If there's anything you can't accuse porn of being, it's "too boring" or "non-controversial." And yet, when I speak to Bryn Pryor, the director of X-Rated: The Greatest Adult Movies of All Time, he tells me that a lot of the documentary was edited down because Showtime thought it was just that—too much history, not enough sex.
But X-Rated, Pryor says, isn't Red Shoe Diaries or a compilation of sexy scenes with voice-over introductions: It's an oral history of the adult industry, and one that needs to be told.
The film's host, Chanel Preston, agrees. She says that one of the reasons this movie is different (and why she chose to do it) is that it "humanizes pornography, and it's important for me to see people walk away feeling like there were real people with real visions and a lot of hard work behind these films."
According to Pryor, pornography is legitimate means of media without much information available for the public outside of the films themselves. While he certainly didn't set out to make porn more mainstream, which was my initial assumption about the reasoning behind the film, he did want to create "a glimpse" of the quickly changing industry, from the days of when you could only view adult films in theaters to now, an era in which DVDs are languishing while sites like PornHub thrive.
He also wanted to make sure that this movie wasn't going to be another Skinemax knockoff that people would be watching for the promise of a fleshy nipple, but a film about the movies themselves.
"Mainstreaming porn has been a conversation that's been going on in the industry for decades," he says. "In the documentary, you can see that people thought that by 1978, 1979 it was going to be on television. It was just going to be another channel."
"We approached the documentary from the standpoint of it being genuinely about making the films and not about some sensationalized late-night excuse to show boobs. Cable already has all of that. We wanted it to be a mainstream product about the adult industry, but the adult industry is doing a fine job of mainstreaming itself on its own."
If anyone's a good choice to tell the story of porn production, it's Pryor. He's been in porn for a long time, with a career that's included writing, directing award-winning films for major adult studios and being the managing editor for AVN—the industry's best known trade publication. Just days ago he was inducted into the AVN hall of fame, at the "Oscars of Porn" in Las Vegas. On the telephone he's an encyclopedia of knowledge about the business, able to recall even the most obscure films (like 1997's incredibly awful and hilarious Swingin' In The Rain) while gushing over one of X-Rated's breakout stars, Georgina Spelvin.
Spelvin, of course, might be new to viewers of the movie—which both Pryor and Preston say isn't for those looking for a titillating time but for viewers interested in learning about the industry from those on the inside—but she's been in the adult world for a long time starring in such iconic films as The Devil in Miss Jones. Spelvin is almost 80, and according to Pryor, not shy about sharing her experiences in the business. He acknowledges that people often remember their time in the industry in a way that's less than positive, but that most of the people profiled in the film feel that they had a great experience. He also tells me that Spelvin and her contemporaries (stars in their 60s and 70s) are the best part of the entire film.
Notably, Pryor says that he didn't come at the film with a planned message about porn. While other films in this vein—such as The Girl Next Door or After Porn Ends—might be coming from a specific viewpoint, Pryor's main goal was to bring the history of pornography production to the public consciousness. It's not a film that people may be studying in gender studies or sociology classes for decades to come: Pryor openly says that with a male director and a male producer at the helm that it wasn't their place to tell the story of feminism or objectification in porn, although if the subject was broached they left it in. Rather, he says that the documentary is an artifact (or a relic) of the industry.
Pryor quotes Truffaut when discussing the finished product:
"There's the movie you plan to make, there's the movie you're making, and then there's the movie you have discovered you have made. And when we got into editing, we started discovering what we had actually gotten, by mistake, was this great thumbnail history of the business in an overarching way that I don't think anyone else has been able to catch."
"And I think, had we set out to make that movie, we would have blown it, too," Pryor says passionately. "It's just too big. But if you let people tell their stories through the lens of the movies that they've made, you end up telling the story of the industry from then until now. You can't not."
The film will air numerous times this month, starting tonight at 11 p.m. Pryor hopes to release a longer version of the film (with all the "boring" parts left in) sometime in the future.
Image via Showtime