JOHN STAGLIANO ON "FASHIONISTAS SAFADO"

I'm sure there is a medical name for what is wrong with me. The story of my life is that I always get messed up because what I create is too long for whatever medium I'm working in. On top of this problem, with "Safado" I was trying to live up to my past achievement with the first "Fashionistas" movie. For the sequel I created more material than any one movie could possibly absorb. What was supposed to be a four-hour movie turned into eight hours and 40 minutes — two movies. I thought I knew what I was doing. My desire was to only use the best of what we created, and make a tight (four-hour...?) movie. Instead, my self-indulgent tendencies took over, fueled by the thought that this is not the type of movie where the viewer expects certain plot points to be revealed quickly. And in making a porn movie, my goal was to prove that my indulgence in fetish tease, if done well enough, could assuage the need to see actual sex quickly.

I started editing this beast in May of 2006, just after we completed photography. By July I realized that there was no way I would be able to compress it into four hours. The street date for the movie was at the end of September. I needed every bit of that time just to complete the first half, which I called "The Challenge." Some of you might wonder why I did not seek editing help; after all, most directors work with an editor who does the bulk of work under the director's supervision. Except with a few easy "Buttman" movies, I have not worked that way since my first couple of movies, in 1983 and 1984. The shaping of a movie, especially the sex, has always been a personal experience for me. I learned early on that no two people will make the same decisions on editing sex and sensuality. If I don't edit the movie, I feel that it is no longer my movie. I know that often leads to very long movies, but I have consistently been successful making long movies. Usually the consumer is happy to have more. It is the critics, who are often not watching a porn movie in the way it was intended, who complain about the length.

Editing of the second part, "Berlin," started in February 2007 and extended to the next deadline, at the end of September 2007. Because of the great music being provided to me by Douglas Mariah, I was able to start each scene with the music track in place and then sculpt my shots to fit the movement of the music. I soon developed a style of changing the speed of shots to fit a musical section. There are many shots with multiple speed changes. I wanted the picture to move with the music.

What I hope I have created is an entertainment product meant to be consumed over the course of many evenings, not just one; where long, indulgent side-trips into debauchery are the rule, not the exception. This should be, in my self-important delusion, compared to Victor Hugo, in Les Misérables, going off on a 69-page regression on the battle of Waterloo, when only the last page-and-a-half has anything to do with the story. History and fetish sex are interesting to me, and are deserving of closer inspection.

For years I kept notes of ideas I wanted to put in this movie. The most intriguing I attempted to integrate with the extraordinary talents of Rocco Siffredi, Nacho Vidal, Belladonna, Katsuni and Melissa Lauren. These were ideas about fetish fashion, fetish play, the allure of Berlin and the sexual sophistication of the L.A. porn scene. So if it seems that the plot is not tightly constructed, I was balancing that consideration against my desire to exploit my resources in the best way possible.

At the time I started working on this movie, 2005, I was doing my "Fashionistas" dance show in Las Vegas. Somehow I had become so full of myself that I had found the courage to do the dream I'd had since the early '80s, to create a dance show. It was a really fun way to spend half of my Buttman fortune. This allowed me to tap into the talents of my show dancers for "Safado," to create an opening fashion show more akin to Cirque du Soleil than something seen on a runway in Paris. It was wonderful to work with professionals on that level. I was able to experiment with capturing music and movement on a much higher level. I could merge dance and sexuality to bring to life ideas about art that had been burning inside me for years.

All this was subsumed under the musical creations of Douglas Mariah. He gave me a CD of music that came out of discussions we'd had about scoring porn. His interpretation inspired me to create a movie — one that was as integrated with the music as I could achieve, while still fulfilling a conventional narrative story. We worked together through the length of the production and editing process. He created original work for the opening of the movie with my "Fashionistas" dancers. As well he gave me incredible music to play live in the room for the start of the new movie's club scene at Insomnia in Berlin. Doug was always there for me, creating music off of ideas we discussed for upcoming scenes to be edited. He would tweak songs to fit my picture; then I would tweak my picture to fit his music.

During the course of the writing process, I went to Europe a couple of times. In June 2005 I went to London to try and open my dance show there, and at the same time scout locations and talent for shooting a new "Fashionistas" move. The club and fetish fashion scene is incredible in London. I went back in October of 2005, to Rubber Ball weekend. However, at the time the dollar was weak and the pound was really strong. Budgeting for London was a nightmare. Later in that October I went to Berlin for the annual Venus Faire porn convention. There, actor/director Steve Holmes introduced me to Ona and Dominique, two fetish performers and entrepreneurs. Dominique was planning to open a new fetish sex club, Insomnia, in early 2006. Also in Berlin is the Kit Kat Club, a famous fetish sex club run by Thor. I had met him a few years earlier after I had discovered the crazy S & M videos he was shooting at his club.

The fetish club scenes in London and Berlin are very different. In London, "wet" parties had been outlawed in the '80s. These are fetish fashion parties with real sex happening. In Berlin there is no such restriction. So the people in the Berlin scene are experienced doing sex with fetish at clubs. Ona and Dominique create sex and S & M shows for Insomnia and for other clubs throughout Europe. (They do their "Bunny Rabbit Mafia" routine, seen here in "Safado," after the fetish fashion show at Insomnia). Berlin is also the place for kinky, open-minded people to go in Germany. The underground sex culture in that city is unlike anywhere else in the world. On top of that, Berlin is a much less expensive city to shoot in compared to London. Because of the merging of East and West Berlin, rents have been competed down. In fact, the broken factory and stone house where I created "Safado's" most interesting fetish scenes is in old East Berlin.

The other thing happening at that time, in 2005 and 2006, was that the sex in porn was getting harder and harder. I had tapped into this somewhat when I made my first "Fashionistas" movie, in 2002. But that movie was like a primer. It was hard at that time to find anyone to match the intensity of Belladonna or Rocco. Now I had in L.A., and throughout the world, a wealth of talent schooled in sophisticated fetish sex. And this kind of sex has become far more interesting to me as I learn more about the incredible performers in this business.

I had been on the fringe of the S & M scene for years. I did cheap photo layouts in the 1970s in that theme, when I first started as an actor. I was often cast as the spanker in some scene, dominating a girl. It was almost all play-acting. Every once in awhile the male and female meshed to create real pain fetish. Jamie Gillis was the first real fetish person I was aware of back then. In truth, if there had been good male sub stuff being shot back then, I probably would have done better as an actor. In any case, I was not completely clueless, but I often realized my inadequacy when encountering someone really into fetish. Like most other people, I thought those poor, lost souls must have something mentally wrong if they truly enjoyed pain, or administering it. But as I worked my way through the world of commercial sex, I came to see that it always seemed to be the smarter, more interesting people who were also into fetish sex. They were honestly into the sex art form, in ways the average performer could not imagine.

I must apologize for taking this long to put out this multi-disc set with the high def, and all the extras. My excuse is that I still had my dance show going after I finished editing the movie, and the show took most of my time. Then, a month after my show closed, the federal government decided to prosecute me on obscenity charges for other movies that my company sold. That dragged on for two-and-a-half years, to a trial in which I was acquitted. After recovering from that emotionally and financially, I started work on this multi-disc set.

As pretentious as this sounds, I think of "Safado" as my masterpiece. I know that maybe I will never find the time and energy to do this kind of thing again. In any case, I think I have learned a bit more about myself and my next big project, I hope, will not include the kitchen sink.