LOS ANGELES—Joanna Jet, a British citizen, veteran of about 30 adult movies and director of about half a dozen more, recently gave AVN the lowdown on the trouble she's had getting back into this country after having been expelled in 2006, so we'll let her tell it in her own words:
"I was originally trying to get what's called an E2 visa, which is a residency visa, and that's on the basis of you being an investor in America," she explained. "I had a company, Altered States Productions, and I'd already invested in the region of $200,000 in my company, and we weren't getting anywhere in getting the visa, it was taking forever, so I thought, as an interim, I shall try to get a visitor visa for a week. The way that I was going to do that was by saying, 'I'm coming to AEE; I'm nominated and I need a visa just for a week to be able to get into the country.'
"In order to do that, I needed basically a 'rapid interview', and the only way you can get a rapid interview at the embassy is on the basis of being an entertainer; there's actually a specific ability to contact the embassy and say, 'I'm an entertainer; I've been nominated for an Oscar, Golden Globe, whatever,' and they will see you within two weeks,. And I couldn't get that in Europe; none of the embassies would recognize me as being in the entertainment industry. So after a lot of contacts, I managed to get an interview at an embassy in Tokyo, so on the 28th of December, 2005—the awards were on the 5th of January, I think—I got on a plane, headed off there; I had loads of paperwork with me, and they spent pretty much all day reviewing my case and said, 'You know what? You haven't actually breached any of the conditions and therefore, rather than give you a week visa, we're going to give you a 10-year business visitor visa as a way of an apology, but we're not going to put it in writing.'
"But I couldn't fly straight from Tokyo to L.A., so I flew back to London, and then flew on the next day to Las Vegas, so I had gone around the world in the wrong direction to make it in time. At that point, I had spent $48,000 on legal fees. So at that point, I thought everything was fine. And so I came back in in January; I came back in once more in February of 2006; I then came in again in April of 2006 into New York; and I was told that I'd been investigated, and they believed, under the business visitor visa, that I was in breach of the conditions of entry, and therefore, if I came into the country again, my visa would not be honored.
"So what happened was, I had a business in L.A., in the Valley, and when I came in through immigration—it was September 2nd, 2006—they saw all the stamps on my passport—I had about 15, 16 stamps of entry—and pulled me to one side and interviewed me for eight hours and got me on a technicality. They said, 'Well, you have people working for you in L.A.; one of them's a video editor. What happens when he gets stuck?' So I said, 'Well, I look over his shoulder and point him in the right direction.' They said, 'All right; well, you're taking away an American's job; you should hire a trainer for that. Therefore, you're in violation, and we're going to throw you in jail for at least a night and then we're going to deport you.'
"They stuck me in the L.A. Detention Office; basically handcuffed me, stuck me in solitary confinement, in a freezing cold cell with nothing except what I had on, a vest and that was about it. Luckily, one of the guards let me have one of his t-shirts to wear because I was absolutely freezing, and then about 24 hours later, they stuck me back on a plane and sent me back to England. At that point, I called in the lawyers, and I hired some very, very expensive lawyers and for three months, I was fighting a legal battle, and one of the issues that came up was, I couldn't even get an interview at any of the embassies in Europe; they wouldn't even grant me an interview to try and get a visa issued because I'm an adult entertainer."
Jet's ejection from the U.S. was only the beginning of her troubles, which included losing her Los Angeles office and all of its equipment, becoming indebted to a number of utility companies and the like, and getting screwed out of revenue for her titles by a couple of distributors, not to mention never receiving footage she'd paid a well-known director to shoot.
"In the UK, I started going back towards software development, because that's what I used to do," Jet explained, "and I started working my own VOD platform and started going over much more to the retail side of things. Unfortunately, the market moved so rapidly that in the year and a half it took me to develop the site, competitors were already quite numerous, and I just didn't have the marketing budget or once again the U.S. presence to make it work."
"But I don't give up easily. I was making inroads in the UK; I already knew a few people in the UK industry, so what I managed to do, which I never managed to do in the U.S., was to break into the mainstream side of the porn industry, and the way I did that was, I managed to get a commission from Playboy TV in the UK to shoot the first-ever softcore transsexual movie for cable, anywhere in the world. It was called Tranny and Susanna. It was nominated for an AVN award in 2009. What made it work was it was basically me working with girls, and a transsexual with girls is acceptable to a mainstream audience, and that in itself was a trial by fire, because one of the things I had no experience of was shooting softcore.
"I shot a soft version and a hard version, and I basically hired what I thought were some of the best producers and camera people in the UK with experience in that department, and they fucked it up in a major way, and I spent two months editing out all the problems until eventually it was approved by Playboy. So although it was very lucrative in the beginning, by the time I spent two months editing it, it was no longer a lucrative project, but it managed to break down a lot of barriers and got myself accepted in the UK.
"Now, at the same time , they started having the UK Adult Film Industry Awards—they had the award show in November because we had the Erotica Show in London, which is our big retail porn show, and they planned it around the same time as that—and I managed to get two extra categories added. One was Transsexual Performer of the Year, and one was Transsexual Movie of the Year. So I won Transsexual Performer of the Year, which is good, and for the Transsexual Movie of the Year, there were five films nominated and they were all mine. Joanna Jet's Vacation was the one that won the award.
"The following year, a week before the awards, they pulled both my categories because I dominated them completely. 2008, I didn't get anything. 2009, I got one of them reinstated, and I won that one. That was the Performer of the Year award, and that was a moment in itself, because Ben Dover was hosting the awards, and I was supposed to present one of the awards. He didn't actually look at what award he was giving me to present, and he suddenly called me up on stage to present the award, and it was my own award. So I got to go up on stage and say, 'And the winner is... me!' So then I came back and did something else for Playboy about two years later, called She-Male Exposed, which was once again all me with girls, and essentially the format of that movie was, I took all the clichés of porn and put a transsexual twist on them, so I was like the pizza girl, I was the plumber, those kind of very clichéd things."
"There's an element that runs all the way through this which is very important as well, which is that after about eight, nine months after being in the UK, I went into a relationship; I fell in love. Unfortunately, that meant my working with men was no longer acceptable, and so I had to make a decision as to whether I keep my relationship under those conditions or I leave it. But I was in love, so I went with it. Unfortunately, those constraints over the period of my relationship started getting more and more, and they started becoming more problematic, and made it very, very difficult to stay competitive in regards to what you would see from me in the U.S. market. That relationship ended about six months ago, and that was one of the big catalysts in my deciding to turn things around."
And now she's back!
"I had a long discussion with the immigration department, and it was clear that I'm well within the boundaries of my new visa, and so everybody is happy," she said. "I am coming to work, but I'm going to shoot for my own productions, because I can do that. I can come in and I can film, because what I'm doing is, I'm basically using my own production company; I'm coming as a business visitor and I'm paying people to do things for me, and I can hold a camera and I can shoot if it's for my own material. So it means I can't perform in the U.S. for other studios, but I've already spoken to Steve Volponi at Devil's, and since I can shoot in any style, and I have American equipment, I can shoot scenes in the UK and sell them exclusively to Devil's, so hopefully, I'm going to start appearing in Devil's titles next year, and I'm going to try to do that with a few other studios in the U.S.."
What can we say? Welcome back, Joanna!