April 21, 2011
In this, Vol. 7 of SFGD, we’re featuring my interview with the cuter than cute (believe me when I say the pics below don’t do him justice – he looks even better in real life), gay male porn star, Ryan Russell (WARNING: click the link at your own risk peeps – NSFW).
Now I’m not one to gush, but in addition to not being hard on the eyes, Ryan was an absolute delight to be around. Upbeat, fun and full of energy. Trust me when I say, Ryan is one seriously happy dude, with a whole lot to say about sex, his work as an porn star, and everything in between.
Anyway, enough with the preamble. Without further ado, I give you Mr. Ryan Rusell, in his own words.
Skye: Were you an avid consumer of porn prior to becoming an adult film actor? If not, what drew you to the business and how did you break into the industry?
RR: Well, around when I started getting into it I was looking for new content to develop a site of my own, and I wasn’t planning to be in any of it. Around that time I was contacted by the folks at Titan Men to perform in a couple of films, and I thought that would be a great way to kick things off in an exciting way. So I flew down to San Francisco and started up with them and that’s how it all got started. Since then I’ve started producing my own content as well.
Skye: How long have you been a porn actor?
RR: About two years now, which doesn’t seem that long, but most people don’t last more than nine months in this business. They tend to move on to new and more exciting things pretty quickly. For most people in the industry it’s a transitionary job, like working at Starbucks. It’s generally not a long-term career.
Skye: Would you say you are well known in Canada or internationally?
RR: Yeah I think so. I’ve developed the brand really strongly and there’s a lot of interest and support. I work with incredible people almost every day of the week. (Pauses and smiles)…It’s far beyond whatever I imagined possible. And I had really high hopes when I started.
Skye:I noticed on your website that you list your location as Toronto and Miami. Is the work you do lucrative in a Canadian context or is it necessary to work in the US to earn a good living?
RR: When I first started it was really important for me to go to the States a lot, to develop my brand and for the companies to know that I was a safe bet. Now that they know they’re going to get a successful scene out of me, and that it’s going to be fun and hot, it’s easier to get them to shoot me here. So now when I’m working with an American company, especially for taxation and accounting purposes, it’s a lot easier for everybody if they shoot here. I have to go through a lot of hoops to work in the States legally, as anyone would.
Skye: Thus far you’ve only mentioned American companies. Are there any Canadian companies producing gay porn?
RR: Oh yeah, they’re a handful of them. There’s EbonyD.com based here in Toronto. PierreFitchOnline.com also produces in Canada, and then there’s Mayhem North Productions. And Pornducer is also produced in Canada, they do gay and fetish stuff. There’s definitely more, but those are the ones I can remember right now.
Skye: What’s the pay like for gay porn actors?
RR: It really depends on geography. Even across Canada there’s a different pay scale. Same thing applies in the States too. They pay you get is partially dependent on with companies you’re working with. If you’ve got enough brand support or something a larger company wants then you’ll definitely get more money. The bigger the company the more you’re going to get paid. If you work with small companies you can usually do more volume, assuming you’re working independently. But you’re going to get paid less per scene.
With big companies you can get paid on contract, which is almost like a salary and your overall rate per scene is normalized. And if you’re able to develop a strong brand for yourself and work independently you can sort of balance the two. You can get regular work and also have control over when you work and who you work with – which is kind of what I’ve done.
Skye: In the industry is the talent ‘difficult’ to manage?
RR: It wouldn’t say that. But as a producer what I can say is it’s really challenging to keep good talent available and working for you. It’s expensive if you lose hours on shoots. You really do need people who can work predictably.
Skye: By predictably are you referring to what I think you’re referring to?
RR: (grins) Yes and then some. Finding talent that can perform consistently on camera for hours at a time is challenging. There are definitely lots of hot guys, there are lots of horny guys, and there’s ton of hot and horny guys. But not everyone can be either or both when the cameras are rolling. It takes a certain type of personality that can do it reliably enough that you’ll want to work with them repeatedly.
Honestly the work is ridiculous. Everything about it is so surreal. I mean, in addition to having to perform reliably you have to have clear skin, because we generally don’t use make up and when we do it’s done sparingly. So, you don’t want to have to rely on it at all.
Skye: So the performers really have to work hard at maintaining their sexy then, huh?
RR: Yeah. It’s pretty hardcore. When I’m preparing for a shoot, I have to eat really well, sleep really well and just do everything to be healthy. No drugs or alcohol. It’s stuff people should be doing all the time anyway, but there’s added pressure on you. Having a breakout or looking tired during a shoot is not an option, as we’re not about to spend money on a whole lot of expensive editing.
You need to have people on film who are the whole package. They’ve got to be pretty, and they also have to be able to get hard, stay hard and come relatively quickly.
Skye: How long does it take to shoot a scene?
RR: Sometimes it takes two full days of shooting to get a good 20 minute scene right, especially with a bigger studio. They’re a whole lot of variables to deal with in porn, like shooting naked guys outside. Is it cold? Then you need heaters. You also have to manage the lighting. That all has to be accounted for and it’s tough.
Skye: What type of cost are you looking at to make a 30 minute porn film?
RR: There’s a full range of costs. You can probably make it for as little as $3000 on the cheap, with inexpensive editors and actors. But with bigger scenes it can be $20-30 000, maybe more.
Skye: And speaking of money, is it customary for you to earn more for bareback sex?
RR: Typically yeah. Most porn companies that produce bareback sex films offer the performers a double rate, or at least one and a bit. Primarily, because of the higher perceived risk and the potential complications involved. Plus bareback content sells faster. It has a quicker content pick up generally. So if you are a new producer or you don’t have an identifiable brand name already, producing bareback films is a good way to get started because you’ll get a lot of interest really quickly.
That said, I don’t participate in or produce bareback scenes. My decision to not to participate in or depict bareback sex in films is simply because I feel it’s a better to send a safer sex and make condoms fun message. Using condoms doesn’t have to be a pain in the ass. It can actually be fun. We have fun with condoms, so I don’t see why anybody else can’t.
Skye: Do tops get paid more than bottoms?
RR: No, I don’t think that usually happens. Most of the guys on a shoot get paid the same, unless there’s a specific talent or a performer with a lot of brand name credibility. Some people may get paid a little bit more if they have an agent, so the agent’s fee can be covered and the model still earns the same amount of money. Also, newer models get paid less, since you may not get a scene out of them if they aren’t able to perform as necessary. But as with anything else you can always negotiate your pay to see if you can get more. You may not get it or you may not be asked back, but you can always ask.
Skye: Going back to the negotiating point for a minute, would someone who tries to negotiate a lot be seen as pain in the ass or too much trouble to work with?
RR: I think it depends on what the individual performer brings to the table. If you’re going to play hardball and negotiate for more money, you had better put in a really good performance. You have to show up and do your job better than anybody, and not give the production company any type of hassle about coming in early, staying a bit late or anything else. That’s the way I see it at least.
Skye: What is the policy/protocol for safer sex in the Canadian/International gay porn industry?
It’s a bit more flexible in gay porn films even with the big film studios, than it is in the straight porn industry – especially in the U.S. There everything about most performers STD statuses and critical medical issues are typically managed by one governing body, and when you work with a model you’ll know their status within the most recent 30 days. Things like STIs and transferrable conditions.
In gay film land it’s not likely to be the same. There’s not as much demand that you offer up proof of your health status. The rules are generally about doing what you would do if you hooked up with someone, whatever your safer sex practice is work with that. Most of the companies have at least a good portion of their films devoted to condom specific films and using condoms is the policy for those movies. Most, and just barely at that, mainstream gay porn is condom specific, even though the market generally isn’t thrilled with it. Titan Men and other distribution companies have different policies on how they work with barebacking. It ranges from not working with models who have done bareback scenes before to using models who have, as long as they have a complete medical assessment done.
But the most important thing is for the performers to be comfortable regarding what they do and don’t want to do. If you arrive on set and it’s not what you expected, the company’s rules don’t match yours, you shouldn’t feel like have to perform. Nobody, at least not the people I tend to work with, wants to work with anyone who’s uncomfortable or hurt anyone else. So if you assume things will be handled a certain way and they’re not, you need to address all your concerns about safety – whether you’re getting paid for your work or just picking up a guy at a bar.
Skye: I’m assuming you have lots of male fans, but as it’s been well documented that both do straight and lesbian women love gay male porn, do you also have a lot of female fans?
RR: About 5-10% of the fans I’ve heard from are female, I’m assuming there are more who’ve never contacted me. They’re really cool, kind of funny even. They tend to go crazy if they meet me in person.
Skye: Crazy? How so?
RR: It’s fuckin’ nuts sometimes. They’re generally loud and really excited. It’s kind of like when you land at the airport and your whole family is there waiting for you and they haven’t seen you in six months. They’re just really amped. (Laughs) It’s great. And it’s fun to have someone get that excited to see you.
Skye: And is your female fan base interested in seeing you in the same types of films that your male fans are?
RR: I think my female fans do like the same thing the guys like. But if there’s any difference they may go for more of the mainstream stuff I do, more so than the kinky stuff.
Skye: To date have you had any incidents with any overzealous fans thus far? i.e. stalking, etc.
RR: No, some people get a little excited on the internet, but it seems that geography is keeping things at a moderate level…You know there are some people that try to figure out where you are all the time and there are some people who feel entitled to know things about you, I guess. But even that comes and goes. Obsession gets boring for most people after a while.
Skye: Based on what I’ve read on your site and in your twitter feed it seems you really love your work. What is it about what you do that makes you love it so much?
RR: It’s just so much fun! Really hot guys are a lot of fun. You get to have amazing sex, with these people you just imagine you’ll have the craziest sex possible with. And it adds up to a whole lot of crazy goodness. (Laughs) That said it’s still just sex. It is some of the best sex possible, but you still come to realize that it’s just sex. Also, you get to meet and talk to great people and do great things all the time. I’m involved in lots of fundraisers for organizations like ACT, PWA and others as a result of what I do. It’s neat to be involved in helping all these great organizations.
Skye: If you weren’t a porn actor what do you think you’d be doing instead?
RR: I think I would own a barber shop. I think it’s very respectable work. So I might go from the most disrespectable work there is, to the most respectable work there is. (Laughs) Not that I think porn is disrespectable, but that’s probably the general perception. And when I retire I’ll probably do drag performances in big brightly coloured wigs and gorgeous gowns.
Skye: How has your work impacted your sex life and/or intimate relationships?
RR: I don’t know. It’s weird really. I met my current boyfriend working in this magical industry, which is kind of cool and we’ve done some shows together. But other than that, I don’t have a specific example. All I can say for sure is that I’ve never had a bad relationship as a result of being involved in porn…The one thing I have noticed though is that people I dated prior to being in the industry are differently interested now that I’m in it. I really don’t understand that one, but it’s like they expect the sex to be drastically different, like I’ll have ‘magical porn powers’. (Laughs)
Skye: Have you ever dated a fan?
RR: No, I don’t think so. But then again you really don’t know sometimes. (Laughs) I’ve definitely had sex with fans. Sometimes you find out that they’re fans before and sometimes you find out after.
Skye: Are you bothered when you find out after?
RR: (shrugs) No, I don’t care. Doesn’t bother me…as long as we both had a good time. (winks)
Skye: You’ve already mentioned you have a lot of really good sex as a result of your work. So, have you ever been so ‘dickmatized’ while filming a scene that it ceases to be acting for you and you start crushing on your co-star?
RR: I think that I’ve had enough casual sex that I can have extremely hot sex and good chemistry with someone and not get attached. I’ve had that happen many times and there’s never been a full on love crush, but there have been many people I’ve wanted to be with again.
Skye: Have most of your partners been okay with what you do for a living throughout your career?
RR: Yeah. It’s necessary. If they’re not, then not the right person for me.
Skye: What’s the best part of being a porn star?
RR: Well, it just gets better every day. I just connected with one of the biggest companies in the States, and they’re flying up to shoot me in Montreal. I’m really excited about that. They take good care of me. Also I get the chance to meet lots of new people, and do fun interview like this. It’s all fun.
But what I most enjoy is the fact that I can make a positive impact on people’s sex lives. I mean, a lot of people, myself included before porn, have a natural inhibition about their own sexuality, and that’s really sad because there’s so much great dirty fun stuff you can do with your body. And it’s free. Sex is some of the best fun you can have and it’s completely free. I think the more that you can talk about and participate in a culture of positive sexuality, the bigger the culture gets, and the more that mentality is shared by people; which is a good thing.
On a greedy personal level the expansion of a more sex positive culture is fantastic ‘cause there’ll be more people doing things that I want to see and get off on. But on a higher level, you know, it does create an impact in the broader world. When fans tell me that they watched my video and were so turned on, that they went straight home and fucked their partner, I feel good. Those stories are great and I love them.
Skye: What’s the most challenging thing about being a porn star?
RR: I think the worst thing, and I’ve only had this happen once, is walking into a very bad production. You know, where it’s not properly managed or treated in a professional manner. It’s just a nightmare. It’s only happened once, and I almost walked out. But I did my part to complete it. It worked out beautifully in the end which was great. But those are the situations where it feels like I just shouldn’t be there. And a lot of people don’t care about things like that, but I have an expectation of professionalism. I’m doing this only because I enjoy it, you know what I mean (laughs) and when I’m not enjoying it, I just don’t want to do it.
Skye: What is the strangest thing that you’ve ever been asked to do on film?
RR: I would have to say the positions are very strange at times. It looks good on camera, but for every scene we have to be in extremely uncomfortable positions for a really long time, banging away. And it looks really great on film, like everyone’s having a party. But in reality, we’re often wrapped up like pretzels so that a camera can fit into a space that it shouldn’t usually fit. Because it’s not about having a hot fuck, it’s about having a hot fuck that looks good on film.
Skye: What is the most memorable/fun scene you’ve ever shot and why?
RR: I think it was my first one, because it was insane. I was so excited and I was working with awesome people, especially my scene partner. And it was funny. We had all kind of hijinks on set, and even when things went wrong we had fun. It was just so supportive and it was a great way to start, because everything that went right went so right and anything that didn’t go perfectly just didn’t seem to matter. The whole thing taught me that the industry could be a supportive environment and I had a lot of fun doing it. You have to work really hard, but it’s a blast.
Skye: After you shoot a scene is there anything you do to decompress or shift gears?
RR: Smoke…a cigarette.
Skye: Do fluffers actually exist or are they just myth?
RR: (grins) I’ve never seen a fluffer in my life. I think that it’s one of those jobs where there’s a lot more interest than there is demand. When you’re surrounded by people who are hot, why would you need someone who’s less hot to get you going? (Laughs)… I mean for every scene I’ve ever been in or been a part of, I’m usually fucking around with my scene partner whenever the cameras aren’t rolling. You may be just horsing around and telling jokes or something. Sometimes you’re making out. Whatever it is there is usually some connection there or a connection develops by the end of the shoot. And all of that keeps you interested and in the moment. So I would say no fluffers don’t exist (pauses and smiles)… but then again I got into industry post Viagra, so who knows.
Skye: Last year I did an interview with a straight Asian porn star who we connected with only because Elizabeth wrote a post entitled Where are All The Asian Porn Stars?. There aren’t many het Asian guys in mainstream porn. Based on what you’ve know of the industry, do you think that’s likely to change anytime soon?
RR: I don’t know but I hope so. I mean the more the merrier. Diversity is where it’s at. Variety is the spice of life and all of that. I really enjoy experiencing different things, as many different things as possible, so I really hope so. But even in gay porn there are only a handful of porn stars that are Asian. There’s lots of gay porn produced in Asia, but definitely not as many identifiable stars that are Asian – fewer than many other demographics actually.
Skye: Do you think all the amateur porn online negatively impacting the revenue streams of professional production companies and actors?
RR: It’s definitely affecting them, but I don’t think it’s negative. It’s not because amateur porn is cheap to produce that makes it so hot. It’s hot for a 100 million reasons including the fact that it’s easier to see the connections, there’s no start up, there’s no tear down, it’s messier and so on. There’s lots of reason to get into amateur porn these days. With amateur porn you see a lot of things that studios don’t have the budget to try, and people are just doing it because it doesn’t cost them anything. So the content has really become significant and it’s encouraging hotter content to come from the studios as well. So I think it’s a really good back and forth.
Also, if a studio isn’t responding to the content found on amateur porn sites, they’re going to have a very poor future for sure. Some type of response to amateur porn is necessary. Tube sites are most of the money in the industry right now, I think, so bigger companies have to recognize that it’s a factor.
Skye: What advice would you give to anyone who wanted to get into the industry, regarding pay, career longevity, etc?
RR: Just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Make sure you’re doing it because you want to. Even if you don’t enjoy it, you should at least feel good about it. If you do it for the first time and it wasn’t great, you should at least feel that you went through a good process when it’s all over, and that you stayed true to yourself – whatever that means for you. Don’t make it about money, because there are easier ways to make more money for sure.
Also, anyone new to the industry should be clear on the fact that if they’re part of a scene that’s being shot and it’s not going well – to the point that it can’t be used – you typically don’t get paid. Not for a half day, the hours you put in, nothing. Another thing was that I was advised really early on not to get an agent or sign with a company. If you’re committed to working hard, you’ll have no trouble getting as much work as you want.
Skye: Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
RR: Probably just to thank you guys for the work that you do. MetAnotherFrog.com is a great website, endorsing and reinforcing a healthy sexual attitude and dialogue. I really like that and I’m really happy to participate in this with you. And to anyone thinking about porn I say why not do it? I always encourage people to do porn. It’s fun.
* Please note: All photgraphs used with the express permission of Mr. Ryan Russell