After an extended absence from filmmaking, award winning screenwriter and director David Stanley returned a few months ago to helm films for Skow for Girlfriends Films, the envelope pushing content producers distributed by Girlfriend Films. Stanley’s most recent film, the first after his absence, is Just the Two of Us, and if the trailer is any indication, his creative merging with B. Skow looks to be exciting.
Stanley joined the industry in 1995, and was met with success after beginning directing in 1997. In 2005, he won best screenplay for Pretty Girl at the AVN Awards, as well as the title of best director. Then, in 2011, he earned another best screenplay award for The Condemned. Stanley’s screenplay for Gardener was nominated for the years best screenplay at the 2015 XBIZ Awards. Skow himself had nothing but praise for Stanley, declaring, “he’s a creative genius and a great friend with a long list of accomplishments who brings a lot of expertise and know-how to Skow for Girlfriends films. I’m just very excited to have him.”
Recently, we had the chance to speak with the famed filmmaker about his experiences creating films in the industry. As can be expected after viewing his visual and written aesthetics, Stanley is outspoken, forward, and driven. His perspective is uncompromisingly artistic, and he’s singularly unafraid to voice his opinions about the creative world he inhabits.
Enjoy this edited account of our conversation with the brilliant David Stanley, a director and writer attempting to push his own artistic boundaries, but the limits of what adult can be.
How did you get into the adult industry and what has your experience been like as a cinematic artist?
I made a feature film when I was in film school and came out to LA in the mid-90’s to try and sell it. While I was staying at my cousin’s place, she offered me a PA job on a porno she was working on and I took it. It wound up being for a director named Paul Thomas. I told him I had made this movie and he watched it and offered me a job as his producer with opportunities to write and direct down the line. I took the job and have been around ever since. My experience as an artist in this business has been surprisingly congenial. As weird as I am and as highfalutin’ as my taste is, it’s amazing anyone ever hired me. Yet, for twenty years, I’ve been able to find work with some of the best companies in the jizzness, making my oddball little movies with some of the best actors and technicians around. I’m lucky. It’s been nice.
What themes did you want to approach and convey in Just the Two of Us?
That being a cuckold and a pervert is a gift, not a curse. It’s a nice way to spend some time, watching the woman you love getting pounded by strangers and I think more people should get into it. I know this sounds goofy, but it’s true. Cuckolding saved my marriage. And I thought it’d be nice to tell people about the positive side of it for once.
How do you approach the creation of a sex scene, and in general, how do you approach storytelling when you know hardcore sex is going to be a prominent part of the product?
Like a butcher, I try to balance the scenes with the meat. Since I’ve written all my own stuff, the structure of the scenes is very important to me. I like a movie to build musically. To start slow, then ramp, bigger and faster, the scenes, so that by the end of the movie, the sex has developed as much as the characters have. Storytelling with sex is tricky when you have to fit 4 or 5 scenes, plus oral, into a script that maybe only has 25 pages. That’s a sex scene every five minutes of action. This means you can’t really tell a story that isn’t about sex if you’re going to make porno to start with. The movie has to be as much about sex as the scenes are, or the balance will be off and the whole thing will just feel overstuffed or pointless. Just a bunch of art direction and bored looking actors. It’s a tricky thing, but when you can make it work — and I think we did it with Just the Two of Us – building sex and story side by side can be magical. It’s like having two climaxes – literally! – at the end of your movie. The story of the movie and the story of the sex. And sex, in life anyway, is always it’s own story. A non-linear, non-verbal story.
What can adult media do for couples and individuals struggling with their sex and sexuality?
It can spark and inspire the sexually curious, yet physically timid, to get out there and get some of their own. And it can help the perpetually lonely live in fantasy what they can’t live in real life. Fuck Ted Bundy, who claimed, three hours before they shaved his head so they could plug it into a wall, that porno was responsible for the worst of the worst of violent offenders. I don’t believe it. I think it saves horrible things from happening because it provides release. And if you can do it with some artfulness and intelligence, I think it can actually give people a new perspective on whatever it is that turns them on. Like Skow and I did with The Gardener, trying to make a human story out of what anyone else would make a horrorporn. I think that’s important. To try and raise the game. And in so doing, reach out to a wider audience than you could net with basic, vanilla art-direction porn.
How do you define the “conventional porn narrative” and how do you defy these ideas?
I don’t know if I could tell you much about conventional porn narratives because I haven’t watched any conventional porn. The directors who win all the awards bore the shit out of you, me and everyone we know and I wouldn’t waste my eyesight on their witless jissoms anymore than I’d shave my own head with a carrot peeler. Let alone mimic them. I like my porn best back in the 70’s. The Opening of Misty Beethoven, Wes Craven’s Angela the Fireworks Woman, Abel Ferrara’s Nine Lives of a Wet Pussy – those were movies. Back then, they mashed up grind house cinema with this sort of elegant thing that was part Hollywood, part Cassavetes, and part it’s own thing entirely. If I defy conventional porn narrative, it’s probably because I’m bothering to tell a narrative at all. I try to do it in the style of the films that I love. My love for Robert Altman, Terrence Malick, David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Paul Thomas Anderson, Ozu, Bob Fosse, Charles de Lauzirika and all these other geniuses bleeds into my style. They were mavericks who broke convention, by learning it first. That’s what I’ve tried to do. Learn the scales and then play off-key just to see if I can make a new sound.
How do you construct a sex scene that really connects with a viewer?
I cast people who can spark off each other and I try to create a context that will turn the viewer on before the clothes come off.
Can you describe the process of directing performers?
I try to keep them in character, but other than that, I let them do what they want. It’s more about how it looks on camera, so the cameraman is the de facto director of any sex scene and any director who says different has ego issues. That said, I will focus in on certain things while a scene is happening, but once it’s on, it’s on. I don’t Hitchcock, I Altman.
What do you believe is the future of sex in media? This is a big question, and complex because now Hollywood and indie cinema is tapping into explicit sexuality, and virtual reality is bringing content even closer to the consumer.
Hollywood has flirted with explicit sex since the camera was invented. Had John Calley been able to cast Julie Andrews in Kubrick’s version of Terry Southern’s Blue Movie back in the day, we would be fifty years ahead of where we are now as far as how Hollywood deals with sex. Think about it. When was the last time you saw an awesome sex scene in a mainstream movie? Basic Instinct? Last Tango in Paris? The Big Easy? Risky Business? Movies that are between 20 and 40 years old. I haven’t seen The Duke of Burgundy yet, but that aside, mainstream sex is basically non-existent. I don’t think sex in media in the future will look any different than it does now to be honest. Hollywood will always tease, but never deliver. It’s up to hardcore to give people the goods. It’s up to us.
At the end of our correspondence, Stanley also teased the title PRINCESS, which we can only assume is another David Stanley joint to look forward to. He said “you’ll see,” which is as stirring as it is cryptic. Look for Just the Two of Us, due out the 24th of July, and follow Skow for Girlfriends for more genre-bending sexual storytelling.
For now, take a look at these exclusive behind-the-scenes shots from the making of Just The Two Of Us…