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August 17, 2016

On the Set: 'Kayden Kross' Winner's Circle'

Shawn Alff reports on Riley Reid's shoot for the Airerose movie Kayden Kross' Winners' Circle. Click here to see more photos of Reid and the other cast members: Kendra Lust, Dani Daniels and Abella Danger. “What do you see?” Kayden Kross asks, motioning to an abstract painting that dominates one of her studio walls. The clouds of gray and green allow the eyes to unfocus and the mind to drift toward meaning. “I bought this because it reminds me of Huckleberry Finn,” Kayden says, pointing to a gray smudge at the center of the frame, which she interprets as Finn floating down the Mississippi. Suddenly I see a bloated river pouring through a forest. In a blotch of color that might be an accidental brush stroke, I see a boy on a raft. Narrative assembles from suggestion. Kayden Kross and Manuel Ferrara’s studio is itself like an abstract representation of a house. Artistic renderings of wild animals populate the room. A porcelain deer head stares out of the wall. A wooden rhino stands atop three stacked traveling trunks. Metal antlers pin down the coffee table. Leather padding softens the bones of wooden chairs. Table legs stand on cowhide rugs to protect the hardwood floor. A long, white sofa fences off the main space. This is the canvas against which Kayden and Manuel shoot many of their gonzo sex scenes—including today’s shoot with Riley Reid for Kayden Kross’ Winner’s Circle. It’s the type of couch that is referred to by its designer’s name, something like “the Theodore Alexander” or “the Christopher Guy.” When you stare into the fabric, the watermarks of old stains emerge, the layered imprints of hundreds of sex scenes. “The salesman swore it would be easy to clean,” Kayden says, sweeping a hand through her perfect blonde hair as though she could set it any straighter. “He said we could just unzip the covers and run them through the wash.” Riley Reid arrives at the door carrying a set bag that looks bigger than she is. Her petite frame is disguised in comfort: loose black shirt, gray sweats, and boots. Only her makeup reveals her purpose here. While Riley strips naked, Kayden digs through Riley’s bag and assembles an outfit for the scene. The floral dress and elegant heels she picks make Riley look fit to stand in the winner’s circle at the Kentucky Derby sipping a mint julep. By contrast Riley’s scene partner, Manuel, wears gym shorts and an orange T-shirt featuring a Wookie. In his French accent, Manuel’s argues for Riley to wear something skimpier, but Kayden overrides him. “If my pimp says so,” Manuel says, chuckling, “I guess I have to listen to her.” “That’s why it’s called Kayden Kross’ Winner’s Circle,” Kayden says with a smirk. Manuel might not have a talent for piecing together his costars’ outfits, but he is a master at undoing them. The scenes Manuel and Kayden regularly shoot in this tastefully stark studio are stripped down. There are no makeup artists, sound guys, or lighting crews. The main light source is the sun pouring through the linens draped over the wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. In contrast to feature pornos or vignettes, in gonzo scenes the sex lacks an overarching narrative. Gone are characters, backstories, motivations—all the baggage that hampers sex in real life. Free from the constraints of a storyline, desire dictates the action. This is why I am here, to assemble meaning from the collision of bodies, to tell the story behind this raw sex scene. Manuel not only performs in these scenes, he also handles the camera during the action. With thousands of hours of fucking on film under his belt, he can work the camera on instinct, allowing his brain to shut off and his desires to take control. As such, the sex scene can more easily flow into new, creative channels. In contrast to Manuel, Kayden organizes the constellation of details orbiting the sex scene: she picks performers, arranges shoots, and sets the stage. She seems to prefer to stay behind-the-scenes, hiding her six-figure body in a loose pink top and black yoga pants. Considering how particular she is of the minute details of a porn set, I can only imagine how meticulous she must be when it comes to prepping herself for a scene. Kayden adjusts the pink top hanging off her shoulder as she leans down to study the camera angle. “That frame looks crooked,” Kayden says, scrutinizing the painting behind the couch. The canvas features ethereal figures with watercolor smears of red running outside the lines of their profiles. In contrast to the perfectly ordered space, Kayden seems drawn to freeform paintings that present their own sense of order. Of course these impressionistic paintings must all be framed and hung straight. She pulls out a yellow carpenter’s level that is small enough to fit in her purse and adjusts the painting. Kayden hates that they have to share the studio space with other crews. “Whenever someone else shoots in here everything is slightly off.” The more Kayden organizes the space, the more the micro imperfections become magnified. Even the paintings that decorate the studio, these frozen moments of crafted intention, give way to entropy. They collect dust, mold, fade, chip. The artist’s vision begins to disintegrate the moment it is committed to canvas. The same happens to porno. The vividness of each scene is degraded by conversion; something is lost each time the scene is recorded, compressed, duplicated, disseminated, or written about. In some ways, Manuel is an agent of chaos. His brawny build and perpetual scruff echo this sentiment. He is here to shred Riley, smear her makeup, shake books off shelves, and reduce the complexities of a relationship to the most primal of human interactions. And yet, much like the abstract paintings that populate the studio, Kayden seems drawn to his unbridled nature, at least as it plays out in the frame of a gonzo sex scene. Manuel and Kayden set up the camera and compose the shot for the interview with Riley that will precede the scene. The studio is segmented by large, ornamental books that are stacked like pyramids, books with titles like American Bachelor, Humans of New York, and The Great American Pinup. Given the precision of their alignment, I almost expect these mounds to be arranged according to some astrological pattern. They serve both form and function. Manuel uses them as tripods for his camera, adding or subtracting volumes to adjust the height. Riley sits on the white couch, in the center of the camera’s gaze. Her hands lie upon her lap, pressing her skirt against her thin thighs. During their interview, Kayden and Riley discuss all the surreal experiences they’ve had because of porn. How they’ve traveled the world and have had sex toys molded from their bodies. They speculate about all the odd adventures their sex toys have had, the strange ways people have used them. I take this a step further, imagining archeologists of an alien race excavating these molds and constructing narratives of how our species worshiped these toys as fertility gods. Manuel takes a few “before” pictures of Riley looking prim and proper on the couch. As he shoots, Manuel sits cross-legged on the rug like a child planted in front of Saturday morning cartoons. The process is foreplay. In his photos we see Riley through his eyes. She removes the frills and ruffles of her floral dress. The simplicity of the shoot excites her. She doesn’t have to pretend to be a character, to memorize lines, or wait around for the sound and lighting crews. She can just fuck Manuel free from all outside influences, including the scrutinizing gaze of Kayden and me. We cannot loiter behind-the-scenes and watch the sex scene because there is no behind-the-scenes. Every angle of the studio is fair game. There are no second takes or cuts in the action. What happens between Riley and Manuel is what happens in the scene. *   *   * When the sex scene concludes, Kayden gets a text from Manuel telling me to hurry back into the studio and snap pictures of Riley. The idea is that these “after” photos will hint at what exactly happened in the raw sex scene. I push aside the studio’s sliding glass door and pull back the billowing curtain. The main room is unoccupied. A cowhide rug is bunched and a stack of books leans precariously. A wet spot dries on the couch like a Rorschach Test. Riley walks in, using a wet wipe to remove the remnants of body fluid and makeup from her face. Her porn persona has retreated beneath her baggy clothes. While we wait for Kayden and Manuel, Riley and I stare at a painting in the studio. A house is on fire, melting into what looks like a child’s crayon depiction of a home. A stick figure reaches skyward toward a dog floating off on a balloon. Manuel joins us, looking over our shoulder. He says he likes the painting because it’s like this guy’s house is on fire and all he cares about is his dog, and his red balloon. Riley and I see something different. We suspect arson—we think the dog set fire to his master’s house and is making his escape. “This is what I love about this painting,” Manuel says, smiling. “Everyone sees something different.” Kayden walks in and assesses the scene with the cool gaze of a detective. What does she read into the crooked books? What impression does she get from the dent in the couch cushions? What does she see in the wet spot fading into her white couch? Kayden Kross' Winners' Circle streets August 18. Social media links: Kayden Kross: Twitter.com/kayden_kross, Instagram.com/clubkayden, UnKrossed.com Riley Reid: Twitter.com/rileyreidx3, Instagram.com/ryebreadwithbuddr, ReidMyLips.com Shawn Alff: Twitter.com/ShawnAlff, Instagram.com/ShawnAlff, ShawnAlff.com

 
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