Huffpost Women

Porn Agents: The X-Rated Industry Has Agents Negotiating Deals Just Like Hollywood

Posted: Updated:
MARK SPIEGLER
Porn agents handle their clients' careers just like Hollywood's agents | Facebook
Print

This story comes courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter and first appeared in the Nov. 23 issue of the magazine.

By Daniel Miller

On a late-summer afternoon in a dingy San Fernando Valley apartment, talent agent Mark Spiegler is having it out with a producer. Pacing the length of the living room that for the past nine years has doubled as his office, Spiegler, portly with thinning brown hair and a graying 5 o'clock shadow, sets out his demands: If his client, a top actress, is going to agree to a project, certain accommodations must be made. "You want her ready at 8, you should do the makeup," Spiegler barks as he stomps past a bookcase filled with framed photos of himself with various women. "If you want her later, she'll do her own makeup."

Spiegler's spat over the call time might seem familiar to agents at the CAAs and WMEs of Hollywood who often find themselves protecting their star clients from producer demands. But Spiegler has a particular reason for being concerned about the 8 a.m. shoot: It would require his client to get up around 4:30 a.m. to receive an enema. Because the scene calls for the woman to perform anal sex.

Yes, Spiegler, 54, represents porn stars -- and he's one of the biggest agents in Los Angeles' $1 billion adult entertainment industry. As the Ari Emanuel or Kevin Huvane of hardcore, he handles such top performers as Skin Diamond, Chanel Preston and Asa Akira, the client for whom Spiegler is arguing.

Ultimately, the production company, New Sensations, will agree to delay the shoot for Akira, 27, who will do her own makeup and be paid about $2,000 for the scene. "That's the whole reason for us being here," says Spiegler, whose boutique firm, Spiegler Girls, represents a small group of elite women and is known as one of the adult industry's top agencies. "We are the buffer -- so the girl doesn't look bad. We take the heat."

Just like the Tom Ford-clad armies that handle the affairs of the Brad Pitts and Charlize Therons on the other side of the hill, the Valley-epicentered adult industry is led by a cadre of talent agencies that cut deals and jockey to represent the stars of tomorrow. The skill sets are, in many ways, the same -- tenacious negotiating and maintaining strong industry relationships -- but there are, of course, different responsibilities, such as advising on whether a client should get a boob job (well, maybe there is some crossover there) or agree to perform a double-penetration scene (if you have to ask, don't).

But here, in the shadows of Hollywood, the world's pornographers are at a crossroads, much like their mainstream entertainment colleagues. Facing declining revenue resulting from piracy, amateur digital competitors and a shrinking home entertainment market, the kings of porn (and yes, the industry is run mostly by men) face another threat to their business: the just-passed Los Angeles County measure requiring condom use in adult movies. Although the enforceability of Measure B is unclear, Steven Hirsch, founder and co-chairman of Vivid Entertainment Group, one of the biggest porn studios in the country, argues that the effects would be wide-ranging and dramatic. He's part of a loose coalition of porn players that plans to mount a legal challenge to the measure and is asking the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors not to begin enforcing the law. "If the board chooses to implement it, we will absolutely explore options and move production out of the county," he says.

At the same time, shrinking porn profits and a talent supply-and-demand imbalance have caused performers' salaries to decline. Whatever the moral qualms Americans have (40 million to 50 million people in the U.S. regularly watch pornography on the Internet, according to studies) about the proliferation of movies with such titles as Orgasmic Oralists, Damn, She's a Lesbian and Dong of the Dead, the tough U.S. economy has led to an explosion in the number of people hoping to find work in porn -- some perhaps emboldened by the dream they too could become crossover stars like Sasha Grey (Entourage) and James Deen (the forthcoming Lindsay Lohan starrer The Canyons). While a decade ago the average female performer would make about $100,000 a year, Spiegler says she now might make as little as $50,000 -- all while juggling responsibilities such as social-media outreach and personal appearances.

And where there were only two or three reputable adult agencies 10 years ago, now 14 agencies are licensed and bonded, though top shops L.A. Direct Models, 101 Modeling and Spiegler Girls dominate the upper echelon of performers. None would discuss how much money they make, but observers say that top agents can pull down $250,000 a year from their 10 to 15 percent takes. "It's very competitive, and the well-known agencies do control most of the talent," says Dan Miller, executive managing editor of industry trade magazine XBIZ. "It's just like Hollywood in that regard."

One might be inclined to think of porn agents as elevated pimps. Indeed, the many unlicensed, fringe representatives in the adult industry are dubbed "suitcase pimps" by their legitimate brethren because of their penchant for depositing a client and a suitcase filled with her personal effects at a shoot and returning once the work is finished to collect her and the money. They also take commissions of more than 20 percent, which is the maximum allowed by California's Labor Commissioner.

But there is an actual skill and finesse to the real porn agents, even if negotiating deals is relatively straightforward. Unlike in Hollywood, most adult performers charge set rates, so the conversation often centers on the availability of an actor. Still, agents also help clients set up personal websites, arrange for transportation and even make sure performers are staying on top of their mandatory drug-testing regimens. As if to illustrate this point, during an interview, Spiegler interrupts the conversation to answer his phone and discuss the scheduling of a blood test at Cutting Edge Testing in Sherman Oaks, a facility popular with adult entertainers.

According to Spiegler, there is a relatively straightforward scale for performances: An in-demand actress is paid about $800 for a girl-girl scene, $1,000 for a guy-girl scene, $1,200 or more for anal sex and $4,000 or more for double penetration (guy-on-guy pornography has a separate pay scale; most agents in the mainstream straight porn world, including Spiegler, do not represent gay men). Spiegler takes 10 to 15 percent, receiving the larger percentage if he handles transportation for the client. In an effort to ferret out rogue agents and discourage actors from working with them, several agencies, led by L.A. Direct, banded together to form Licensed Adult Talent Agency Trade Association (LATATA) in 2009. All member agencies -- there are seven, including Spiegler Girls -- meet once a month, are licensed by the state and adhere to standard practices.

In addition to the usual day-to-day travails of running a business, a top porn agent has to contend with venereal disease (a syphilis scare shut down Los Angeles production for 10 days this summer), underage applicants (standard procedure is to check driver's licenses or passports) and a pool of producers who -- as one can imagine -- might not include the most savory characters. Says Spiegler Girls client Kristina Rose, a 28-year-old San Diego native: "I went with Mark, I told him what I wanted to do, and he helped me make that shit happen. I've never not gotten paid for a shoot, I've never had a problem on set, and I've never had to walk off set." Adds client Andy San Dimas, 26, whose recent work includes The Dark Knight XXX: A Porn Parody, "He treats us like we are his daughters, and he has a lot of respect for us, unlike other agents that try to scam you, pimp you out."

To continue reading, click over to The Hollywood Reporter

Related on HuffPost:

Close
Finalists In The LA County Condom Design Contest
of
Share
Tweet
Advertisement
Share this
close
Current Slide

Suggest a correction