Careers and Ed: Hard on the job

Getting ahead in the Bay Area's burgeoning adult-content industry
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culture@sfbg.com

Just a short walk northeast from the Hall of Justice in SoMa lies an internationally renowned palace of forbidden pleasure.

The nondescript four-story stone building is the headquarters for Kink, an online enterprise specializing in the production of short, sexy, streaming BDSM videos, available for a monthly subscription fee. Started by British bondage aficionado Peter Ackworth about a decade ago, Kink is home to such fetish favorites as Hogtied, Fucking Machines, and Ultimate Surrender (in which the winner of a female wrestling competition in a Greco-Roman setting gets to fuck the loser). It's also — perhaps surprisingly — a great place to work, according to the people who work there. And that's not just those strapped down in front of the cameras talking.

Granted, when you were young and dreaming of a fabulous career in film, porn might not have been your chosen niche. But if you're looking for a job in media and are unenthused by the paltry postings on Craigslist offering the opportunity to work in the lackluster world of industrial video production, you might want to broaden your options. There used to be a steadier stream of work shooting commercials and Hollywood films on location here, but the high costs have caused that flow to taper off. Still, the Bay Area harbors a vibrant industry creating DVD and Internet adult content.

Crack all the jokes you want about the sleaziness of the porn business, but there's some real dedication behind it. I used to have a job where I regularly interviewed people about their jobs: dot-com jobs, to be specific. Most of the time, the Web guru, marketing guru, or whatever guru I was interrogating would stare at me with a Stepford wife's eyes and tell me what a blast it was to work at blobbity-blah.com. All the while I could hear the voice in his or her head blaring, "If my stock options end up amounting to nothing more than toilet paper, I'm gonna be pissed!"

Many local erotica production studios, on the other hand, offer a positive and creative work environment, upward mobility, and good pay with full benefits for everyone from customer service representatives to IT workers and video editors.

ONE HECK OF A DAY JOB

As I'm guided through the maze of sets at Kink — a jail cell, a dirty bathroom, a dungeon with vaulted ceilings reminiscent of the Doom video game, even a sci-fi room — I pass workers who are going about the business of making naughty fantasies come to life. Production assistants in black jumpsuits prepare sets for shoots. Set builders in flannels construct a booth in the back lot for the imminent Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas. A model naps in the green room before his close-up.

In the office space where the postproduction editors work with the directors to piece together videos on large, brilliant flat-panel monitors, everyone I see looks like someone who could be working at an indie rock record label. They're hip, young, hard at work, and having a good time.

I get to interview some of them on the canopied roof deck, replete with a bar, heat lamps, and a hot tub. Kelly Schaefer, a young woman with jagged layers of blond locks jutting to her chin, tells me she's worked at Kink for about a year. Now the lead production assistant, in charge of scheduling and training all the other PAs for shoots and making sure everything runs smoothly, she started out as a model, performing in Kink's Ultimate Surrender. The former Good Vibrations sales associate still models, because she really enjoys the wrestling. But she's also working toward becoming a full-fledged producer.

Schaefer has a rep around Kink for being motivated, which is partly why she was able to move into a different role with greater responsibility. Since she didn't have a background in production, being a model helped her get a foot in the door.

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