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February 15, 2016

Titanic Anniversary: After 20 Years, Titan Media Still Sails

This article originally ran in the February 2016 issue of AVN magazine. Click here to see the digital edition. When Keith Webb joined a fledgling studio by the name of Titan Media in 1997—just two years after its birth—he worked in founder Bruce Cam’s garage in the Castro. “Back in those days, if someone hit the wrong button my office wall would open as it was literally the garage door,” he recalls with a laugh. “We had to be a jack-of-all-trades in those days. I did the website, made some of the box covers, produced films, starred in some films … whatever needed to be done, you did it.” The first official release was River Patrol in the fall of 1995. Webb notes that Cam had been freelancing at Falcon and All Worlds and thought he could do a better job at making more masculine movies. Cam spent almost a year filming and producing River Patrol, doing it almost entirely on his own—efforts that paid off when it won “Gay Movie of the Year” in 1995 from the Adam Gay Video Awards. “TitanMen started in response to trying to show gay men’s sexuality as being strong and proud. We were just coming out the backside of the HIV/AIDS crisis, and as a community we needed to show strong and confident sexuality, and we felt we needed to eroticize and show safer sex practices and the use of condoms,” says Webb, now vice president. “Bruce and I had both lost partners and friends to HIV, and we felt it was our duty to portray positive and affirming visions of gay sexuality for the community at large. We needed to show gay men that you could still have hot, passionate and safe sex without fear.” Now in its 20th year, the studio has racked up more awards than it can count. And thankfully for Webb and the rest of the Titan staff, it occupies more spacious and luxurious digs than it did during Cam’s resourceful beginnings. It’s a testament to the man and his mission that through it all—including years that saw the gay adult industry prosper and pinch pennies—Titan has maintained its identity, a challenge considering the technology advances that have redefined consumers’ tastes and methods of consumption. “I think the biggest key to our longevity has been that we treated our company as a business. We didn’t get too caught up in the drama or ego of the business; we just kept our heads down and made content we were proud of. We also never had the delusion that we were ‘filmmakers’; we knew that what we made was porn, but that we could still make the best damn porn out there,” Webb says. “As we like to say, ‘We make porn with a plot, not movies with sex.’ Which is why you don’t see a whole lot of dialogue in our films. We would rather show the audience than tell the audience. It’s the look in the eyes, a nod of the head, or a touch of the face. … It’s not about trying to get a hot guy to deliver dialogue.” Through the years, the studio has produced a stream of classics, including Gorge, Breakers, Carny, Cirque Noir, Breathless, Folsom Prison, Men’s Room: Bakersfield Station and Cop Shack on 101. It also created one of the most iconic and enduring gay porn series with its multi-award-winning Fallen Angel films. “In the early days, leather/fetish was a niche market and not something the industry took too seriously. As gay men, we knew that leather/fetish was deeply ingrained in the sexual DNA of the gay community, and felt it was not getting the respect it deserved,” says Webb. “We created a visual landscape and fantasy in Fallen Angel that had never been seen before by a mass market audience. When the first Fallen Angel hit the market, vendors were afraid to carry it. As such, they drove a market hungry for this type of content directly to our in-house sales and store.” All of a sudden, up to 70 percent of its sales were direct to consumers at full retail price, something that had previously been unheard of for a gay studio. “And when we became the first gay studio to enter the DVD market, and re-master our old titles onto DVD, we quickly become one of the best-selling and most profitable gay studios in the industry.” Webb notes that as the industry evolved with the rise of the internet and the decline of DVDs, they had to adapt and find a way to continue with the lofty goals they started with—but in a way that would serve the new needs of their consumers and community. The biggest change over the past several years, he says, has been the rise of the mega-corporations. “We’ve seen a lot of consolidation of gay brands into much larger straight companies, and the decline of smaller independent gay studios. These days, you are either part of a larger corporation or a smaller, one- to two-person niche operation. Everything in the middle has been squeezed out.” Webb says that as they move forward into their 20th year, they’ve been able to navigate their path successfully and will emerge a stronger and more focused brand and company in 2016. By joining forces with partners such as Gamelink and TLAgay, Webb says that TitanMen has been able to outsource tasks better suited for its partner’s strengths so that it can focus on making great content. “As an industry, we got caught up in the treadmill of having to churn our multiple new scenes a week to feed the beast of what we thought the online consumer wanted. We all got caught up in churning out scenes instead of movies. And those scenes had little context, little storyline and used the same performers across multiple brands. It just became repetitive and boring content that you could find for free on just about any tube site,” says Webb. “What’s missing, and what consumers seem to be responding to, is content that speaks to consumers’ heads as much as it speaks to their crotch.” And that’s exactly what he says the industry will see from the studio in 2016. “We are making thoughtful, sexy, compelling, storyline-driven content that makes you want to know and see more. Engaging narrative-driven content, beautifully shot, with interesting and timely storylines and some of the most handsome exclusive performers in the world. We want you to actually watch our movies, we want to give you some mental foreplay.” In addition to its parade of hit films, the studio has also housed a stream of iconic exclusive stars like Dred Scott, Dean Flynn, Hunter Marx and Jesse Jackman. And it’s one of the few studios left where the term “exclusive” actually seems to mean something. “Exclusive performers have always been an important part of our brand identity. Being a TitanMan is as much about what’s on the inside as about what’s on the outside…it’s about being confident, intelligent and secure in your sexuality,” says Webb, “The phenomenon of ‘gay for pay’ has always baffled us, and not something we have ever bought into. Our brand is about the passion and chemistry between gay men enjoying their sexuality. And on a personal level I find it a little demeaning that we have to glorify straight men getting paid to act gay sex. Newsflash: If you are kissing another man, licking his asshole and getting fucked in the ass … you’re not straight.” Late 2015 saw the return of David Anthony, “one of our most beloved and lusted after TitanMen of all time. He’s mature, handsome, confident, amazing body and a huge dick … what’s not to love!?” Webb notes that fans can expect to see more of him in 2016 in both TitanMen and Joe Gage films. The studio is in talks to extend its relationship with the iconic director, who also releases projects with Dragon Media (named after yet another iconic TitanMan, Ray Dragon). “We have another Joe Gage project currently in discussion and planning stages. We loaned out TitanMen exclusive Dallas Steele to Joe Gage for filming in November 2015. We are working on a charterer and storyline that can cross between our two companies, with both films being directed by Joe,” says Webb. “We are trying to think outside the box and come up with new and creative ways to cross-market the Joe Gage brand across company lines. TitanMen has the largest library of Joe Gage directed films in the industry, and we will continue to advance the Gage sub-genre within our core brand identity.” Webb notes that 2015 was a year of restructuring and realignment within the company, and 2016 will be the year that the hard work comes to fruition. They have made significant investment in the content, technology and marketing for the TitanMen brand. Webb says that last year saw the addition of much more narrative-driven films, the addition of five new exclusive performers and the implementation of exciting new cameras and production technology. The company has also invested in new hardware and software to digitally remaster its existing library of standard definition content into 1080p high definition (and the 16x9 widescreen format). “Our goal is to be the first ‘old school’ gay studio to digitally remaster their entire library of films. We have some of the most iconic and awarded gay films in our vaults, and there is an entire new audience that hasn’t seen it. By remastering into widescreen and HD, we are able to give new life and vitality to classic titles,” says Webb. “Given the choice of newly produced mediocre content or high-quality remastered content, the gay consumer is more willing to pay for the higher-quality content.” 2016 will also feature a newly expanded production and release schedule, including narrative and plot-driven films carefully crafted to tie in with socially relevant and timely cultural events that will hook consumers—and give affiliates thematic content. February features a political themed film set to drop with the Republican Iowa caucus; March offers a baseball coming-out story tied to spring training; while April brings a tax-themed film about the lengths people will go to avoid paying them. “We had always envisioned TitanMen at the high end of the market, and that’s exactly where we ended up,” says Webb. “We wanted to make high-end, high-quality films that portrayed masculine and confident gay men having amazing sex without shame or fear. And I think we accomplished that goal over the years.”

 
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