Candida Royalle Interviewed by Babeland


Acclaimed Adult Film Director Talks about her Recent Releases, Under the Covers and Afrodite Superstar

By Ross

Candida Royalle may be just as well known for what she leaves out of her porns as for what she puts in them.  For example, in her latest feature Under the Covers (in which Babeland has a starring role!), you’ll find steamy group sex, light bondage, a scalding strap-on scene with two women, and lots of masturbation with sex toys.  So, what won’t you see?


“A facial!” laughs Candida. 


In place of porn’s “money shot”, you’ll see things woefully missing from most of today’s adult movies: sexual tension, smoldering chemistry, a decent plot, and dialogue that won’t make you cringe.  In an industry lucratively buoyed on its male consumers, Candida Royalle is a renegade, who started her own production company Femme to exclusively make films for a female audience eager for something more appealing. 

Under The Covers

Afrodite Superstar


“When my original partner and I were setting out to do our first Femme movie,” says Candida,  “we paid an established and successful porn producer to meet with us so that we could ask him a few questions before stepping on to our first film set. When he heard we were going to absolutely eliminate any cum shots, he flipped out.  And after we left, he called our investors and warned them that we were going to lose all their money. All these years later, he’s long gone out of business.” 


Femme Productions, of course, is still going strong--perhaps stronger than ever in its 23 years of operation.   This summer saw the release of Afrodite Superstar, the critically hailed debut from Femme Chocolat, a new line of Femme Production devoted to ethnic diversity.  Not only that, Candida’s line of sex toys, Natural Contours, just won the “Vibrator of the Year” award. Recently,
Babeland caught up with a very busy Candida Royalle to discuss her latest movies, sex toys, and the changing face of the porn industry.


Babeland
:  Before the first scene of your new film Under the Covers is finished, it is clear that this is not the typical porn movie.  There’s chemistry between the actors, sexual tension, seduction, tenderness, and the words “I love you”—all things not commonly seen in the typical porn these days.  As a director, what are the challenges in bringing multi-dimensional erotica to the screen?


Candida Royalle
: One of the biggest challenges was getting distributors and wholesalers to understand the concept, learn how to sell it, and to put in the extra effort it takes to convince retailers to pay a little more for it. Femme Productions was a whole new concept in adult films. No one had heard of movies that appealed to women back then. I had to deal with retailers who had no clue as to how to sell this new line. The way I dealt with this set of challenges was to create the demand. I learned how to get great media coverage so that when women (and men looking for something to share with their wives) would read about my Femme movies in Glamour or “O” (Oprah’s Magazine) or Redbook or the New York Times, they would go in to the stores and demand it. And of course now they just Google my name and find it on web sites like Babeland.

On the directing front, it was difficult in the beginning to keep the stars from acting like they do in regular porn movies. Women would immediately drop to their knees as soon as the scene started and I’d have to explain to them that I didn’t want the typical male fantasy scene. In the Femme movies women had their needs catered to as well! They could lie back and enjoy it for once! Now it’s a bit easier as most women that I hire know my work and are eager to be able to do something different. And men have always liked the idea of working for a female director who lets them get to be the stars too rather than just “stunt cocks”!


Babeland
: Under the Covers flirts with several sexual themes: homemade porn, sex toys, group sex, and BDSM to name a few.  Were you trying to introduce kink to the less experienced in the audience, or were you just making sure there was a little something for everyone?


Candida Royalle
: I suppose I was trying to do both.  But I really think that viewers are more sexually sophisticated and adventurous these days, even my audience. It’s important for me to push the envelope a little with each movie I make.  Besides, I’m not just calculating what I think people want to see. Certainly I take that in to consideration, but I’m also creating from my own fantasies and desires. If filmmakers don’t produce from a personal place, a reservoir of their own desires, the movie is going to fall flat and feel contrived and mechanical. I’m not as vanilla as my earlier movies might lead one to think. While I honestly do love the build-up, the sensuality, the tenderness and the “I love you's”, I also like it nasty and I love to play with surrender. I’m not so in to group sex myself, but I like it on screen….if it’s done well!

 

Babeland:  Recent independent films such as Shortbus, 9 Songs, The Brown Bunny, and Anatomy of Hell all feature explicit sex while your film Afrodite Superstar has as much screen time devoted to character development and plot movement as it does to sex.  Is the line between porn and art becoming even more blurred?   Is this the beginning of a new genre of film where explicit sex is more mainstream?


Candida Royalle
:  Yes, I do believe that explicit sex will become more a part of mainstream movies. While I think it will always remain a taboo, at least in our lifetime, that is much of what is appealing about it for people. It’s walking the edge between legitimate and forbidden, acceptable and taboo. Once it becomes commonplace, it will lose its excitement. But that will be a long ways off. What I do notice, though, is that none of these mainstream movies that feature sex, at least the ones I’ve seen, are actually sexy. They’re all dark and in some cases downright gloomy. It’ll be a real breakthrough when these filmmakers show people really enjoying themselves and being sexy rather than getting away with it because it’s not really sexy.

 

Babeland: Is the talent pool for porn actors growing?


Candida Royalle
: Yes, because the glamour surrounding stars like Jenna Jameson are making it seem like a viable career choice, particularly for young women. What I noticed when I shot Under the Covers is how many smart and ambitious women are entering the talent pool as a way to express themselves, whether it be just an exhibitionist streak or a desire to perform on screen with their partners. One of my actresses tells us in the documentary that’s on the DVD that she’s a clinical psychologist by profession while her on screen and real life partner shares that he does this to make her happy! Another of the actresses is a full time college student who also works with her boyfriend on screen.

 

Babeland: Afrodite Superstar in some ways feels like a nod to porn from the 70’s that emphasized characters and plot.  It also devotes a generous percentage of the screen time to its original hip-hop songs, compelling story, and excellent acting.  What inspired such an ambitious project?


Candida Royalle
: Afrodite Superstar is the first in what I hope will be a continuing line called Femme Chocolat, a line that features a mixed ethic cast and will appeal to women and couples of color and anyone who would like to look at beautiful people of all shades and colors – black, white, Latino, Asian. I’d wanted to do something that appealed to the long-ignored demographic of discerning viewers of color, so when Venus Hottentot (a name she chose to honor the “Hottentot Venus”) approached me about wanting to direct something for Femme, with her talent and experience, I knew I had found the perfect opportunity.


Babeland
: Under the Covers also features Natural Contours, a line of sex toys you helped develop.  What inspired you to get into the sex toy business?


Candida Royalle
:  I had always thought it would be great to be able to branch out into other types of erotic products that would fit in with the Femme concept: hot and sexy but also tasteful and high end. A line of vibrators that were ergonomically correct and would appeal to the average woman who found the typical vibrator embarrassing and may have been uncomfortable keeping one at home for fear of discovery, especially if she had children. We launched our first three models in 1999 and broke in to the mainstream market by being the first to get into major women’s health and lifestyle catalogs. Natural Contours made vibrators an acceptable mainstream accessory.

 

Babeland: If you had an unlimited budget, what would be your dream project?


Candida Royalle
: I’d like Femme Productions to become the launching pad for a whole new generation of erotic filmmakers. Nothing resembling what’s out there now, but bold, innovative ideas. There’s all this media talk about the “mainstreaming of porn” and how acceptable it’s becoming. I think the numbers they’re pulling this from reflect a relatively small group of loyal porn fans, guys who keep coming back for more, and huge numbers of first time viewers who never come back for a second look because they’re disappointed by the clumsy, unimaginative drek that constitutes most commercially available porn. I really believe if there were more opportunities for serious filmmakers, unhindered and left to create their vision, we’d see just how huge a market there really is, for something yet un-made. I think I could deliver that given enough backing and support.  It’s not easy being ahead of your time, but the reward is being able to say you were the first.

And being ahead of her time is something Candida Royalle would know a lot about.


Check out Candida Royalle’s Femme Production Films
:

Under the Covers, Afrodite Superstar, My Surrender

 

Also from Candida Royalle

How to Tell a Naked Man What to Do (book)