How do they get them on the B*ngBus?
April 28, 2008 3:05 PM   Subscribe

What do pornographers know that we don't? Namely, how to convince people to have sex on camera for not much money?

I'm not talking about big name stars working for the major studios - I consider that the porn version of making it big in the music industry. What I'm curious about is the bar band or even open mic level equivalent. There's a lot of "amateur" / "reality" porn out there, of the casting couch/sex-in-a-van/what if I gave you $500 and your boyfriend could watch variety. I assume that the deal is not actually happening as it plays out on camera and that these aren't really amateurs (?for the most part?); but there also can't be much money changing hands at that level.

So how do the producers get the actors on camera for the minimum amount over the "tipping point", and how would I find out how much money that generally is? No, I am not going to go out and get a van and a camera - I'm just interested in how many people are nekkid and doin' the nasty on the internet, and how that comes to pass. Ask most people how much it would take to put them in porn, and they'd give you something in the high seven figures; I have a feeling there's a lot of people in internet porn who got something in the low four figures, and I'm wondering how that comes to pass.

The tamer version might be the GirlsGoneWild question: "OK, I understand flashing one's stuff - but what does it take to get someone to sign the release form?" There's alcohol and impaired judgement in that case, but the idea is roughly the same.
posted by penciltopper to Work & Money (39 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
posted by matteo at 3:06 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I always assumed that they were prostitutes who got paid a little extra...
posted by jhighmore at 3:09 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well, I'd assume some pornographers would just take advantage of vulnerable people. You always hear of students getting into prostitution to make money for tuition - that's just one possibility.

Oh. And maybe drugs.
posted by rc55 at 3:11 PM on April 28, 2008

Ask most people how much it would take to put them in porn, and they'd give you something in the high seven figures

I think you are asking the wrong people. Also, what may not be much money to you may be rent, gas, food for the kid, etc. to someone who you don't know.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:13 PM on April 28, 2008 [3 favorites]

They're showing off that they can get laid. Reality TV makes exhibitionism ever-more normal. It's surprising for how little $ a lot of people can be bought. It's getting paid for something enjoyable, unlike most people's jobs. Thanks to all of the porn equivalent of YouTubery, you can be "famous." Appearing in internet porn isn't associated necessarily with being a career pornstar, and thus has less stigma.
posted by desuetude at 3:13 PM on April 28, 2008

Off the top of my head:
Desperation, low self-esteem, high self-esteem, exhibitionist streaks, owing somebody a favor, high-pressure relationship with the boyfriend/girlfriend/producer, deep interest in seeing how many Xs can fit in one's Y.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 3:15 PM on April 28, 2008

No, really, some people are just that freaky. They just need a little push and boom!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:15 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Here is the model rates. You'll notice that a) they aren't all that high, even for what I think of as fairly out-there stuff, and b) women can earn a lot more than men in this business. That's the rates at a fairly large and reputable company; you can go a long way more downmarket from there.

Also, as evidenced by those large-scale shots by Spencer Tunick and the thousands of art photographers clicking away in black and white, you often don't have to offer much of anything to get people to take their clothes off for the camera (nudity, less so the sex acts you were asking about). There is something flattering and exciting about getting photographed in the nude, so people will quite happily pose for prints.
posted by Forktine at 3:16 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Or better yet, part of being a good wolf is knowing which sheep are the easiest to pick off.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:16 PM on April 28, 2008 [4 favorites]

I have friends who have worked in the business (on both sides of the camera), and it's not the way that you seem to think. There's a lot less "reality" happening there than you seem to credit. I guarantee you, 99% of the "amateur" girls being offered $200 on-camera are in fact professionals who have worked out significantly larger sums of money off-camera beforehand. If the "first timer who's never done anything like this before but really needs rent money" looks familiar to you, it's probably because you've seen her before.

It's all a marketing gimmick.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 3:21 PM on April 28, 2008 [6 favorites]

I assume that the deal is not actually happening as it plays out on camera and that these aren't really amateurs (?for the most part?); but there also can't be much money changing hands at that level.

Y'know how some people are in bands? Bands that make absolutely no money, but the guys still love being in the band? Because they love music, they love the experience of being on stage, and the chance (however slim) to get superstar-level famous?

Replace "bands" with "pornos", "music" with "sex" and "guys" with "people". There doesn't have to be craploads of money changing hands for people to do something that they love.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:23 PM on April 28, 2008

I don't know about the straight amateur porn sites, but a fair amount of the gay ones have a "Be A Model!!" / "Model For Us!!" application link. Thus they get contacted by people who already are interested in being in porn, which lowers that financial 'tipping point' a great deal.
posted by CKmtl at 3:24 PM on April 28, 2008

Ask most people how much it would take to put them in porn, and they'd give you something in the high seven figures

You reckon? I'm a straight guy, not dirt poor and desperate, not an exhibitionist, no desire to be part of that world, but you could get me to take part in gay porn for much, much lower than that. Casual sex, even if I wasn't into it, even if I hated it, just wouldn't be that big a deal to me. Wouldn't wanna put a figure on it, but for low five figures I'd probably do almost anything that wouldn't hurt the next day.
posted by cincinnatus c at 3:29 PM on April 28, 2008

At least some of the people you're talking to are lying about where their "tipping point" is — either to you, to themselves, or both.

"I wouldn't do that for a million dollars" is the socially-acceptable thing to say. That doesn't make it true.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:30 PM on April 28, 2008

im with desuetude, so many people are exhibitionists. for many, its flattering to think people want to see you naked!

a lot of years ago when i was a broke honours student i got paid $300 for a shoot in a "pee fetish" magazine with my friend. we filled ourselves with gatorade and then wet our pants/took our clothes off and peed on the floor/posed in nappies (diapers) on a bed while someone took photos.

part of it was exhibitionism, part of it was wow we can make $300 in a day, and part of it was just the idea of being young and "up for anything". having a "why not?" attitude was what we were about. boasting to our friends that we did it. chalking up experiences... even if they are stupid ones! obviously its different to all-out porn, but maybe similar reasons for doing it...
posted by beccyjoe at 3:33 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Everyone wants to be a star. Some people are either delusional, stupid, or desperate enough to actually believe they'll become famous from performing in porn.
People in porn are one step below reality TV contestants. In fact, reality TV attention whores are probably even more mentally unstable than amateur porn stars.
posted by HotPatatta at 3:38 PM on April 28, 2008

The same way that "pickup artists" succeed.
Just keep asking, eventually someone will say yes.
posted by madajb at 3:43 PM on April 28, 2008

There's also the delusion that starring in a porno will get a girl recognized and allow her to break into serious modeling.
posted by rancidchickn at 3:43 PM on April 28, 2008

No. Your speculation on drugs, self estemm or vulnerability is just that - speculation. While there are plenty of drugs and personal issues in the adult industry it has nothing to do with how the porn actually looks by the time it reaches you.

Parasite Unseen is totally right - different genres of porn are not generally paid differently, it's just a style and marketing thing. In fact, if you watch a lot of porn you'll see the same girls over and over, just styled differently and with different on-screen persona. You might not recognize her unless you're observant, but the heavily made up model looking girl in the flashy high-definition couples film is the same girl as the underage runaway type who says she'll do anything for money in the amateur looking 'gonzo' film. And if she's doing the same things, she's being paid the same.

Most porn is made in SoCal with a few exceptions (I think Bang Bros is based in Florida), there's aren't many people making independent porn (some fetish stuff is outside of the standard system) and there are fewer performers than you'd think working at any one time. It's just not worth it to find new people and reinvent the wheel for the sake of authenticity - it's vastly easier to pay the going rate, stay in the valley, and use people who'll show up and are tested.

I believe that current rates for women range from about $600 to about $1600 per scene, depending on what the sex is. Big name stars are not necessarily making more per scene, and the music industry isn't a great comparison. Where stars do well financially it's from off camera dancing and public appearances and from merchandise. Porn actors don't get any residuals either.

So while in my view it's horribly underpaid and workers have too little control, there's actually a lot of structure and internal conistency to the industry. Oh, and just because it's not worth it to you doesn't mean it's not worth it to someone else, or that there's something wrong with them.
posted by crabintheocean at 3:55 PM on April 28, 2008

Ask most people how much it would take to put them in porn, and they'd give you something in the high seven figures

Nthing what others have said; I think you grossly overestimate what most people would accept for this kind of thing. A lot of people might say high seven figures but that's because they don't except anyone to really be offering any kind of money. Show them a briefcase with $50,000 in it and I guarantee you that a lot of those people would change their tune.

How much under fifty grand you can go and still got lots of takers is not something I would venture to guess. I suspect it would be somewhere in the low four figures.
posted by Justinian at 3:57 PM on April 28, 2008

except = expect.
posted by Justinian at 3:57 PM on April 28, 2008

Many women in porn are strippers, and, by doing porn, they can raise their visibility, and therefore their rates. The porn shoot may not pay a huge amount, but, if it's gonzo, it only takes a few hours, and suddenly demand for lapsdances, etc. skyrockets.

Why do men get into it? Lots of sex with young, hot chicks would be my guess.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:13 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

OP here. I don't think its drugs, and I'm not making judgements. People like sex. People like money. Nice work if you can get it. The trade-off many are unwilling to make, at least for anything below a certain threshold, is the exposure, for lack of a better word.

I suppose my incorrect assumption, if crabintheocean is correct, was that AVN award-winners were making Grammy-winner money and "amateurs" were making KISS-cover-band money. Thus the differential in pay would be exploitative. But if a newcomer (hee) doesn't make that much less than a big name star for a given scene, then my question is kind of moot.
posted by penciltopper at 4:20 PM on April 28, 2008

As a person that owns an adult website business (a few of our sites are in the reality niche), I can tell you that 99 percent of the porn out there is FAKE! We work with script and adult models. All of our models are hired thru a model agency, (the same agency the big guys like bangbus use).

As far as drugs and alcohol, we are in one of the most scrutinized professions in the country, so we make sure all of our models/actress are coherent, and have not done any drugs prior to our shoots. We shoot video testimonials to protect ourselves.

For comparison sake we are about 5% the size of bangbus!
posted by boyinmiami at 4:29 PM on April 28, 2008 [3 favorites]

from what I read, a lot of the "amateurs", aren't (as someone else mentioned).
posted by mrbill at 4:39 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

A couple of things I missed - internet porn, video porn and stills (e.g. magazines) are not separate, they are usually made by the same people, and they're often made at the same time. You might only be seeing it on the internet, but it's probably not 'internet porn'. It's possible to go to shoot a hardcore video, have stills taken at the same shoot, the video or extra footage goes on the internet (and is then spread around and copied by 1,000 different sites), and the actual video is possibly also edited into a soft core version. This adds up to lots and lots of money being made, just not by performers!

As for how performers actually get in front of the camera - there are agencies very much like modeling or regular acting. Performers get into the industry and get an agent or agency. While I'm sure people have occasionally been approached off the street to be in a film, that's not how it usually works at all.

And GGG works very differently, although the distribution end is similar. You're right in that case that there's a lot of alcohol involved (and maybe coercion - look it up, Joe Francis is in a lot of trouble), and the girls are amateurs and are not paid besides a t-shirt or cap. FWIW I think GGG is pretty disgusting and Francis deserves to go to prison for a long time. He probably won't though.
posted by crabintheocean at 4:40 PM on April 28, 2008

as others have already basically said: reality porn is about as *real* as reality TV
posted by jammy at 4:47 PM on April 28, 2008

Oddly enough, a woman who I am friends with is deep within the porn industry, albeit in San Francisco, where she has done phone sex since the age of 17, written a book about meeting her callers, and is now starting an online sex portal. I personally ventured into making a documentary in 2004 about people making amateur pornography (it was a brother and sister who were producing the stuff - which makes great reality television - and a Japanese filmmaker who was under the impression that by making the film he could score citizenship here; I left the project soon after discovering it.)

From these experiences I can say people don't get into porn for drugs. They get into it for attention, opportunity and a thrill. Those three things tend to rule the system. If you put an ad on Craigslist or another listing service looking for three couples to go all the way on camera for $300 or so, you'd wade through your inbox for a day looking at pictures of homely women and five-inch penises. But you would also meet some really interesting characters: the man who wants to watch his wife get screwed by someone else; the woman who just lost a boyfriend and has a wicked revenge fantasy; the lonely guy who answered the ad in hopes that the person he ends up with on camera will follow him home; the older man who feels like this is his chance to get into show business; the middle-aged housewife who will have too many stories to tell - and who you'll end up convincing to write the 'script'.

Think of that old standby for so many New Yorkers with cable TV: Robyn Byrd. She does three shows a week on public access TV with men and women performing strip tease. She gets hundreds of callers and earns a modest income as a promoter and entertainer. Where does she find her talent? Easy. She's got a venue and a camera. Remember that, you producers of tomorrow: Venue. Camera. Venue. Camera.
posted by parmanparman at 4:51 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

OP again. Everything said about how it's not real and is done in a professional manner, with all measures taken to get as much profit out of the shoot, whatever the actors are paid, is perfectly sensible if not totally obvious.

I'm just skeptical/puzzled/shocked that everyone in the industry works for the same scale rates, regardless of how big an audience draw they are, name recognition, etc. Really? What other performers work like that? Not models, athletes, actors, musicians, etc. Do those folks just have better agents negotiating for them?
posted by penciltopper at 4:58 PM on April 28, 2008

just a reminder that people have very different senses of what is worth doing for what compensation. I would imagine most people would say there is no amount of money that would convince them to get a casino web address tattooed on their face, and yet this woman chose to do so for only $10K.

So, you can still take advantage of people, especially in industries that don't have good oversight (like tattoo ads and pornography - I dunno if porn workers are unionized, but I doubt it's a strong union given that it's only semi-legal and heavily disapproved of)
posted by mdn at 5:23 PM on April 28, 2008

To Penciltopper:

Well, there are many actors and actresses in porn who I am sure are making a lot of money and are using their fame to move on to bigger and better things. That's the goal: moving on from porn. I bet Jenna Jameson was mighty happy to land a feature like Zombie Strippers, even if it was direct to DVD. The film is in a two week run at a theater in Washington, DC right downtown and I know they're packing them in to see it.

And to say something for musicians. A lot of musicians started out playing at Bar Mitzvahs and weddings before they got their first big chances. I don't think that's a business with a lot of room for early price negotiation.
posted by parmanparman at 5:23 PM on April 28, 2008

mdn - they are non union (for now!).
posted by crabintheocean at 5:33 PM on April 28, 2008

Big-name porn stars (particularly women) do have the leverage to ask for more money. The really big stars often have their own production companies and just do distribution through Vivid or whoever, which gives them an even bigger cut.
posted by kindall at 5:54 PM on April 28, 2008

I know quite a bit about the porn industry in Japan. I'm making a documentary about an adult television channel here. I have no idea how it goes in the west. So everything i talk about applies only to Japan.

All the girls are employed by an agency here. They're hired by that agency and the agency takes care of all their gigs. They're not allowed to work outside the agency. If they quit their agency to work with another one, all previous contracts are cancelled and most of the times she won't be able to work with her previous clients, since the clients were the agency's not her's.
Girls who are leaving their agency for another, usually have to change their stage name as well because that's also the property of the agency.
Basically if you're producing porn you never hire an actress, you hire an agency. It will propose you actresses from their "catalog". Each girl has a set of things she won't do under any cost. They also have a list of what medium are ok to use. For exemple an actress might be ok to do a dvd, but she will require her face to be masked on the internet, or for foreign sales.
As for the money it depends on experience, popularity and the things the actress will be doing.
So there's no filmmaker wandering around asking girls to have sex in front of a camera. It's the agency's job to do that. A girl can refuse to work at any time, she's the one deciding if she will do the job or not. The money is given to the agency and the agency pays her after taking its cut.
When you're producing porn you have no idea how much the girl is making, you know only how much you paid her agency.
When we wanted to interview the actresses we had to ask their agency for authorisation. The producers didn't even have the contact information for the girls, they only had the agency's.

You can select girls by going to the agency website and check their profile database. It's very well made, you can search by age, mensurations, special talent(if she can dance or play the piano for exemple), and what she will and will not do. You can see it on the website of Bambi promotion, an agency we had to work with. The database is closed to the public but it gives you an idea on how it works.

All the actresses that i talked with said that the main motivation was money. They also didn't mind the attention. The image of the poor exploited girl acting in a porn flick for a couple of hundred bucks just doesn't exist in Japan. They're the queen of the industry. I've never seen a director yell at an actress. On every shoot that i visited there was at least one assistant whose job was to take care of the talent's every need.
One of the girl i talked with was making 5 million yens/month at the height of her popularity, and she wasn't a big star. A day shoot, with vanilla sex is about 1500$/2000$ for a beginner. It goes way up as soon as the girl start to have a career.
A total beginner, just stripping in front of a camera will cost you about 500$, for less than a day of shooting.
In comparison the male actors fees are almost free. A fairly well known actor will make about 800$ a day, an unknown/amateur will make 100$/day.
The prices are different depending on what the actress will do. The big money is in the rape stuff which there's a lot in Japan. Witnessing a rape shooting is one of the most surreal thing i have ever seen.
Basically the girl is going through a tremendous amount of abuse and as soon as the camera stops rolling she makes joke with the people who were molesting her a minute ago. It's all an act and the girls that are good at it are making a lot of money. A "rape queen" can make twice as much as a regular actress. In general, actresses have a much higher salary than the staff who's making the flick.
On top of that they often sell signed dvds, photo books, used panties and what not. They're also doing live appearances, where they'll perform non-sex, non naked act, like just going on stage to sing a song karaoke style. Those events are almost always packed.
Most of these girls are recruited from hostess bar or fuzokus (the japanese version of a brothel). A girl whith absolutely no experience in the sex industry beforehand is kinda rare.
posted by SageLeVoid at 10:07 PM on April 28, 2008 [3 favorites]

The question must be asked. If they all come through an agency (pun serendipitous), how does the agency get them?

I mean, there has to be some point at which they get the question (or questionnaire), "So ... you okay with fucking?"
posted by dhartung at 12:32 AM on April 29, 2008

it would not take a million bucks for me to be in a porno (as long as i knew i wasn't gonna get killed and that the people involved were clean). and i'm not even slutty anymore.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:09 AM on April 29, 2008

The agencies have people whose job it is to recruit new girls. Those guys are scouting all the hostess bars and fuzokus of tokyo searching for girls. They're officially talent agencies, so they sell themselves as agent that represents models from photo shoots in bikini to the more hardcore stuff. Once the girls are hired they usually start by doing the tame gigs first.
By interacting with the other girls at the agency they realize they could get more gigs and more money by doing the hardcore stuff.
The average career of a porn actress is about 2 to 3 years long, after that they usually marry and quit the industry alltogether. Getting married is the endgoal for a lot of these girls. They want to find a wealthy husband that can provide for them, while they stay at home and take care of the kids.
posted by SageLeVoid at 9:55 AM on April 29, 2008

As for the US, noting purely the amount of paperwork required by 18 USC 2257, there are absolutely no real "OH HAI LETZ FUCK!" pornos.

From there, the general things that I will say are:

In the US, the porn model business is mostly self-selecting. These are mostly people who enjoy getting naked, enjoy sex, and enjoy being paid between $400 and $1200 for about four hours worth of work. While it's rare for girls to turn that into a full-time job, if they do, that's about $4000 to $12000 a week, which adds up pretty quickly. The same girl can get paid for a photo shoot that goes in two or three magazines (different sets with the same background), an internet set, a hardcore DVD, and a softcore pay-cable video. And more and more, the girls are savvy enough to insist that they get paid for all that. If they're a good model, it's worth it. They do porn for a year or two, then fade into the woodwork unless they want to make a brand out of their name. And that's not even counting the strippers.

Many of the ones that show up in the harder fetish stuff come from the fetish scene and would be having crazy bondage sex on the weekends anyway.
posted by klangklangston at 3:53 PM on April 29, 2008

A lot of people might say high seven figures but that's because they don't except anyone to really be offering any kind of money. Show them a briefcase with $50,000 in it and I guarantee you that a lot of those people would change their tune.
I think if you showed most people that briefcase and managed to convince them that the deal was genuine, they would do a lot more than have sex in front of a camera. Especially if the cash is tax-free, meaning you would have to earn around $75k to nett that much. Personally, I think I'd have a hard time turning down $50k free and clear.
posted by dg at 11:45 PM on March 3, 2009

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