When Pigs Fly: On the Set With Erica McLean

It’s one of those long hot summer days in late June, a week after summer solstice. Erica McLean is shooting for a couple of her upcoming projects at her ranch off Big Tujunga Canyon. When I arrive a little after 8 in the morning, no less than seven dogs run to greet me. Everyone is pretty much there already except Nick Manning (I suspect with all the “girl power” present, there’s no need for a penis until at least midday).

Shortly after I arrive I’m handed a script, which, I admit, I initially used as a placemat for my snack bag. I’m not one of the experts within the AVN walls who watch thousands of adult titles each year and select the nominees and ultimately the winners for the annual AVN Awards show. The nuances of a script (good or bad) escape me. I’ve spent the majority of my time at AVN dealing with event logistics as head of the trade show division. I’m here venturing out of my trade show bubble because last year my duties were expanded to include the AVN Awards show. So I’m out “in the field”, getting to know the people—particularly the women—who are shaping the industry and learning about a different kind of “behind-the-scenes” than I’m used to.

Anyway, back to this script. I brush off the crumbs from my rice cake covered with peanut butter and notice something about a flying pink pig! I seek out the director so she can explain this whimsical touch.

I find Erica sitting in the make-up chair. I’ve only met her once before, a month prior to the 2010 awards show. She doesn’t recognize me at first. She says my “energy” is different. Back then I was buried alive in planning details; perhaps that was what disturbing my flow of “energy.”

Regardless, she had made quite an impression on me. She struck me as a free spirit who was very passionate about what she was doing and engaged others to help bring her “visionary tales” to life. She seems to have an unusually large comfort zone and an equally large heart. Her energy is consistently open and she embraces life (and her work) on a level that’s refreshing and rare.

Which leads me back to this script. Erica explains that she was on her way home from yoga one day when she was hit with a “flash of inspiration.” A pink catering truck caught her eye so she pulled off the road to introduce herself to the operator and ask if she could use the truck in her next adult movie. The reply: “Absolutely.”

Excited to share, Erica shows me a graphic for The Flying Pink Pig that I assume is to be painted on the side of the truck. It’s basically what it sounds like—a big pink pig with tiny wings attached so she can fly. I know it’s a “she” because the pig has Angelina Jolie lips and is wearing a lace bra.

The plot is more complex—involving a capital investment and long-term business plan—but the gist of what I picked up is that Sunny Lane convinces Nick Manning and his wife (Shayla La Veaux) to give her money to buy a catering truck and the deal is sealed with a three-way. Naturally this new business enterprise involves tons of sex as the all-girl catering crew make their way around town serving up aphrodisiacs and loads of fun.

Although offbeat (a hallmark of Erica McLean’s work), it’s not the quirky concept or the “girl power” plot that defines this day of shooting. It’s Erica’s energy and unique female perspective that establishes the tone on the set and epitomizes the shift taking place in pornography today. There’s definite shift as some women move from “objects of desire” to the role of “creator.”

With more women than ever viewing and consuming adult content, the relevance of Erica’s perspective becomes more than just an observation—it becomes a business issue. Consumers are savvy. It makes sense that women would gravitate toward product they can relate with.

Erica explains that her films are hardcore but also reminds me of her intention behind each project. She comes at porn from an artist’s perspective, because she’s a painter as well. She approaches each film and each scene as a piece of art and hopes ultimately people view it as such. She concerns herself with the details and wants to enable the performers to feel good about themselves—to feel pretty, sexy and free. Her overarching belief seems to be that sex is fun and that there is no shame in exploration (on or off camera).

The other project that Erica is shooting is called Erica McLean’s Master Masturbation, an instructional “how-to” guide to pleasuring yourself. She tells me her goal in making the film is to help lift the “taboo” that she believes still surrounds the topic of female masturbation. There are also lots of juicy tips to increase pleasure within relationships (such as women putting grapes in their mouths to enhance fellatio). Erica sits down with not only adult performers but also with everyday women to get their stories and perspectives on the most intimate of topics.

As the day winds down, there’s only one last scene to be shot—a solo with Shayla La Veaux. The sun is setting. That golden-hour light shines on Erica’s paintings, which are placed in easels around the room. I think about what she said—that she approaches everything as art. Some may contend that pornography is inherently exploitative. On the contrary, one could argue that porn, like everything else in life, is what you make of it.