They Shoot Porn Stars Don't They

Is this porn’s boon or bust?

Their content: hijacked. The marketplace: swamped. The indictments: have left their mark. Last year’s swift arrival of the global financial crisis sent profits tumbling even further. Jim, who estimates he’s experienced a profit drop of a whopping 40 percent since, is hoping things will get better—in late 2010, or maybe 2011.

Fuck the
Fuck the
Fuck the

All around him, production companies are disappearing in a Darwinian era in which only the strong—or those pornographers who understand how to sate the fickle, ever-changing American libido—will survive the crash.

No matter. Fuck the economy. Fuck the feds. Fuck the competition. Powers has no intention of stopping what he’s doing. “I just keep on plodding along,” he confides stoically. “I’m like a machine.” Besides, it’s not like he’s doing anything wrong. He’s helping people. He’s giving the unemployed masses much-needed jobs. “I fulfilled a dream!” he cackles when I ask him about the previous day’s “Fuck Machines” shoot. “I’m a dream weaver!”

Jim isn’t the bad guy. He’s the good guy. “I sleep at night,” he informs me, his voice rising, “because I know, in my heart of hearts, I’m giving people money, that could not hold a job at fucking McDonald’s, for the most part. I’m paying people’s rent.” He waves his hands spastically. “It’s a lot more than I can say for a lot of the companies in America, pieces of shit, like Madoff, and Enron, all of these son of a bitches the Bush administration funded that do nothing but take, take, take! Here, I just give, give, give! And this is a fact!” he shouts, wild-eyed. “We are helping these girls! Anybody that comes into this business, for the most part, is a broken toy.” He leans towards me, earnestly attempting to make himself understood. “We’re giving them a place where they can make money, and get by, so they’re not standing on line in a welfare department. Thank God for people like me!” He bangs the desk.

“You ever see the movie ‘Rollerball’?” he queries, turning pensive. The 1975 film is set in 2018, when the world has become a global corporate state, and the most popular game is called “rollerball.” To win the game, Americans brain each other to death with metal balls, sating the bloodlust of the watching populace and “to demonstrate the futility of individual human effort,” according to one overseer. But when a veteran player, Jonathan E, played by James Caan, becomes a star survivor and refuses to retire, the government decides to kill him.

“They do not want James Caan being successful, because he was getting older, and he was showing how one man could survive against the system,” Powers explains. “People still went to watch gladiators in the future … to see if they could persevere.”

Many years ago, Jim’s boss, the prosecuted Mike Norton, reminded me of porn’s indisputable bottom line. If people didn’t want it, it wouldn’t be made.

“Pandora’s box has been opened,” Powers observes darkly. “The Internet did that.”

There’s no going back.

“Shooting porno is never gonna die as long as people have an interest in sex. It’s the medium that changes.” All he has to do is make a buck off the longing, channel the dark side of the American dream, create something so new, so outrageous, so unbelievable that people will pay to see it—even now. After all, when the industry is porn, profits may rise and profits may fall, but the demand is never-ending. His phone keeps ringing, his cell phone won’t stop vibrating across his desk, and there it is again, a melodious, computer-generated hymn—bing-bong-bing!—heralding the arrival of yet another incoming email of somebody wanting something.


I ask Jim if I can look around the warehouse. In the barren space, metal shelves are stacked high with torn-open brown boxes vomiting streams of DVDs. In the corner, a stage the color of Pepto-Bismol and decorated with silver star-covered streamers is empty. Next to the rollup door, an older man next to a bank of video monitors televising the live feed from the building’s surveillance cameras eyes me suspiciously.

Something is hanging in the rafters. It takes a minute for me to figure out what it is. It’s a leftover prop from one of Jim’s movies. It’s a giant vagina costume, a real monster, no doubt.

“You’re always welcome on my sets, Susannah,” Powers calls after me as I walk out the door.


They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They? Words & photos by Susannah Breslin. Logo & design by Chris Bishop. Copyright 2009 HOME CREDITS