9 to 5: Days in Porn

9 to 5 - Days in PornSynopsis: A teenager, who can’t wait to turn eighteen and become a porn star. An agent, who knows the industry like the back of his hand but is “not in it for the money”. A student, who gives up her political science studies to pursue a career in American adult entertainment. A married couple, that performs, produces and directs hardcore pornographic movies. A caring mother and wife, who is an idol among porn actors and consumers for her extreme sex scenes. And a former punk, who has played with the same band for the last twenty years and is known as the busiest man in the valley.

Who are these people that earn their money having sex for the cameras? What motivates them? Is it just a job or a way of life?

The film depicts the stories of several characters behind this multi-billion industry from Prague to San Fernando Valley. It unveils moments, from glamorous to grotesque, strange to fascinating, with offensive, absurd and sometimes funny moments happening all at once.

Filmed over a period of more than a year and structured like an episodic movie, the stories weave together. Each of them is different – unadorned and authentic, without glorification or prejudice.  Disturbingly close and intimately moving, it delivers deep insight into the protagonists’ lives in – and outside – of the adult entertainment industry.

9to5 – Days in Porn is not a voyeuristic ‘making of’, but a documentary focusing on the people behind this controversial industry. 

***********************************************************************

9 to 5: Days in Porn 7.5

eyelights: its candid look at the US porn industry.
eyesores: its limited scope.

“Where does a girl who hasn’t gone to college or even finished high school make more money than a doctor? Porn!“

‘9 to 5: Days in Porn’ is a 2008 documentary on the porn industry in the United States. Over the course of nearly two hours, it follows 10 men and women who work in porn, providing an objective perspective on the lives that they lead, what has brought them to this line of work, what their aspirations are and the impact that this has on their lives.

Its focus is on the San Fernando Valley, where most of American porn is made. It was apparently filmed over the course of three years, although the timeline through the course of the film seems to suggest a year and half in the lives of the participants. Perhaps follow-up interviews were recorded in the subsequent year and a half.

Everyone of them was given a label: Otto and Audrey, “The Couple”; John Stagliano, “The Legend”; Mark Spiegler, “The Agent”; Dr. Sharron Mitchell, “The Good Soul”; Belladonna, “The Idol”; Katja Kasin, “The Pro”; Tom Herold, “The Dreamer”; Sasha Grey, “The Rookie”; Roxy DeVille, “The Spiegler Girl”; Mia Rose, “The Starlet”, …etc. It felt a bit tacked on.

I mean, many are intuitive, but it seemed random in some cases: there are likely plenty of couples in the biz (as evidenced by Belladonna and her hubby), many idols, a few legends, tons of dreamers, endless rookies, …etc. Why did they get the labels that they got? What’s the difference between the rookie and the dreamer? Isn’t the rookie a dreamer and vice-versa?

The thing that I wondered while watching this film was how they picked the participants. Given how many people work in pornography (it was then a 12.7 billion dollar industry, with over 13,000 films being produced per year!), how did they narrow it down to just a few select stars, producers, agent, …etc.? Why them? What made them so special, so distinctive, above all the others?

What I came to realize is that the film seems to revolve around Mark Spiegler in some way. Although DeVille is called the “Spiegler Girl”, all the women were. And he provided girls to the various producers and filmmakers. The scope seemed to be very limited, forgoing any other film producers and performers. It was even more focused than it initially admitted to.

The only potentially unrelated people seemed to be Dr. Susan Mitchell and Nina Hartley, and that was  not made clear at any point; they could very well be involved with Spiegler and his collaborators in some way. Either way, they had the most interesting things to say about the industry, being long-time industry pros who are big proponents of sex education and health.

Mitchell, in particular, has lots to say about the types of people who are drawn to the industry, how working in porn sets a person apart, how they can’t easily get back into the mainstream afterwards, and the impact that this can have on their lives. She also talks about North American society’s perception of pornography: does pornography influence mores or vice-versa?

Although I enjoyed Mitchell the most it was nonetheless fascinating to get a glimpse at the industry from the inside, even in a limited capacity. Belladonna was quite a surprise because she seems extreme in her actions yet completely in control of her work, focused as she is on her vision, supported by her husband who participates as a filmmaker.

And yet she was floored by Sasha Grey, the so-called rookie, for her own intense laser-like focus, telling us how impressed she is with her. These women appear to be totally career-minded. They’re not alone, either: DeVille says that she’s just doing this long enough to make enough money to buy a house and be able to survive; it’s a temporary means to an end.

The couple, Otto and Audrey, were fascinating to watch because they work together but perform with others on screen. They aren’t fazed by this and appear to have a solid partnership together. But something isn’t quite right to me – as though, for all their purported contentedness, underneath lies some strange sadness. To me, this seemed etched in their faces.

Tom Herold and his girlfriend (the other couple, although they’re not labelled that way at all), show a rockier partnership. Together for a long time, he is the filmmaker and she the star, but they are struggling to make a living and one gets a glimpse at her emotional fragility – which Herold confirms. He’s extremely candid, talking about his desperation to make a better life for them.

At least he seems to have respect for his partner and comes off as a level-headed, nice guy: Otto comes off as smug, maybe even as a jerk. But the worst of them has got to be Jim Powers, “The Punk”, who calls women whores and seems to have no respect for women (despite his assertions to the contrary). Heck, he even calls what he does shit. He’s pretty negative.

Given that everything revolves around him, Spiegler has a lot of screen time, driving the girls around and making deals with the others. He soberly says that he stays in the business because he’s very good at it. One gets the impression, however, that he would rather be doing something else with his life, that he’s not entirely happy with his existence.

Overall, watching ‘9 to 5: Days in Porn’ is a reminder that, behind the fantasies, there are real people, with real lives. It’s not a sexy life, not one bit: for all the naked flesh on display and even its explicit content (the uncut DVD is surprisingly graphic for a mainstream release – it’s not for the faint of heart), it’s nearly impossible to be titillated by what we’re seeing.

Although I don’t think that there’s anything morally objectionable in making pornography, I couldn’t help but wonder what these people would be doing with their lives if given any number of options and the ability to pursue those options. Would they still be doing porn? It doesn’t sound like it in most cases. With ‘9 to 5: Days in Porn’ it’s apparent that it merely pays the bills.

It is, after all, show business. It’s a business first. The rest is all for show.

Story: n/a
Acting: n/a
Production: 7.5

Nudity: 9.0
Sexiness: 4.0
Explicitness: 8.5

Date of viewing: July 25, 2014

Advertisements

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s