How To Write a Porno

The average Debauched Films screenplay (for one of our short scenes) is 10 -15 pages long. Of those fifteen pages, approximately half a page is dedicated to actual sex. Which is to say, a vague description of how each character should behave during the act (“X is domineering, bordering on rough” or “Y takes the lead early, but encourages Z to be a bit more aggressive as it goes on”). It may stretch out longer if there is a lot of mid-coital discourse, but never by very much. After all, we don’t want to interrupt the flow of the great sex by bogging it down with too much dialogue. I trust the talent to take those simple directions and, with a little on set guidance from the director, turn it into striking, sexy, sex.

I have been doing a lot of reading about the way a lot of modern porn is shot, and the general consensus is something along the lines of: “the script is one page long, there’s 30 seconds of direction and the rest of the time is spent trying to get the actors to bend their bodies in such a way that they are not blocking the light from each other’s genitals”. Beyond even that, in the gonzo stuff, no script and the direction is all given on camera by the man holding it. I can see how, in that fast-paced industry where performers are going from shoot to shoot, sometimes just in the other rooms of the same California mansion, and when you’re trying to squeeze a scene and a photoset out of one coupling, time spent talking about fucking is time spent not fucking, and time spent not fucking is unprofitably spent time.

Years ago, I was considered an up and coming young playwright. I won a couple of awards, been selected for a few prestigious programs, worked with some real theatre glitterati. I was right in the middle of “emerging”, which is the category of artist above “amateur” but below “professional”. It is also the most elongated step, traditionally. The one where people will happily work with you, put you on programs at festivals and whatnot, but are very reluctant to give you any money. It’s also the step where most people give up. I wasn’t a trust fund kid, so I couldn’t emerge forever.

I come to porn scripts with the writing habits of a contemporary dramatist. I spend way too much time doubling back and moving a single word back a forth within a line. I laser focus on dialogue and spend way too much time thinking about the backstory of my characters. I spend my lunch breaks at work proofing scripts with a red marker. My (non-sexual) stage directions are so needlessly complex, my final draft edits almost always remove around eighty percent of them. The third or fourth script I wrote, I gave the second draft to my wife and her feedback, god bless her, was “It doesn’t really make sense for them to have sex”. I could have cried. I went back and did a near total rewrite, because that was literally the thing I feared most of all. I had to tear the whole thing down and start again to fix it, but it was absolutely worth it.

I have a dream that one day I’ll be able to jump on the Blacklist, pick out any great script with at least three sex scenes in it, option it (by throwing a fat stack of cash at some up-and-coming screenwriter) and Blumhouse the hell out of it with some up and coming actors who are not shy of fucking on camera. I want to make porn so damn good that people just refer to it as a great movie, rather than a great porno. Porn that somehow defeats the odds and picks up a BAFTA or a SAG award. And there’s really only one way to get there. Those lofty and unrealistic goals aside, if I want to make great porn, I’ll focus on starting with a great script.

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