Say it out loud, I dare you. I don?t care if you?re in a coffee shop, at home alone, or in the library -- say it.
Yeah, that's what I thought. You didn't say it.
Now imagine this: One day you come face-to-face with your favorite porn star, just outside of church, or perhaps when you?re closing on your new house. You have a moment when you realize that you?ve been watching your realtor get serviced since the ?90s. Would you have the cojones to say anything out loud then?
My directorial debut, ?After Porn Ends,? began with a much more innocuous question. I was on set doing voice over/motion capture and some guys were watching "vegetable porn." For those who are unfamiliar, it'sexactly what you think it is. One of them remarked "How in the f--- do you do anything in your life after doing that?
Within seconds, I found myself asking something else: what is life after porn ends? At this point, I was a green East Carolina University grad and the only thing I knew about porn stars was that they loved to be on Howard Stern and Jerry Springer and that Jenna Jameson was a correspondent for E! at Cannes.
I remembered seeing a gal named Bianca Trump on Jerry Springer. She had this matter-of-fact attitude and she seemed confident. She had to be livin' high on the hog, right? Enter Luke Ford. Luke Ford was to porn blogs as Perez Hilton is to entertainment blogs -- bombastic, relentless, and oftentimes spot-on. His site featured her story. She was involved with prostitution, attempted murder, meth distribution, the Aryan Nation, and kidnapping. The denouement took place in a Washington state prison.
Now my question screamed at me: What had happened to these people? People on whose backs companies made billions of dollars. Were they all like Bianca, or was there a happy medium to be found?
Crissy Moran, an ex-pornstar you might see outside religious services, talks in the film about how she found God and assists in outreach to sex workers. Raylene, the real estate agent, is just trying to run her own business. Some performers make a good living from their porn history (Seka), some have lost their fortunes and spouses (Asia Carerra), and one was diagnosed with cancer after losing her job because of her porn past (Houston).
Ultimately, what really shaped my movie were the stories of the performers who ?got away,? beginning with Celeste, who lives in a private community in Middle America. Her husband knows about her past, but her children and neighbors do not. She runs a business from home and couldn't be happier with her life. We established a great rapport, and when I asked to interview her, she agreed but stipulated that there would be no mention of her family or even exactly what she's doing today.
Next, I went after Jeff Stryker, dubbed the "Cary Grant" of gay porn by director John Waters. He'd recently starred in a one-man show written by Oscar telecast scribe Bruce Vilanch. He is living his wife and kids and is involved in his local municipality. His response after being contacted was this:
Thank you for the consideration but we already have works in progress and a documentary would conflict I am afraid. Jeff rarely if ever does documentaries where he is grouped with other adult industry performers. Jeff Stryker is a State and Federally registered trademark with the name image and likeness of Jeff Stryker used in product licensing contracts we have had for decades.So, yeah. A rejection letter written in the third person from someone I thought would give me a balanced look at the business. Jeff's federally trademarked status prevented him from slumming it with a nobody director, aka Bryce Wagoner. Strik(er) two.
Luckily, during this time I also got in contact with my original MacGuffin, Bianca Trump. She was getting her unconditional release from prison and had plans to open an exotic reptile/tattoo shop. We were headed up to film it all and blow everybody away with her epic tale of redemption ? until I got the following correspondence:
Bryce, thank you for thinking about me for your movie. But the more I think about it, the more I don't want my family to have to go through the embarrassment that they've had to deal with over the past several years. A lot of people hated me, and they had a right too. But no one recognizes me anymore and that's OK with me. I'm ready to move on. Sorry- BTStrike three.
With no cast and the fear of having my funding pulled, I decided to have a cocktail at the Skybar. On a cloudless night in Los Angeles, lighting struck. Mary Carey (pictured) walked in, and I approached her. She loved the project idea. Fast forward: I got to film her story about running for governor and becoming a reality TV star. All this happened while she financially took care of her mentally disabled parents.
Base hit to right -- the rally was on.
Since the film's release, one person got engaged, one has died, and four have gone back into "the industry." There is no definitive answer to the question, ?What is life after porn ends?? To some, their time in porn has had little effect on their current life. A few are wholly defined by it. Others? porn pasts are a dark secret full of shame and regret. And for a few sad others, frankly, there is no life after porn ends.
And you still won?t even say the word out loud.