The AV Director
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The Captain gave up on Japanese porn many years ago when he couldn't achieve a balance between the mosaic descrambler, the rewind button, and his can of beer.
This week he's on the set of a porn shoot as he kicks off a two-part series on the world of AV.
Aki Tomozaki, her large breasts fully exposed and generously smeared in baby oil, is seated on a kitchen stool in a five-room apartment just north of central Tokyo.
It is a weekday morning, and aside from her exceptionally thin red g-string and flower-patterned kimono belt around her midsection, this veteran of over 250 AV, or "adult video," features has nothing at all covering her short yet very curvy frame.
The 37-year-old's co-star, who is acting as her son, "Mizuo-chan," is supporting her at the waist with his right arm. Today's theme: incest.
They are readying for a pre-shoot, whose output will be used for the subsequent DVD cover. This is standard procedure for Zeus Collection Inc., a film outfit which primarily provides saucy slices of smut to its sister production company, Momotaro Pictures Publications Co., Ltd.
As the son's tongue attempts to move across his mother's intimidating chest, a crew of still cameras that has gathered along the kitchen floor sends flash bulbs popping and shutters clicking.
"Our productions are for masturbation," says Zeus director Masao Tanaka as he pumps his slightly open right fist in an up-and-down motion.
The morning shoot, which will be followed by an afternoon of romping, sucking, and even a smattering of dialogue, is just a single element within a string of directorial duties necessary for providing provocative enough action to get guys off. Success requires keeping up with the latest fetishes and managing frazzled actors and actresses - tasks Tanaka has mastered during his more than two decades in the industry.
The best scenario for a successful product is for the leading lady to possess a look that is either purely sexy, innocent, or that of a school girl and - most importantly - to absolutely love sex.
"If she doesn't," says the 47-year-old Tanaka, "it comes out negatively. Some women do indeed have the ability to bring out their passion on the screen."
Momotaro's latest volume in its "B*Jean" series, whose contents are not standard porn flicks in the western sense but showcases of beautiful girls engaging in various forms of sex and starring in some playful interludes, features hot new-comer Asami.
In disc number 139 released last week, multiple men twist, bend, spread, and flip the 21-year-old in four intercourse sessions. During a break, she is seen, with exposed midriff and ridiculously short jean shorts, dancing through a plaza as a lizard (truly the reptile variety) runs through her hands.
"Her style is terrific," Tanaka says, pointing at the cover showing her topless, smirking, and dangling a pair of high heels at her side. "Everybody has their likes and dislikes but most people like the innocent look of her."
For Momotaro, between 8,000 and 10,000 copies of a DVD release, which fetch around 3,000 yen a pop, might be sold on average, with a real success being reserved for those reaching 30,000 to 50,000. Monthly revenues are approximately 200 million yen.
Momotaro's catalog is thorough in its coverage: orgies with maids, love doll sex, obese women in bondage, and - perhaps the most bizarre of all - a volume series dedicated entirely to love.
Tanaka estimates that today there are approximately 300 companies making 3,000 porn features a year in Japan. Momotaro churns out about 50 a month, but, with differences existing in the types of the product and the quality, that number fluctuates substantially over the course of a year.
It is probably not surprising to hear that features containing actual stories and extensive dialogue do not sell well. But, Tanaka admits, intercourse scenes still make up 80% of the content in such a DVD.
Pseudo-documentaries, for which the dialogue is free form and the camera rolls nearly continuously, are simple and cheap from a production standpoint. The filming of drunk party participants having sloppy sex and porn actresses being raped - though the action is staged - during an interview for a part (as in this month's "Shiroto Mensetsu") are presently popular topics.
"The Japanese audiences," Tanaka explains, "like darker and immoral themes, more so than the upbeat, action porn films found in the U.S."
Critics might argue that incest, a subject in over 60 Momotaro productions over the past 8 years, is taking things a bit too far. Tanaka disagrees.
"If you see this sort of video," he says, "you are satisfied. It allows you to not go beyond that. You can stay in control."
On today's set, portable lights, cabling, and angled screens fill the kitchen. In between smoking cigarettes, technicians adjust camera settings and sort through rolls of electrical tape behind the scenes. The shoot will only take one day, which is unlike the 10 days needed for a typical porn film.
Katsuya Ichihara, his head shaved, carrying a slight paunch, and sporting translucent brown glasses, will be in the director's chair.
"It is so important that the director knows how to use the girl correctly," Tanaka emphasizes. "He has to massage that process. It is his personality, his ability that will drive the scene."
The second scene has Tomozaki playing cards with her son. Though in porn years she is considered a bit of an elder, Tomozaki can ooze cuteness at the director's demand.
In the living room, she is sitting across from Mizuo-chan. Tomozaki has just slapped one card down onto the table.
"Mizuo-chan, it looks great, doesn't it?" she asks, referring to his father's white long-underwear bottoms that Mizuo-chan is now wearing. "Let me take your photo."
She then clicks the shutter button on her camera-equipped mobile phone.
Ichihara interrupts. "That was a little bit harsh. Let's make it a bit softer. You know, add that little bit of sweetness."
For the next run through, she does just that, tossing in copious giggles and extended pronunciations of nearly each word.
Emotional breakdowns on the part of the model, as the actress is referred to in the industry, are common concerns. Pain during intercourse is often a setback as well. A director can't rush things, says Tomozaki.
"If I'm constantly being pushed and criticized, it all falls apart," she says in her dressing room between scenes while wearing a blue bathrobe open in front. "But if I get praise things go much better."
Stopping the camera to rectify such issues is one thing but timely erections and ejaculations are other matters entirely - they are the foundation of the industry.
With per-movie budgets running from 500,000 yen (for lower quality flicks) on up to 6,000,000 or 8,000,000 yen, substantial delays are not tolerated.
"If we have to wait for the guy to raise it," Tanaka says bluntly, "we lose a lot in production costs. A guy who can't do it doesn't get paid much. It's not business for us."
While actresses can earn between 200,000 and 4 million yen per feature, a top actor might get only 60,000 yen a day. Guys who simply can't get the timing right can see their pay sag to 15,000 yen.
"If he doesn't have it up here...," Tanaka shrugs, tapping the side of his forehead.
Mizuo-chan, a rather unremarkable young man with shaggy brown hair, appears up to the task. The script calls for the performance of paizuri, a slang term that combines the Japanese word for breast, oppai, and suru, meaning to rub.
As the sixth scene starts, Tomozaki is topless and straddling her son on his bed. Noticing a bulge in his underwear, she removes the garment and carefully wraps his member with her breasts like dough around a rolling pin. She then adds a bit of oil and her tongue to the mix.
"That's enough of that!" barks Ichihara. Tomozaki pauses in mid-motion with Mizuo-chan holding firm.
A team of magazine and promo photographers then sweeps into the room. Tomozaki goes through a few slow-motion activities with her hands and lips so each lens can get a good look.
Though a cynic may claim that all porn is the same, Tanaka would counter by explaining that subtle details within each work used to entice the viewer are often ignored.
He would talk about the importance of changing the lady's expression, or the effect that might result from different clothes or surroundings.
Indeed, in release 139 of the "B*Jean" series it is almost as if Asami is inviting the viewer to join her: while in a bath, she raises her bubble-covered leg to the camera and laughs; other bits show her outside running from side to side, seemingly in an effort to flee but yet with her eyes and permanent smile never out of sight of the lens tracking her motion.
Her perspective during intercourse could be changed as well. (For example, is she doing the deed or is it instead being done to her?)
In fact, one of Momotaro's ploys is to shoot different alternatives of the same scene and include them as supplemental discs within the DVD package.
For today, however, all nuances have been brushed aside; it is very simply Tomozaki's dominance that will make this piece.
After Ichihara gives the green light to resume action, the photographers file out and the actress straightens up. She then uses her massive right mammary like a mitten to absolutely smother Mizuo-chan and initiates a furious vertical stroke. Within two minutes he's done his duty.
Crouching in front of a monitor in the hall, Ichihara is very pleased. "Cut!"
Tanaka is a businessman; he knows the market. He realizes that if he continues to look for that unique angle or emotion that will keep it fresh, he will be able to make successful features.
But the emphasis will always go back to the actress.
"You can always make improvements in how a woman expresses herself or just how she makes herself seem sexy," he says. "If you can keep that in mind, the products will continue to have an appeal to audiences."
Note: Albert Stovall contributed to this report from the Tokyo Bureau.
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