girlsway.com or PureTaboo.com. “Think of it as if you googled Stranger Things and you get to a Stranger Things splash page. It’ll lead you into Netflix, where you can watch that show,” Mills says. Once there, the Adult Time team will be monitoring what people coming from different entry points are choosing to watch—which scenes and series are yielding the highest watch time, and what the site can deliver to make better programming for each viewer. “It’s all based on what you as an individual are watching. ... What can I learn from all that to make you never want to cancel? ... Let’s learn what you are watching and cater the programming around that,” she explains. “On April 16 we’ll be launching the second iteration of AdultTime.com. You’ll notice there’s no porn on that site whatsoever. It’s a specialty streaming platform for adult series. And we are going to be marketing that and positioning that and growing that as a consumer-facing mainstream brand. You can join Adult Time—and we’ve actually already far outpaced our subscriber goals, because of some of the mainstream press we got. We’re getting more signups per day because places like the Daily Beast wrote a big article about us ... and the people who are coming in are people who have never bought porn before.” Surfers can join any of the sub-sites and get access to everything in the catalog. “All places lead to the same hub, and you can navigate in a similar way to how you navigate Netflix, where you have your own personal home page that builds recommendations based on your viewing habits. You can have favorite channels that pop up that you can always have access to. You have access to all our community forums and ways to communicate with actors and community members and there’s always a big focus on watching what’s coming—upcoming content that you can preview and talk about. … And then we’ll be ramping up Adult Time’s marketing efforts within the adult side of the business on April 16.” Whitney Wright and Tommy Pistol in “The Aura Doll,” part of Pure Taboo's Future Darkly series. Carving Out New Spaces Aside from the powerhouse content from Girlsway and Pure Taboo—more on that below—there are a number of series produced specifically with the Adult Time platform in mind. The first was Girls Under Arrest, which had as its goal to “take the reality porn genre and make something that’s much more like the reality television genre,” Mills says. “So we shot it just like Cops—we used 60 frames per second, we used body cams, we used no cuts. We completely adapted that way of production ... there’s just sex in it.” Next came Girlcore, a lesbian series that gave a nod to ’80s retro chic. And then Gamma acquired the Vivid Entertainment library, while also vowing to create new content in line with the brand. This spring Adult Time will reboot the Vivid series Where the Boys Aren’t. Plus, Mills expects members to enjoy Vivid’s archive on Adult Time: “It gives us an interesting opportunity to re-market the classics. Believe it or not, people are really excited. ... They probably remember the first movie they ever watched.” Another bright spot on the Adult Time platform is Future Darkly, “probably one of the best things we ever did in terms of its watch time and popularity,” Mills notes. “And that’s because it’s sci-fi, but it’s not sci-fi like a shitty parody knockoff—it’s trying to actually be like The Twilight Zone, like Black Mirror. ... Why wouldn’t [people] want to watch a sex version of those series? It’s kind of highbrow stuff that normally wouldn’t make it into a sci-fi porn episode ... but I’m not trying to make porn. I’m trying to make series that include sex.” When making decisions about programming, Adult Time takes popular genres and offers content that “you can’t just find a million variations of for free.” Mills says including more genres also helps “carve out new spaces” by attracting new fan bases. Adult Time offers content with transsexual performers in the series Transfixed, with older performers in Age of Beauty and with BBW performers in the series Shape of Beauty. A scene from Transfixed; read more about the series here. Mills first worked with BBW performers in the AVN Award-winning featurette “The Weight of Infidelity,” written by Angela White and costarring BBW performer Karla Lane (read more here). Mills was moved by the response from the plus-size community—both performers and fans—who reacted positively to seeing a plus-size model in a mainstream adult acting role. “The fact that we were tackling a story about feeder culture and about body shaming was also so radically different that we became the heroes of the plus-size community,” Mills says. With Shape of Beauty she further showcased the performer community, pairing BBWs with mainstream male performers. “We celebrate this type of woman, her sexuality, her body, and do it with love and inclusivity. It’s some of my favorite stuff to shoot. I directed three or four episodes from the first season. ... We had a scene with Karla Lane, Mazzaratie Monica and Cayenne Amor, and we paired them up with Derrick Pierce. It was one of the funnest scenes I’ve ever shot.” She injects an aside about Pierce, praising him as a gentleman and a versatile performer. “I can put Derrick in anything, and he’s going to treat everyone with respect.” Derrick Pierce and Elena Koshka in “The Allowance” (Pure Taboo). Dark, With Shades of Gray Anyone who doubts that it’s possible to meld indie arthouse sensibilities with erotic heat will find proof of concept in dozens of featurettes created by Bree Mills and frequent co-director Craven Moorehead for Pure Taboo, a key component of Adult Time’s original programming. For those who are unfamiliar with these critically acclaimed dramas, they usually involve harrowing situations in which characters are taken advantage of, tricked and abused in any number of ways. Mills offered up some insight into where these stories come from, and how she differentiates her stories from standard porn vignettes. The discussion about the inherent darkness in Pure Taboo stories begins with a featurette titled “The Allowance” in which Elena Koshka plays a young woman who’s gradually cajoled into sex work by her layabout boyfriend. When asked about how she came up with the story, Mills revealed that it was inspired by how her wife, former adult star Sara Luvv, got into the adult industry. “We are pulling back the curtain on a lot of stuff that happens within the sex industry and within sexual desire and even within porn consumption, and we’re not sugar coating it,” Mills says. “It’s easy to look at a Pure Taboo episode and say, ‘Oh, that’s exploitative. You’re talking about this subject and you shouldn’t talk about it because that’s exploitative.’ … If I put the same character and I stick her with a lollipop and a teddy bear and hop-skipping down the street with bubblegum music, that makes it better? To me that’s far more damaging to educate people about what a young woman is like or what sex with an 18-year-old is like than actually telling a real story.” In her storytelling, what is important to Mills is showing shades of gray, not just darkness. “I remember being haunted by that story when I heard it. ... In ‘The Allowance’ you see that nobody is really bad—it shows people as the flawed human beings they are. … “A good amount of it is me getting out of my head things that plague me or weigh on my conscience about the types of themes and stories in adult that are often the most popular. We all know family roleplay is still amongst the most popular [porn genres], and certainly a big part of Pure Taboo’s success has come from the stories we tell within that genre.” But she believes presenting the “real emotional complexities and dynamics” is more honest that presenting fauxcest as “bubbly and innocent and slapstick comedy.” She says, “I wanted to do a critique and I wanted to make people think. And I wanted to also provide a vehicle for serious acting in this industry. If you look at every single thing that’s been put out by Pure Taboo, it’s all improv acting. Everything. There’s never been a script on Pure Taboo. And that’s a testament to the quality of the performances. And part of how they’re able to get those performances is that a lot of people have come with a lot of their own experiences that they can draw from, and because they don’t spend the day trying to remember lines that I wrote, they spend the day becoming these people and working with me or with whichever director to bring those characters to life by in part infusing their own experience and their own real-life stuff into these people.” And she tries to humanize all the characters. In “Breaking Curfew,” based on a real-life kidnapping in Canada, the kidnapper is “just as fucked up and emotional” as his victims. “When you’re looking at a Pure Taboo episode, you have to step in everyone’s shoes, which is part of what makes you feel unnerved at the very end of it, because you’ve had to spend at least a few minutes inside the minds of the characters.” Above, Sadie Pop and Adriana Chechik in “Breaking Curfew” (Pure Taboo). Joint Adventures For both Pure Taboo and Girlsway, Mills also delves into the minds of adult performers by collaborating on storylines. She recalls working with a big-name performer who wanted to tell a story that was inspired by a very difficult experience. “For her it was using the medium of the episode as a creative outlet to deal with that trauma, to move past that trauma. ... She just sat there and gripped my arm the entire session.” Rather than just doing these stories for shock value, she wants to get at something deeper. “It’s intended to be a real harsh critique of porn and making people think about what they desire, and for actors to be taken seriously as actors. ... It’s become kind of a place of empowerment for performers, which I think is very interesting.” Performer collaborations also are a smart business move—proof that Mills understands the growing power of adult stars. “The reality is, performers—their own brands and their own businesses—are now for the most part outpacing the studio system. The shift that companies need to realize is that the performers don’t really need us anymore. So they don’t have to take all the shitty jobs just to pay the rent. ... Now companies are hiring talent to direct. The reason why we created Adult Time in the first place, or at least why I brought the seed of the idea to Gamma’s owners in the first place, was that as a content creator, I wanted to have a place where you could release things and it didn’t have to follow the rules. And that was not just for myself but it was also to open the door to other creative people. Maybe there’s going to be a performer out there who is already producing better self-produced content than half the professionals, has good ideas, is creative, and why wouldn’t I finance an Adult Time series from that person?”

 
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