An accomplished photographer and entrepenuer, Joone took the adult world by storm with his release of the blockbuster Pirates. The founder and owner of Digital Playground, Joone does not crank out movies like Detroit send cars off an assembly line. Joone rather takes his time with his films and hopes to make an impact before trying to win awards. Continuing February as Director's month at XRentDVD, Joone talks to Big D about the impact the movie Pirates had, the future of Hi-Def porn and encourages mainstream filmmakers to give porn a try.
Big D: First things first, congratulations on the success of Pirates. Did you know when you started working on that project it would have as much impact as it has? Joone: I thought it would be a fairly solid project because of the cast and I knew we had a really good script. I never imagined it would get to the level it got to be so quickly.
Big D: Seriously, it was the first time in a number of years that an adult film was shown in a real theater on the silver screen and it took home a boat load of awards. That's pretty huge.
Joone: The decision to put it up on the big screen came probably when we were in the sound design stage. It was toward the end of postproduction. When you go in to start shooting a movie, you don't know what you are going to get. To me making a movie is just a series of compromises because what you want and what you get are always two different things. Once we got to that stage and we saw that we had a movie that was about 90 minutes of story with no sex. With sex we were about two hours and ten minutes long. We thought that we might be able to screen this and people would actually sit through this and enjoy it. That is when we made our decision to do it. Big D: Did it even surprise you that the movie was going to be that critically acclaimed and actually ended up winning as many awards as Pirates did?
Joone: I personally never think about award shows or think about anything like that. I just want to make movies. If people like it then that is a bonus to me. My first goal is to make a really good movie that the audience will love. If the critics love it and people want to give it awards, then that is just icing on the cake. My first and foremost is to make it for the fans.
Big D: When did you know you had something special with this movie? Was there a point during shooting it that you knew it was going to blow the tops of people's heads off?
Joone: We were so focused on the shooting that I didn't even think about any of that during the shooting. I think it really became apparent to me was when we were doing some very small screenings for people before we did the big screening. Obviously the talent saw it because we wanted to do an audio commentary before the release. Also some critics saw it before hand as well. The reaction blew me away and I said, 'Wow! Really? You think it is that good?' When you are that close to a project and you see it 800 times you are too close to it to make those calls. What you see is all the flaws. It was at that time where we said, 'wow, maybe we did make something that went beyond what we thought we were going to make.' Big D: You founded Digital Playground back in 1993. How has the adult film industry changed since in just 10 to 12 years?
Joone: When I first came in the majority of the movies being made were features. Gonzo was just beginning to come out. Now, looking back, I can see the transition has gone from features to the majority of the product that is out there is gonzo. We've noticed that before we used to have a lot of amazing stars in the business. We still have some but not as many. I think part of it is because we used to promote just one girl. She was the big star on the box. Movies weren't about being extreme and shocking. It was more about the hot girls and the stars. Now it is more about the series and how you push the limits than it is about the girls. When you look at the covers you will have five or six girls on the cover and they lose their star status. Because of that, there are probably a lot of girls out there that think twice about coming into the adult business because they don't want to be just a girl. They want to be a star. That has been a big change. The other thing is the distribution has been a huge change. Before everyone used to watch adult on VHS tapes. Now it is DVD, internet, iPods, and cell phones. The distribution has become so diverse that it is awesome because you can get your material out there. The internet has enabled us to do marketing like we've never been able to do marketing. We can put a trailer up and within 24 hours have thousands of people see it. Before that was not the case. Big D: What has changed for the better and what things have changed that you wished had stayed the same?
Joone: For the better I think society's acceptance of adult and that it has gone more mainstream. I think the distribution channels have been a big help. Before you could only get videos from an adult store. If you don't feel comfortable going into an adult store you can go on the internet and go to a site like XRentDVD and buy or rent there. On the flip side, people look at adult as just being sexy and how to push the limits and how to push the girls. They have forgotten about you can actually make movies. To me adult is the last place where you can do independent film making. No one can tell you what stories to make. You have complete creative control with what you want to do. Really the sex becomes sort of like the commercial that pays for the movie. I'm not saying we don't put importance on the sex but just the fact that you can tell a story can be a little bit more. People who emphasis not on the sex but more on what happens before the sex actually make the sex that much better. It's almost like watching a car crash. If you don't have a vested interest in the characters and they die in a car crash you really don't care about them. If you feel for them and you care for them when the car crash happens you will actually feel a lot more for them. There are other producers even on the gonzo side that know that from a gonzo point of view that they will do a lot of tease with the girl before you see her have sex. That buildup makes the sex that much better. I think the craft has suffered a bit because of that. Big D: You have been and continue to be an accomplished photographer. What attracted you to the adult industry to eventually start Digital Playground and direct?
Joone: When I started it was back in 1993 and I saw this whole revolution happening with CD-ROMs back then. I wanted to do something and I didn't have a rich uncle and I said, 'how can I do something and make some money really quick'. I thought of doing interactive sex on CDs. That's how I started out. After I was in it and I started learning about the business DVDs started to come out. It occurred to me that I could make movies; the same types of movies that you would kill yourself trying to make in Hollywood. There is a business model and a distribution plan and the only thing that was missing was some creative talent to make the medium work. We've had a lot of product that is cranked out like a Xerox machine where you have girl, bed, sex. I think there is so much you can do with it. Photographers do it with a camera. You can take a picture of a girl but if you give it to someone that is really creative he can make a picture that sells magazines off the newsstand. Big D: You created and produced the Virtual Sex series. Did that come about from your experiences of starting with the CD-ROMs? How did you come up with the concept and how has it grown?
Joone: DVD allowed some interactivity. It wasn't as much as you had with CD-ROMs at the time. At the time, CD-ROM image quality wasn't as good as DVDs. It was this compromise and I thought DVD was going to become this mass consumer product. We took what we had and we took some features out that we already had in order to put it in the DVD market. I am so excited about HD. A lot of those features that we loved in the computer we can now bring back on the HD players. The HD players allow us a lot more interactivity. It's making a come back.
Big D: Digital Playground recently announced that it will be going exclusively with the Blu-Ray technology when it comes to Hi-Def DVDs. Why did you choose that format and does this process remind you of back in the 1980's when there was a war between the VHS and Beta-Max formats for video tape? Joone: I think that this next version of discs is going to be the last version for a long time. You can't really go anywhere up from HD when it comes to image quality. It's a big change from TV and all around. This is going to be the last format. As far as image quality and interactivity the two formats are very similar. The difference between the two formats is capacity. When you have HD-DVD only has 15 gigs on one layer and Blu-Ray has 25 gigs and I put two layers on there I am getting 50 gigs compared to 30 gigs. Which format is going to be more future proof that I can put a lot of content on the DVD? It was really clear that Blu-Ray was the way we should go. The fact that Sony PlayStation 3 is going to have Blu-Ray and a lot of people are going to buy that for their home helps. We wanted to make a format that was future proof.
Big D: Besides yourself, you have two other directors that shoot Digital Playground movies, Celeste and Robby D. What did you see in both of them that made you want to bring them on to the team? Joone: Their styles. Robby has an amazing style doing what he does with the gonzos and making it more than just gonzo. Celeste has this style to her that she brings out in her movies. They are very different and they are very different from what I do so we sort of don't step on each others toes. We are really there to help each other make better movies. I am always looking for very talented people that have a vision that stands out.
Joone: It's always what my camera sees. I always have to shoot a girl and see how she photographs and see what I can do with her. To me, Jesse is a little rock star. Teagan is like the girl next door. She is so sweet and you can just relate to her on that level. Each one of the girls brought something to the table. Just like our directors, they don't step on each other's toes. It really is apparent. The first time I ever shot Jesse I looked at my camera and said, 'wow, this is amazing.' The first picture I took of her was the picture we actually put in AVN to announce her and it was just her face. When I took that picture I said, 'yeah, let's go.'
Big D: What's the next big project on the horizon that we can expect from you? Joone: I am going to do my vacation movie which is Island Fever #4. It isn't really what I would call my big project but we do it because it is a very popular series and everyone loves it. I am going to that one and after that I am working my next big movie. It is not a period piece but more a modern piece. A lot of people are asking me to do Pirates 2 but I want to save that one until I do something else first.
Big D: Anything you would like to add that I may have not hit on?
Joone: I want to encourage other filmmakers that may have seen adult differently to check out Pirates. I want them to look at it as a stepping stone as far as coming into the adult business and making great movies. I want to inspire people to look at this genre as a place where they can have total creative control to do some really awesome stuff.