For His MFA Thesis, Valentino Directs Doc on Measure B

This article originally ran in the January 2013 issue of AVN magazine.

The AVN Awards Show hits the three-decade mark this year. For performer/director Valentino, it’s only his 20th trip to the show, but he’s reached a more significant milestone: He’ll be attending January’s AVN Adult Entertainment Expo as a graduate of the New York Film Academy with a master’s of fine art.

“An MFA in filmmaking—it covers everything from writing, editing—every aspect of production. They give you a mastery of all of it … any facet of production, we had to cover everything from A to Z.”

Valentino’s thesis, however, is all about the second letter of the alphabet—as in Measure B. He’s been at work on a short film about the fight surrounding the mandatory condom ballot measure, which was approved by voters in Los Angeles County in November.

“I’m still editing it. I still have one or two small interviews, but basically it’s done,” Valentino said when we spoke last month.

“I shot it on the Red camera,” he explained. “It takes like 40 minutes in real time to transcode every minute of film. It’ll be done by my deadline, which is in January, and then I’m going to market it in Cannes, at the film festival.”

The director got interviews with folks at the Free Speech Coalition and the No on Measure B campaign offices, and he also shot “all the rallies, all the street demonstrations.”

In addition, Valentino said, he shot at last year’s AEE. “We were in Vegas last year as part of the documentary as well because I knew I was going to shoot it and I got a lot of people from different countries so I could get a global perspective, knowing they wouldn’t be here  when I shot the bulk of it in October.”

He added, “It’s coming together really nicely. And I interviewed the other side, AHF … we have some good conflict there. It looks good.”

In addition to editing the footage into a short, Valentino says, “I’m looking at doing a feature or I may do a series, because series obviously sell better, more marketable and there's definitely more demand.  … So that’s what I’m working at cutting now.” When the finished product is ready, he’ll look to sell cable and DVD rights in Cannes with an eye toward a fall release.

“Now that I’ve made this documentary I plan on shooting other documentaries and also some independent narrative movies,” Valentino said. But the AVN Hall of Famer is hardly turning his back on adult. “I can produce movies as well as direct them. I’m interested in shooting bigger productions in adult entertainment.”

In fact, he’s drawn a lot of inspiration from his work in the industry. “I acted a lot in Europe in the adult business when we were shooting on 35mm film in the ’90s, and we had some directors who shot on spaghetti Westerns in the ’60s, then they did horror movies in the ’70s and the ’80. And they were doing pornography in the ’90s.”

Particularly with the Italian directors he found that as an actor they offered him a higher level of professional direction because of their experience on larger mainstream productions. And back then, some adult films were fairly large as well: shot on 35mm film with $500,000 budgets. “We would shot in gorgeous locations,” he recalled.

In terms of how much overseas production there is now, Valentino has noted that “with the exception of Japan, Europe is kind of struggling too. Not that the economy in Japan isn’t struggling, but it hasn’t affected the pornography production in the same way it’s been affected in the west—they’re still shooting right along. It’s been affected, but not to the same degree.

“But I’m still interested in shooting in Europe, and it may be the staple later if we are forced to outsource the work because of this Measure B business,” he grimaced. “I’m sure there will be American productions, but I think that Europe might fill more of that vacuum.”