It’s the sort of Main St diner where eastside bohemians worry into their coffees. Mr Pants, Monster and Professor University crowd their plush booth with vegan breakfasts. They don’t look like porn stars.
But in East Van-a zone that’s rapidly becoming the do-it-yourself porn hub of Western Canada-the rules that make porn a mainstream arena are beginning to break down.
Things to remember when making your first mainstream porn: pay the girls more; distribute widely; don’t forget the money shot.
Things to remember about the East Van Porn Collective (EVPC): everyone gets paid the same (zero); they don’t distribute their porn at all; and “money shot” is not in their vocabulary.
Made in Secret-the genre-fucking docu-drama the EVPC released instead of hardcore porn (shy porn stars?)-is the collective’s first full-length film to be publicly screened.
It plays by no rules but its own.
The film is an aggressive response to the banalities of mainstream porn (“shot after shot of slot after slot” as their manifesto laments) and also a critique of other art forms-like the documentary mode that it inhabits.
“I have no idea what’s real anymore,” says Professor University. But if that’s the case, he has no one to blame but himself.
Porn names (even geeky ones like Professor University) keep EVPC members slightly removed from the real world, just the way they like it. The intimate details of their lives are always just barely out of bounds in Made in Secret.
Professor University and the six other members of the EVPC deliberately set out-in a Blair Witch Project way-to create a documentary that isn’t really.
As the collective on screen works together to create its latest homemade porn-an all-you-can-eat queer video they call BikeSexual-the audience begins to suspect foul play.
How much of this is real? And how much is a carefully choreographed critique of the porn industry?
For starters, is there really an East Van Porn Collective? Are there really boys and girls rolling around nude in East Van basement suites?
Mr Pants is an imp in his dodge: to answer that, he says, “would ruin the fun.”
But Professor University, lapsing from the collective’s regular stance for a moment, allows himself to become partially transparent: “There was a group of friends… but there wasn’t a group. We wanted to make a movie about it. Now a group does exist.”
In other words, they had to invent the subject of their documentary in order to film it. It’s just the sort of time-travel paradox that would rile people up on Star Trek.
The documentary-filmed with the candid, easy qualities of a home movie-toys mercilessly with its audience on a cerebral level. It seeks to shake out the easy rules we fix to genres (in this case, porn and documentary).
But Made in Secret most dramatically confounds our ideas of what makes someone queer.
“It’s queer because I say it is,” says Mr Pants, refusing to elaborate.
E-mailing from the University of Manchester where she’s completing her Master’s Degree in Gender Studies, JD Superstar has a slightly more nuanced take.
“I think the EVPC is queer insofar that it does challenge identity binaries and sexual norms.
“Queer is a funny word, though,” she continues, “and it’s used to refer to a number of different ideas. Lots of the time, it’s used as an umbrella term for gay/lesbian/bi/trans. But queer also means that which resists culturally imposed identities…”
Made in Secret features a make-out session between two straight men, for example. Who’s more queer? The straight guys that swap spit? Or the lesbian who remains in her comfort zone?
The EVPC has a hard time answering the questions raised by Made in Secret.
All decisions are made by a laborious process of consensus; they have refused to grant interviews until now-too much room for error and misconception. Their speaking out to Xtra West, then, is a call for a broader community (a lattice of porn?).
And also a risk. They’ve envisioned a utopian world where a collective of like-minded youths from the eastside can make the porn they want on their own terms.
What they’ve stumbled upon in the meantime is a cutting-edge art movement and a fascinating documentary that may garner more attention than they know what to do with.