Interview: Jim & Wendy Crawford on the Evolution of Elegant Angel

This article originally ran in the April 2014 issue of AVN magazine.

Elegant Angel Productions is a familiar name for devotees of erotica, so everything involving the studio is big news in the adult industry. Last fall, AVN reported that the studio’s day-to-day operations and management had been taken over by Jim and Wendy Crawford, adult biz veterans who own Adult Source Media and SoCal Licensing. Now that the team has had time to develop their own ways of doing things, AVN sat down to talk with the Crawfords about their plans for the future.

"Elegant Angel already has a solid foundation that Patrick Collins built, so it's just a matter of updating it and improving it," Jim Crawford told AVN. "It's just a matter of keeping it current, bringing our unique skill set to the table. We have the ability to do a lot more with a lot less. The directors that we have are awesome. They know what we need. They work really hard, they go the extra mile to shoot—”

“—They love this company, and what this company makes," Wendy added.

Both Crawfords have a background in mainstream production, with Wendy working in game shows and Jim working as a stuntman and stunt coordinator in both mainstream and adult.

"We don't want to make run-of-the-mill movies. I'll take people out to the desert and put them on top of a mountain with a piece of $10,000 furniture," Jim Crawford said. "Logistically challenging, not just going to a house and setting up a Kino and shooting. We have a different way of coming to production that can do more with less."

But just as important as how the movies are shot is how they are marketed and sold.  The Crawfords pointed out the importance of identifying and serving specific customer bases.

"The way we look at it, we have different customers," Jim said. "We have people who stumble across our stuff on AEBN or HotMovies, or go to AEBN or HotMovies to watch our stuff; we have people who buy our DVDs; people who come across it in hotels or on a cable channel; and we have our web customers. We try to service each of those customers, giving them something special from this company. With the website, we're giving them content that only they can see."

"We're doing cross-promotion with online DVD sellers like TLA and Adult DVD Empire," Wendy said. "We're doing Twitter things together. We're doing YouTube things together. We're doing stuff on our blogs, on their blogs. Custom bumpers. It's all about servicing and getting those eyeballs to the places where we both need them to be. Why not partner with those people who have supported you over the years?"

The current production schedule calls for four new releases a month. The company also leverages its back catalog by adding comps. "It's a work in progress," Jim said. " We don't like to cheapen our product. We track everything, so it's not 'throw it against the wall and hope it sticks.' We don't sell novelties or lingerie. We're a video production company."

Promo materials include posters, T-shirts, hats, and a limited-edition "Performers of the Year 2014" beef jerky package. "It's about quality," Jim said. "To survive in this business you can't just be frivolous and blow a bunch of money. If something is not working and making a profit for the company, then you have to be willing to let it go. The way the business is now, you know pretty fast what's working and what isn't working. You can't let your ego get involved."

The Crawfords are tightly focused on the economics of production and distribution.

"It's a tough business that we're in," Jim said. "Anybody who says it's not tough right now, I'd like to know what business they're in. At the same time, we take a look at everything from broadcast worldwide to DVD sales to how it integrates into the website to our VOD partners like AEBN and HotMovies. We look at everything."

"We have a unique opportunity to look at data in all different ways," Wendy told AVN. "Seeing what productions are the most successful, being able to understand the difference between a movie that is good for DVD and a movie that works better for broadcast. And then finding the right formula for something that works for everything. You aren't going to please the fans and the Adam & Eve fans at the same time, but there is a balance. The rules in Canada might not be the rules in France might not be the rules in Germany. We want to make sure that something can be edited out, or in, for each particular territory. We give our people information so they can be successful: Our directors, our staff, everybody. If you don't give them information to be empowered, how are they going to make the right decisions?"

"There are things we can put in a DVD that we can't put in broadcast," Jim added. "Coercion, choking, lots of hitting, slapping, that kind of thing. The directors are aware that there are things that you can do in the first five minutes that broadcast won't take, but if it happens again—if I chop all that up, do I still have a scene? That's something that they have to be aware of.

"We're demanding a premium for our product. We have to deliver a premium product for us to stay there."

The Crawfords want to build a team atmosphere throughout Elegant Angel. Directors and management have meetings twice a month.

"Take Performers of the Year, for example," Jim told AVN. "Each director took a scene. That movie is a collaboration of all the directors here. Working together, putting a movie together that they all have input in but it has continuity and it looks like one movie—but it was shot by four different people."

"Everybody knows the direction that we're going, what it takes to get there, and what their part is," Jim said. "The production part, the look and feel, Elegant has down. Making sure everybody in every corner of the world is exposed to that, that's what we're doing. We're bringing it on a much bigger scale. Larger distribution, bigger deals, stuff that hasn't been done here in a while. At Elegant Angel, everything is one picture. There's not DVD, broadcast, web VOD, our own pay membership sites. It's all one. There is no 'extra income.' It's all income. You have to look at everything as a whole.

"Elegant Angel has evolved, but it has stayed true to the vision and foundation that Patrick Collins set forth: Providing customers with hot sex, but also getting into the mind of the people having hot sex," Jim said. "A mental journey as well as a sexual one. All the movies that stand out here have accomplished that. There's a Chinese proverb: Every time you drink the water, remember the man who dug the well.”