7. "Modeling" vs. Acting

Part: 
Four
Chapter: 
2

The reference of Mr. Margold  to the "creative people" performing in mainstream pornography raises for us, quite apart from the issue of drug abuse, a question of substantial importance in attempting to describe the role and the lot of models. To what extent is their work in fact "creative"? More bluntly, to what extent are they actors as opposed to glorified prostitutes? More than aesthetic judgments hang in the balance: for if the performing in sexually-explicit films can be called truly creative, it is possible to imagine it bringing intangible, subjective benefits to models that scrutiny of contract terms, working conditions and the like could never reveal. Fortunately, it is an issue on which models themselves seem largely in agreement. Mr. Margold, himself a model, recently was asked, "Is acting ability and training an important factor [in breaking into "X" rated films]?"[1043] His answer was simple and instructive:

No, I don't think so. I think what's most important is being in the right place at the right time, having the right connections and getting the right roles.[1044]

Mr. Margold  went on to explain that the reason some male models "get their foot in the door" but "fail to make it to superstardom" is not for lack of creative drive or talent, but because they "cannot keep functioning reliably shoot after shoot."[1045]

One former model who testified before us was even more careful about distinguishing "modeling" from "acting":

That also reminds me somehow, what I really wanted to say is when you are paid, to 'act' in these videos and films and stuff, you know, a lot of them say that I am an actor, I am an actress, or something, I am getting paid to act.

When the producer or director pays you, after you leave, and before the shooting, you are paid not by how many lines you have or by what part you have you may have five lines or you may have 107 pages of dialogue, but you are paid per sex scene and that's how they quote it to you. If you have one sex scene a day you get like two hundred to two hundred fifty dollars for that, if you have two sex scenes, there's three or four hundred for two sex scenes. You are paid more for anal or girls are paid more for when they are working with two guys.

So the models that say they are getting paid to act are only doing that to pretty much preserve their job security because, you know, anybody in the industry knows you are paid per sex act and not for acting.[1046]

Several former models have made similar public assessments, declaring flatly that "the market today is just not conducive to anyone who takes their acting seriously."[1047] Adult filmmakers shoot with only the barest of scripts, desperate simply to get the requisite number of sex scenes on film with an alluring title and package.[1048] The result for performers is that, in the words of a leading model:

You never really forget the sex, you forget the movie. There's a lot of movies on the market that are exactly the same.[1049]

When asked to remember a movie she was proud of, she tellingly replied:

Yeah, I think one of the films I am most proud of is 'Sex Waves.' There was acting in it, a story to it ... it wasn't an excuse to have sex.[1050]

As one knowledgeable observer told us, sex scenes are normally shot in one take, and dialogue scenes in two or three:

They do not spend a lot of time on the dialogue. They do not look for perfection. If they [looked] for perfection, most of the porn movies would still be in production. The people they are using are not well known actors and actresses and they are not very skilled in this area.[1051]

From our limited direct observation of "X" rated material we must agree: skilled acting seems irrelevant to what is depicted.[1052]

There are, of course, those who disagree. One model speaks of always performing "within the character" he is portraying, even in sex scenes;[1053] another of how "the voice changes" while he plays the character he has portrayed through ninety-seven "features";[1054] a third (more dubiously) of the "ultimate acting challenge" involved in managing to "fool the public" into thinking she enjoys the sex, which she considers pure "exploitation."[1055] Clearly it is impossible to draw a bright, unwavering line between legitimate "acting" and pornographic "modeling."

Yet, ultimately we are faced with the simple fact acknowledged even by one of the most partisan of the adult film industry's fans: "Jealousy and most other human emotions (except fear and lust) are rarely expressed in adult films."[1056] Worse, as another sympathetic critic has conceded, "hard-core guarantees realism.... yet it remains incapable of showing pleasure."[1057] In a medium where virtually no human emotion (not even sexual pleasure!) can be expressed, and where, moreover, the performers are chosen neither for training in acting nor for natural acting talent, it seems to us all but ludicrous to call them "actors." We do not, therefore, consider it even the mildest paradox that the performers in live or filmed pornography are not treated on an equal footing as other performers by such organizations as Actors Equity and the Screen Actors Guild.[1058] Nor do we consider one of the rising male models to be wholly misguided in describing his job as, simply, f...ing pretty girls for a living."[1059]

Notes

  1. Bennett, supra note 972, p. 72.
  2. Id.
  3. Id.
  4. Los Angeles Hearing, Vol. I, George, pp. 84-85.
  5. Where are They Now, supra note 970, p. 52 (statement of Jessie St. James). Accord, Id. (statement of Kay Parker) ("Empty plots, with soulless characters"), and Id. (statement of Candida Royalle) ("An actress has very little say over the creative aspects of the films she's in.")
  6. See, Los Angeles Hearing, William Roberts, Vol. I, pp. 62-72.
  7. Traci Lords Interview, supra note 1037, p. 34.
  8. Id.
  9. Los Angeles Hearing, Vol. I, William Roberts, p. 68.
  10. This general distinction between "acting" and pornographic performing seems to have a parallel in the work of fashion modeling:
  11. Few male centerfold discoveries are fashion model material. Carl Garrison and the select others who have put their clothes back on to forge a career all possess the requisite suit size-40 regular or thereabouts-as well as a special look and a special drive. On the other hand, the requirements for nude modeling, as one auditioner for a male flesh magazine explains, are "body, face, cock," not necessarily in that order.

  12. Pacheco Interview, supra note 986, p. 24.
  13. Male Model, supra note 926, p. 185.
  14. Ali Moore Interview, supra note 976, p. 9.
  15. R. Rimmer The X-Rated Videotape Guide, (1984), p. 28.
  16. G. Lenne Sex on the Screen: Eroticism in Film, (Jacobs trans. 1985), p. 5.
  17. It is our understanding that at least one prominent pornographic model is a member of Actors Equity, but that his membership depends on work he did in the legitimate theatre. See, New York Hearing, Vol. II, Colleen Dewhurst, pp. 190-91.
  18. Porn Star Confessions, supra note 1003, p. 61. See, Joanna  Storm Interview, supra note 979, p. 63 ("Films let me express a lot of my 'extra sexual desire. If I didn't do films, I'd probably be in bed with the postman.")