Confessions of a porn director: Award winner

A less-than-fond look back at a career "peak"

By James Bennett, 3 January 2012

As each year draws to a close we celebrate the best of UK film and television successes with appropriately glamorous events such as the Comedy Awards and the BAFTAs. So it goes without saying that the porn industry should proudly follow suit.

In the United States, the first "Oscars of Porn" (otherwise known as the AVNs, after the industry magazine Adult Video News) were handed out in 1984 and have since become so prestigious that companies and performers compete vigorously in 100 different categories. The ceremony is now also given its own 90-minute television slot.

And why not? Porn is a massive industry and we all have our favourites, whether or not we choose to admit it.

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I was sorely disappointed when

The Academy has to

let down someone

Yet here in the UK the first such event did not happen until 2006, and was rather less glamourously known as the the UKAFTAs: the UK Adult Film and Television Awards. Despite the lengthy acronym, the awards' arrival was a happy day for us tireless producers. Finally the recognition we deserved!

Sadly this was not the case. There were in fact only three UKAFTAs, the last one in 2008. The first event attracted little media attention, so for the second they came up with the cunning plan of nominating The Secret Diary Of A Call Girl (that lovely series with Billie Piper) for Best Softcore Production and hired six celebrity look-a-likes to hang around the event, drumming up media attention. So anyone who tells you that Snoop Dog, Brad Pitt and Frank from Shameless blessed the UK porn industry with their awesome presence at the UKAFTAs in 2007 is either very gullible or just lying. Trust me, I was there.

The whole thing felt amateurish and desperate, with more die-hard fans than industry professionals attending. I can only assume that insufficient financial backing or bad planning and promotion led to the demise of the Awards. Thankfully in 2010, TVX very kindly took up the mantle with their own version of the awards, the SHAFTAs, Soft and Hard Adult Film and Television Awards. Beats me why they didn't just call it the UK Porn Awards. That would be far simpler than all these crazy acronyms.

But then what do I know? I was foolish enough to believe that these awards were something to strive for, as they are in the US. In 2006 I was involved in a high-budget series for Playboy by the name of Dr Screw - high-budget meaning around £65,000 for 12 episodes. (The average budget today for a hard and soft version of a straight boy/girl film with a half-hearted attempt at a story is £3,000.)

So we were lucky in this respect; they gave us extra cash to pump into production values. Script, costume, location and even special effects all suddenly became an important factor. Dr Screw was a rip-off of Doctor Who, timed with the release of the second series, and naturally we had a flying Portaloo called the "Turdis". The Doctor wielded a sonic dildo and, as our tagline on the DVD pointed out, he enjoyed "shagging his way through time" when he wasn't too busy fighting evil.

Porn award

And the award for best brea-. Yeah, something like that. (Image: Luke Ford/Creative Commons)

Although I knew I wasn't creating television history, I took pride in my ability to tailor the dialogue to the performers' capabilities with a script that didn't take itself too seriously. For this purpose the subject matter was perfect and I justifiably set my sights on an award that year. The Doctor, accompanied by a cute blonde assistant, travels in time to Nazi Germany, to the Stone Age and to a 22nd Century massage parlour, all the time battling his arch nemesis the Mistress. We dragged that damn Portaloo all over the country and very nearly got arrested for shooting porn in public on more than one occasion.

I was sorely disappointed when Dr Screw wasn't nominated that year. As it turned out Playboy had actually failed to submit the series at all. That's how important it was to them. I let them know how important it was to me with an angry rant.

Thankfully they chose to produce the 12 episodes as two DVDs with a staggered release, giving us another chance the following year. So after a carefully-worded phone call from Playboy to the hosts of the ceremony, in 2007 we picked up our award for Best Script. But the whole experience felt staged and insignificant, not just because "Brad Pitt" was more interested in pulling porn stars than actually behaving like Brad Pitt, but mostly because it seemed that all it took to win awards was a few phone calls to the right people and an advance payment for a full table at the event. Indeed, Playboy paid for a couple of tables and coincidentally managed to also pick up Best Pay-Per-View Channel of the Year.

The award was not (as I had hoped) a Golden Dildo but instead a strange and delicate glass affair that broke so easily you were lucky if you made it home with it in one piece.

So there it is: the pinnacle of my success. A victory that was given zero publicity and, if it wasn't for Wikipedia, there would be no proof that it ever even happened. Clearly the divide between the US and UK industry is still a huge one, and we little Brits have much to learn about peddling our porn. I should be grateful, I suppose, that my lasting memory of this experience is an award for Best Script and not instead, as it so easily could have been, an award for Best Blow Job or Best Anal Scene.

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