LAS VEGAS - It wasn't as if SexZ Pictures didn't release any good movies before Corruption, last year's multi-award winner ... but owner Bo Kenney wanted to brand his studio in a way that would put it solidly on the map.
"When I came to the AVN offices after the show two years ago and talked to Paul [Fishbein, AVN's co-owner], I said, 'Who's a good director? I'm really looking to upgrade my company's profile'," Kenney recalled. "And he introduced me to Eli [Cross], and it was just like I sat out there on that little bench, he pitched Corruption to me, and after he got done, I said, 'You're hired; let's do the movie.' I gave him full rein and he just delivered. The story's pretty much the same with Upload. Afterwards, I just decided to hire him, bring him on as a full-time employee of the company, and I just let him do his thing."
But this year's "thing," which clocks in at just under five hours, took a massive crew 20 days to shoot (including 12 sex scenes) in multiple locations all over southern California, months to edit, and barely made it into stores before the deadline ... and besides Best Video Feature, garnered seven additional awards: Best Actress-Video (Eva Angelina), Best Supporting Actress-Video (Hillary Scott), Best Solo Sex Scene (Eva again), Best Screenplay-Video (Cross and Alvin Edwards), Best Non-Sex Performer (Bryn Pryor, Cross' alter ego), Best Special Effects and Best DVD Extras.
For those who don't know, Upload is about a pair of cyber-cops (Angelina and Derrick Pierce) on the trail of elite hacker Scott and a deadly computer virus which could wreak havoc on the world.
"$350,000 is an incredible amount of money for porn," Cross admitted, "but for what we were trying to do, it actually wasn't a lot of money because we were basically trying to make a $2 million movie for $350,000, so it was still really long days and a lot of work."
"The worst part was post-production," he continued. "We started shooting a month later than we had originally planned, and that really put us under the gun, and so Ren Savant and I cut the movie primarily, and it was three months work for both of us. We knew we were already under the gun, so we started off in crunch mode, and for me it was three months literally every day, 20 hours a day minimum that I was cutting and I did not stop. And we came so close to not making the deadline that people were calling Paul trying to tell him that we didn't have it in stores. We'd sent in a list of 192 stores that had the movie to prove that we were eligible, because I literally got on a plane to fly the hard drive that had the last half of the movie to the authorer on the Sunday before the deadline; that's how close it came."
But even the shoot itself had its problems.
"We had arranged to rent this medical office building up in the Valley for the last three days of shooting," Cross explained, "and four days before we got into that location, they pulled the plug on it because they had sold the building and decided that if the new owners found out they were allowing porn to be shot there, it could screw up escrow. So we had no idea what we were going to do... So [art director] Kylie [Ireland] and her crew of four people built flats, and they built it here at our place; painted it, taped it, set it all up, dressed it and did that all overnight one night. We went in there the next day, we shot, and in the middle of the day, they completely redressed that room so it's an entirely separate room in the movie. And then that night after we wrapped, they knocked out one wall, put in two more flats, built that last wall in at the end, put a window in it, repainted the whole thing, redecorated the whole thing and we came in the next day at noon and shot and that became my office in the movie, and nobody would ever know that those were sets."
Another location they lost was a dry lake bed near Palmdale, when the U.S. Bureau of Land Management wanted them to pay $5,500 to close the entire lake bed to tourists and also screen off the sex from inadvertent onlookers.
"Of course, that defeats the purpose of shooting in a dry lake bed in the first place, because all you can see is sight screens," Cross groused.
Both Cross and Kenney gave major props to stars Angelina and Scott, with Kenney adding, "I can't say enough about Hillary; to get Best Female Performer and Best Actress [for Corruption] last year and then come back and take a role where she wasn't the star, and to put forth the type of effort that she did with her character, that's real professionalism."
AVN congratulates Eli Cross and SexZ Pictures for a job well done, two years in a row.