A few months ago, a movie with a salacious title popped up on my Instant Netflix recommendations queue: "After Porn Ends." Given the title, I couldn't really resist clicking it and watching.
Released in May of 2012, the film examines the lives and careers of retired porn stars, answering two important questions about the porn star pop culture mystique: How did they get into the business, and why did they leave it? Over a dozen adult entertainment industry titans are interviewed for the documentary, including Asia Carrera, Nina Hartley, Mary Carey, Houston, Randy West, John Leslie, Amber Lynn, and Seka. If you're looking for something celebratory of the adult entertainment industry, go elsewhere. Dark and gritty at times, it's far from the most flattering look at the industry.
Curious about the film and its sudden surge of popularity on Netflix, I called up the director, Bryce Wagoner, to discuss why adult film starlets bow out of the business and end their careers. It's a complicated process with no easy individual answer. In short, Wagoner declares the age of the pornstar to be dead. "To be frank, you used to be able to have a relationship with these people over a number of years. Now it’s 30, 40, 50 times a year you’re going to see this person. You wouldn’t want to see that over five years. And then audiences get tired of them and they’re disposed of. There’s your disgusting tissue reference…"
My conversation with Bryce about "After Porn Ends" is below.
BroBible: To be honest, I never heard of the film until it popped up on Netflix Instant. Are you seeing increased interest in it because of that?
Bryce Wagoner: Seven months after our initial release and now everyone’s excited about it. It’s kind of unheard of.
Why did you make the film? What interested you in the subject?
More than anything, I’m a pretty inquisitive guy. As a filmmaker and as a writer, I’m a little bit of a snob: I don’t like to do things people haven’t done before. I couldn’t give a shit about doing the next Italian mob movie. I’ve seen all these things. Porn has a been a subject that, for lack of better phrasing, has been done to death.
I studied theater and filmmaking in college and I was an actor. I was doing voice-over and motion-capture work for the WWE “Smackdown vs. Raw” franchise. I was Triple H for five video games. People think it’s funny, but it’s really good money.
So we’re sitting on set on one of those big soundstages and a bunch of the guys on the set were watching and laughing at porn. My buddy says, “Oh my God, what the fuck is that? What do you do with your life after doing that?!” He’s screaming at the screen. Everyone is standing around the computers, like “Ewwww.”
But later I was thinking about it and I was like, “Well, what do you do when you leave porn? I started looking around and the question just kept burning a hole in my head. I looked on the Internet and I found Luke Ford’s blog. His blog was just so revolutionary.
I found the story of Bianca Trump. In a nutshell, she got kicked out of porn, got kicked out of the State of Florida, started dating the head of the Aryan Nations, got kicked out of the Aryan Nations for having sex with black guys, takes the head of the Aryan Nations' secret, gets arrested with felonious amounts of meth, then somebody kidnaps her in the trunk of a car and she ends up in prison.
After reading that, I was like, “Holy shit!” and started digging for more stories. I put together a structure and started pitching the movie. For two years I pitched the movie and no one touched it. As luck would have it, I was working at a bar and one of my regulars comes in, a producer named Andy Weiss. He was producing a movie at the time called “Middle Men,” a movie about the start of online billing and the porn business.
So he says, “There’s some Russian mob in this. Do you speak any Russian?” I do, so afterwards I pitched him and he loved it. So those guys produced the movie. That’s the story in the nutshell.
I had all but given up on it at that point. Everyone had said it was too risqué. People told us to shoot it and then they would give us money. It’s funny, in a town that’s as liberal as Hollywood is, people are still scared to talk about porn. I even had my friends who are producers try to get a notable filmmaker to make it, that way people would know it’s not dirty. But no one was interested.
Of course, afterwards, everyone is like “Brilliant idea!” So that’s it in a nutshell.
You talked to a number of stars while making it. What did you think is the baseline reason people get into the industry?
I don’t know if there’s one reason. However, I do think there is a personality type.
What Seka, Crissy Moran, and Amber Lynn wanted to do it for are three ridiculously different stories. Same with Randy West. But I think there is a certain A). Open-mindedness or B.) Willingness to perform. Whatever that willingness to perform is, in the bedroom or out of the bedroom. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a sexual nature. Maybe I should say "a willingness to express oneself."
A lot of people will say, “Well, they’re unsure of themselves and want to do it.” Well, if they’re unsure of themselves, the reason they want to perform is to be sure of themselves. In their case, it’s just of a sexual nature. I’d say it’s open-mindedness and a desire to perform.
In your interviews with stars after they’ve left the industry, would you say this personality trait still shows up in their post-porn life?
You know, it does and doesn’t. Just like anyone else, these people mature. In particular in my film, everybody has made a progression with their lives. I think some of your readers might be sad to find that a lot of these women are pretty much not the people they are in those films. All of them do not associate themselves now with what they were in their careers. They really do try to move on. Being human beings of a sexual nature does not define who they are today.
Would you say that a lot of the actresses and actors that leave suffer with a sense of guilt after leaving? Do they usually have baggage from their careers?
I would say a majority of them do, but not forever. Like Seka never felt an ounce of remorse. Randy West never felt an ounce of remorse about the porn part. He was mad at something afterwards because of it, but not the porn part. No remorse.
But people who have really tried to stay away from it and really redefine themselves, absolutely. And that’s a good amount of people. Or most do, yes.
You also have some pretty interesting interviews with stars who have retired and proceeded to re-enter the industry at various points. It must have popped up at least a couple times in your documentary. What makes the transition between leaving porn and coming back so complicated?
Yeah, it is. Since the film has come out, Houston's gone back and Amber Lynn has come back. Raylene has retired again. So yeah, I’d say it’s really complicated, except for Amber Lynn. She’s like Seka; it’s denying who she is. She’s a industry legend and that’s just become a part of who she is.
Houston – yeah, it’s super complicated because that woman has done everything she can to move on, but society won’t let her. I hear comments when people are like, “Look at her plastic surgeries, look at this, look at that…” Fuck you. That’s her choices that she made and it’s an aesthetic choice. If you can’t deal with it, fuck yourself. She’s trying hard: She was a real estate agent, she was in nursing school. She’s trying hard, but she can’t get away from it. She’s a really nice person who’s worked hard at these things, so she’s gone back to it because she’s had to embrace it.
I have a question about something that didn’t come up in the documentary: Post-porn sexual relationships. Did anyone mention if it was frustrating? Does that change completely because of the industry?
We actually did get into this, but it didn’t make its way into the film. The one problem is that some people run into is a lot of questioning. Chrissy Moran was actually getting approached by people at fan fairs and playing it off. Houston had cancer; who has sex with someone who has cancer? A lot of the girls said they would run into guys who would expect one thing and get another.
We had such a heartwarming conversation with Shelley Lubben. In a line of questioning about relationships and sex, she says in the film, “What you see on camera isn’t sex. It’s gymnastics almost; you’re making angles for the camera." The way she put it, people in the bedroom expect what they see on the camera. When in reality, it’s like: “Well, no I actually like missionary, top, bottom, from the side… Maybe a little oral. Maybe a nap.”
Randy West is an old timer who wasn’t around during the digital era. Has digital production made it more difficult for stars? Did anything like that ever come up?
Mary Carey is our cut-off. Digital production over the past two years, since we’ve finished the film, is at such a breakneck speed. I can only say it as an outside observer, but it didn’t affect anyone in the film. Look, the digital age that we’re in right now is point, shoot, lights, Final Cut for a few hours and we’re done. They just churn it out.
That’s seems like what he was propositioning: There’s a higher rate of burnout now compared to the stars of the early-90s and pre-Internet age.
This is very much why I think that the age of the pornstar is dead. To be frank, you used to be able to have a relationship with these people over a number of years. Now it’s 30, 40, 50 times a year you’re going to see this person. You don't want to see that over 5 years. And then audiences get tired of them and they’re disposed of. There’s your disgusting tissue reference…
Take Asia Carrera's website. She talks about her fans coming and supporting her. They grew up with her. They watched her for 10 years. She can’t handle it anymore. So I think that day is done. The days of people fall in love with pornstars is over. Now it’s just lust.
You’ve obviously interacted with a lot of people since filming. It’s not the most flattering look for the industry, either. Has there been any criticism from others in the adult entertainment world?
Um…. You know what? No. There’s one person – I think he’s retired – who wrote a really nasty review of it. Everyone who’s in the industry has been great. They let us premiere the trailer at the XRCO Awards and my ear was getting chewed off all night. Nicole Aniston was there, one of the hotter new girls who’s really sweet, and Dani Jenson, who was really sweet. I was chatting with Scarlett Fay the other day and she’s a fan. Ron Jeremy said it best when we screened it at Paramount. He said “This film should be required viewing for anyone entering the adult business.” Which is a baseline compliment. There’s no bigger defender of the industry and pro-porn guy. I said, “That’s my medal right there.”
Look, I’m not a pro-porn guy. I haven’t watched it a whole lot of it before doing the movie. Since I’ve finished editing the film, I haven’t watched a whole lot now. But it’s good to know that both sides of the spectrum really like it.
One thing I’ll say is one of the bigger names in adult was Abella Anderson. She’s this gorgeous Cuban girl who has hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers. She watched the movie and quit because of it. This is a woman who had this big career ahead of her. She said, “I just see myself making many of those decisions that these women made and I don’t want to end up in a bad situation.” That was a pretty amazing moment. We contacted each other and talked. I was like, “Wow.” We didn’t know each other, she just saw it on iTunes.
This brings up another question: A lot of the stars in the film dropped out of porn and then dropped off the face of the planet, back into day-to-day life. But what about someone like Sasha Grey, who left but tried to be more mainstream in her celebrity? If you were to do another one, would you go after any of these people who try to capitalize on their success in porn, but in more of a mainstream way?
You know, I would consider it. How do I say this in a really nice, diplomatic way? Some people wouldn’t want to be involved in the documentary because it doesn’t fit into their plans.
I would be incredibly interested. This happened with Tera Patrick. Fuck it, I’ll say it. She pissed me off. She just finished with the business and everyone knows her. We tried to do everything we could to accommodate her, but she wanted no less than $10,000 to be in our film. In a fucking documentary! We wanted her for three hours, but her a horrible person of an agent was rude and condescending. Yes, maybe if I was Morgan Spurlock or Michael Moore she would have done it. But this was after the film was done and we had all these names. It probably wasn’t even Tera, it was probably her agent. That’s who I guess I should lay this upon.
But if we did do a sequel, Sasha would be great. She seems genuinely to be trying really hard. Like, she tried to read some children’s books to a preschool class and really caught a lot of flack for it. So, yeah, it’s happening. I know she’s having a tough-go with the acting side.
We would be interested in a sequel and it’s something that’s definitely in the conversation for the second half of this year. One of the things that I would touch upon would be the most important social relevancy issues, including trying to get into mainstream entertainment. That would definitely fit in there.
Follow Bryce Wagoner on Twitter here. His next documentary project is on the greatest fans in the music industry, Jimmy Buffett's Parrotheads.