Industry executive Joey Wilson has worked in adult for more than 15 years, pulling stints at, among other shops, Fat Dog, Rosebud and Metro, where he launched the hard-edge, critically acclaimed Fusxion imprint in 2003.
His reward was to not have his contract renewed. While understandably disappointing, it turned out to be the best move of his career. Tired of working for others, he took the plunge and opened his own studio, Third Degree Films.
A year later, Third Degree is one of Porn Valley’s latest success stories, thriving beyond Wilson’s most optimistic expectations.
“Walking out the (Metro’s) door, I told myself I wasn’t going to do this for somebody else anymore,” Wilson recalled, sitting in his rock poster-adorned office in a building he shares with Zero Tolerance Entertainment. (Prior to adult, Wilson worked in the music industry, and is a first cousin of former Doobie Brothers vocalist and current solo artist Michael McDonald). “Like, this is time. I’ve paid my dues. I’ve got this down. It was just time to do it right.”
Drawing on his collective industry experience, Wilson knew from the get-go exactly what type of porn Third Degree Films was going to produce.
“Really high end, hard, nasty gonzo and wall to wall — the market that sells,” he said. “And I say high end in quality as far as the look of things, the camera, and everything. The locations in themselves, I mean, we’re shooting in $10 million, $8 million and $5 million homes, not some hotel room or studio. My budgets are literally in the $20,000, $25,000 range. I’m spending the money where it needs to be spent and spent correctly.”
“The A talent list,” he continued. “The girls that people wanted to see are the fresh talent. Male talent that performs and performs like you want, not just to throw a scene together to get it done and forgotten. From the minute of the first scene being shot to the end of the last scene being shot and in editing, we really spend time with doing it right, and not just doing it to get it done. I think that’s the key. There’s a professionalism you have to maintain and an integrity to get it out there and really make it shine above the rest.”
Critical to Third Degree getting off the ground and connecting with its target demographic was creating a unique brand. Toward that end, Wilson came up with a striking logo — a wide red foil tribal pattern that runs down the left side of every box and continues across the bottom with the company name in large white eye-catching font.
“I think I came up with something that when you walked in the store, it stood out,” he said. “But I got static about, ‘The logo’s way too big on the box. You can’t do that. You’re losing your art.’ And I said it’s the one thing people will remember overall. Once I knew I had Third Degree out there on everybody’s tongues, the rest would follow suit.”
Bringing on board shooters Chris Streams and Danny Case, Wilson launched 3rd Degree with the Streams-directed Share the Load, which hit stores in August 2004.
Since then, Wilson has added eleven more lines, but Share the Load continues to out-sell them all, with that first volume Third Degree’s all-time top mover. In second place is the debut Crack Addict, helped no doubt by landing the cover of the August 2004 AVN (spurring a few angry phone calls to the magazine from some more established companies). Other series include Hand to Mouth, Camel Hoes and Finger Licking Good.
“Third Degree titles are selling great,” said company sales manager Tony Santoro. “It’s easier to sell good product. Makes my life a lot easier. I don’t have to convince anybody to take it. They all want it.”
Covers aside, it’s what’s inside that really counts, and Streams, who directs the vast majority of Third Degree’s titles, says his approach to content is a pretty basic one.
“I shoot what I want to jack off to,” he said. “And if you like it, great. And if you don’t like it, and people haven’t liked it, you know what? Fine.
“I shot a scene for Camel Hoes, and I gotta tell ya, I damn near pulled it out and started jacking off right when I was shooting it. It was so fucking good. I loved it.” So did AVN, making it a Spotlight Pick in the December 2004 issue.
Just as he knew what he wanted from the start, Wilson knows what he wants to continue doing.
“Keep the consistency,” he said. “Try to initiate trends more than follow the trends. Always looking to upgrade ourselves. And honestly? Be an outlet for people to expect new, young fresher things.”