Hollywood Turns to Porn as Unemployment Rises

Hard times in Hollywood are bringing about a surge in job applications in the porn business.

Adult film companies say they have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people with big budget film experience reaching out for employment—with applicants ranging from directors and film crews to marketing specialists.

On-set with Digital Playground Adult Entertainment
On-set with Digital Playground Adult Entertainment

“I know marketing and media relations and sales people from the music industry and Hollywood are applying for jobs that are for something they never would have considered a couple of years ago —for much less pay than they would have been wiling to accept,” says Chris Ruth, a publicist with adult film producer Digital Playground.

Despite the fact that many of the new job seekers have the right credentials and are willing to accept the pay cut, they’re still not finding a lot of success in their search.

“We’re kind of a closed community,” notes Katy Zvolerin, director of public relations at Adam & Eve, which distributes over 30 films per year. “We have the same directors and crews that we like to work with. … There is a learning curve. At this point, I think we’d rather stick with the people we know and who do a good job.”

While porn has become more widely accepted by mainstream audiences, it has historically been looked down on by the Hollywood community, say adult entertainment companies.

That attitude of moral superiority has hurt veterans of the mainstream film business as they knock on doors. Digital Playground, for example, is hiring these days— but hasn’t brought on any traditional filmmakers.

“People who would have never been caught dead in this industry before are suddenly finding themselves flexible,” says Ruth. “I think for any position, whether it be behind a desk or behind the camera, the owners [of the company] can tell whether the person is sincere about wanting to do this or if they’re just looking for a paycheck.”

Despite some media reports, adult entertainment companies say the surge in unemployment nationwide hasn’t really resulted in a noticeable increase in applications for on-screen performers.

While there is anecdotal evidence of a slight rise in applications for dancers at strip clubs, people who weren’t previously willing to have sex on camera aren’t changing their minds due to the economy.

L.A. Direct, one of the larger adult film talent agencies with 118 models and actresses currently under contract, said it has not seen any real pickup in the number of applications. And it’s kind of thankful for that.

“We wouldn’t have the jobs to fulfill a surge if there was one,” says Derek Hay, owner of the company. “Our industry has been hit hard by this recession — harder than most industries.”

Even for those who are newcomers to the business, success is hardly an overnight sensation. The average porn star career lasts 5-7 years, says Zvolerin. And it typically takes three of those years to build a name and following —unless the woman decides to focus on the so-called ‘gonzo porn’ side of the industry, which emphasizes quantity over quality.

There’s money to be made there, but the burnout rate is much higher.

There’s an ironic twist to the increased interest in porn as an employment option from some of the Hollywood community.

Many adult film directors want to go into mainstream film (though they often find doors closed in their face when they try). And more and more porn actresses are appearing on the big screen. Sasha Grey, star of 150 adult films, starred in Steven Soderbergh’s “The Girlfriend Experience” earlier this year.