On the Set: Bonnie Rotten Digs ‘To the Core’ in Directorial Debut

A small crew has converged in this post-industrial urban neighborhood, and the cameraman has his lens trained on a slender young Asian woman in a red plaid micro-mini and pink legwarmers. She would definitely turn heads—if there were any passersby to turn them. But it’s quiet this morning, so it’s easy for adult performer Alina Li to walk down the street without attracting much attention as she enters a nondescript warehouse adorned only with graffiti.

Inside, riding herd on a team of adult movie makers, is Bonnie Rotten, AVN’s 2014 Female Performer of the Year. She’s enjoying her first spin in the director’s seat on the very first project from her Mental Beauty production company, which already has a distribution deal with Girlfriends Films.

The owners of the space, Dee and Mike, are in attendance, as is production assistant Jack Spade and cinematographer Alex Ladd (who’s lent his expert eye to such award winners as Wasteland and Underworld). Aside from a relatively uncluttered set with a pool table in the center, the rest of the space is packed with odds and ends. The performers’ suitcases sit on the floor with shoes and lingerie tumbling out.

The production, as yet unnamed, consists of four all-girl scenes. Rotten is about to do a scene with Li. The other pairings feature veteran Aiden Starr with new girl Ashlyn Molloy, Skin Diamond with Alison Faye, and Rotten with Zoey Nixon.

“The theme for this movie is young girl violations—innocent girls getting torn apart,” Rotten explains. She wrote the script herself.

For the scene with Li, she explains, “I played into the Asian thing, about how parents control their kids,” Rotten says. Li is a naughty teen who’s causing grief for her wealthy parents—especially her father. Rotten will try to knock (as well as slap and spank) some sense into her.

Rotten has donned the corset she’ll be wearing in the sex scene, but her legs are covered in cozy polka-dotted sweat pants. Jacketless and bare-legged, Li looks chilly but cheerful as she reads the script.

“Stop being happy—be sad,” Rotten barks. “Be a sad little Asian girl.”

Li complies, looking into a broken mirror as she says her lines by the pool table. Ladd has the camera trained on Li’s fractured reflection. Rotten lets her settle into the mood before pointing out that she’s misquoting one of the lines.

Once the dialog is nailed, Rotten says to Li, “Let’s do our girly stuff.” In addition to Spade and Ladd, there’s also makeup artist Taylr, cameraman and editor Robert Queensgate, and BTS cameraman Nor’s. We talk briefly while Li and Rotten get ready for the sex scene, which is in the back of the warehouse—a makeshift dungeon with various types of restraining devices. Above is a skylight, and on this cloudy day the light keeps changing. “We just lost a ton of light,” Ladd says.

Rotten has her eye on something else: her co-star. Like Rotten, Li is a client of Mark Spiegler: “I told Spiegler from the very beginning that I wanted her, and now I’ve got her on my own terms,” the neophyte director says.

Now the sweat pants come off to reveal fishnets and shiny patent-leather stilettos. Rotten examines the sex toys laid out at her disposal with satisfaction, brandishing a midsize model. It’s time for action.

Once Li’s in her clutches, Rotten says the young girl must confess her misdeeds and become stronger, so that her father will be proud. “I’m going to put you in your place and show you exactly what you need.”

What does Li need? Nipple suckers, slapping, tit clamps, flogging, pinching, spanking. “Do you feel bad for what you’ve done now?”

Li doesn’t look frightened enough, so Rotten says, “If you pretend you like it, I am just going to do it harder.” To prove her point, Rotten locks Li up in a metal cage and pours first water and then ice over her. Rotten breaks out a Hitachi and pleasures herself, unleashing a squirting orgasm to add to the water puddling on the floor.

Next she releases the shivering Li and puts her on a bench, using a double-headed dildo and Hitachi to bring Li to ejaculation as well, which leaves her schoolgirl skirt drenched.

Once the camera crew confirms they’ve got enough footage in the can, Rotten can relax a bit, since she won’t be performing again today. But there is still much more to come. “I want everything to be like I’ve pictured it in my head,” she says.

There to make that happen is veteran performer Aiden Starr, who’s more than comfortable with domination. She’s in makeup with Ashlyn Molloy, getting ready for their scene.

Rotten says to Aiden, “I just want it to be crazy, manipulative, sub-dom sex.”

Molloy, who is from Texas, started in the biz last October and says she has done only about 20 scenes. She confirms, “I’m a submissive.” Starr presses her for information on boundaries: “It’s heavy d/s sex today so we have to have the conversation before.” Starr says that Rotten wants “mostly mental” domination: “It’s not slapping-the-shit-out-of-you day.”

While Starr and Molloy negotiate boundaries and get their faces and hair done, Rotten has a little time to talk.

Asked why she wants to direct, Rotten is blunt: For one thing, she wants to make money. For another, she’s wanted to direct ever since she started in the business, but she knew she had to build up her reputation and forge strategic relationships before she would get an opportunity.

One relationship was with Girlfriends Films. Rotten talks about when she first pitched them on distributing Mental Beauty. “They were excited when I went into their office. They said, ‘You’re family to us.’”

Rotten talks a bit about the future. She’s brought Ladd on board as her director of photography, and she’s mapped out the first six projects: “The first two will be girl/girl, then two boy/girl, then two fetish/kink releases.”

After a quick conversation, Rotten must turn her attention to the next scene, set in a enclosed, red-walled bedroom in the middle of the warehouse. She’s been here since the early morning, but there’s still much more to do. In fact, as Rotten will later report, shooting won’t stop until 1 a.m.

And the work, of course, doesn’t end there. Even before wrapping production, Rotten began promote her directorial debut on social media—both under her own Twitter handle @thebonnierotten and also @mentalbeautyXXX. She’s revealed the title—To the Core—as well as photos and other tidbits to whet fans’ appetites. After that, the ball will be in Girlfriends Films’ court: To the Core is set for an April 4 release.