Jens Hoffmann – The Porn Diaries

jensWe caught up with director Jens Hoffmann on the eve of the release of his latest film, The Porn Diaries – a fly-on-the-wall documentary on the pornographic industry that was the talking point of film festivals when it was premiered last year. Filmed over three years, the film follows the exploits of some of the industries biggest names, including Sasha Grey and Belladonna, showing them in a light that has never been seen before (i.e. not just with their clothes off!) Yes, even porn stars have feelings too…

How did The Porn Diaries come about? How did you get involved with the project?

JH: As a filmmaker I try to choose subject matters, which kind of have a natural attraction for me personally, since I have to invest a lot of time with this. Love, sex and death are the most popular themes of movies anyway, and it is safe to say there was this natural interest which I assume at least every male human being has.

Of course there was an incident which sparked the flame – a friend of a friend (as always when comes to porn) came by my editing booth to screen his tapes. He produced porn and it turned out that he was nothing like the stereotype porn person that I expected. He was studying theology, looked something like me – in-between a rockabilly and a nerd – and told me about his poverty and his miserable life in Prague. So no pimp-style, cokehead, big-dick porn star attitude. We started an interesting conversation and he asked me to visit him in Prague, which I eventually did. Once there, I saw nothing of the porn glamour we all expected.

After researching more and finding loads of documentaries, reportages and films about it I could not find anything which I thought reflected reality. Most of the stuff was covered porn for TV – a ’making of’ porn. I was interested in the people and started to write a script with hypothetical characters. Later on, when we researched more, we kind of met all these people in reality. It is important for me that a documentary is as emotional and entertaining as fiction, and reality delivers all these stories. You just have to take the craft of fiction film making over to the doc side: no narration, no telling the viewer what to think. Be aware of a smart audience and let them make up their own mind. Try to deliver all sides and make them think on their own.

How did you gain contact with all the directors and actors in the documentary? Was it hard to gain their trust?

JH: Well as mentioned we did quite a lot of research before filming. The entire production took almost 5 years. Within the time of research we did some pre-shoots, made trailers and introduced the concept to the potential protagonists. It was clear from the beginning that from the moment one would agree to be part of the project we were able to film and record everything and would never ask again if we could use this or not. Of course, this requested a very high level of trust from both sides. My ethics lead me to the point that I never exploit people. We filmed a lot of personal stuff which we did not use, even though it would have been strong content. But this is how filmmakers are supposed to deal with this trust and not abuse it like done in many examples. This was actually one of the biggest barriers to overcome: many of the ‘porn people’ have been screwed by TV & filmcrews before – ask Belladonna – but it seems that they liked and believed our approach.

A crucial point was when Mark Spiegler offered his support and introduced us to many people. He is very respected in the scene and can be a big time door opener. He definitely took us under his wing and gave us his full support.

A second step was when Belladonna offered her appearance. When we met her first, she was OK with us filming on her set, but did not really be part of the project because of her very bad experience. But after she has been observing us, seeing what and how we did things, she actually offered form her side not just to be part of but also with helping us out on many occasion including accommodation, which led to a very personal relationship. Since she is such a well respected role figure in the industry, I guess from that point on nobody ever doubted our approach again.

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