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OutFest Bridges the Porn Gap More than Ever

OutFest Bridges the Porn Gap More than Ever
Look around the parties thrown at OutFest '98, the most prestigious gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered independent film festival in the United States. There's porn director Gino Colbert chatting with Los Angeles Times film critic Kevin Thomas. There's Ryan Idol talking about the speech he just heard by Sir Ian McKellen. There's porn auteur Thor Stephens talking to novelist Armistead Maupin. Porn elite such as Hank Hightower and Will Clark schmoozed with actress Holly Woodlawn and comedian Bruce Vilanch. And Wash West was a finalist in the screenwriting competition.

Porn, if it's going mainstream, is heading there through the gay and lesbian film festivals. More videos were about porn, concerned porn, featured porn stars and were done by porn people than ever before at OutFest.

For the first time, a porn director - Phil St. John, who used his real name, Phil Tarley - entered a non-hardcore video into the festival, and will release a sexual version of the same video for XXX consumers under the banner of his new company, Tribal Pulse Productions.

His Chasing Andy, the story of Andrew Cunanan, starred porn elite like J.T. Sloan, Dino DiMarco, Paul Morgan and Dax Kelley, but it wasn't well received at the midnight showing, when much of the audience walked out during the screening. The next morning, attendees were offered refunds before the movie screened.

Tarley blames OutFest for describing his endeavor as a linear film, rather than the artsy non-linear one that it is. His hardcore version will be called South Beach Heat and will be quite different.

Other films touching on porn included Uncut by John Greyson, who says directing something with frontal nudity for $150,000 was far different from his more artistic endeavor last year, Lilies, which cost $1.2 million to make. "Of course, I can do more with less, and I find fewer restrictions with my smaller projects," says the director, who talked about circumcised penises and Pierre Trudeau licking boys in the film.

German director Jochen Hick says the porn community was very open to his documentary Sex/Life in L.A., which includes a Gino Colbert set and focuses on Cole Tucker, Kevin Kramer, Matt Bradshaw, Madonna model/boyfriend Tony Ward and performance artist Ron Athey.

"I spent time with everyone equally and there was no question that the porn boys were very much more open to me and more comfortable with the camera," Hick says.

Ward, who masturbates in the bathtub for the camera, laughs, "All this time porn directors were begging me to do adult videos and I said no, and now this comes out. It captures a very specific period in my life, and I'm happy with it. I'm delighted there are pornstars profiled alongside me."

And Athey, who often pierces and staples himself during his performances, and shows his tattooed body during his shows, says, "We all use our bodies in some way, so of course we are all porn stars in some way, too, aren't we?"

One of the most explicit movies of the festival, Hard, took a hard look at the sex trade world of Los Angeles through the fictitious eyes of a serial killer.

"The editing lab didn't want to print it because they thought it was pornographic," says director John Huckert, who made the film using credit cards. "I really sympathized with these characters because they struggled through life selling themselves; and toward the end of this film, we were all almost like that ourselves."

Other films that crossed into the porn realm include: The Asian Heat in Me, hetero porn from the lesbian perspective; Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss featuring photographers who urged male models to pose nude for them; Sexual Surrogate, featuring porn star/director Bruce LaBruce; Krazy Girls, a true-life mockumentary about strippers; One Way, about male hustlers; Actos Impuros and Steam taking place in bath houses; Pansexual Public Porn and Dr. Amoeba Does Sex.

Also, in response to the more specific sexual content of the films and videos shown at OutFest, program coordinator Elaine Holliman (an Academy Award nominee for her film Chicks In White Satin), says, "We are becoming more and more conscious and aware of the adult market and the impact it has in all venues of film."

She hosted directors including David DeCoteau from Leather Jacket Love Story, which also used Los Angeles porn stars in it and explored hustling in Silverlake.

"You'll see," predicts Holliman, "if porn is going to be mainstream someday, it's going to happen through independent film festivals like this."

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