A few weeks ago, performers Charlotte Sartre and Lance Hart were shooting a film for a porn studio. She was playing the “horny woman at home,” as she put it, who had called a computer repairman, pretending that she was having technical difficulties. “Then we fuck each other in the ass,” Sartre said, irreverently describing the plot. Instead of performing in front of a handful of crew members, they were working in front of cameras placed on stationary tripods. Not only were Sartre and Hart working as their own crew but they were performing together, in-person.
Sartre and Hart are married and live together, which puts them in a special position. Right now, amid shelter-in-place restrictions, real-life couples are among the adult industry’s most in-demand performers. That’s because those already quarantining together can shoot partnered scenes without taking on undue risk.
In March, the Free Speech Coalition, the adult industry’s trade association, called for a voluntary hold on traditional on-set productions to avoid covid-19 transmission. Many performers are being booked by production studios for solo at-home shoots, sometimes with a director sitting in via teleconference. There is also the occasional Zoom orgy, in which performers interact at a distance from their own individual bedrooms. But the production makes an exception for “solos or [shoots] with partners who live in your household.” As a result, cohabitating performers like Sartre and Hart are uniquely capable of producing new, physically partnered content.
“Lance and I have had to turn down work,” said Sartre, who has heard similar stories from fellow couples in the industry. “We’ve gotten a lot of offers.”
Hart, who runs his own porn sites, including Man Up Films, understands the demand from a director’s perspective. “I’m definitely on the lookout for anybody who is quarantined together who can perform,” he said. Hart has a friend who lives with his fiancé and two roommates, all of whom are performers. “He’s just struck gold. He can shoot the guys he’s living with,” Hart said. He added that he plans to hire his friend for upcoming shoots. “One of them I can pay to be the PA. It’s a full-on crew living together.” Hart has a backlog of content that will carry his sites through August, but past that, he says “there’s a good chance that almost all my updates... will be those guys.”
Hart suspects that the high demand will mean that he and Sartre can set their rate “higher and higher” as the production hold continues. But with the demand and higher paycheck comes more challenging work, which is why they are limiting these shoots to once every week, or even every other week. “It’s not any easier just because you’re at home,” said Sartre. “Every time you’re on set and there’s a bunch of people, they’re doing something. Somebody’s a PA, somebody is doing lights, somebody is doing sound, somebody is getting food.” Now, all of that falls to them.
Without the extra eyes on-set, it easy for details to get overlooked. In the middle of shooting the computer repairman film, they reviewed the footage and found a Levi’s logo visible in a key scene where Hart bends over, revealing his thong peeking over the top of his jeans. They had to reshoot the scene to avoid a lawsuit. “If there were a camera person or director in the room, they would notice that stuff as it’s happening,” said Hart. “It would be their responsibility to fix that.”
To shoot themselves, they have to use stationary tripods, sometimes multiple ones capturing the scenes from different angles, and even those have to be adjusted throughout. “You have to get creative,” said Hart. “You can’t just set up a tripod across the room and shoot the whole thing as a wide-angle. So, imagine you’re having sex in some shape or form, and just when it’s really hot and awesome, that’s when you need a closeup.” Typically, a cameraperson can make quick adjustments to capture close-up penetration or work around a body part blocking a shot, but now there is no cameraperson. “One of you has to go get the tripod, move it, look at the viewfinder, set up, guess where you’re gonna be [in the frame],” he said. “It’s just constant back and forth.”
“Some people have mastered that skill of tripod shooting,” said Hart. “I’m not good at that.” Sartre chimed in with a touch of sarcasm: “We have so much time to learn now, baby.” The end result of these shoots is “a lot of static shots” with closeups and handheld POV footage sprinkled in. Hart explained, “The gonzo style where the camera is constantly moving, that’s gone.” Sartre added, “Which is sad because that’s my favorite style.”
It’s not just the technical difficulty, says Hart, but navigating the concurrent challenges of performing, directing, and having sex with your real-life partner. Maybe you have an idea for a better shot, he said, but your partner might be personally enjoying the moment. “How do you decide now’s a good time to say “cut, I have an idea,’” he said. The same is true, says Sartre, of personal discomfort like needing lube, but worrying about whether getting up to retrieve it will ruin the shot. “Every time you get up, you try to get back in the same place, but you don’t always line up with how things were,” she explained. “Maybe it was perfect before and now my head’s being chopped off.”
Sartre and Hart have an advantage with non-partnered shoots as well. Recently, Sartre held the camera for Hart while he shot a few solos for Kink.com. “It is so much easier when you have a human holding your camera,” said Hart. He’s returned the favor for some of Sartre’s solo shoots. “Objectively speaking, it’s just faster to tell somebody to move than it is to get up and move something yourself,” she said. “You can keep performing, the hand can stay inside the butthole.”