What It's Really Like To Write Porn For A Living

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porn star
We talk sex with Penny Antine aka Raven Touchstone, award-winning adult film script writer.

When you watch pornography you're probably not thinking overly much about the quality of the script. But scripts there are, ladies and gentlemen, and someone has to write them. Or at least they used to. The practice of hiring real writers to pen your smut is on the wane, but back in the 1980s Penny Antine, better known by her nom de porn Raven Touchstone, penned hundreds of award-winning screenplays designed to entertain and arouse. She agreed to talk with us about her life in the industry, from working with terrible talent to washing dildos.

YourTango: How did you initially get started in the adult film?

Penny Antine: In 1984 I took on a new roommate who had lived next door to a porn director named Scotty Fox. Actually, his name was Scotty Cox but he felt it was too lewd to use in porn. My roommate knew he was looking for writers. She mistakenly thought I was a writer of Harlequin Novels. I was never a romance novel writer, but she told Scotty I was and he asked if I'd be interested in doing a few scripts.

At the time I was working for Eva Gabor and looking for any way to get away from that beautiful, Hungarian lunatic. So I figured I'd write a couple of porn scripts while I was looking for some serious work as a writer. So I met with Scotty, got the particulars and penned a few scripts.

My first was called Intimate Couples. John Holmes was line producer on that movie. He came to my house to go over the script with me. My roommate almost died and went to heaven. The "biggest cock in the world" was sitting on HER couch! My second script was Ginger, the first of the Ginger series for Vivid, and my third script was Just Another Pretty Face for Traci Lords. Never in a gazillion years would I have thought any of these would wind up being iconic.

YT: Was there anything that made you hesitant to work in the industry?

PA: I didn't know ditz about the business. I had never seen a porn movie. My motivation was money. This could get me away from Eva and give me time to find a place to land. Scotty gave me three movies to watch, Devil in Miss Jones, Night Hunter, and Story of Joanna. I was blown away by all three. I had no idea porn could be so artfully done.

I was stunned by Georgina Spelvin's performance in DMJ and Jamie Gillis's performance in Story of Joanna. I had no idea what fine performers were hiding in that small porn industry. And once I went on the set of my second Ginger movie, Ginger's Private Party, and met all the people, including Ginger, I realized this was just another branch of the entertainment industry. So working in this industry seemed like more of what I had done all my life.

YT: What exactly goes into adult film script writing?

PA: Writing a adult film script is like writing any other film script except instead of having a car chase you have a sex scene. Actually, it's a bit more complicated than that.

The star of a porn film is sex.

Often the director has decided what sex scenes he wants in his movie. There was usually five or six sex scenes, depending which company was producing and what their policy was. In a big budget movie we might have an orgy with a lot of people, and many scenes with multiple; two girls/one guy, two guys/one girl, a foursome, etc. A smaller budget video might have four boy/girl scenes and one girl/girl, plus one solo (masturbation). Whatever he wanted, I would have to construct a workable story around those combinations, so that might be like putting a puzzle together.

penny and antie sprinkle
From left: Penny, Annie Sprinkle and Veronica Hart

YT: How important was a good writer to the success of an adult film, do you think?

PA: In the beginning of the adult film industry the writing wasn't so hot. Devil in Miss Jones was just a two-page outline Gerard Damiano threw together. Deep Throat was silly as hell. And yet those two became classics.

Later on, in the early stages of the video era, the box cover was more important than the writer. A great star and great box cover could sell thousands and thousands of pieces, and THAT was considered a success. As the video era grew up, the writing became much more important. Those movies weren't just going out for sale as tapes. They were being edited in both soft and hardcore and the soft versions sold to cable and European companies. So a good product was necessary to hang onto those deals and a good product needed a good script.

YT: Were you comfortable seeing your work on screen?

PA: In the very beginning it was horrifying. Video was brand new. The industry was exploding faster than their understanding of technology, so the sound was terrible, sometimes the video itself looked terrible. Some of the talent was just awful! But after they mastered the technology and got some terrific directors, cinematographers and editors working, I was very, very proud of some of my work.

YT: Did you ever write with specific actors or directors in mind?

PA: I always was hired by a specific director to write a specific project for him or her. I often worked with the director on concept before I ever started the script, and almost always wrote with specific actors in mind. Each company had its contract players, and each movie was done with one player assigned to that project. This was a Ginger movie, this was a Jenna Jameson movie, and this was an all girl movie starring Barbara Dare.

There was always a director and star attached.

YT: What was the worst part about the job?

PA: I can't think of any "worst" part. I loved my years in the adult industry. Oh, sure, there were jackasses among us. Sometimes I did battle with them. Sometimes my directors and I would argue about the story. Sometimes the hours were long and hard. I not only wrote the scripts, I often worked as assistant director to the director, kept the editing, script and continuity, costumed the movie, coached the talent and washed the dildos.

I loved some of my directors, loathed a few of them. Why? Because they were stupid men who were too hard on the talent or had no talent themselves. But there was no "worst" part of the job. It was like any other job. Sometimes I wanted to shout for joy, other times I wanted to commit murder.

YT: If you don't mind me asking, what did it pay?

PE: My pay depended on the project. I could earn seven or eight grand for the big movies we did for Playboy (which went into Blockbuster). I could earn three or four grand for a 45 page big budget porn script, $1,500 for a 20 to 25 page script, $500 for a little seven to ten page script. But remember, I was top of the line and these were the best years of the business. Everyone was making money. I also got paid well for working on the sets.

Never made so much money in my life. But those days are gone.

YT: Did you want to get out of the business, or did the industry just change?

PE: I do a script once in a while. And sometimes my friends still come and shoot at my house. But yes, the industry changed. Big Time. I'm sure there are still script writers.

Wicked is thriving. They have good writers. Vivid does a major feature now and then. Someone writes those. But for the most part, most of the movies are done without developed scripts these days.

YT: Do you think the adult film industry is better or worse than when you were involved?

PA: I think the business today isn't a patch on what it used to be. The free content on the internet, plus piracy, killed the business that existed in my day. There's no money in it anymore. Girls come in through revolving doors, have a shelf life of about 14 months, and then are replaced by new girls. It's very difficult for a girl today to actually make a career of working in the industry, whereas it used to be a common event.

YT. What does a semi-retired adult film script writer do with herself?

PE: I'm working on a memoir right now about my years in the porn biz. It's based on journals I kept from day one in the industry. I kept detailed journals... who I met, what they said, what went on on the various shoots, the trips to San Francisco, the cops chasing us, the busts, the love affairs, the conflict, the laughs, the movies, the stars. All of it.

Aside from working on my memoir I'm also writing a novel, and I’m working on a documentary series about the men and women of the various branches of the sex industry. I have a home I take care of, a great garden to tend, friends to see and the luxury of not having to worry about "fading my knife and fork," as an old friend used to say. It's a great time of life. A joy.

Ron Jeremy
Ron Jeremy with a puppy named Annie

 

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