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Coming Attractions

Coming Attractions: The Making of an X-Rated Video

Robert J. Stoller
I. S. Levine
Copyright Date: 1993
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Coming Attractions
    Book Description:

    What do porn films tell us about our own erotic impulses? What can we learn about our culture's sexual attitudes, fears, and fantasies from the ways that porn films are designed and produced? In this book, Dr. Robert J. Stoller, one of the world's leading experts on human sexual behavior, joins with I. S. Levine, a professional writer with long experience in X-rated video making, to examine the ideas and psychological makeup of the participants in an adult heterosexual X-rated video,Stairway to Paradise. Their interviews with performers, writers, directors, producers, and technicians provide extraordinary insights into the technical aspects of this type of video, the motivations and backgrounds of the people involved, and the porn industry's view of the video's intended audience.

    Stoller, Levine, and the porn filmmakers have wide-ranging discussions about the aesthetics, ethics, and etiquette of the porn industry; the hostility that Dr. Stoller claimed underlies all erotic excitement; the liberating-and educational-function of porn in a puritanical culture; the misconceptions of antiporn crusaders; the impact of aids on the participants; and the future of the porn film industry. The authors hope that if we understand how and why a pornographic work is created, we will be better able to understand the implications of the legal and moral issues it raises.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15929-5
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Co-Author’s Note
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    I. S. Levine
  5. Part One Introductions

    • 1 Introduction, Stoller
      (pp. 3-6)

      Ira Levine and I met about five years ago. He was one of a group of sadomasochists who met to teach me about S-M.¹ He was then and has remained a master of the principles and techniques of S-M. His art is measured not only by those on whom it is delivered but also those who would watch. In S-M porn,² he has worked as a performer, as one who prepares the performance off-camera, and as a scriptwriter. He has also occasionally worked for the X-rated Industry, writing scripts for straight porn. During the years that he has informed me...

    • 2 Introduction, Levine
      (pp. 7-12)

      Welcome to the world of X-rated video. Check your expectations, preconceptions, and received ideas at the door. For all its sensational visibility, the professional subculture you are about to enter remains largely mysterious and widely misunderstood. Regard with skepticism observations relayed from posts in the field, filtered as such observations are through the observers’ partisanships, mine included.

      After fifteen years of close association with the sex industry, of which X-rated entertainment is the most public branch, I shall not presume objectivity. In the frustrating battles of my “real career” as a writer, this business has sheltered me in a succession...

  6. Part Two Foreplay:: To Do or Not to Do

    • 3 First Prelim (as in Boxing): Bill
      (pp. 15-42)

      Okay. Let’s make porn.

      Before focusing on Ira, listen to another experienced hand in the porn business. A man in his forties, Bill has worked on dozens of porn films—movies in the earlier days and videos more recently. Like Ira, he is fired up by rebellion; protected by a mordant sense of humor; blessed with keen intelligence; amused by his own wry exhibitionism—of the mind, not the flesh; seduced into eternal wariness; energized by hyperbole; both consoled and battered by too much skill in avoiding long-lasting love; and on the razor’s-edge of self-destructiveness: fuck it, fuck them, fuck...

    • 4 Second Prelim: Ira Looks Up
      (pp. 43-50)

      Life is looking up for Ira. He is disengaging, without bad wounds, from an erotically furious S-M affair with beauteous Tammy (see Stoller 1991a), emerging from the lower depths of poverty, insightfully separating from his recently dead mother, finding respect in the pornography world: growing older and wiser. We meet every two weeks for two hours of conversation.

      He reports in, in medias res.—rjs

      ISL I was in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show. When you’re surrounded by people who study each other’s faces for a new line or blemish, you see how important externals are in our...

    • 5 Semi: Ira Hustles
      (pp. 51-60)

      In reviewing this material I find much that is personal and therefore alarming. I also find much that is digressive. My own, overbearing voice tends to make me more central to this book than I was to the process of making Sharon’s movie. But the patient reader will ultimately be rewarded with some telling glimpses into the world from whichStairway to Paradiseemerged. We pick up shortly after my return from the Las Vegas trade show, where the initial contacts forStairwaywere made.—isl

      ISL I got myself to the point where I was able to go back...

  7. Part Three Tumescence

    • 6 The Shooting Script: Stairway to Paradise
      (pp. 63-75)

      Though most of the frantic molecular motion at the Consumer Electronics Show gathering described in the previous chapters was dissipated in entropic heat loss, a few of the participants did ultimately manage to cook up production deals. Among these few were Sharon Kane and Jim Holliday, who reached agreement with one of the major X-rated video companies to collaborate on a picture to be written and produced by Jim and directed by Sharon. The prehistory of the project that becameStairway to Paradiseis described in Jim’s interview in the next chapter.

      For me as a screenwriter, however, with all...

    • 7 The Main Event: Here, without Doubt, Is What Really Happened, Maybe: Holliday
      (pp. 76-90)

      Returning once more to the point of conception, the Consumer Electronics Show, I remember my brief initial meeting with Jim Holliday. He was the first to tell me about Sharon’s directing deal and his and my anticipated roles in it. I was dimly aware that Holliday had been a participant in Stoller’s research, but I had no idea at that time how early and how influential a source he had been. I suppose, like many others, I was lulled into underestimating him by his carefully cultivated, aw-shucks persona.

      I subsequently came to understand and respect Holliday’s contributions to both this...

    • 8 The Main Event: Here, without Doubt … : Ira
      (pp. 91-101)

      Watch now how the continuing discussion between Ira and myself came to focus on the main event for this book, the making ofStairway to Paradise. I first heard of the project in a few words from Ira that do not stand out, over the months, from the blur of remarks on other films imagined, planned, in progress, or completed. The idea of writing a book on the filming occurred to me without fanfare, an obvious piece in the argument I have been building on the origins and dynamics of erotic excitement (Stoller 1975, 1979, 1985, 1991a, 1991b). (On the...

    • 9 The Main Event: Here, without Doubt … : Sharon
      (pp. 102-118)

      Sharon, the pretty, cute, lively pornē [from Greek forharlot], I first “met” by watching her be nipple-clamped on an S-M videotape (Stoller 1991a). As I sit talking with her, she seems (more than the transcript words reveal) as fun loving here as she did in her deconstructing performance of the S-M scene. There, her chirpiness illuminated—gave the lie to—all the S-M business that was supposed to distress her; and in not doing so, distressed her distressors. Her upbeat style in this next interview, however, yields less information on how her film was made than I wanted. I...

    • 10 The Main Event: Here, without Doubt … : “Jane Waters”
      (pp. 119-138)

      Jane Waters, everyone agrees, is a great director of photography. As with all the informants you meet in this book—and beyond, everyone I have met in the porn trade—his energy comes less from fee-for-service than from rebellion. (Would I spend years with these people were I not, in this regard, the same?) The primeval joy in pornmakers is “fuck you,” not “let’s fuck.”

      Ira introduces us, and we proceed.—rjs

      ISL We brought the tape. Unfortunately, the copy that does not have the real music track. Before we pop it in, do you want to get acquainted?


    • 11 The Main Event: Here, without Doubt … : Nina
      (pp. 139-168)

      Nina, Ira, and rjs will now review, by watching the final cut, Nina’s experience while making the film. I interviewed Nina four years ago (1991b), before she became a star. Now she is at the top, greatly appreciated by her audience and her colleagues—performance partners and crew. She always delivers her best.—rjs

      RJS Let’s start by talking about the filming.

      ISL Okay. We’ve got about an hour and fifteen minutes of tape. This copy is a screen copy. It does not have the real music track.

      Nina But it’s the final edit.

      ISL Sorry it hasn’t the original...

    • 12 The Main Event: Here, without Doubt … : Randy
      (pp. 169-176)

      Trying to describe Randy Spears, the words that come to mind areenigmaticand, quite literally,elusive.It took months of inconclusive phone calls and missed appointments before I finally caught up with him in the parking lot outside a small sound stage deep in the San Fernando Valley. He had just finished a long day of shooting and was anxious to head for his home in the South Bay where his wife, expecting their child any day, was waiting. Nonetheless, with typical affability, he found an hour or so to recollect with me his experiences working onStairwayand...

    • 13 The Main Event: Here, without Doubt … : Falco
      (pp. 177-198)

      Falco the editor is a natural moviemaker. Since he loves the medium, is smart, and knows how to learn, everyone in porn foresees a brilliant career for him beyond the conventions of X-rated films. We begin this chapter with an excerpt from a conversation between Ira and me a week before Falco comes in with Jim Holliday. (I let stand subjects Ira and I discuss that, though on the subject of producing porn, are not about Falco.)—rjs

      ISL Falco edits for Rinse Dream: Rinse Dream, the director we all regard as the true auteur director. There’s no comparison between...

  8. Part Four Detumescence

    • 14 Porsche: Does Porn Exploit?
      (pp. 201-215)

      I present these lengthy transcripts, first, for you to see what was said, which lets you get closer to where our opinions should come from: real people as our witnesses; second, to demonstrate that I am letting you see what was said, while other opinion salesmen—politicians, clergy, philosophers, historians, anthropologists, psychoanalysts—do not.

      When, for instance, it is reported that the women in porn are coerced, we not only need a careful rendering ofcoerced(with its millennia of argument regarding free will, competence, responsibility, guilt, crime, victimhood, sin, and evil). We also need to listen to such women...

    • 15 Truth and Consequences
      (pp. 216-228)

      The material in this chapter draws on several conversations between Ira and me. These excerpts serve here, near the end, as a naturalistic summary that pins down Ira’s uneasiness about his life and about his willingness to live it in the sex industry. We watch a videotape that shows a dangerous piece of behavior and then go on to talk of other troubling matters.—rjs

      ISL A trend in the Industry toward carnival acts. This was a fine example of the kind of picture we’re making now. Bondage tapes look civilized by comparison. Talk about Russian roulette. Can you imagine...

    • 16 Ira’s Last Stanza
      (pp. 229-232)

      ISL So … Well, let’s see, what other things do we have to report on? I have done not a lick of work on our book in the last two weeks. I’m still trying to round up our guy [a male performer, preferably Randy]. We’ve got to get a guy in here to chat with us. I’ve put it off because I’ve been coping with my various crises. I hear Sharon might be making another picture soon that I might be working on. So, we’ll see how it goes.

      Picking up on our discussion about the future, I doubt the...

  9. 17 Conclusions: I, Ira Wraps
    (pp. 233-235)

    Conclusions? I’m wary of them. Looking back over my own remarks as they appear in the earlier parts of this book, remarks based on what I thought I knew half a decade ago, I can see how my thinking on many crucial matters has since evolved. Chagrined as I am by the specious cocksureness of my sweeping generalizations of that time, I now find I have mainly questions where once I thought I had answers.

    Sticking to impressions seems safer. At the most superficial level, the striking feature of the testimony of those involved with the making ofStairway to...

  10. 18 Conclusions: II, Why Not?
    (pp. 236-240)

    Here are reasons for making this book.

    1. Pornography being tasty for hundreds of millions of people, men and women, boys and girls (billions, if third world countries could be supplied), a consumer might have fun seeing how some of the illusions are created. The reader may be interested not only because erotic behavior is, necessarily, highly charged, but because the illusion in porn, as different from most theater, works by using nonillusional behavior: the performers’ real anatomy at the alert, doing real sex. (As impressive as an actress exuding real tears before a camera.)

    My humblest purpose, then, is to...

  11. References
    (pp. 241-242)
  12. Index
    (pp. 243-246)