Jacky St. James: The Last Woman Working in Porn [interview]

Jacky St. James

Outside of hitting each other with rocks, porn is the most basic entertainment. It’s when we try to dress it up that we encounter problems. I talked with Jacky St. James, whose script for New Sensations’ “The Friend Zone” (directed by Eddie Powell) not only avoided the pitfalls we’ve come to associate (and accept) from porn films, but also clarified that sex is something that everyone tries to get from our attractive friends.

St. James, 35, grew up near Washington D.C. and says “The Friend Zone” is loosely based on a friendship she had with a high school friend. In fact, she says “most of my scripts are written about people I’ve known, been involved with, hated, {or} adored. I draw upon all of my interactions as inspiration.”

St. James works at New Sensations, and is an example of how porn personnel must wear many hats (cheerfully) in order to stay employed.

“I handle the marketing, public relations, and do production management on set and help with casting,” she says. She also wrote “Dear Abby,” “Love is a Dangerous Game” (the XBIZ winner for Best Couple’s Release), “Love, Marriage, and Other Bad Ideas,” and directed an all-sex release, “Power and Control.”

[read my “Friend Zone” review here]

Grams: Are there examples of good porn scripts you keep in mind when writing yours?

Jacky St. James: I don’t really look to porn scripts when writing my own. You can only draw so much inspiration from “I’m in love with my daughter’s boyfriend” stories. My inspiration always comes from mainstream books I’ve read or movies I’ve watched. That’s not to say there aren’t good scripts out there in porn, because there are, but the writers I’ve always looked up to have been those in mainstream (the Coen Brothers, David Mamet, Aaron Sorkin, Kevin Williamson, JJ Abrams). People who have penned some creative storylines in porn that I respect would be Stormy Daniels, K (the writer of “Almost Heaven” for The Romance Series), and Graham Travis, (who are) all writers of original scripts.

Grams: Talk about ways that your scriptwriting has changed to accommodate the porn landscape?

JSJ: Oh wow. You know, so many people (who don’t write porn) talk about how easy it is to write a porn script. Are you kidding me? Maybe those people are referring to the 3-minute set-ups in a Brazzers scene or some of the really contrived romance stories out there. But the best adult writers really are working against an overwhelming amount of obstacles to bring something enjoyable and realistic to the screen.

First of all, for The Romance Series, I’m working with typically eight characters (which equates to the required four sex scenes). Obviously I can fudge this and have one or two characters have sex multiple times to pare down on the total number of characters in the story. But regardless, all of those sex scenes have to make sense in the grand scheme of the story. Keep in mind, adult feature scripts are usually around 30-40 pages. So a writer has to create an effective story (exposition, climax, conclusion) in 30-40 pages. To get an idea of how short that is, mainstream feature scripts are around 100-120 pages. Given the limited amount of pages, you really have to creatively tell the story and find innovative ways to embellish without increasing the overall length.

Grams: Well, that’s if you and the producer paying you actually cares about a story, and thinks your audience is worth it…

JSJ: The key for me has always been building very strong characters. With stronger characters you allow the audience to fill in the backstory and you don’t have to spend a ton of time developing that.

The other major limitation for writing an adult script is the overall budget. Budgets are incredibly small for The Romance Series. You can’t have complicated locations, or scenes with tons of extras, or elaborate wardrobes, or expensive props. You have to keep it as simple and cheap as possible. When I write now, I’m always thinking about the budget and how I can cut corners and help save money. Sometimes, I’ve had to scrap entire scenes that I absolutely loved, because they ultimately would add several hundred dollars to the budget.

Grams: So money really can buy happiness, if happiness is creative freedom.

JSJ: One day I’d love to be given enough money to have a script produced that gave me more creative freedom.

Finally, because I have over 20 years of mainstream acting experience and have undergone an intense amount of formal training, I always write to the strengths and weaknesses of adult performers. I know how difficult it is to deliver a believable performance, and finding adult actors that can do that isn’t always easy. There are always the gems out there—like Xander Corvus, Anthony Rosano, Dana DeArmond, Natasha Nice, Richie Calhoun, and Michael Vegas—that can pick up a script and bring something fantastic to it.

However, most of the time (I’m) working with people who don’t have any formal training, so I don’t riddle my dialogue with tons of subtext, nor do I write highly complicated text with heavy emotion that requires performers to go to those darker places. I keep my scripts a lot more simple than that. Obviously, when I want to write a difficult performance, I only write it with a particular actor in mind that I know can deliver that performance effectively. Then I communicate that information to Eddie Powell (my creative partner in crime and the director for all of The Romance Series films).

Grams: Anthony Rosano in “The Friend Zone” makes you forget for a moment that he will most certainly be boning Riley Reid later.

JSJ: I wrote “The Friend Zone” for Anthony Rosano because I knew, without question, he’d nail it.

Grams: “It” meaning Riley…

JSJ: “It” meaning the character. I didn’t have to limit myself with any of his dialogue. He’s incredible and he’s a writer’s dream. You can have the best script in the world and the best director in the world, but if the performances are flat, the film won’t reach people.

Grams: Name some male actors who, in your opinion, do not threaten porn’s male demographic (I have read in scholarly journals that it is men who consume most porn).

JSJ: Anthony Rosano. He’s well endowed but he’s got a gentle spirit, even in his edgier stuff. He’s the funny, witty, guy next door. James Deen is probably another. I am not sure why anyone should feel threatened by anyone. It seems so odd to me. Grow some balls and confidence people!

Grams: For a movie like “Friend Zone,” what mainstream movies’ feel did you hope to duplicate?

JSJ: I drew upon “Ferris Bueller” in terms of style (talking to the camera) and really bringing the audience in. Then I also used Shakespeare as an inspiration for the complexities within the story (mistaken identity, role playing, etc.). With dialogue, I always try and emulate Kevin Williamson and J.J. Abrams as much as I can. They both have a true gift and are huge inspirations to me.

Grams: Have you encountered “civilian” couples who watch porn? If so, do you check in with people of that sort to make sure you aren’t getting too crazy?

JSJ: Most of my civilian friends are more sexually experienced and crazy than I am, so I’m not sure that would ever be a problem. I was raised in a very conservative household and around very conservative people. So, as perverse as my mind might be, I know how to rope it in. I know how to write for the more conservative, porn-fearing people.

Grams: But don’t you ever get tired of these healthy and fun-loving approaches to the natural expression of sexuality?

JSJ: I am looking forward to spreading my wings a bit and expressing my edgier side. (New Sensations founder) Scott Taylor has asked me to write some features for an edgier line he is creating that will appeal more towards couples looking for something a bit darker (and) more controversial than what you might see in The Romance Series.

Grams: To what extent, in your experience, do women need to be convinced that porn isn’t evil, a waste of their time, or something that will end/prevent relationships?

JSJ: I don’t think women are the only ones that need convincing. Look at Joe Carr (a state legislator in Tennessee). He wants to put a 25% sales tax on all porn sold in an attempt to “save marriages.” I love people’s ignorance about pornography and how it is constantly blamed for the demise of marriages. Many of the people that vilify pornography, watch pornography.

Those that feel compelled to speak out publicly against pornography should actually be educated on pornography. How can you be an expert on the ills of pornography when you are completely ignorant about it and have absolutely zero evidence to support your opinion other than “assumption”? Case in point, the media interview Wendy Murphy did with Kayden Kross on John Stossell. Talk about ignorance.

Grams: Finally, what road did you take to Porn Valley?

JSJ: I’m from a conservative, white-bred, upper middle class neighborhood about 20 minutes from Washington, DC. I’ve worked mostly in online advertising, but I’ve also worked as a hostess, tabloid accountant, actress, recruiting manager, account manager, and personal assistant to a wealthy, morally corrupt millionaire.

Grams: I look forward to seeing that movie; please call me when you are casting for Morally Corrupt.

JSJ: Sure! I’ve read that about you.

Previously on Porn Valley Observed: “Portrait of A Call Girl” has a lot to say; Porn screenwriting—money can buy a happy ending; “Last Man Working” archive
See also: Jacky St. James, JSJ on Twitter

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