HOLLYWOOD - Held this weekend at the Knitting Factory, the first annual Los Angeles Erotica Film Fest provided two days of fun and discussion with some of the most legendary figures of the adult industry.
The festival was divided between three rooms, with screenings in two theater-style wings and a series of panels in the main lounge. Doors opened at noon Saturday, and shortly thereafter, the first panel, "Erotica Today," got underway. Featuring John Stagliano, Andrew Blake, Joanna Angel, Joe Gallant and Dana Vespoli, the panel touched on subjects ranging from the difference between porn and erotica, to the increasingly damaging effects of piracy on the business.
Stagliano had some especially fresh comments to make, what with the decision just a few days earlier by the judge who presided over his recently-ended piracy case to reduce the settlement amount.
Stagliano feels the judge's decision sent a message that "pornographers don't have the same rights as others, and we're going to make that clear by not protecting their copyrights."
On a brighter note, Gallant said that he considers porn to be "the last creative frontier," to which Blake added, "We're all independent filmmakers."
"That's the great thing about making porn,” said Stagliano. “You can make movies on a low budget and do whatever you want, and make a living at it."
Angel, meanwhile, said her approach is a bit less artistically motivated. “I embrace the cheesiness of porn in my movies," she said.
The next panel up, "Femmeworks," brought together prominent female pornographers Belladonna, Vanessa Blue, Tricia Devereaux, Holly Randall, Nicki Hunter and Kylie Ireland. This group tackled issues such as whether they think porn is degrading to women, and how being performers (with the exception of Randall) helped them as directors.
A well-attended festival party on Saturday night featured a small presentation ceremony for a quartet of special "Recognition Awards" given to Marilyn Chambers, Seka, Roy Karch and the late Russ Meyer. Also receiving a "Vanguard Award" was Vivid Alt's Eon McKai.
The next day, Karch, Charmbers and Seka all took part in easily the most noteworthy panel of the weekend, "Classics Showcase," joined by Ron Jeremy, Christy Canyon and Henri Pachard.
Several of the panelists reminisced about the late John C. Holmes.
"He was the most fabulous, wonderful person I ever met," said Seka. "We took a little walk once and he said to me, 'Kid, don't ever do anything in this business you don't want to do.' He was one of the greatest people I've ever met in this business."
Karch pointed out that there are currently about 200 porn theaters left in the U.S., compared to the thousands that existed in their generation's heyday. And Chambers remarked that she thinks it may not be possible anymore to achieve true porn stardom of the caliber she and her contemporaries enjoyed, "because there's so much product out there."
Agreed Seka, "I think the last real porn star was Jenna Jameson."
There was a short "Vixens" panel next, with Wicked Pictures' Stormy Daniels, Adam & Eve's Ava Rose and Bree Olsen, and newly-anointed Déjà Vu girl Sunny Lane.
Finally, director Eon McKai moderated an "Alt Porn, Demystified" panel with Octavio "Winkytiki" Arizala, Vena Virago, Violet Blue and Dana DeArmond.
"We have a different relationship with the end user," said McKai, claiming that the so-called 'alt-porn movement' is more about trying to be creative and connect directly with like-minded people than being "punk."
"Mainstream porn still doesn't get the internet, and that there's a relationship via the internet between them and the consumer," said Blue. "Vote with your credit cards. Buy what you want to see, not just whatever they're giving you."
The festival closed with a screening of director Angélique Bosio's Llik Your Idols, a feature-length documentary on New York's Cinema of Transgression featuring underground auteurs such as R. Kern (You Killed Me First) and Nick Zedd (They Eat Scum, Geek Maggot Bingo, Police State.)
The screening programs presented over the two days were: Artrotica, The Best of CineKink, Docs/Mocks, Eroticomedy, Eroticore, Meta-Erotica, Mini-Features, Music Videos, Retro and Xperimental Eros.
The festival's principal sponsors included ImLive.com, PussyCash, Pulpo, EonMcKai.com, Vivid Alt, BurningAngel.com, Bad Seed, Adam & Eve, B.A.B.E, Silver Lake Film Festival, Arrow Productions, CineKink, Yelp, City Beat, Indie 103.1, California Exotic Novelties, Evil Angel, Amore, Brooklyn Reptyle Films, Digital Playground, Hustler, Stockroom.com, VCX, Go Girl Energy Drink, Interscope Records, Sugar Hooker Clothing, Kylie Ireland, Roy Karch, Andrew Blake, Babeland, Touring Adventures, Roosevelt Hotel, Avalon Transportation and ViaDerby.com.