This article originally ran in the May 2014 issue of AVN magazine. Click here to see the online digital edition. Photo of Jodi West by Joseph Evans
In late 2012, the adult entertainment market got just a little more twisted. Specifically, Blended & Twisted—the first title from Forbidden Fruits Films, a studio that mines the rich field of pseudo-incest head on. Its first four titles—Blended & Twisted 1 & 2, Who Needs Boys and Mother’s Indiscretion—sold out in two weeks, much to the jubilation of Howard Levine, whose Exile Distribution had just begun carrying Forbidden Fruits. “In the last 10 years, I haven’t seen anything like it,” he said at the time. “The line has taken off like crazy.”
More than three years ago, husband-wife team Jay and Jodi West started to shoot their own adult entertainment and then some 18 months later they started their own company out of South Florida. Since then they’ve racked up award nominations, positive reviews, and most of all brisk sales. As an adult-style salute to Mother’s Day in AVN’s May issue, we checked in with Jodi West to talk about the ground she and Jay have covered since the studio emerged.
So far, the Wests have covered stepmothers and stepsons (Mother’s Indiscretion), stepmothers and step-daughters (Mother-Daughter Lesbian Lessons), stepbrothers and stepsisters (Sibling Sex Stories), step-fathers and step-daughters (Father’s Forbidden Fantasies), and foster parents and their charges—18-year-olds, of course (Meet the Fosters).
What’s so appealing about their take on blended families behaving badly? Part of it is Jodi West’s persona—her killer bod and tender maternal manner makes for a mix of salacious and solicitous that creates a smoking-hot MILF scene. And the amateur vibe in Forbidden Fruits productions adds to the heat. As James Cybert of HotMovies.com has said, “The viewer feels like a fly on the wall, getting to see something he definitely shouldn’t be allowed to see.” But perhaps the most succinct way to express the appeal is in a quote posted on the studio’s Twitter page, attributed to Mark Twain: “There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.”
You got your start making fetish clips on Clips4Sale.com and then moved on to features released on VOD, and then to the DVD line. Do you notice any differences in consumer tastes on these platforms?
One of our best compliments is to hear from some of our fans who have watched us from the very beginning. They love that although our product has gotten considerably better production value wise, we still haven’t lost our amateurish feel and we still listen to their suggestions and critiques. One of our biggest challenges is to run that fine line between polished and too polished. … But generally across the different buying platforms, they all love the same thing: the taste of something forbidden.
Did you start off right away making erotica that verged into forbidden territory?
After two years of camming, we actually started filming by doing handjobs, blowjobs and footjobs. Believe it or not, we had a much higher profit margin when all we did was campy little 5- to 10-minute hj and bj clips. We still make about six short handjob videos a month. They are fun and they sell! When we first picked up a camera, we didn’t have enough money to make “porn,” but because we had a working penis (Jay’s) and me, a woman in my forties who looked like the mom next door, we could make storyline-based erotica. One reason we started with the taboo side of things is that we love storytelling and noticed that although there were a few people doing taboo-type clips on clip stores, there was a noticeable void in the mainstream adult VOD and DVD market. So we made movies.
Last year, Jay West said that you avoided watching movies in similar genres “to keep from being influenced.” A couple of questions: One, were there any classic titles that influenced you before you started making your own erotica? And two, have you since begun checking out the competition?
We actually haven’t watched any adult movies since we started making them. Not just in our genre but in any unless I was in the movie (i.e., Girlfriends Films—who I admire greatly). I think that our style is pretty much etched in stone for us. A friend once said, “if it ain’t broke, don’t break it,” and we are always afraid we might start to try to get a little too polished or do something that isn’t in our wheelhouse. I’ve always loved the Tom Byron type eroticism. Jay loves all the old Ginger Lynn and Nina Hartley stuff from the ’80s. Some have said that our style is reminiscent of the golden age of porn, which we take as a high compliment. We honestly admire anyone who takes the time to come up with an original idea. So much of the adult product that comes out today is rechurned from some other movie. I admire wit, originality, hard work and the ability to turn a profit.
Do you have any trouble getting into retail shops in certain states given your flirtation with incest?
That sounds like a Howard Levine question to me (lol). But to address this, I would say that first of all, we don’t do incest. We shoot everything from a step relationship. Is it wrong? Hell yes, it’s wrong, but people love the forbidden nature of the trysts. As far as DVD sales go, the sales team at Exile has far surpassed any goals that we could have imagined. With the numbers we are hitting, I can’t imagine that there isn’t a store in any small town that doesn’t have one of our titles on a shelf somewhere. That said, this is a great time for me to thank all the distributors and brick-and-mortar retailers that took a chance on Forbidden Fruits Films from the beginning. Without their support, we wouldn’t be where we are. It seems like now every studio is churning out an edgier taboo line. When we took those first tentative steps, these retailers took a chance on us and it has definitely paid off.
You’ve said your storylines are “no more absurd than what is in the tabloid news.” Have your fans shared their own hair-raising experiences?
Oh yes! Sometimes I feel like a priest on confession day. Some start out really sweet like, “Dear Jodi, I really love your work” ... and then it goes into something like ... “So I’ve been &%$#(%$ my @#^%&* for a year now. Do you think that’s wrong?” Yes, that is wrong. At first fans used to submit their ideas of what we should make and we have made a few of them. Now pretty much everyday ordinary events get turned into a forbidden tryst of some sort. I dream story lines—I know that’s messed up, but hey, it’s how the magic happens.
You’ve been to several adult expos, including the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo. What have you learned about your fans?
My fans are absolutely awesome! I know everyone says that but they are the kindest, most genuine people and I truly appreciate them so much. The only fan expo we are attending as a company this year is the AEE. Our booth was great and all of our models had an absolute blast! I think the fans treat me a little bit differently because I own the company. Some aren’t sure how to approach me, as they can’t quite figure out if I’m an adult star or a studio head. They quickly learn that I am an extremely open and approachable person, always available for an autograph or a picture or to answer questions.
You started as the ultimate mom-and-pop enterprise. Since then you’ve added other directors and an editing team. How has that affected the range of products you’re able to offer to fans?
Great question! We’ve had great success with our two directors, Levi Cash and Elexis Monroe. As you can imagine, we’ve had a lot of interest from people wanting to direct for us. We hand-picked Levi and Elexis because they were able to grasp our style of story-telling while adding their own unique perspectives. This is one of the key characteristics we look for in a director. Levi was one of our first male actors when we moved into doing boy/girl scenes, so he has known from the beginning what we were trying to do. Elexis has added her years of experience in the girl/girl arena to our brand and it has been a very good fit. When Harry Sparks approached us on his latest project, we were apprehensive about this big of a project until we read the script and discovered that it was a perfect fit for us. Adding a couple of editors has allowed us to get a little more creative and hopefully end up with a better product. We are still a mom-and-pop “boutique” studio and we love it that way.
When you recently redid your studio site, ForbiddenFruitsFilms.com, you added a page for models to apply. Were you getting a lot of requests from amateurs?
We send all of our submissions to a professional staffing agent for review. We believe in core competencies and recruiting models is not anything I have a desire to do. We get a lot of requests from guys who want to get into the business. Guys, it’s harder than you think. Anyone can be a rock star in their own bedroom. When you have a couple thousand watts of hot lights and a camera a few inches from your junk, it’s a whole different story. You have to first of all reside in an area where adult productions are made. This doesn’t mean India, Egypt or even Iowa. This means L.A., Vegas, South Florida and a handful of other areas. Put yourself in a target-rich environment and then get some experience. I am NOT going to take anyone’s virginity; I already have a husband, and I am not in the market for a boyfriend. If you are serious about getting into the industry, we will try to put you in touch with someone who can help. We typically like someone with at least some adult experience and a willingness to learn. If they have the desire and the mechanics, we will team them with a seasoned professional and help them as much as we can. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Being in South Florida, we are lucky enough to get girls who are new and fresh in the adult industry. I love working with these girls and seeing if they are a good fit with us. If we like someone, they stand a pretty good chance of being shot by us over and over again.
When your interest in adult entertainment was sparked, you were members of the swinger community. Now you’re part of the adult community. What differences and similarities are there between the two?
Probably one of the most difficult things to convey to our “swinger” friends is that this is work. Hard work. A lot of them want to do what we do but don’t want to do what we’ve done to get here. Another interesting thing we come across is that we have to explain to our friends that most porn stars are not swingers and they are not hookers. They get paid to do a job and make a piece of “art.” They want to hang out when they aren’t working and just be treated like everyone else. We like to spend our free time with open-minded people from the adult and the swinger communities as long as boundaries are respected and people understand that we are running a business (a fun business, but still a business) and we love what we do. At the end of a long day sometimes there is nothing better than kicking back, naked, with a good glass of wine and not thinking about sex!