Katrien Jacobs on Tue, 22 Feb 2000 07:37:23 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> NewPornLand Testimonials - (1) Maria Beatty

Interview with Maria Beatty

by Katrien Jacobs

* *

I first met Maria Beatty in 1991in the video archive Electronic Arts
Intermix where she was editing and shooting footage for feminist
performance artists Annie Sprinkle and Carolee Schneemann. Beatty quit her
position as video artist a couple of months later as she underwent a
professional transformation and fell in love with Goddess Rosemary. She
started to make porn movies documenting her desire for dominant women and
became a professional sexworker, turning revenue, sm performances and
sexual expertise into a low-budget film/video operation and site of
e-commerce, Bleuproductions (http://www.bleuproductions.com). In this
interview I asked her to shares ideas about her arrival in NewPornland - or
how the bubbling sites of Internet commerce and Cybersex are affecting her
small-scale art identity/pornography.

* *

New York, February 19, 2000

KJ: Today let's talk about the Internet. When did you start distributing
your videos through the Internet and how has it affected your work?

MB: I have been a porn producer since 1994 and started introducing and
selling my work via e-commerce on the Internet since the summer of 1997.
Previously I distributed my work through film festivals and a domestic
distributor Outspoken Productions. The advantage of selling on the Internet
is that there is not a 60-40% split for the distributor, so now I sell at a
retail value of $34.95 and $39.95. The only expenses I have to cover out of
that are dubbing/packaging and postal costs which are handled in house.
Another advantage is that I have control over my publicity and access to
international consumers and distributors, for instance my videos were just
recently purchased for Indian TV, as well as distributed by K Films (Paris)
and VHS tapes purchased by consumers in Turkey, Russia, Brazil, South
Africa, South America, Germany,...

Here in the USA, I am now also reaching and selling retail sex stores who
find out about my work through the Internet. This holds for commercial
giants such as Tower Video and Virgin Megastore as well as the smaller
specialized sex erotic stores such as Toys in Babeland (NY, Seattle), Grand
Opening (Boston) and Good Vibrations (San Francisco). My videos are also
marketed on several adult websites such as Blowfish, Facets Multimedia, and
The Erotic Book Society.

My premier film The Elegant Spanking was initially primarily shown at
lesbian and gay film festivals, both domestic and international, and to a
limited whole-sale market through the distributor Outspoken productions.
Now that is being distributed on my website, sales and audience have
quadrupled, and I have been able to sell about one thousand VHS copies
since 1998. The venue for this title and my other titles reaches not only
the lesbian and gay community, but the male and female heterosexual
audience as well. While it was primarily categorized as a lesbian video,
through marketing on the Internet it is now considered an underground
classic art film, which is a development which I hope will continue with my
future erotic works.

KJ: Does Internet distribution impose restrictions on your work as an
artist? Why do some of your latest videos follow a more commercial formula?

MB: My videos consist of a vast array of stylized (ie. cinematography,
lighting & sound aesthetics) lesbian dominance and submission scenes played
out by life-style personalities in the sm world. Originally, not only did I
produce, direct and edit the films, but I starred in them because of my
first hand knowledge and daily experiences as a professional submissive in
the New York dungeons.

Several years ago, I was an independent video artist producing low-budget
documentaries focusing on female performance artists. I was also working as
an administrative assistant for non-profit organizations such as DCTV. I
made a big transformation when I decided to produce films dealing with my
own erotic experiences instead of interpreting others. I think that my
videos are still unique and different from commercial porn because the
adult video market is controlled by a male Mafia and focuses on a lot of
easy, gratuitous and /or blatant, raw sex-scenes. In my videos, there is I
believe a playfulness and beauty that presents it in a more elegant,
sensual, feminine style. For example The Elegant Spanking (1995) my first
film which was shot on b&w 16mm film, is the story of an actual
relationship which was taking place in my life at the time. The ritual of
dominance and submission between two women was portrayed through our
ongoing intense emotions and love which transformed into a collaboration.

KJ: How many videos did sell last year? What are your most popular videos?
How is the growth in sales affecting your work practice?

MB: I roughly sold about three thousand videos over the Internet in 1999
and about two thousand videos through mail order catalogues and retail
outlets. My most popular videos are The Sassy Schoolgirl (an underage
looking schoolgirl and female schooteacher role-play corporal punishment),
The Boiler Room (a very explicit lesbian sm video with enema and cavity
exploration) and Doctor's Orders (nurse-patient medical scenarios). These
are the most lucrative videos because they present the most popular
fetishes in demand, unlike the more artistic film-videos The Elegant
Spanking, The Black Glove and Ladies of the Night which show more personal
fetishes and fantasies.

I need room to grow as an artist through more personalized productions. I
have to establish a balance between what is commercial and what will
establish my name in the independent film world. I find it easier to make
my mark in the adult video world and therefore I won't be pigeon-holed in
the adult video market because my background is in the arts. Because of the
growth of Bleuproductions over the past three years, I am able to dedicate
more time to the film works and less time to paid sm sessions.

I felt like I gained a lot of knowledge and experience of my sexuality and
as an artist working in the sm business for the past eight years. To share
and exchange ideas with other women in the business was empowering and
educational, and these experiences eventually translated into my films, it
was a form of research and sexual knowledge growth. Now it is to evolve and
move on to other creative outlets and dedicate more of my time to my film
production company. I am also ready to expand into the feature film arena
and I am currently collaborating on a treatment for a film based on Von
Sacher-Masoch's novel Venus In Furs. This project is more challenging, not
only because of the feature film format, but because of the intellectual
content, which we are rewriting from the perspective of an uninitiated
young woman.

KJ: I am interested in how the Internet enables your audience to write
feedback to you? Is this something which is important for your work?

MB:  While I was screening my festivals and distributing my work through
Outspoken Productions what I felt was lacking most of all (besides a lack
of income) was the audience feedback of my work. I now average ten
correspondences daily about my work, and have come to rely on these ongoing

Funny thing such as this question: "I'm interested in producing a piece on
the fetish of tickling, and would really like to interview Maria Beatty,
about the erotic tickling scene and the videos she's directed that feature
it. Does she have plans to direct any more videos that deal with tickling?"

Yes, his kind of feedback is very important because it encourages me to
keep raising the standards of erotic filmmaking as an artform.

KJ:  What do you have to say about current censorship legislation of
Internet porn?

MB: Although I disapprove of censorship, there are certainly films that
should be illegal, e.g. kiddie porn. But I think it would be ridiculous to
censor films like mine because they're fairly playful and artistic for the
most part. Some of my work portrays what appears to be quite young
women--but  everyone in them is definitely of age. I don't feel
particularly stifled by any legal considerations. I do keep my films within
certain boundaries. Sometimes I feel I would like to really shock--take it
way out there--but I don't. Not so much for moral consideration, but
certainly for aesthetic reasons. I prefer to be subtle--I believe leaving
something to the imagination is much more exciting. I don't find most
hard-core, penetration films particularly erotic. I am considered a very
heavy player and I enjoy it tremendously when the dominant is creative and
experienced. But some of what I do is of the "don't try this at home, kids"
variety. I wouldn't want to give anyone the idea that what I do would be
tolerated by many submissives. Certain things must only be done by people
who are very skilled and sympathetic to the sub.

The censorship laws differ from country to country but the Internet
overrides national boundaries, as long as a disclaimer on the front page of
an adult site. For example, Canadian laws are stricter than most countries,
any form or suggestion of bondage and penetration is illegal, or to present
an actor to be underage.  I do get plenty of orders from Canadians and
other craving, perverted Anglo-Saxons and I ship my videos to them more

KJ: How is the work of a porn producer influenced by the growing culture of
cybersex? Do you get into virtual sex encounters with clients other than
through life session or video?

MB: The whole idea of cybersex intrigues me and I have thought about
expanding my website to channel into my own Adult Pay site which would
include a monthly membership to galleries, life-streaming video and
interactive communication. An example of this is the site www.insex.com
which I particularly like because of the structure, content and
sensibility. The site is about hardcore bondage and sm. discipline and also
features life-streaming videoclips and interesting photomontage play. But
such as site would require a full time operation that I cannot manage at
this point, since my film-video site is still growing and requires my time
for at least six hours a day. The rest of the time I need to develop ideas
for future projects to direct and edit so that I can keep expanding my film
production company. I have obsessive fantasies of expanding my empire on
the Internet.

* *

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