Made in Secret: The Story of the East Van Porn Collective

Made in SecretSynopsis: Sex, politics, consensus decision-making and a healthy dose of humour make Made in Secret an unusually detailed depiction of do-it-yourself filmmaking in action.

After gathering regularly to critique porn and sex-filled mainstream films, a group of friends decide to take matters into their own hands – literally – by writing, producing and directing their own porn. The video group’s members have mixed theories and opinions as to the purpose of the project, but all seem to agree that if they’re ever going to see the kind of porn they want to see in the world, they’ll have to take matters into their own hands.

Some nervous and challenging moments arise during the filmmaking process, but the real struggle comes when a group member suggests screening the film to an audience outside of the collective. What results is an unprecedented view of consensus politics at work, with the camera capturing the emotional debate among friends and creative partners.

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Made in Secret: The Story of the East Van Porn Collective 8.25

eyelights: the collective’s ideals. their goals. their ability to follow through. the members’ articulate musings.
eyesores: their vision of “sexy”.

“Fellow perverts, we have a plan and the revolution starts in East Van. Listen: we want you hard in your garden, wet on your porch. Each time you go down, You are raising the bar; you are a porn star! Come with the East Van Porn Collective. You have nothing to lose… but your pants.”

A friend of mine gave me a copy of ‘Made in Secret: The Story of the East Van Porn Collective’ a few years ago, telling me I should watch it. I had no clue why he’d be giving me this (he only told me that he’d heard about it through another friend), but I trusted his judgment enough to ramp it up in my ever-growing list of movies to see.

It was one of the best films I’d seen in years!

What it is is a documentary about a group of young adults from the Vancouver, BC area, who have formed a collective whose sole purpose is to reclaim their sexuality by making their own porn, based on pro-sex ideals and with the intention of breaking down stereotypes and mass market ideals. They are doing it themselves, for themselves, and no one else.

In fact, they only make the films for their own enjoyment, and no one outside the collective is allowed to see their films. They hold private collective screenings whenever they complete a film, and then move on to their next project. ‘Made in Secret’ documents the making of their eighth film, called ‘BikeSexual’.

The film begins with video footage of Monster’s humourous manifesto, read at a poetry slam well before the collective was created. It’s the perfect jumping point because it shows us the seeds that were sown, and the reaction that it got from the crowd. We then fast forward to five years later, with the group in full swing, preparing for the latest screening.

What makes ‘Made in Secret’ so amazing to watch is how real it feels; the filmmakers managed to capture the essence of the group dynamics and the personalities of each individual beautifully. While each member is highly political, they all articulate their ideas in different ways, providing us with a glimpse of their souls.

The EVPC makes all group decisions collectively, based on consensus. If there isn’t consensus, then they discuss the matter until consensus can be reached or they simply do not move forward with any plan. This is a time-consuming and sometimes-stifling process, but it ensures that each individual’s voice is heard and reflected in the decision-making.

To further this aim, even the filmmaking process is collective: from one film to the next they are constantly rotating their respective roles, so that everyone gets a chance to be involved in each aspect of the process; it’s not based on ability or ego. The only time a role may be subjugated is if the person is on screen or if the performers demand privacy.

Because, yes, the EVPC also perform in their porn films! They are given roles, based on the script, and play the parts to the best of their ability, irrespective of their sexual orientation. Until ‘BikeSexual’, however, couples remained with their partners, never being sexual with another member of the collective. For their latest, the group has decided to branch out.

This means that there can be awkward moments, like when Monster watched Mr. Pants, her boyfriend, make out with Professor University. Not only was she uncomfortable with the notion, but both men had never had a homosexual encounter before – let alone with one of their closest friends. But the EVPC members are pros and carry on dutifully no matter what.

The film is linear, but it intersperses behind the scenes footage of interviews with the members, providing us with insight into what is going on in the background; while we are seeing the important parts of this film’s making, sometimes the motivations aren’t entirely clear. Hearing the members speak candidly helps to sort all the pieces out.

As can be expected from a low-budget documentary about a group of young adults in a collective, the picture is shot on video and is very straightforward in its approach; there isn’t any exceptional editing or camera work to be seen. Similarly, the soundtrack budget mostly allowed for only bland folk music – with the exception of a few songs by hilariously bawdy duo The Wet Spots (do check them out!).

‘Made in Secret’ may seem mundane to some, but it’s engrossing from start to finish. Just seeing how respectful everyone was of each other in this group was amazing. Sure, there was conflict. Sure, there were disappointments. But the way that they functioned as a group would serve as a perfect example of healthy group dynamics in almost any context.

There is this tense scene when nerdgirl is uncomfortable with a decision that EVPC is headed towards, and Monster starts to pressure her. Mr. Pants purposely took nerdgirl’s side in solidarity, to remove the group further from consensus so that it could have more time to reflect, to take the pressure off of nerdgirl. A more honourable act is rarely seen.

After this standstill, after which they decided to take a couple of nights off and regroup, even Monster reflected that she had been too hard in their exchanges. When everyone got back together again, they had a moderated exchange that took well over 10 hours (edited here for the viewer’s sake) and eventually bore fruit: they got to a mutually agreeable decision!

Again, it’s a long, arduous process – but the results are worth it!

Honestly, I adored watching these strong-willed people dialogue, exchange, and manage to come to consensus the way that they do. Fascinating stuff. Already I loved the objective behind the EVPC, but to see it developed in such a harmonious fashion is not only rare, it’s a breath of fresh air – especially in these times of growing polarization.

And as for the porn itself? Well, we aren’t privy to any of it – it is, after all, only for the EVPC’s enjoyment. However, we do get to see the making of it and so we see a little bit of what the group considers sexy. For me, it didn’t do much. It wasn’t the pan-sexual aspect of it, more so than the grossly amateur side of it. Of course, I didn’t see the end product; it might be better.

But ‘Made in Secret’ also has its secrets. It leaves a few things unexplained that are only revealed on the DVD’s special features or in the optional intro to the film – which I would recommend watching only after seeing the film once. And this makes the film doubly fascinating. I obviously can’t divulge its biggest secret, but it’s worthy of much discussion.

Which is partly why I love this film so much. It’s an excellent documentary, with a great cast of characters, laudable intentions and much food for thought. But on top of that it is filled with the unexpected. ‘Made in Secret: The Story of the East Van Porn Collective’ is a superb picture. I just wish that it were easy to find, because I would love to support the filmmakers by buying a copy from them.

This film is worth it and, consequently, they are worth it. Perhaps someday I will be able to track them down and put this fantastic film on my shelf.

Story: ?
Acting: ?
Production: 7.5

Sexiness: 1.0
Nudity: 2.0
Explicitness: 1.0

Date of viewing: July 29, 2013

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