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JENNIFER’S 6 PRACTICAL TIPS FOR SHOOTING PORN

May 5, 2015

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My good friends at PinkLabel.tv asked if I could write them a little guide to the way I shoot my movies. Funnily enough, in the beginning I didn’t dare to use the camera myself at all. I relied on experienced professionals who I felt understood what I was trying to do, and could work collaboratively with me. It was my friend and colleague Murielle Scherre who convinced me how necessary it was to incorporate my own literal vision of sexuality into the film, which is what she and I did for Skin Like. Sun. I’ve never looked back, though I still like to balance my camerawork with a Director of Photography who’s more well-trained than me. My heart belongs to directing, but I really enjoy incorporating my own camerawork too.

Here are the tips I came up with.

1. Ditch the Script

My style of shooting is based on allowing the performers almost total freedom in the scene. Though I know what sexual acts are likely to happen, I have no idea what order or exactly where in the space they might happen. I do this because I’ve found that first-time performers (that’s who I often work with) struggle to hold blocking notes in their mind while truly enjoying themselves. I’d rather just give them the freedom to have fun, and work it out silently myself with the other cameraperson on set.

2. Double the Pleasure

I would always shoot with two cameras (or more). I like to employ a cinematic conversation style when I edit — shot/reverse-shot — which is only possible in an improvised scene if you have two complementary angles covered. I have tried using only one camera, and though it certainly is nice not to have to worry about keeping the other cameraperson out of frame, it completely lacks intimacy in the edit. I need and love that intimacy.

3. DSLRs and Tripods

Your camera choice will probably inform your style of shooting. I really enjoy handheld, which for a long time made my choice a non-DSLR camera. I could hold the camera close to my body and move slowly with it. That meant there were two sources of movement: the performers, and me.
With a DSLR, of course it’s a challenge to manage focus under such circumstances. A few weeks ago I tripodded my camera for the first time so that I could manage focus on the DSLR better. It was a completely different experience. I still need to study that gorgeous footage and decide for myself if that was the best DSLR plan for my style.

4. Handheld

If you shoot handheld, be conscious of your breathing. As the performers start to get into it, your body might try to match their breathing. But with handheld, you can often see the cameraperson’s breathing or even heartbeat. Hold the camera gently and breathe slowly.

5. Take Your Time

If you shoot handheld, be sure you are getting good long takes. It’s tempting to re-frame constantly if there is a lot of good stuff going on at the same time. As with all shooting, you have to simply make a choice and stick with it. Keep your frame for 10-15 seconds at least. It will seem like an eternity! But you will need it in the edit. Don’t be afraid of things leaving the frame. They will probably come back. The result will be less “porn-like”, which could be a benefit. And, yes, it is theoretically possible you will miss something if you let the action leave frame for a few seconds, but I choose to have faith. Later, it’s surprisingly enjoyable to watch in the edit because your eye can relax.

6. Get close

I developed my own film style in part because I just love facial reaction shots. Not just for orgasm-type moments, but throughout. They bring out the narrative element of the sex scene. If you have a shooting plan, make sure you are covered for facial reactions. A lot of fiction film DPs are used to a shooting plan where one cameraperson shoots totals and the other shoots close-ups. On an erotic/porn set, they may think “close-ups” means genitals. With erotic/porn material, you need with the total *and* the mediums of each character *and* the body/genital closeups of each character *and* the faces of each character. Make sure all the camerapeople are clear on the plan you want.

 

Of course, all of this only works if you enjoy creating a receptive, relaxed environment for your performers to hang out in. This is a semi-improvisational shooting system, related to documentary and dance film, and I think it’s crucial for performers to feel safe enough to be themselves. I try to encourage a collaborative atmosphere so that everyone on the cast & crew knows they are welcome to suggest things. Everyone always turns out to have great suggestions, plus it makes us all feel better to know we can contribute if we want to. It’s better for the movie, and it happens also to be way more fun for all of us.

 

This interview first ran on PinkLabel.tv