Golden Gate takes gay porn out of the studio and into the San Francisco streets
SEX/TV "We get to shoot all over San Francisco," Jack Shamama of NakedSword.com tells me over the phone, a wicked lilt tiptoeing into his voice. "How great is that?"
Double entendres! He's referring to Golden Gate, the spunky episodic porn Web series he wrote with Michael Stabile, which just wrapped up its first season and will begin a second season in February. The weekly series runs on the Naked Sword site , with a new episode debuting every week to a substantial viewership that values glossy production and polished presentation.
Although there's no grand soap opera-like family tree of intersecting characters and storylines, each episode does feature quite a bit of plot, at least by wank-flick standards, and solid back stories for the various players. (Sample: "Robert is an unemployed writer who spends his days at cafes. He's got a real interest in humanity, and is garrulous and friendly. He's almost always dressed casually. Robert lives in the grittier Castro-adjacent neighborhood of the Lower Haight." Robert gets crammed full of a two-foot-long cone-shaped black dildo. But I digress.)
GOLDEN GATE TRAILER (er, NSFW)
Pornisodic series have been done before — the sprawling Wet Palms comes to mind — but this is the first that really focuses on San Francisco. Shamama and Stabile being our perennial enfants terribles of porn, there's some fun with San Francisco archetypes in each episode as well, bringing together, say, a high-powered downtown investor with a struggling Mission District artist who pimps himself out online for rent money. And while there are a few problems with verisimilitude (that struggling artist has waxed eyebrows and an all-over tan), there are plenty of spot-on in-jokes. In one episode, a couple of almost-hipster rockers get approached by a groupie for sex — but first they hand him a flyer for their band's show at Bottom of the Hill.
After we dished a bit about the scheduling woes of porn stars in the Internet Age and the purported whereabouts of 1990s bear porn pioneer Steve "Titpig" Hurley, I asked Shamama a few questions about Golden Gate.
SFBG What pricked you into Golden Gate action?
Jack Shamama In the past, Naked Sword has teamed up with partners to produce hardcore content, behind-the-scenes specials, porn event coverage, and our regular talk show, "The Tim and Roma Show." But for our first completely in-house production, we knew we had to come up with something big that wouldn't run out of steam, since we wanted it to be a weekly series. The concept that kept coming up was the city itself.
Gay porn was pretty much invented in San Francisco and even today maybe as much as 75 percent of it is still filmed here, but you really wouldn't know it since most of it's filmed on sets. Those movies that do spotlight San Francisco generally end up giving people a dumbed-down CliffsNotes "gay Disneyland" version of SF, with an opening shot of the Golden Gate Bridge and credits rolling over a shot of the giant rainbow flag in the Castro.
We figured we owed San Francisco a bit more than that. Our tagline is "Enter the land of impulse and desire." The city ends up being sort of like the main character. For each episode, we bring together two opposing types of San Francisco men to show the different sides of the city.
SFBG Everyone talks about how major porn studios are being killed by amateur websites. But you guys are going in the opposite direction, with glossy production values, old-fashioned plot-oriented scenes, big name stars, and timed release dates ...
JS Golden Gate is definitely an anomaly in the porn marketplace — but I think that at this point, its uniqueness is a plus. There's still a huge audience out there that wants this type of meticulously produced, quality product, and I don't think they should be ignored just because there are other types of porn being made.
Many people automatically equate "amateur" with "plotless" — but really it's the same plot over and over again. "Straight guy sucks his first dick" could describe seven-eighths of amateur porn. That can be hot but yeah, we get it. We want to explore other kinds of fantasy. And, along with our executive producer Tim Valenti, we want to do it in a quality way. Even though our actors get down and dirty, we're not ashamed of having a little class.
SFBG How difficult is it to produce a weekly porn series?
JS It can get tough to write episodes at that pace and to keep everything straight — scouting locations, shooting stills, scheduling stars. One challenging aspect to production I didn't anticipate was finding filming locations. Since each episode takes places in a different neighborhood, it's taking us out of our comfort zone. There are lots of guys who live in the Castro who want to have a gay porn shot in their apartment, but some other neighborhoods can be tricky. We've lucked out and been able to shoot in some amazing apartments so far, though. I really didn't expect it to become real estate porn, but I don't think anyone's complaining.
Another thing is making sure our script is malleable enough to adapt to the actors and direction. We shoot the sex part before the scripted part, so the actors won't get too bored. And even though in our scripts Mike and I try to go beyond just clichéd "fuck me harders" during the sex parts, when it comes down to it, we want our actors to have hot sex, not worry about delivering their lines. And we want our director, Chris Ward, to be free to match his sexual vision to our scripted intentions. He's one of the biggest names in porn — no one tells Chris Ward how to film a sex scene. He's incredible.
SFBG Any hot scenarios you can share from the upcoming season?
JS A pair of Mormon missionaries don't quite know what they're getting into when they knock on the door of a certain fetishy Alamo Square leather daddy. That one ought to be fun.