The Girlfriends Experience: Interview with B. Skow

CHATSWORTH, Calif.—To say B. Skow has come into his own in the past couple of years would be a major understatement. All six of the features Skow released this year under his contract with Girlfriends Films have scored nominations—multiple ones in some cases—and even Clerks XXX, the parody he shot more than a year ago for Vivid but which was released during the eligibility period, scored multiple noms as well. Add to that his nominations for Best Director - Feature (for Daddy’s Girls; he's pictured above on the set of that production), Best Director - Parody (for Clerks XXX) and Director of the Year, and it’s clear that Skow is a force to deal with—and some have thought so right from Skow’s start in porn.

“Two-thousand three was the first time I shot, but it takes them [Vivid] a long time to release a movie, so I guess my first one came out in 2005,” Skow told AVN. “I wrote that first movie, called The End Game, and it was a crazy idea. It was a guy who was forced to direct porn, who’s a germophobe, and he had to be on a porn set, anal’s going on—and at home, it was dealing with the same thing: His wife wanted him to fuck her in the ass and he couldn’t because of the germophobe thing, and so he was just sort of this guy going crazy—and I’ll admit, it was Out There, you know?”

The End Game was just the start of Skow’s unusual directorial career, and even then, he got noticed.
“New porn directors are a dime a dozen these days as almost anyone with a camera can call themselves director and start shooting for most companies,” wrote reviewer Don Houston of The End Game. “A few companies are pickier about who they choose to represent them but I’ll admit that giving a new guy (or gal) a chance sometimes yields great results. Case in point: debut director for Vivid Entertainment, B. Skow and his release of The End Game, starring contract hotty Briana Banks.”

That was a pretty heady recommendation to give a recently arrived photographer who, by the age of 18, was shooting fashion for some of New York City’s major modeling agencies, not to mention several mainstream fashion magazines, before following his then-girlfriend out to California, establishing his presence in the City of Angels with photographic assignments, and then getting hooked up with one of the photographers supplying box cover photos for Vivid Entertainment.

“I made that connection there, and then I went off, started shooting for Playboy magazine, all the magazines, and then I got a connection back with Vivid,” Skow explained. “Vivid asked me to come and shoot box covers for them. They signed me to a contract where I wouldn’t be able to shoot anything for anyone in adult, just their box covers, and that’s how I got started with them.”

In all, Skow shot more than 140 movies for Vivid, some of which are still being released, but he says he never felt truly at home there.

“I made a bunch of unusual movies that I wrote on my own—Burnt Fury and different ones that got noticed as far as reviewers—but Vivid was always down on it; it was down on features because we were coming into the internet age,” said Skow, apparently referring to an industry-wide push around that time for movies with scenes that could be offered on websites.

“And with Vivid, I was never able to pick my crew; I was given a crew that was all on payroll,” Skow continued. “I mean, Vivid was a machine; I mean, it was an amazing machine, and I think I learned inside of it, I learned a lot.”

Now with Girlfriends Films and working with studio owner Dan O’Connell, Skow says he can take all that technical knowledge “and go completely crazy in my creativity and perversions and everything, and that’s really where the change has come in my career.”

No retrospective of Skow’s career would be complete without mentioning fellow scripter/director David Stanley, with whom Skow has co-written most of the features he’s shot for Girlfriends, and whom he’s known—and championed—since early in his time at Vivid.

“David Stanley’s always been an inspiration to me, dating from when I was at Vivid,” Skow said. “After I proved myself at Vivid—you know, we became Studio of the Year—I started making these crazy gonzo movies and the people loved the sex movies, and the internet was blowing up and everything, and Steven made me executive producer of Vivid: ‘Bring in directors, hire them, you choose the scripts, you run the show’—for two years, a two-year contract. And I did that. I had Mr. Pete directing; I brought in Kim Kane and different directors, and I had the power to do it, Steven gave me that position, and I brought in David Stanley to direct.”

But by the end of 2004 Stanley had departed Vivid, directing for Wicked Pictures until 2008, when he went into semi-retirement in his home state of Minnesota. He returned in 2011 to do three more movies for Vivid, and has recently shot at least one for Girlfriends. But his main association with the industry now is his collaboration with Skow.

Skow allows that he was less enamored of some aspects of working for Vivid, particularly doing work on superhero parodies. “In my head, it was like working at a bank to make The [Incredible] Hulk,” he said. “I tried to do the best I could, and I had to include ten sex scenes—it was so hard to do a parody with that many sex scenes, because they had to break up the action to fit them all in.”

He notes, though, that the parody projects he chose for himself—Sister Wives XXX and Clerks XXX—he enjoyed because “they were more on my level.”

It wasn’t long after that Skow took leave of Vivid—though not all of Vivid; he married former contract star Meggan Malone—and struck out on his own, releasing two titles from his own production company, Skow Digital: Model House Invasion and Teen Sex Dolls—and they, in turn, led him to Girlfriends Films.

“When I first left Vivid, I did a movie on my own, and I hired Adella [Curry] to do PR, and then she just mentioned Girlfriends, that I should talk to Girlfriends,” Skow recounted. “So I went in and I met them and we talked a few times over a couple of months, and that’s how the relationship started. I had an idea and they had an idea, like, ‘Let’s do boy/girl but in a different way.’ I was like, ‘Really? This is really exactly what you want to do?’ I didn’t want to go and make movies like I had been doing. Watching Dan’s movies really let me think I wanted to stay with what he’s doing, but do it in my own way, and I think that’s where these movies come from.

“When you’re making a movie, you want to be comfortable, especially when the story’s in your head and you’re trying to imagine it as you go along, you want to be as comfortable as possible in your situation,” he continued. “I mean, that’s me; other directors can do whatever, but if you don’t have the crew that you want or the people around you that make you feel comfortable, it’s hard to give 100 percent and do exactly what’s in your head.”

And what’s in Skow’s head is a creative drive not often seen in adult cinema. He and Stanley are nearly a textbook example of how two creative minds can work together.

“Usually, I’ll call David and say, ‘The next film I want to make is about a guy from where I’m from, the East Coast,’” Skow explained. “This is what I’ll give David; this is the exact process: ‘Sort of an East Coast, hard-working plumber, devoted to his wife, never cheated, never thinks about it; just works, supports his family; good guy; has a daughter, isn’t really close with her; and he loses his wife, and his wife’s soul comes back as an 18-year-old black girl. And he can’t fight it; he’s falling in love with her, and she’s his daughter’s friend.’ Now, that’s not a whole thing; David and I will talk on the phone for a while; we’ll go back and forth, and it’ll take about three weeks to a month, but David will come back, and he’ll turn that seed into the biggest, craziest rosebush you’ve ever seen, and it’s amazing. And then there’s so much stuff in there that we sort of work it down to what makes the sex work, because sometimes the story’s amazing but the sex scene doesn’t work in perfectly.”

Skow’s description of his process with Stanley led naturally to a discussion about his philosophy of making adult movies.

“I’ve always thought this, every time I make a movie: It’s about the sex scenes, so I think you have to give it the time it needs to feel real,” said Skow, whose movies frequently run more than two hours. “A lot of directors will cut the sex scenes down because they’re so into what their story is and they think it’s the greatest story, but I think there’s a certain point where you have to understand that the sex is number one; this is a porno, and in every movie I’ve made, I always have to remember, this is a porno. I mean, if I can show a nipple when someone sits down, I’m gonna show it. If I can show a crotch or a butt-cheek in a creative way during a feature, I’m gonna show it. I’m always thinking, my main focus is that I’m making a porno. … If you stick with the sex of it—you know, make the sex a real part of what you’re doing—you come around the story like that, you can really come up with something good.”

He continued, “There’s certain things you have to do to make a good adult movie, I think, and to me, PT [Paul Thomas], his movies, he’s real perverted and he really got it across, and I think his stuff is great. And I think that era, when he was very first doing those things—to me, that’s coming back in a new way. I think that’s the coolest way to make a movie. You get everything. You get what you get in a gonzo, you get what you get in whatever the categories are, but it’s just a well-done adult movie.”

Of course, beyond the script and the director, there’s one other essential quality to making a hot adult movie: the performers.

“I think you have to pick the right people,” Skow said. “I spend a lot of time in preproduction getting the right people in those roles, and imaging the character and who they are; that’s a big part of it. There’s a reason for having all this sex, and you’re watching the reason: the dialog. And that’s how I shoot it. I let it build up, I let them get into what the script is, and then go into the sex, so they’re in sort of the same mindset. It’s not, ‘Come on in, douche and let’s do the scene’; I’d rather them be in character doing the scene. You know, if I have Steven St. Croix playing the dad, or there’s a wife that’s getting jacked off by her future son-in-law [as in Homecoming], I’d rather them be in that character for a little while before we get down to it. You maybe get little bits and pieces during your scene that help you out a lot in tying it together. You don’t want anyone overacting in a scene because it ruins it, so when you make a movie for the sex, you’ve got to be cautious of both things. A little hint here and there during the scene can keep you into the movie, but you don’t want someone going overboard and ruining it.”

Skow has a number of actors he likes to use frequently, who, besides St. Croix, include much of the cast of his most recent critical favorite, Daddy’s Girls. Those would include Odile (“a crazy, out-there performer; she gets it”), Riley Reid and Maddy O’Reilly (“I can tell you something generally: Spiegler Girls, as far as acting and stuff, I don’t know how he does it, but that group of girls, they’re awesome”); plus Dana DeArmond and Kimberly Kane (also Spiegler Girls), Zoey Holloway (“another awesome performer”), Alec Knight (“He is a pain, but he’s awesome”) and multi-award-winner Evan Stone.

“I think the people that you pick are the ones that are really good in drama and acting, they are the ones who read the scripts—there’s a reason why they’re popular,” Skow lauded. “So you usually wind up going with your gut, casting exactly who you want—and it usually winds up being a Maddy O’Reilly or a Riley Reid or a Steven St. Croix.”

Finally, there’s the technology of making movies; notably, the change from huge Betacams weighing upwards of 20 pounds to the lightweight, familiarly shaped DSLR camera that also shoots video.

“I’ve been a photographer my entire life, holding a camera my entire life since I was 15, so like I’m making a movie now the same way my eyes used to do things, so I’m seeing it way better than I could with one of those big videocams. The DSLR is definitely changing the game of porn and making things better.”

For its part, Girlfriends Films is very happy with Skow’s movies. Studio head O’Connell has said this of the director: “Skow’s work is laced with dry humor that is very entertaining, but never detracts from the movie’s eroticism. His boy/girl movies are beyond anything else being done. He really is the leading revolutionary among today’s adult filmmakers.”

According to Girlfriends vice president Moose, Skow has tapped into an underserved marketplace. “There are, it turns out, a large and growing number of consumers looking for adult entertainment that stimulates both mentally and sexually,” Moose said. “They want more than a parody of a familiar movie or show; they want a story that is thought-provoking and titillating, an adult movie for adults. The proof is in the sales, and they’re through the roof; far greater than we could have anticipated.”

“I’m very happy there,” Skow said. “They really have faith in me and my directing ability, and they’re great to work with. I really think I’ve found a home there.”