I thought it would be nice to make sure my first ever post on this blog would have porn overtones. So here is an interview I did with legendary porn director Kristen Bjorn. I'll translate it in French real soon, don't worry porn addicts.
Everybody knows that you started your career as a porn actor. Can you tell us how and when you got into this business ? What are your memories about that time ?
What happened is this; in 1980 I was a university student in San Francisco. A fellow student told me about the films he was shooting, and suggested I try it. It took a year for me to work up the courage to actually call the telephone number he had given me, which was that of Falcon Studio. My career as a porn actor was very brief. I only performed in two videos, and that only took three days. What did have an impact on me was my friendship with Falcon’s photographer, Fred Bissones. I had studied photography since the age of 15, and my dream was to become travel photographer. As my mentor, Fred taught me about the gay magazine business. While I worked as his assistant, he introduced me to the editors of a group of magazines in New York called Mavety Media Group. At the time, it consisted of MANDATE, PLAYGUY, HONCHO, and TORSO magazines. The following year, in 1982, I moved to Rio de Janeiro where I remained for 8 years working as a photographer for those magazines, as well as another magazine called ADVOCATE MEN, which today is called MEN. In 1987, ADVOCATE MEN started a series of solo videos called Advocate Men Live, which they asked me to film for. This was my move from still photography to video.
What made you move from photographer to director ? Was it a difficult move to make ?
It was difficult because it was a new medium for me, but I fell in love with it from the start. It was so much more dynamic than still photography. Suddenly I needed to film these beautiful men in solo sequences… But how? At the time, some American studios filmed gorgeous men doing solos, but all they did was plop down in a chair and wank for 10 minutes. I wanted to see the guy’s bodies, to see how they moved, to see how their hard cocks throbbed without being constantly covered by hands. The famous handless cum-shots developed at this time. Luckily, most Brazilians know how to move their bodies in sexy and provocative ways, which made it easier to film them.
What was your first movie ? At the time, your work was very different of the movie done by anybody. Your actors had nothing to do with the look that major american studios were promoting at that time.
After shooting several series for AVOCATE MEN, I decided to do my own solo videos called TROPICAL HEATWAVE and CHAMPS. They were well accepted, and they were the precursors to my first hard-core films CARNAVAL IN RIO and ISLAND FEVER, both filmed in 1988. My intention was to create an aesthetic very different from that of the gay porn videos being made in California at the time. And I think I achieved that goal. Obviously I was working with Brazilian actors who had a different look from the typical American. But I also wanted to portray a sensuality which I felt lacked in American films of that period.
You were the first one to put Cuba and the Caribbean Islands on the map of gay erotica. That’s when you started to found those incredible Latin and Black men that nobody ever saw before.
I think that the Latin Lover has been an icon for many years; I didn’t invent that. Perhaps it just became more main-stream later on. My Caribbean series started after the first videos in Brazil, beginning in 1989 in the Dominican Republic. I have returned to the Caribbean to shoot many times since then.
You have a very precise type of men in your movies. Can you describe what you are looking for when you are casting them?
Well, I would say they are handsome and muscular. But the racial types vary a lot, as well as the age groups. I see them as quite different from one another.
You do shave them a lot though. That’s strange because you choose very masculine men and hairy men are all the rage now.
Actually, I always ask the actors NOT to shave their bodies before a shoot. But sometimes they show up that way despite my warnings. Believe me, it’s not my doing!
Then you started your « Brazil period ». Once again, it seems that you were ahead of your time, as Brazil has been the gay eldorado of the last decade. And when Australia became the place to be with the rise of Mardis Gras, you were there too. When porn actors were found in Eastern Europe, you were there too. When you are doing a series of movies with actors coming from a geographic zone, do you live there ? How do you get to know to places you go to ?
I would say that I was in all those place years before other studios went. Everywhere I have gone, I have been followed by other studios. For that reason, some years ago I started working with international casts in non-specific geographical locations. As far as living arrangements, I did actually live in Brazil, Australia, and Quebec. And I often spend months at a time in other countries when I am shooting there.
Now I wanna ask you about a couple of specific trademarks of yours. For exemple, when the guy comes without touching his dick. You were the first one to do that. Also, something that is creazy in your movies : guys coming three times, sometimes 4 times in a scene. How do they do it ? Do you spray those scenes on several days ?
The hands-free cum-shots were something I started using while making solo videos back in the 80’s. That was mainly so we could see the ejaculation. For hardcore sex, it’s something I only do at times. For the past 14 years, I have been shooting each scene over 4 days each. That’s why we are able to have so many cum-shot in each scene.
You seem to be one of the major talent scouts in porn. You introduced Huessein, Ivan Andros, Rafael Alancar, Arpad Miklos, Miguel Leon, Jason Kingley, Edu Boxer… All those actors became huge stars after that !
That wasn’t really my intention. What really happens is that other studios go to great lengths to track down the actors I find, and take them away from me.
Your work has influenced a lot of people. Alexander Pictures seem an obvious example. How do you see it ?
I haven’t ever seen any films from Alexander Pictures, so I can’t comment on that. I actually don’t watch many porn films from other studios. Since I spend my days shooting or editing my own porn films, I prefer to do other things in my free time. I don’t really mind if other studios are influenced by my style; I take it as a complement. However, when they track down my models, that’s a different story.
I remember there was a controversy after you filmed in South America on a location. I think it was « Men amongst ruins ». What happened exactly ?
There’s a town in Guatemala called Antigua, which was an important Spanish colonial city between the 16th until tje 18th century, when it was devastated by an earthquake and volcanic eruption. The Spaniards abandoned the ruined city, and founded a new capital 40 kilometers away, which is now Guatemala City. Antigua was excavated centuries later, sort of like a latter day Pompeii. It’s a beautifully restored Spanish colonial town which the remains of cathedrals, convents, monasteries, and other grand buildings all in ruins since the 18th century. I shot several films in Antigua in 2002 and 2003 (Dreamers, Crossroads of Desire and Men Amongst the Ruins) inside of private houses, and using the town as a backdrop. In Men Amongst the Ruins, we shot the non-sexual scenes in the ruins of a convent and in the ruins of a couple of different churches, as well as in a present day market place as the plot of the film. Several years later, in 2006, a news channel called Guatevisión decided to launch a sensational story claiming that a “homosexual pornographic film” had been filmed inside of “sacred catholic ruins”, and that Guatemala was on the verge of turning into a “gay Mecca”. They also claimed that the mayor of the city was obviously involved in the defilement of the sacred city of Antigua, the “holiest city in all of Guatemala”, and should be immediately impeached. The sensationalistic story was televised daily in Guatemala for weeks, and caused great dismay amongst the locals who apparently were expecting a mass invasion of homosexuals parachuting from the sky at any moment. It ultimately culminated when the local bishop, the Guatemalan congress and the president of the country had meet for a private viewing of the film and later hold a press conference about it. It was then revealed that no obscene acts had actually taken place in any of the “sacred ruins” (Some of which are often used by locals as latrines) and no laws had been broken. Meanwhile, to my amazement, the story was picked up by news agencies all over Latin America, and Southern Europe for weeks. In Spain, newspapers claimed that we had shot the film in “sacred Mayan ruins”. I suppose in Spain that sounded more sensational than “Spanish ruins”.
Did you ever kept some contact with the men in your early movies like « Carnaval in Rio » ? Some guys there were the most beautiful of them all.
I am still in contact with a couple of them. One of them now owns a travel agency in Rio, and arranges flight for actors coming from Brazil. Another now works for me as a talent scout in Rio.
Now there’s ONE question that bugs me. You’re going to frown but how come some scenes in your movies are not 100% safe ? For example, I know that in « El Rancho » some guys are in a relashionship, as it’s written beforehand, but some other guys take the sperm in their mouth. What is your ethical position on that ? Are you afraid to go in a « grey zone » ?
According to the US government, the only truly safe sex is abstinence. I believe the church agrees. Of course they are right, but it’s not realistic to expect people not to have sex. The condom-less scene in EL RANCHO is between two long-term partners who are both HIV negative. Like most long term couples of this type, they don’t use condoms with each other; however they do with other people. As you say, there is a warning at the beginning of the film explaining the relationship between the two actors. Since they were not putting each other at risk, I didn’t think it was wrong to have them perform this way in the film. I think that viewers are all well aware of HIV, and they are intelligent enough to understand the difference between this and two strangers having bareback sex. As for oral cum-shots, this isn’t something that I invented. Falcon, Bel Ami, Raging Stallion, and other studios have done it for years. As you say, this is a grey area, mostly because it has never been made clear. Back in the 1980’s they told us that we should use condoms for oral sex… And it seems that the safe sex rules have never been updated since then. As I understand it, there has never been a proven case of HIV infection via oral sex, with or without ejaculation. I have seen studies which say that because the acidity of the saliva, the presence of oxygen, the temperature, and the absence of direct sperm to blood contact, HIV infection via ejaculation is the mouth is highly unlikely. Of course this is a very personal matter, and I would never pressure any of my actors to do something like that if they were uncomfortable with it. By the way, why is it that nothing is ever said about condom-less sex or oral cumshots in heterosexual films?
Obviously you see the pressure coming from the bareback business. Studios like Treasure Media are on a roll even if I don’t like what they do. And the stuff they publish on machofucker.com is something else, it even looks like it’s coming from the pre-Aids period, because it’s that good. How affected is your business by this pressure ?
In the gay film industry there is pressure coming from all sides. Each year, the number of gay videos being released on the market doubles. In 2006, I believe there were over 5,000 new gay DVDs released. That’s much more then the market can bear. There are also hundreds of bareback films being made, which it seems people want to see. Through my 20’s and 30’s I had the misfortune of watching most of the people I knew and loved suffer terrible deaths because of HIV. I don’t want to have any actors become infected under my direction; I would rather do something else for a living.
How do you see porn in a near future ? Obviously, you are ready for streaming ond online viewing.
On my site at www.kristenbjorn.com we have had streaming videos for years now, and we now have unique online content for members only. The internet has turned out to be a double edged sword. The massive piracy through peer to peer “sharing” groups has caused DVD sales to plummet greatly in the past 2 years. I don’t know if the porn industry will continue to exist in the near future unless governments step in to put an end to the massive online theft that is going on.