"We spent probably the second half of 2007 working at 150 percent capacity. But in spite of everybody working so much, we were enjoying what we were doing," Mills says. "Over the last year, I've settled into more of what I would consider my own sort of personality at work. I have a lot more confidence than I did a year ago around what it is that I'm doing, and I've allowed myself to shoulder a little bit more pride about what I make."
Mills is also excited about other releases on the way, including an athletic-themed movie that has a twist on the locker-room scenario starring Alex Baresi, new model Xavier St. Jude and Diesel Washington (appearing in his final scene under contract with the studio). Also upcoming is a men-in-the-woods/hunting-themed release with Dirk Jager, Chad Manning and Marco Blaze, a new exclusive who appeared in a few films for the studio's European-based TitanMen Fresh line before filming Overdrive. "He really wanted to play with the men, not the boys. I don't say this very often - this guy's going to be a big star," Mills says. "He's stunning, and he's one of the nicest guys I've ever worked with - and I've worked with a lot."
Blaze shot three scenes for the studio and was quickly offered a two-year contract, something Mills notes the studio will be doing less of in the future. He says that with 11 exclusives at one point last year, it became hard to fulfill the commitments with fresh combinations: "We have built a reputation on bringing fresh faces into the business, and we have such a strong aesthetic around here."
In addition to Washington and Jager, Damien Crosse has also finished his contract. Mills notes that while many performers will still work exclusively with them of their own volition, he wants to keep the number of exclusives close to five - which means adding to the current crop of Blaze, Dean Flynn and Eduardo. "I want the status of exclusive, at least as far as TitanMen is concerned, to really mean something...we're making a long-term commitment to them. They become the face of this company."
Mills adds that he's also become more comfortable in pairing up models. "I used to put guys together where I had every reason to believe they were going to be extremely comfortable with each other; I was trying to be conservative. I've actually learned that we get some of our most interesting scenes when we put guys together that are kind of working a little outside of their expressed preferences. I'm not totally casting against type, but I'm requiring them to stretch themselves a little bit in their performance."
The studio will also continue to feature other directors: Joe Gage's Slow Heat in a Texas Town will debut in March. While the legend's long-term contract with TitanMen has been fulfilled, Mills expects to see more of him ("I have every reason to believe that Joe will be back to work with us again; we love working with him"). Mills is also excited to have his production assistant - Paul Wilde, with whom he shared the Best Videography GAYVN Award last year for H2O - step up to the director's chair for a medical-themed fetish movie starring TitanMen exclusives Rick van Sant, Marco Blaze and Tony Buff that will debut shortly before IML. "Paul has a big fascination with fetish play. He's very good, and he's as detail-oriented as I was when I started. And Tony is one of my favorite people to work with. He's got a really intense mind about fetish play, and the stuff that he does on-set is from his actual life," Mills says. "The man's got some cra-a-azy ideas that I would love to work with."
The studio plans about 20 titles for the year, including more in the ManPlay series (featuring titles from the MSR Video catalog) and the youthful TitanMen Fresh line, which rising director Richie Oldmann has made highly competitive with the top European labels. "Suite Dreams just won the Golden Star award in Prague," Mills says, adding that he helped mentor the director and teach him the TitanMen tricks. "In the last six months, Richie has really come up to speed as a director for us. Now it feels more like he's wearing the big shoes over there. He also has had great luck finding gay-identified performers, and at finding beautiful young men."
TitanMen also just launched a new, pay-per-minute website - TitanXXX.com - and it will continue to head the technology charge by releasing features on Blu-ray. The studio also unveiled an expanded line of products in its new TitanMen Tools line ("Toys are for boys, tools are for men"), which caters to its customers: "Most of the toys being sold to gay men are basically women's toys that have maybe been repackaged for men. We've launched a whole new tool line and the stuff is made for men. They're amazing - it's like matte black, manly looking stuff. It looks like stuff men would play with."
TitanMen will also continue to take a stand against unprotected sex in the industry, and to support the TitanMen/Folsom Fund, a venture with Folsom Street Events that supports organizations focusing on gay men's health issues. Mills also notes they helped fight California's infamous Prop 8 legislation. If the studio's commitment is any indication, it will be equally successful on both sides of the camera.
"This year has felt much more like we have a well-running machine. Our pacing has been really pleasant and I've been able to spend more time [in] creative development in front of a production," Mills says. "I'm really looking forward to 2009 being another winning year for us; we have great performers, great product, an excellent crew and a very supportive executive producer and leader in Bruce Cam - TitanMen will continue to shine in 2009."
CONTACT: TitanMen.com; firstname.lastname@example.org. Wholesale: email@example.com. Mailing address: Titan Media, P.O. Box 411345, San Francisco, CA 94141-1345. Phone: (800) 360-7204. Fax: (415) 252-7747.