The Storytellers: Interview With Director Jacky St. James

For a feature on storytelling in the adult industry that ran in the April 2014 issue of AVN magazine, reporter Jason Lyon interviewed a dozen big names in the business, including New Sensations screenwriter/director Jacky St. James. AVN is posting longer versions of the interviews as separate stories online. Click here to see all the interview in the online edition; see bottom of article for links to other interviews.

Jacky St. James

It’s Friday morning at AEE, and Jacky St. James and I meet at the AEE Press Lounge for an interview. With most of the lounge’s seats already taken though, the creator of such incredible works as Torn, The Temptation of Eve, and The Submission of Emma Marx and I move to a little table at the nearby Fuel Café to talk. Talking about creativity in coffee shop—it seems fitting!

I begin by asking St. James if there is something about sex that naturally inspires such good stories.

“I think there are a lot of different dynamics to sexual relationships. There’s the person that maybe you’ve always wanted to have and can’t have, or there’s the person you have that lustful connection with. But I think you can’t take out character from the story. So I think the character for me inspires the sex versus the sex inspiring the story.”

I ask St. James if she feels she can express emotions through adult that other storytellers cannot.

“I think sex is integral to telling a story simply because when you watch a movie and you see the sex and it fades to black, you don’t really see the entire dynamic of that relationship as a sexual entity. You just see: OK, we know they had sex, but we don’t know what kind of sex that couple had, and I think it informs the characters just as much as anything else. For example, in Emma Marx [the main characters] have an anal scene, but it wasn’t this crazy pounding, typical porno anal scene. There were a lot of dynamics within the relationship that appeared in that scene, with her resistance and then her sort of submitting to him. And that wouldn’t really be fully explored just through dialog. You see it in the sexual aspect, and I think it enhances the story to be able to do that.”

Regarding the conventions of porn—the four or five sex scenes per-movie, standard sex positions—I ask St. James if these expectations are limiting, or if she enjoys the challenge of working around them.

“I think porn is limiting in the standpoint of you’re dealing with a budget that’s probably not very high, and you’re dealing with people that aren’t classically trained as performers,” James answers. “You’re also dealing with location restrictions and time and those sorts of things. So it’s limiting. But I think to be limited is liberating in some ways. I know that sounds contradictory, but because of it you’re like, ‘OK, I have to write with this budget and it has to be this stringent, how can I be creative and still make it good, within those limitations?’”

Emma Marx definitely broke what a lot of people do because we had only two different pairs of people having sex … In The Temptation of Eve, we played around with a swapping during the sex scene, where she [Eve] is in her head fantasizing about one man while she’s having sex with another. So it’s trying to be creative within the restrictions, but still have those four sex scenes and make them as unique as you can.”

During the entire interview, I couldn’t shake Edvard Grieg’s beautiful Piano Concerto from my mind, since it serves as the background music to the final scene in Emma Marx. So I ask St. James about the role of music in her storytelling.

“We work with a great editor, her name is Gabrielle Anex. She does almost all of our features. Sometimes Eddie Powel edits them, but she’ll do a rough cut of a few scenes and throw in music and get our feedback. And normally before she starts editing, I’ll tell her the feel of the music that I want. And with this [Emma Marx] we definitely wanted to lean on classical, just because it’s such an edgy story, that to juxtapose that with classical music always helps. And we’ve definitely played around with music a lot in our movies, and I think it’s so integral to building the story.”

“But I think it’s complicated,” James adds, “because you don’t want to take away from what’s happening. You want to enhance it. It’s interesting to watch the movie before the music has been laid down, because the emotion that the music can further add to that scene is pretty substantial. And it absolutely is integral. I don’t know if I would ever have a movie without music, but it would be interesting to try to do one that can hang on its own without.”

I then ask St. James about her creative process.

“It always builds on character. So normally I’ll figure out the characters and their relationships and then I build the story around that.” Speaking of Temptation of Eve as an example, James says, “I always felt like there hadn’t been an effective story told that had love versus lust. That was really the challenge she [Eve] faced.”

“So for me, it’s always about figuring out the characters and what their challenges are within the whole scope of the story, and then building the story around it. And I draw a lot on life experience from people I’ve met, stories I’ve heard or been told.” 

“The other thing that inspires me in my creative process is often the talent,” James adds. “I definitely write scripts now more so for the talent, simply because they inspire something in me that I want to do for them.”

As the café fills with people starting another busy day at AEE, I ended the interview by asking St. James what it feels like to see her work progress from an early idea all the way to a well-done finished product.

“It’s funny, my boss, Scott Taylor, was giving me a hard time yesterday because I just finished a movie called The Sexual Liberation of Anna Lee, and I’ve been looking at early cuts of the movie with the editor, and I told him: ‘I’m really, really proud of this one.’ Most of the movies I work on, I’m such a perfectionist that I’m like, ‘Oh god, I should have done that, or it wasn’t good enough.’”

But St. James concludes, “For me more than anything it’s when you get to see the whole thing that you created from your own mind, there’s a really profound sense of joy.”

“It wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for you,” I comment.

“It wouldn’t be there if it didn’t come from my brain, or the people who inspired me to create it. Everybody needs to be attributed for that. All the things that happen in your life for a writer, everything that you encounter and experience—that inspires your story. So everybody should receive the gratitude for that story happening!”

Click here to read Lyon's interviews with Wicked Pictures directors Brad Armstrong, Stormy Daniels and Jessica Drake.