I so love coincidences! I had just finished listening to Butterfly effect – a Jon Ronson podcast we’ll soon get back to – about, among many other things, custom erotic videos. In a nutshell: online streaming porn killed the “adult movies” industry, driving directors and actresses to reinvent themselves as bespoke clips factories for clients with uncommon tastes.
This would be interesting already, but then Ronson visits a few sets and he learns about a truly odd client, who sent his stamps collection in to have it destroyed by a gang of sexy females. And that would be it, if it wasn’t that a few weeks later while the journalist is interviewing a porn star… she happens to amusedly mention that she has just shot another stamps-destruction video. There a full-blown investigation begins – and I won’t spoil it for you.
However, I recounted this story to a friend… and a few days later she phoned me enthusiastically.
«You won’t believe who I met!» she said. «Remember the custom videos thing?»
«I got in touch with a director of that kind of clips!»
«Good for you,» I answered while struggling with Milanese traffic. «I suppose he’s a fine fellow, to have you so excited.»
«Well, yes. But that’s beside the point. That would be he has been asked to make book destruction videos too. But he made hundreds… and the book is always the same!»
«Forward me his contact now! I definitely must meet him…»
From there, it is but a step to escalate to a full-blown interview. Here it is.
Hi, Mick! Would you like to tell us a bit about you and how did you end up in this profession?
Hi! As it often happens, I would never have guessed I’d end doing this when I studied for my IT and business degrees; my worst nightmare has always been the perspective of getting terminally employed in a cubicle, which was pretty plausible. Maybe to stall that outcome as long as possible I have always favored my passions instead of university.
The first unexpected match was between my studies and my humble foot fetish: I collaborated with an American fetish videos production as their webmaster, and I soon became their editor and a customer for videos I then resold as mine. The second fatal match was moving on a dare into a penthouse with a friend, where I got hooked on photography; when logistics doomed my employment in the USA, I was pretty handy already with video shooting and editing thanks to our multi-leveled collaboration. I had a great location and the contacts of models with whom I could keep on producing… but I was living in Italy.
That would not do: besides the hurdle of the English language for all of the models, there also were strong limitations on the contents: nudes were rarely accepted, the face must often be kept covered, and the models always did it as a side hustle to photography, with embarrassment. Also, Italy keeps you from doing business: I began earning enough to have to consider the fiscal side, but nobody knew how to handle that and the one certainty was that getting a VAT account would have been a financial hell. Once I came out of a meeting with two accountants who just couldn’t give me any clear answer, and there I resolved I’d leave Italy. That was the best choice I could make, or my current job would have never materialized.
British models of course speak excellent English, and I could find it all: from the innocent girl for soft content to the porn star, to the MILF. The British situation is a disaster, humanly speaking: people are lost and that’s one reason you can recruit everything. From a working perspective, however, such a varied offer was ideal.
Above all, a twenty minutes talk with an accountant cleared away all of the unsolvable problems I confronted in Italy, and since then I invoice, pay my taxes, deduct, invest: I have a true business, and within three years I could open a mortgage and get my own, work-paid, home. That would be incredible to a young freelancer in Italy.
The request for custom videos increased from a few occasional commissions to steadily booked shootings, so I have to constantly organize more to keep the customers at bay.
The Butterfly Effect custom video producers maintain they have a fun job, but on a whole different income bracket from “traditional” porn. In fact, hearing them you get the impression they feel trapped in a limbo reserved to those too eccentric to fall into the PornHub-like big portals’ tags. What do you think about this?
I am not very familiar with what traditional porn earns, but there surely are huge variations: their production budgets are higher, and content is different too because you have to employ a team, performers, and work on marketing to emerge. I honestly looked for collaborators and actors for years, but it never worked and with time I learned to do it all on my own. Today I am a one-man company: this keeps me busier than a full-time job, but allows me to keep the costs down and to be incomparably more versatile.
My idea of the porn business, however, is that their products’ life cycle is so limited not to be worth the effort: you can find them pirated and streaming within hours. Niche fetishes enjoy a more respectful community instead: videos are much less pirated; they tend to be more supportive of producers. And the videos are so particular that sharing them would be pointless anyway, since nobody else would be interested.
Well, this is where I inevitably have to ask you for some example of especially unusual videos you were commissioned…
Right off the top of my head: giant inflatables rode by a girl who smokes and punctures them with the cig until they are deflated. Or, still with inflatables, a dolphin standing in for a person who gets “depowered” via his penis-valve (of course in a super-specific position), and once empty gets rolled up and shoved in the actress’ pantyhose simulating pregnancy.
A spy girl who gets paralyzed by an enemy agent who ends up examining her gums and her stuck-out tongue. I recently opened a Dolcett-inspired store where the girls are trussed up like roasts, with olive oil and produce. And the timeless book destruction.
Hold that thought. This I want to learn in detail, and above all I must ask you: how do you think such a bizarre fantasy was born?
It is the 1993 edition of an illustrated encyclopedia. It has no merits, it is truly awful and almost deserves such a demise.
There are elements of verbal humiliation, crushing, giantesses, boot fetish, destruction… you could say it is good content. The story however is always the same: to fully destroy the book in 25 minutes, wearing a specific model of boots which are the true key factor. No boots, no video.
The girl must verbally humiliate the client as if he was in the room – they are POV clips – and destroy the book as if it was his most precious thing, his life, his manhood. No, the customer is not the book author, and there is no correlation with how the girl looks like or her performance: the clips are always accepted, and in some instances they are rated exceptional even if the actress performed embarrassingly flat. The main issue is that, throughout the years, I have shot probably over a hundred of these videos, almost with every model I have ever worked with. Always the same.
Various stories I heard in the bespoke videos scene reveal rather tender, paradoxically romantic human angles. Occasionally some distressing element also pops up. Without violating the privacy of your customers, do you have any such anecdote yourself?
Nothing romantic, unfortunately, at least in my case. From time to time I happen to receive maybe “normal” requests but with a bad, scary vibe, so I try to decline. What I find disturbing – the true perversion – is obsessive compulsion: when the focus is on micromanaging everything, dialogs, outfits, or endless scripts. Someone requires blown-up resolutions or even more photograms per second… It is all an Ego problem of losing sight of the essence and truly losing your marbles.
I don’t want to share specific stories, but I can point out that, whenever I receive that kind of requests, they are from Germany in two-thirds of the cases.
All right… Coming down onto more practical things, can you tell what happens offstage when you receive a new request? I am talking about production, casting, locations and time needed to make somebody’s fantasy come true.
The location is simply my home, which I obviously have optimized and fitted for shooting with lights, furniture, spaces and wardrobe. I simply organize regular shootings – say, four hours – with one or more models and I announce them on my website: people can use part of the time to make me produce their fantasy, in accordance with the model’s skills and limits. I quote their request, then discuss it. Once the custom clip is planned (which often takes quite some time) I wait for shooting day, and the customer receives his download link within a couple of days.
Did anyone ever complain for the results? And what about keeping in touch instead?
I do have more or less regular customers who have been asking for commissions for years; others order just once and disappear without even letting me know whether they were satisfied. Other still are very active for a while, then they maybe vanish for one year and come back later.
Generally speaking, they are all very reserved and they feel satisfied. Of course there are episodes of things not working out ideally, but I always try to fix them: the customer is always right! If someone proves to be difficult I maybe prefer budget the next shoot more carefully instead of dropping him and get a bad reputation for that.
Let’s get philosophical: what did you learn from this job experience?
I could write a book about that, but briefly put: I evidently met sides of the male (since all my customers are male) sexuality and mind that few people are privy to. I also had a chance to explore my own fantasies, realizing that they are but mere symbols devoid of essence. I learned that fetishes are just “clues”, a window onto yourself, and that you should treat it as such. What I repeatedly see, instead, is that most people keep bouncing against it forever, compulsively looking for a satisfaction that is unreachable because it doesn’t lie in the symbol. Lots of people keep staring at the finger when you are pointing at the way.
Paradoxically, fetish and adult work for me were an occasion for a very deep inner search.
When we met you hinted of a job change. What about that?
I was not referring to change my job but to evolve it and start new parallel projects. I have lots of ideas and a need to explore, or I get sorely existential. In the long term, producing countless custom videos is no more gratifying to me than working on an assembly line.
Also, doing this and only this full-time brings social disadvantages: no matter how openminded the other person, it is always hard to introduce yourself as a fetish producer: I tend to stay vague and give roundabout answers, but it’s something that puts people ill at ease.
Thank you so much for your availability. Shall we close on a preview of your future projects, and with your contacts?
The main project I am working on is the new version of fetishcustom.com, which will turn its own logic upside down and will possibly revolutionize how custom clips are seen on a global scale. It will take lots of time, work and investments, therefore the website will gradually change to accommodate an idea that is bigger than me. Only time will tell.
Let’s say I will produce fewer and fewer clips, only working with my favorite people, but I will surely keep busy. Burnout and downshifting exist even for very unusual jobs like mine, unfortunately.
People can reach me at www.fetishcustom.com, or as a photographer on www.mikamatto.com.
And thanks to you for the opportunity!