Issue 1/2006 - Net section

Programmers, Pirates, Prosumers and Pornographers

Innovative video culture from Berlin

Zeljko Blaçe

Earlier this year, I had the unique opportunity as an Eastern European cultural producer to get some deeper insights into Berlin's contemporary culture (owing to an IFA/RAVE scholarship) than would be obtainable on short and sporadic visits. In the course of my stay, it became evident that - quite unrelated to the well-established international film festival (Berlinale) and the continuously developing digital arts festival (transmediale) -, the local video culture was extremely potent in innovating forms and formats as well as establishing new paradigms with regard to the production, presentation and distribution of digital video. In the following, I want to focus on the young scene of pornographers that, in typical Berlin style, is strongly connected to art and politics and plays with the role of alternatives within its genre.

[b]PART I: Edgy porn and more ...
(Interview with Jörg Andreas)[/b]

Jörg Andreas is the co-founder and co-owner of the Cazzofilm production house. The first screening of his company's recent release »Way Down« took place in the demolished basement of an out-of-the-way, abandoned, industrial warehouse - invisible from the outside except for a doorkeeper and a fire lit in the cold night. It was packed with a crowd of highly diverse porn fans with different fetishes gathered in the corners (to the point of heaving exhibitionist sex), people from film and indy arts/culture gathered around the bar (to the point of getting drunk), and two screening locations - a lighted one, with old armchairs and sofas; and a dark one, with a dozen rows of wooden stools. As far as the audience went, one could easily have got the feeling that there is a scene made up of passionate followers of Cazzofilm productions. The movie itself was a very ambitious arty flick (featuring tracks from renowned electronic music artist Monolake) that got me interested in writing on the context and development of this specific production, more due to its ambition than its quality per se.

Though the market is dominated by US productions with very fixed standards of videomaking, aesthetics and budget (including those working mostly with European models), Cazzofilm tops the ladder among European companies, while still being unique and authentic in a Berlin way, managing to work fairly well within the niche market of consumers who are interested in a specific (edgier) style, fetishes (skinheads, SM, punks) or just more authentic characters (rather than the usual gym boys) - all packaged in stories that seem closer to reality and easier to relate to.

Jörg Andreas studied at art school in Braunschweig (Brunswick) with a very supportive professor (Birgit Hein). For him, experimental work that is strongly connected to personal issues and intimacy was a way to porn - first, through the use of found footage from porn movies, then theatrical short films with trans performers, then art video (featured in the video festival, the predecessor of the transmediale festival). A film festival curator, producer and director, Jürgen Brüning (the second co-founder of Cazzofilm), had just produced the hit movie »Hustler White« (1995, featuring the famous model Tony Ward, who had just broken up with Madonna), directed by the indy porn filmmaker from Canada, Bruce LaBruce. Jörg and Jürgen's first project was soon to be initiated with the production of the film »Berlin Techno Dreams«, inspired by the lively techno/sex club scene during the mid-nineties. A major test of physical/mental endurance, this film was the first time they had worked with a big crew, inexperienced in the field of pornography - a dilettantish endeavor. Although the shoot was nearly cancelled due to numerous production problems (models not showing up and most of the sex scenes not working), the film was finally issued internationally and received big coverage _ giving a boost to Cazzofilm as a company pioneering gay porn video production in Berlin.

[b]ZB:[/b] What were the ideas and ambitions that led to the establishment of Cazzofilm?

[b]JA:[/b] At the beginning, we were eager to be different and new, with ambitions we carried over from the art field into porn production. We could not compete with US productions and most of the time we did not find them interesting anyway (French director Jean-Daniel Cadinot was an inspiration, as were ideas taken from the artistic heritage of pioneering works in pornography). We wanted to make movies instead of just showing sex. From the beginning there has always been a screenplay; we looked for extraordinary locations and shot at a higher level of production. In the early period of development we didn´t have much choice of models; we cast very different types of guys and put them all in one film. Among them were a few interested in leather, fisting and s/m - but we really wanted to show everything that´s out there. Harder scenes got more attention and that ´s how we got a certain (hard/rough/fetish) image without that really being our intention. I also found out that an element of rape/violence/coercion (as seen in Japanese productions, but still taboo in US and European films) adds drama to the film.
Early on (for our fourth film), we started working with an ambitious director, Hans Peter Hagen (screenplay writer), who did several films with us, starting with »Authentic Adventures« (1997), which became famous for its skinheads and mud-wrestling scene. One of the most daring shoots was a scene for »Berlin Sex Life« (1998) that we filmed on the S-Bahn (suburban railway) in between stations, with random passers-by watching.
In this period, Cazzofilm for the first time produced a double feature: Bruce LaBruce's »Skin Flick« as a festival feature and »Skin Gang« for the distribution of the same film material as porn. In 2003, I directed »Locked up« (2005, released by PRO FUN), which was shot as a feature film back to back with a porn film on the location of an abandoned prison. This was an interesting experience and an attempt to expand the spectrum of our production. In 2000 we produced »Sex Skins«, one of our most successful films - probably because it´s one of the few dealing with the gay skinhead fetish (soundtrack with original skinhead bands).
Over the years we adjusted to the standards of US mainstream production, with nice locations and beefcake models, but that´s not what is expected from us and it also quickly bored us. Recently, Cazzo returned more to its roots. We produce at least one experimental feature annually. For these types of productions we established COXXX, a Cazzofilm sub-label that has featured young visual artist Ebo Hill as a director, making these films quite unique: both »Bonking Berlin Bastards« (2000) and »Way Down« (2005) are more performance concepts featuring contemporary dance (+ interesting locations: Prague's Zizkov TV tower, flooded basements and construction sites on the underground railway) than something you usually see in porn. This label remains open to new talents.

[b]ZB:[/b] How is your production related to non-porn LGBT film/video-makers´ production?

[b]JA:[/b] We extensively supported the Berlin project of Bruce LaBruce, »Raspberry Reich«, which got publicity due to its political references (inspired by the Baader-Meinhof movement). We also helped in the production of a report on LGBT filmmakers in Berlin for the 2003 Teddy awards (LGBT section of the Berlinale Film Festival), as well as supporting a complex art film project, »Fucking Different«, which featured short works by over 20 local gay and lesbian film/videomakers (presented at the Berlinale 2005).

[b]ZB:[/b] What are the most interesting productions currently at Cazzofilm?

[b]JA:[/b] Definitely »Fuck Fiction«, which is directed by a young talented director whose first big feature film was in the cinemas not a long time ago and who is now experimenting with porn. His ambitions are to match mainstream movie production, and the film will include scenes rarely seen in porn films (special effects and car races, for example).
After Jürgen Brüning left Cazzofilm to found the porn studio Wurstfilm, Alexander Rössner took over the executive role of a producer. He is committed to the idea of Cazzofilm´s being the company that delivers surprises!
Though distributing experimental films with kinky sex practices is a problem in the US, there is a strong interest on the part of various companies to represent our label on the US market. Switching from VHS to DVD in the past few years was a success and makes further developments such as new technological setups and forms of distribution (pay per view) easier, as they are becoming increasingly important. The current video market is limited to North America and western Europe, but with Net delivery and satellite video-on-demand, we expect to expand to reach a global audience and deliver the flavours of Berlin gay sex globally.

Cazzo Film,