CHATSWORTH, Calif. - One of the big winners at the first Urban Spice awards last month was Juan Cuba, who took home three prizes, most importantly Best Director (Gonzo), which he won over much better known competition.
He also won for Best Gonzo Release (Yo Quiero Chocolatte 4) and Best Group Sex Release (Alone in the Dark 6), both made for The Candy Shop when that imprint was part of Red Light District.
"It was really nice to be recognized and appreciated for my work," Cuba told AVN. Especially since, when it comes to recognition, his work until now has fallen pretty much under the radar.
Red Light District has been Cuba's home base for the five years he's been in the industry. He turns out one movie a month for the company, in a variety of lines.
He's only worked with ethnic talent for the past two years, so he found his Urban Spice nods additionally sweet. "I don't think the industry realizes how talented they are," he said.
Five years ago Cuba's closest connection to the porn industry was his local video store. He'd been an avid fan since his teen years but had no idea how to break into it. Then he saw an ad for Erotica LA and over three days straight-"with my little camera and my pen and paper"-he had his eyes opened. "I had no idea there was such a thing-I hadn't a clue."
On the floor he happened to meet actor-director Brandon Iron who invited him onto one of his sets, where he was introduced to Michael Stefano. Stefano took him under his wing and gave him a job as a production assistant on his Red Light shoots.
His first assignments were BTS footage for Stefano's DVDs. "He pretty much taught me how to shoot," Cuba said. He regards Michael as his mentor but credits Iron for that important first break.
"I have this fantastic career and this fantastic life because of Brandon. He gave me my name. My real name is Juan but my nationality is Cuban." (He was born in Cuba, raised in Miami and came to Los Angeles as a young teen.)
While p.a.-ing for Stefano Cuba shot his first sex scene, and since there were no openings for new directors with RLD, he shopped it around. Patrick Collins at Elegant Angel picked it up and hired him. He worked camera for Collins and eventually directed volumes of several EA series.
Then he returned to the Red Light fold and began shooting for Platinum X, at that time still part of the company. When Platinum X was sold he switched over to Candy Shop and Red Light, taking over lines like Cum Swapping Sluts, Cum Fart Cocktails, Throat Gaggers and others.
He's particularly proud of his work on the Candy Shop series Alone in the Dark, which features one white girl and five black men. Like most gangbangs, he says, it's not only difficult to shoot but difficult to cast.
"There's only a small amount of girls who do interracial who would do that many guys. There's a lot of stuff going on. The girl has to be prepared for it mentally and physically."
He also did the last of Red Light's once a year Gangbang line (Vol. 6), which featured Annette Schwarz and Bobbi Starr each taking on 15 men.
Additionally, he shoots a couple of reality series, Fucked at Random and Fuckin' Around in South Beach, shot in Miami and L.A. - "we drive out in the streets and pick up girls at random"- and a foot fetish line, Toe Service.
Cuba enjoys a good reputation with talent, which is a source of considerable pride to him. "When the girl sees I'm enthusiastic about the scene and I'm happy to have her there, as opposed to treating her like just another porn chick, she begins to feel appreciated, not like an object."
Now that DVD production has begun to slow down, he said, "I'm trying to do some other stuff with other companies. But right now I'm loyal to Red Light. It's been the best thing-everybody there has been great. We're like a family."
He has begun to shoot content for a new website, juancubaxxx.com, which he hopes will be up within a couple of months.
Cuba, who just turned 44, feels the secret of his success thus far is his basic love of the medium.
"I really, really enjoy what I do, I'm a true fan of this industry. And I want to be known for that. It's nice to get the awards and the recognition and all the respect from my peers, but if I wanted to be remembered as anything in this industry it is that I was really a true porn fan. I was meant to do this."