From his thematically dark features, to his visually compelling fuck flixxx, director B. Skow has pushed the boundaries of pornographic film. His move from Vivid to Girlfriends Films in 2013, where he founded his own studio Skow For Girlfriends Films, gave him even more room to stretch his creative muscles, resulting in some of the best hardcore content in recent years and several award season nominations, including AVN’s Director Of The Year.
Last year, Skow took on the gonzo genre with A Gonzo Story: The Mansion Family and then again with A Gonzo Story: Open House. This year we saw the release of a third entry into this series, A Gonzo Story: Whorehouse Virgin. These films differ greatly from each other, each telling their own unique story and offering different ways of approaching gonzo filmmaking. Skow was generous enough to call us up for an interview, where we discussed his take on gonzo, storytelling, porn, and what’s next for him.
Judy Hologram: When I think of gonzo porn, I think of John Stagliano, Jamie Gillis, Rocco Sifreddi, and what Mason is doing over at Hard X (to name a few) where the pornographer is acting like a journalist or documentarian, and the camera is being addressed to some extent and the viewer is being put right in the action. What’s your take on the gonzo genre as a whole?
B Skow: I think if it’s labeled by say AVN, XBIZ, or one of the companies as gonzo or categorized as gonzo, it’s definitely that one guy holding the camera, and the girl arrives at the door and the sex is shot real shaky, handheld, and you’re right in there. You’re very close and right up into the sex, and it’s more about the sex than anything else.
JH: With the Gonzo Story series, I understood how The Mansion Family fit in with the genre, because the viewer is being put in the characters’ shoes, but Open House and Whorehouse Virgin seem like marked departures from traditional interpretations of gonzo. I was wondering how you see this series fitting into gonzo.
BS: I love doing things different, and to me gonzo means sort of crazy or ridiculous or unusual. The porn industry didn’t decide what that was. So A Gonzo Story, for me, was I wanted to tell a story, but I still wanted to shoot the sex bright and clear and with a wide-angle lens, and handheld, instead of like when I tell a different type of story, the cameras are more on tripods, with moodier lighting to keep the story flowing. Whereas A Gonzo Story, there is a story there, but the story is more visual, it’s more to see the girls and their bodies, to see perversions and the sex is the most important thing.
So that’s where I got the idea for A Gonzo Story. I mean, Open House is a ridiculous sort of story, and the story’s built around showing off bodies, and sex, and perversions, and everything else, so that’s pretty much what it is. It’s gonzo style sex, with a wrap-around story, a story that keeps it all together. And the camera angle, even during the dialogue, it’ll be more unusual; lower angles, wider angles, or I’ll shoot behind her to show her butt, different things like that. So it’s just a way to separate when people see my features; it might be really dark or moody, where I’m trying to get a point across, whereas in A Gonzo Story, I’m just shooting good sex and the stories are just kind of ridiculous.
JH: It’s more about the fucking.
BS: Yeah, I book talent that way. Everything about the sex is first in the gonzo movies, and then once I have all the talent booked I’ll look at them and I’ll make up a story about them. And then that’s how it is.
JH: I found an interview that Stagliano did in 2002, where he talks about how there’s a misconception that gonzo can’t tell a story. Do you think you’re continuing this tradition and pulling gonzo back from just wall-to-wall fucking?
BS: I’m not out on any mission to change what’s going on. I kind of keep to myself and keep to my own mind, so I’m not trying to make a statement. I agreed with Stagliano though, because he did do that, he did work a story into that type of sex. He definitely did, but you didn’t know when he was doing it. Sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn’t. I’m just trying to separate. I make so many different types of films; I’ll make an all sex film, or I’ll make one where there’s no speaking, no stories, straight up gonzo, or a real feature, a big four or five day feature. So A Gonzo Story, maybe I do want it to become its own thing, its own genre, where you can watch that type of sex. The stories are so simple.
I’m doing a new one called “Fill ‘Er Up” or “Creampie” I think it’s called. So it’s a gonzo sort of thing, creampies, it’s definitely a gonzo category, but I built a story about young people having sex and not being careful about getting pregnant. In my head it’s just gonzo meaning ridiculous, crazy, unusual, and it’s that type of story with that kind of sex. I’m definitely not out trying to change anything that’s going on in porn today, besides make my stuff better.
JH: So how did you start this series? How did it develop and where do the story lines come from?
BS: Random stuff, like I’ll put together people I wanna see have sex, and once I book the talent and I imagine what the sex is gonna be like between them, then I kind of work a story around it. I know the people mostly, like a lot of the guys. I’ve been shooting for a long time so I’ve used almost every one of the guys, so I know their personalities and the things they’re into. Lately, the girls, I’ll just kind of research them. They give away a lot of their personality on social media, so I’ll build the stories around that, around the people I book. They’re completely random stories. I went to an open house one weekend and then I wrote Open House a couple weekends later.
JH: I wanted to ask about Whorehoue Virgin; it reminded me of Pretty Baby, that Brooke Shields movie from the 70’s. It looked like there was a watercolor of Susan Sarandon in the background of one of the scenes, so I was wondering if that had influenced it at all and if there was any relation.
BS: No, but the paintings are all owned by Dan, the guy that owns Girlfriend Films. He collects all kinds of art that he gets all over the place, just all kinds of drawings, so when we shoot things we go through it and hang stuff up. It’s not after Pretty Baby. I’ll tell you, Whorehouse Virgin, I was reading an article about how parents aren’t teaching their kids Sex Ed, and I got the wild idea, here’s a way to teach your daughter sex ed: drop her off at a whorehouse for a week. So that’s pretty much how it came about.
JH: Are there any other pornographers who have influenced you, whose work do you admire and look up to?
BS: When I was first starting out, Paul Thomas, as far as a story teller, and someone that really understood the mind of the performers. I really admired how he understood their minds and how they were feeling and thinking and using it in his movie. He was really good at telling stories and ad libbing and stuff like that. As far as sex movies, I remember Patrick Collins, the guy that started Elegant Angel, I thought was he did was interesting. When Vivid first asked me to direct porn, in like 2003 or 2002, I watched some of Patrick Collins’ movies and I thought they were the best of what I saw.
BS: Paul Thomas is one of the greatest of all time. I worked with him and he was a performer in the 70’s and he’s just one of the greatest pornographers of all time. He’s retired now. If you like features, if you go back and look at some of the stuff from the 90’s, they’re really unusual, interesting stories that people are mostly copying today.
JH: Are there any books, artworks, movies, or music, smutty or otherwise, that have influenced your work? I know that the Rolling Stones song was the idea for Mother’s Little Helper.
BS: A lot of classic rock and 90’s rock, Nirvana and Bush. Music definitely influences it. My favorite film maker is Woody Allen, I like the way he tells stories, you feel like it’s small and it’s interesting. I just saw The Revenant with Leo DiCaprio, I thought that was unbelievable. I haven’t seen a good movie like that in a really long time. That was amazing. I thought Deadpool was such a crazy movie, it really shows the times. It’s like the stuff I’m doing in porn, the stuff that I’m trying to say in a porno, they were doing in a movie. I don’t know if you saw it, but they were talking about tea bagging, and fucking and gang banging, and it was filthy. The stuff they said was filthy.
JH: What’s the motivation for writing some of your darker stories?
BS: You know, I don’t know. It interests me. One thing about porn, I love doing what I’m doing and shooting movies. I’m not the kind of person who would be comfortable doing bigger movies. I really like doing what I’m doing, and designing the covers and I love every aspect of making a movie. A couple days here and there is great and a good amount of time to do it. It’s just whatever I’m interested in and reading about.
Gardener, everyone thought that was just too much for a porno, but I was just reading stories about kidnapping and I thought about moving out of New Jersey and coming out to California, and if I could that at 17, why couldn’t that girl get out of that yard? Just stupid stuff like that. It interests me, just what the fuck kind of stuff is going on in that household.
I did Daddy’s Girls; I had a young daughter and it made me sick, I couldn’t imagine the feeling of one of my friends fucking her. It was just something that was so sick that I had to write something about it. And it wasn’t something that was necessarily about a dad wanting to be with his daughter, it wasn’t that at all. It was how disgusting the thought of it is. And the industry didn’t watch it and just said, “Whoops, it’s time for [family fantasy] porn,” and here it came!
I don’t know, the dark stuff is interesting, especially if you’re a cameraman or a cinematographer, when you have a really fucked up or weird situation. It’s a lot more interesting to light and to shoot and to watch in your camera than it is if you’re a happy couple kissing at sunset. I think visually I’m led to that stuff sometimes, and my personal life, just the things that are happening around me.
JH: You started out as a mainstream fashion and celebrity photographer. How did you make the transition from the mainstream to the adult industry, and was always your goal or if it just kind of happen?
BS: I started doing the artwork and the design for Vivid in the mid 90’s, and back then Vivid was putting up billboards on Sunset Boulevard and Times Square. I was doing all the photography for them, and they were a big advertising client for me. And it got more and more, and Vivid started growing like crazy. I don’t even remember how many movies they were doing a month, but it became almost full time shooting and at some point they signed a contract with me where I couldn’t shoot for any other adult companies. And I was just doing the celebrity stuff. And when magazines started going away, I kind of felt it in advance, when digital cameras started I just knew that these magazines aren’t gonna be around forever and I started directing for Vivid. I loved making movies, and at that time it was all features, so it was writing and directing and producing and shooting the covers, and I just loved it. I just got busier and busier and busier. I still do a mainstream advertising job here and there, but nothing like it was when I started in the industry. But I only stopped mainstream and commercial photography maybe six years ago.
BS: [lauging] No, not at all. They’re completely different. I don’t know Hollywood, but Hollywood to me seems way closer to porn in that the women and the men in Hollywood are similar to the men and women in porn. The way things are done, the groups of people that are used, the way the big companies run it all, it’s pretty similar. I mean, porn is porn and it’ll never be accepted, there’ll never be big money like that, people will never flock into theaters, you’re never gonna see people sitting next to each other jacking off. It’s two separate things, so I don’t think they’re at all close, except for the business model.
JH: In some of your other interviews you’ve spoken at length about how your move from Vivid to Girlfriends Films has been a blessing for you creatively. Have you ever brought an idea to them and been told “no”?
BS: No, honestly nothing… no. I mean, Gardener was the most I’ve ever pushed anything. Once in a while they’ll ask me to do something tame. I did a movie Sweetness and Light, more couples and pretty soft edge. Switch is pretty soft as far as the idea of it, it’s not as edgy. But no, I think they’re really good, and I only come to them with something when I really wanna make it. I’m making a movie now, I’m in the middle of writing a movie about racism. It’s something that I really wanna explore. I’ll go to them with that. I don’t go to them everyday like, “Oh I wanna shoot this or that,” and I don’t really give into the topics like [family fantasy] and everything, I really don’t get into that. So there’s nothing really for them to turn down. I’m not going to the extreme, and if I am I have a reason and a good story to back it, so it’s artistic freedom. They’re great. And Dan’s movies, he does some sick-ass shit in his movies that even I can’t wrap my head around. I can’t imagine what I’d present to them that they’d say no.
JH: What do you think is the best work that you’ve done for Girlfriends?
BS: Daddy’s Girls, These Things We Do, I like those as far as features.
BS: I loved that one, I thought that was an example of really just being alone with the actors and just making a movie. I like that feeling of not having twenty people around, it’s more like I can really work with them and get somewhere. It’s more interesting than trying to spend your time doing a panning shot and having eighteen lights up. It’s more where you really get to concentrate on the actors and in that movie I really got to do that.
JH: Yeah, you’re really great at getting your performers to perform, even though porn isn’t thought of as this great bastion of thespianism.
BS: It’s my favorite part of doing the thing, when you get in that room and they understand the wording. It’s really just getting them to be themselves and it’s fun, it’s my favorite part. And it’s kind of the same for when you’re just doing sex. You know, getting those two people in that room and in that mood, with the right feeling for that sex is really important for how that sex scene turns out. A lot of directors, it’s just very robotic and generic and I’m always trying to get around that. It’s hard to get around that.
JH: Are you trying to get them to fuck each other the way that they would fuck each other if they met at a bar or were dating or something? Is that how you approach it?
BS: They’re so past that, I mean they fuck non-stop. They’re so past ever getting them to that point probably. The guys need certain things to keep themselves going, the girls need certain things to do what they do, but I think if the build-up is there and you want them to do a really good job for you as a director it’s more of getting them to that point, like “I really want to do a good job and listen to what he wants.” And then once you get them in that mode, like “This is how I feel for that scene,” and they feel like they’re on board with you, you make them feel like, “We’re all here for this to happen,” then it’s usually a really good scene. And that’s usually the best I get. And almost every movie I do, unless something happens, I try to let them just have sex. I do everything before and try to interfere as little as possible. Unless it’s going horrible, then you have to resort to a wide angle lens and camera angles, and the focus on what you’re doing changes.
JH: We’re a site that markets to women, and there’s this whole push in pornography to open up to this huge, nebulous, diverse population. When you’re making your movies, is there ever pressure to be like, “Oh, I’ve gotta make sure ladies like this too,” or is that not really something that you’re actively thinking about when you’re working?
BS: No, I never get a memo saying, “You need to make porn for women.” I think when I make features, I think when anything’s interesting it’s ok to watch, like where there’s a couple. I don’t know, what would women’s porn be? Show more man-ass or ballsack? What would be the angle? I don’t know. [laughing] In a feature I’ll show more of the man and the woman having sex, whereas in a gonzo I’m right up in there, the camera’s so close. But in a feature you’re seeing the guy move the girl around the bed, you’re seeing the girl get into the position that she wants to get in. So I would think a feature is definitely more women’s. If a woman is really into a woman, then I think maybe more the gonzo style or the harder sex movies. They just don’t show the guy. I don’t know, you tell me. As a woman, what would it be? What would you be looking for?
JH: I mean, I know what I like, but the idea of women’s porn, or porn for women, is a lot of times pretty ridiculous to me at least. There’s a lot of movies from certain studios that are definitely trying to bait that audience, but the thing is a lot of women like really hard, super crazy gonzo stuff. “Gang bangs” is apparently one of the most searched terms for women when we’re looking for porn. There’s no one thing. And like I said, there’s what? 150 million of us in the country [JH: actually closer to 126 million] and we’re not all looking for the same thing. But I think that features are definitely something that tends to attract women, but I think they attract a lot of men too.
BS: And I think visual movies too, like when I do the Sexually Explicit movies, I’m concentrating more on the visual aspect of that movie. I’m trying to get an idea across of why things are happening. You know, I have Sexually Explicit, I do features, and I do A Gonzo Story, and I do genres, like big boob or whatever is it, like the sex movies, and the new girls with Beautiful New Faces. So I pretty much cover all the different genres in porn within what I do. I try to do a little bit of everything.
Like women’s porn, one movie that comes into my head is In The Flesh, the one I did about Jesus coming back. My point with that was I bet you is that if women fuck a lot of guys they’re looked down on, so if Jesus came back he’d say, “No no, that’s not what I meant. Any sex is ok, it’s not something to look down upon.” He was there to come back and tell women, “It’s ok. You’re not whores. Go fuck yourself. Everyone can touch themselves and have sex.” Jesus wants to come back and fix what went wrong the first time he was here. So maybe that’s more of a women’s point of view? Other wise I don’t know. Like you said, If I knew exactly what it was I’d just do it. Just like you said, everybody’s different.
JH: Are there any women involved in your productions outside of the performance aspect?
BS: Yeah, my main person is a girl. Her name is Sabrina Fellows. She’s on every one of my movies and she does everything with me. Lighting, audio, sometimes camera, props.
JH: How long have you been working with her?
BS: I started working with her when I started working at Girlfriends, so four and a half years now.
JH: Are there any stories that you want to tell but haven’t gotten a chance to yet?
BS: No. The thing I’m working on now is a racism thing, like the racism in porn, or how I see what I see, or the idea of it. That’s kind of what’s been on my mind lately. I’ve been getting into weird history stuff lately, maybe just because the election’s coming up. You know, looking into how shit got the way it is now. Maybe something will come out of that. But right now I’m making this movie. It takes place in New Jersey. It’s this really racist family that I used to know. I used to go over to their house when I was really young. At the time I never knew how horrible and racist they really were, because it was really normal in the area, you know? It was normal shit, it was just what you heard. So I’m writing a fictional story about that family.
BS: Yeah, once I’m involved with something, that’s how my mind goes. I’m making my sex movies, but I’m creating that story as I go along. And once that’s on paper, then I’ll start wondering what the next idea is as far as features go.
JH: When is that gonna come out?
BS: Probably September.
I also have the new Gonzo Story called Creampies, about pregnancy. It’s funny. I have Ass vs. Pussy, and then Contrast is my interracial movie. Those three movies are coming out in the next month or so.
JH: Any last words?
BS: No, just that I love that you watch my movies and when I get letters from fans, or just any reviews. I just really appreciate that people are watching the movies, it’s a great thing. So thank you.