Can St. Louis Be the San Fernando Valley of Amateur Porn? These Guys Think So.

Categories: Longform
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Studio Torno
Sam Arcobasso planned on making a career of kicking ass — not filming it.

A competitive kickboxer since his early teens, he won a couple of lightweight titles and eventually turned pro. Yet after just a few years, the sport was taking its toll on his body. Sam had already suffered several concussions when he woke up two years ago with a pinched nerve. He could have continued training and tried to make a career out of kickboxing, but the constant pain made him reconsider his career goals.

"I just got tired of waking up and feeling like I was in my forties," says the now-22-year-old. "But I didn't want to be in some office doing a nine-to-five. That's just not me."

Sam wanted a career where he could be his own boss, make his own schedule and wouldn't need a lot of initial capital. Porn was the answer.

"It just seemed like it's in high demand, and the competition around here is slim to none," Sam explains. "So it seemed like an easy business to get into."

But if Sam was about to make porn, he'd need somebody who knew his way around a camera. So he put an ad on Craigslist looking for a filmmaker willing to make adult films. Corey, a freelance photographer who often checks the site for jobs, came across the ad and didn't know what to think of it. It sounded intriguing, but...

"It's not exactly something I can put in my portfolio," explains Corey, who asked that Riverfront Times not use his last name for fear that it might affect his commercial photography work. (Editor's note: It has come to our attention that some readers are concluding that the Corey in this article is Corey Woodruff, a freelance photographer who frequently contributes to Riverfront Times. The two Coreys are not the same.)

A month later Corey saw the ad again and decided to respond. After a few emails, he met Sam for the first time.

"He wasn't a creepy old guy like I assumed," Corey says. "He wasn't a creepy young guy like I kind of assumed after I figured out he wasn't old. I was like, 'Yeah, sure. You seem like a fairly level-headed guy — not in this to be a fucking weirdo. I'm down. Why not? Let's make some money.'"

The newbies started by doing their homework online, entering search terms into Google such as "how to make pornos legally" and "how to get into the porn business."

Legality, as it turns out, is not much of a problem. Provided the performers are over the age of eighteen and are not coerced, having sex on camera for money is generally considered protected speech by the Supreme Court. As for pointers on getting into the industry, they found all their answers — and more — on the website of Homegrown Video, the self-described "pioneers of amateur porn since 1982."

In addition to buying and hosting homemade adult films, Homegrown Video also provides its filmmakers with business contracts and model-release forms. The site even offers filming tips on everything from how to use the zoom lens to when to kill the camera. "Don't just cut after the pop shot," reads one such instruction on the company's website. "We want to see the post sex glow. These after sex reality moments are priceless, and you miss them by shutting the camera off too soon after the pop."

To get around copyright issues, Homegrown Video asks its producers not to add music to their clips, so there's no need to edit in that stereotypical porno bass guitar. Additionally, Homegrown Video doesn't require that the actors in its films have sexy good looks. They don't need foot-long penises or DD breasts, either. In fact, ordinary folk is just what it's after (though the company might pay a bit more for the next Ron Jeremy or Jenna Jameson).

Homegrown Video is what Dan Miller, executive managing editor of adult-film trade pub Xbiz, calls a "legacy company." By taking user-submitted films and paying for them, the site puts out a large volume of videos that truly are amateur pornos.

"They've been very successful in their niche because they've identified something that was a strength of theirs and they stuck with it," Miller says. "Other companies market themselves as first-time performers, not 'professional' talent. But as far as soliciting home movies and accepting them and releasing them, they're the only ones doing that."

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RFT file photo
Doin' it old school: '90s Lake St. Louis amateur-erotica pioneers Tom and Suzi Wahl.
Homegrown Video's amateur content also lets it circumvent industry formalities. For example, when an HIV scare temporarily shut down the big California studios last year, Homegrown Video kept on humming.

"True amateur porn, the kind that Homegrown Video was founded on, comes from people who are typically in very committed relationships, people who are not having sex with every other person in Porn Valley, USA," Homegrown Video president Farrell Timlake said at the time. "For them, the transmission of any sort of STDs is not an issue."

(Sam and Corey ask their actors to get checked at a free clinic beforehand and bring the document to the shoot.)

And while it's no guarantee that Homegrown Video will buy any of their films, Sam and Corey say they've yet to be turned down. The two each keep a third of the proceeds from the sale of their films and divide the rest among the actors. Girl-on-girl videos pay between $300 and $600. Male-female videos fetch $400 to $700, with a $50 for each bonus "cumshot."

"But the real money is in orgy scenes," Sam says. Five or more people having sex in one film can fetch $1,300 to $2,000. "As soon as we can get enough people together, we're gonna do one."

To be sure, Sam and Corey's STL Adult Films isn't the first amateur porno outfit to hit St. Louis. In the 1990s a Lake Saint Louis couple — Tom and Suzi Wahl — made a name for themselves when police raided their house after hearing about them filming and distributing their homemade porn flicks. (No charges were ever filed.) And more recent user-submitted adult videos made in St. Louis can be found online with a few select search terms. But, for the most part, locally made pornos are nearly impossible to find.

"Everything we get is made on the coasts. We don't get anything made in the Midwest," says Steve Kleinhan, owner of adult store Pure Pleasure. "Normally, stuff made in the Midwest isn't as hardcore as what's on the coasts. I've never even heard of anybody making anything here, other than some amateur stuff."

Sam and Corey want to change that. Yes, their films feature amateur actors, but they try to make the finished product as polished as possible. They set up lighting. They have a hair and makeup artist on call.

"A lot of amateur porn is really amateur," Corey says. "You have pornos where a guy basically just sets up a camcorder on a tripod and has sex with his girlfriend. Our videos aren't like that. We make professional porn with amateur actors."

And Corey does his best trying to make the amateur actors perform like professionals. It's not always easy. Corey recalls having to cut a doggy-style scene because the male actor had bum knees. He's had other actors bow out because they got a charley horse during a more acrobatic performance. Still, at the end of the day, Corey says directing the rookies can be just as rewarding as filming them.

"It kind of does bring a little bit of joy trying to tell people how to fuck like porn stars," he says. "You feel like you've done something with your day instructing them how to have better sex."


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42 comments
Melonie Brock
Melonie Brock

I don't see a problem with it if that's what they want to do.

Eric Peters
Eric Peters

Can we just all agree that porn is not hip?

coreyjwoodruff
coreyjwoodruff

For the record, I am NOT the Corey mentioned in this article.  I am a freelance photographer and I do NOT shoot porn. 

Thanks, RFT.

coreyjwoodruff
coreyjwoodruff

Oh for fuck's sake.  I AM NOT THE COREY IN THIS ARTICLE.

Melanie Chorak
Melanie Chorak

After living a decade in Los Angeles I find this article rather silly tbh.

David J. McCutcheon
David J. McCutcheon

I guess they're doing more to create jobs than most companies around here, eh?

Jeremy Brooks
Jeremy Brooks

Might have given it a shot in my younger days

Jon Wilson
Jon Wilson

I wanna be a soft core porn star, everyone.

sweetliberty17761776
sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

wow then they had to bake a pie-in da pie ( with the flour trick)



blandmusic
blandmusic

This story gets even more flushed out this weekend on www.1380thex.com when on Sunday from 1-3p on The Q, Sam joins to discuss all of it and even more with us.


CatBlade
CatBlade

Midwest amateur porn. Gross. 

Also - all this hillbilly porn will just be made to appeal to men, like most other porn. That's why the woman is 19 and the dude is some fucking 40 year old. And people wonder why women just watch gay porn. It's one of the few places you can find attractive younger men without beer bellies and back hair. *puke*

d012560c
d012560c

“The two women have just successfully completed their first porno scene. For their work this afternoon they stand to earn between $50 and $100, that is, if Corey and Sam can sell the film to their distributor. But since today’s film was shot solely on spec, Jenny and Kelly leave with little more than a promissory note for future payment.”


Must be a typo. Going rate is 10-20 times that amount for amateur porn (and it isn’t paid on spec). If the models are indeed doing it on spec, the pay should be much more than that.

Chance Brown
Chance Brown

lol...funny how the guy Rory is it?!..kept coming up short...dude if you look old try including some Charisma....tell a joke ...something to break the ice....not asking the potential her age....lol....too funny

peppy
peppy

my band used to practice there! neat.

Enrique Mitchell
Enrique Mitchell

On one of those couches at utopia??? Eeeeewwwww. I wouldn't eat a bag of chips at that place.

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

No kidding. It costs more to get my car waxed.


sweetliberty17761776
sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

@CatBlade


blaming men for the natural occurance of sexual needs is like blaming a mom for needing to breast feed


and there is plenty of porn that appeals to women as the media loves to show grrrrl power with stats and headlines like:


women make most of the sex decisions 


or



women actually purchase more porn than men


women have an easier go of it when it comes to sex itself as I would think you would know


most anything a women might ask a man to do and he'll do it


( that all goes back to how men are programmed to need it more;so they are more desperate and are willing to do more)



there is also the natural act of females who want older men so there are not games being played etc


if porn were only about good looking people having sex


( and good looking is of course ..subjective)


maybe 90% ofporn wouldnt exist especially amateur stuff



maggiev
maggiev

@Brenda Denton Langbein I think $100 for to hours of work is pretty good. 

sweetliberty17761776
sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

@d012560c


maybe in the valley and for semi known or known girls



I think you might be wanting the females to get pizzzed off with your way way off base assessment 

maggiev
maggiev

@d012560c Lol, not if it's lesbian porn. That never makes much money even for professionals.

d012560c
d012560c

@maggiev 

Except it's on 'spec'.  A decent looking woman can make this money by webcamming without the need to have sex with strangers.

d012560c
d012560c

@sweetliberty17761776 

Attractive amateurs command more money because they are fresh meat.  Sites that specialize in that genre pay at least 10x what this guy pays these women (and it is NOT on spec).  Examples are ExploitedCollegeGirls, BackroomCastingCouch, GirlsDoPorn, etc. For $50 to $100, a decent looking woman could make this kind of money just by camming without the need to have sex with anyone. Nothing changes just because we are talking about St. Louis. 

According to Mark Spiegler, there is a relatively straightforward scale for performances by an in-demand actress:
 

$800 for a girl-girl scene
$1,000 for a guy-girl scene
$1,200 or more for anal sex
$4,000 or more for "double penetration"
 
For a non in-demand actress (however you might want to define that), cutting these amounts by 50% gives you a pay scale similar to what I have claimed.  You can find similar numbers if you Google "pay rate in porn" (or similar search term).
 
FYI ... I owned a webcam studio in the Phoenix area as well as being the housemate of the owner of a well known AZ porn site.  What's your experience/credentials?

d012560c
d012560c

@maggiev Solo girl scenes make $400+, so lesbian porn certainly makes more than that.

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