Robby D is best known for his innovative Jack's Playground series but he is quite versatile as a director and cinematographer. Getting his start behind the camera at extreme sports events, Robby D eventually made the transition to porn because he was a fan of adult films before he started making them. In this interview with XRentDVD's Big D, Robby talks about his heroes in the business, what trends he sees developing and who he thinks are the hottest new girls in porn.
Big D: You got the itch to do film making from capturing extreme sports like snow boarding, underground fighting and surfing. How did you make the leap from X-Games type stuff to porn?
Robby D: I was just a total fan of porn like anyone else. I was a really, really big fan of John Stagliano who does the Buttman stuff. It seems like any of your friend's porno collection at their house or underneath their bed or whatever was always a compilation. After they become fans, people just seem to watch what is readily available to them. Most stuff down at your corner liquor market are always compilations. I started thinking, 'wait a minute, this kind of sucks.' I kind of caught myself and said, 'wait a minute, I think I can do something cooler than this.' All I knew at that time was the stuff that Stagliano was doing. I just created something kind of like that with my own money. I shot it and started a business name with a phone call to a mailbox place and people who design business letterhead that I had used for regular film work for all the snowboarding and fighting stuff. I just changed the name and called them and called World Modeling. That was pretty much it. Big D: How did you make the jump from being on your own with a camera and a start up porn company to working for Vivid and eventually Digital Playground?
Robby D: I put something together that was a little gonzo type story about a guy that bought a stolen camera from a guy in an alley. I just used some of my buddies that were around and shot this little thing for like nothing. At the time I was watching this series that was out called the Venom series. It was back when those VX-1000s came out and the guy was plugging them into TV monitors and handing them to the actors and they would kind of POV while they were fucking. It was Henri Pachard was the director who is Ron Sullivan who is Jason Sullivan's dad and Jason won for best cinematography this year at the AVN awards. I was kind of watching that series and I found some numbers and started calling some numbers I had found in the back of an ancillary magazine, I think it was Amateur Hardcore, and I was calling companies to try to dump the footage. Most of the people put a big wall up in front of me and one guy I called just answered the phone and his name was Ron Sullivan. He was just really, really cool and he said to come on up and to bring my stuff with me. He asked me what I had been watching lately and I told him Venom. He started laughing and said, 'well that's the million dollar answer. I'm Henri Pachard.' It was total coincidence and I couldn't believe it. I thought he was full of shit at first. I drove right up to the valley that day and met the guy and what a character he was. To this day I still have so much respect for that guy, it is unbelievable. That family is just a legacy of pornography. He told me my stuff looks a lot like Seymore Butts. So he sends me over to Sunshine, which was literally around the corner. I drove in there and I met these people and their editor looked at it, this lady named Madison, who won for editing this year. She cut for PT (Paul Thomas) over at Vivid. I met her and she said 'we love it.' The owners gave me some money for it and some cash for another one right away which I did in about a week. I came back and hung out with Madison a couple of times. She said, 'you have too much potential and I have a friend over at Vivid named Peter Reynolds.' She called him. I made a little tape for him, met him and bam, I was with Vivid. That's the story. Through that I got Madison a job at Vivid and now she is their chief editor.
Big D: So how did you make the transition from Vivid to meeting Joone and eventually coming on as a contract director for Digital Playground?
Robby D: I was exclusive over at Vivid running all of their gonzo stuff when I was new to them. I had a whole bunch of lines over there. Then I started doing the features for them. Then I started doing the cinematography for PT and David Stanley. Then I befriended Nic Andrews from New Sensations and kind of helped him out here and there. He jumped ship and started working for Digital Playground doing the movie Stripped; Devon's first movie over here. I came along to help Nic out on set and just coincidentally met Joone and Samantha and I just kind of like fell for the whole atmosphere Digital Playground had. It was cool because Nic was a good friend of mine at that time. Joone's passion and his real belief about film making were really intriguing to me because he didn't seem to approach it like a business in my eyes. His first questions to me were, 'what did you watch last night?' We started talking about cool movies and different perspectives and things like that. The opportunity just happened and I took it. Spontaneously I just jumped ship. That was a big jump too because Vivid is amazing. I love Marcy and Steven. I love that company. I feel I contributed a lot to them and they helped me grow a lot. Without them I wouldn't have had the opportunity for Joone to notice what I could do. I could be full of shit and my product sucks but I feel I have grown even more since joining Digital Playground. It's so fun because every day I feel like I am learning something new, I have a new approach or I have a new direction. I really don't feel like I have even begun or started taking it seriously. It really has been a great experience since day one. Big D: Since a lot of your early stuff was heavy on the gonzo side, was it a huge compliment that someone like Henri Pachard
compared your stuff to John Stagliano and Seymore Butts?
Robby D: Well, Henri Pachard compared me to Seymore. I wish he would have said it was Buttman. I would have
been flattered. At the time I didn't know who Seymore was. That night after I met with Sunshine, I went over and rented
something like 11 tapes. And that guy was great. In his day when he was rocking, Seymore Butts was fucking top notch.
That stuff was so entertaining that I couldn't believe it. It was fantastic. At that moment to be compared to him, that was really cool. I think Seymore
and John, well, John first obviously and then Seymore, they kind of changed things and they paved the way. I think it disappeared then because you don't
see that much of the character driven stuff anymore. It's not just sex. Sex is great and the sex vignettes have been taken to a whole new level that you
would never even imagine. They are so horny now and shot so well they are really, really great. I still like the old stuff. The
John Stagliano stuff and the Seymore stuff when he was a character and you
have no idea what he is getting into next.
Robby D: It's a total change of gears. I talk about it a lot to maybe my girlfriend at night when I am stressed. It's hard. If you look at any of the top directors,
all they do is their one thing. PT does Paul Thomas and that is it. Jules Jordan
does Jules Jordan. They don't do anything else. Sometimes these guys are blowing up, and I think I blow and I do well too, there is always jealousy or
animosity or whatever you want to call it. I look at them and I say, 'none of these guys have to shift gears.' They do their one thing and people revere them
as really great directors and they are. One day I'm doing Pirates, the next day I am doing
Island Fever. Another month I am doing Jack's Playground or
Teen America or Beat the Devil or photography for the website or photography
for all the box covers. I change gears three or four times a day. I am actually grateful for that because I kind of started out not wanting to be a jack
of all trades but to be a well rounded cinematographer. This comment got me in trouble last year, so please don't print it the wrong way. I don't really
consider too much of this gonzo directing for me. For me it's more about the cinematography. It really is usually the camera guy that is bringing the
situation together in porn and not in the mainstream filmmaking. For me to be a really well rounded cinematographer kind of encompassed photographer as
well as camera guy as well as lighting as well as directing the scenario. I think it would fall under 'filmmaking' even though it is just porn. I hope that
makes sense. I just do a lot. I do shift gears a lot. Sometimes it is tricky but it is a goal of mine to be able to excel at that. I would like to be able to
leave any company and go to any company in this industry and say, 'hey I am Robby D. What do you need done?'
I would want them to know that this guy can do it. I think I did that. When I went to Vivid, they wanted this extreme gonzo
thing. So I hit that. It seems like a company gives me a demographic and I create for that demographic. Which brings me to an interesting story if you care?
I have spent six years making money for other people by hitting that target demographic which I planned on doing really, really well. You want the action
sports crowd? I hit it with Action Sports Sex. You want the college crowd? I hit it. You want the interracial crowd
I come up with Color Blind. Over here we want that college crowd some I come up with
Jack's Playground. We wanted to hit the couple's crowd so Celeste and I come
up with Celeste movies. Now, for the first time, we had a new release that came out in January called
Control. It's a new gonzo series and it is all me. I am not trying to hit any demographic. I am not trying to please
the college guys. I am not going after the couples only or going after the ladies only. It is just me and my ideas and what I felt like shooting that day.
What's neat about the Control series is there are no rules to it. There is no rhyme. There is no concept. There is
nothing I have to stick to. That means that scene five doesn't look like scene one. It has become so redundant now that the whole movie is some anal movie
where the whole movie is whatever it has become. In Control it is always different. It's kind of like; I am in control
for once. It is really neat and I am really excited about that one. Big D: You mentioned you watch other people's stuff. Some other people have that tunnel vision in that they do not want to be influenced by what other
people might be doing now. What other directors, outside of Joone and Celeste
from your company, are doing good porn these days?
Robby D: I watch stuff everyday. I totally pay attention. It's competitive and I am still to this day just as big of a porn fan as I was when I was 18.
I love porn. I love internet porn. I love the movies. I like to watch it. I like to see where people go with it. When I hear of a new director or I hear
someone new got signed to Evil Angel, I get really excited that I am going to see something really, really amazingly cool.
I look for inspiration. I think we are in an industry where everyone sits around, stomping their feet saying 'he ripped me off or he ripped me off.' I really
don't care about that stuff. I think of it as opening doors for people. John Stagliano opened doors for
Seymore. Seymore and John Stagliano essentially opened
doors for me. Last year, in my opinion, Jules opened doors for me even though the guy can't stand me.
I think you can steal from people or you can allow people to influence you and open doors. When it comes down to it, when you put the penis in the vagina,
it's pretty much the same stuff. I look at it for inspiration. I do watch porn all the time. I love keeping my ear to the ground to see who is new and up
and coming. I still think Jules Jordan has and always has had his hand on the pulse on what the consumer
wants. I have no idea if that is his M.O. or that's his passion. I do know that he is good at knowing what they want. It is great product to watch and I enjoy
watching it. I think Jonni Darkko has some interesting concepts coming up. The way he applies sort of a
still photography background to his project I find entertaining. He misses what he missed with the camera a little bit. He really bumps up the gain and really
slows down the shutter on these small little cameras. He is making an effort to appear different and artistic and I like that. I think it is kind of cool.
Andrew Blake has always stood out. I am surprised that not a lot of people have stepped up to the plate to
challenge him yet like everyone seems to do. Blake, you have to give the guy respect because he is still shooting on 16 mm. No one else is. He is still
spending that money. He is really trying to hang on to this concept and these ideas he has had but the industry has changed on him. Now all those girls that
you used to only see in Andrew Blake's movies, they are all on Anabolic's
box covers too now. The industry has become oversaturated. Pretty much Jules Jordan,
Jonni Darkko and Andrew Blake are pretty much it.
I spend a lot of time on the internet but those are the only guys I think are putting anything really quality out.
Big D: You mentioned that the industry has become oversaturated now, especially when it comes to female talent. It seems like the trend is a girl will
come into the business and do a ton of gonzo because that is where the money is and it is fast. They show up on a boat load of box covers and then they
get snatched up to a contract. Just this past year, Teagan went to Digital Playground,
Keri Sable to Wicked and Lanny Barbie to
Vivid. Last year at this time you couldn't look at a gonzo cover and not see one of those girls on the front.
Do you feel pressure to try to shoot the young, fresh talent a lot before they become unavailable because some company comes in and takes them off the
market to you?
Robby D: The way it is now and the way the industry is acting now with the over saturation, anytime you shoot a semi-cute girl you are afraid the next day she
is going to be gone. People are snatching up contract girls like they are Pez candy. The industry doesn't have a lot of super, smoking hot chicks right now
because we got into a big anal thing for a while. I think a lot of the really hot girls are just running their own websites now. They don't want to jump in
and do five guy gang bangs. I think there is a real hardcore outlook right now and there doesn't need to be. I think it is going to change this year though.
Being a cinematographer you find little tricks, camera tricks and things people use, and during a year you are thinking, 'let's not use those roll outs anymore
or they are dated or that's so 1980's.' I think there are some things that are going to change this year. I think a lot of camera movement will fade out this
year. That whole, gonzo, pan around the body a million times during a scene, moving in and out will fade away this year. I think adding the anal might fade out
just a little bit because there are a lot of great looking girls to shoot that don't do anal. I think the consumer's a little over it by now because that seems
like that is all we have been focusing on for the last couple of years. It's tough right now when it comes to shooting girls. I think
Holly Morgan is really, really cute and new and fresh and very attractive.
Kelsey Michaels is really, really hot. I've shot her a few times. I just shot Holly
for her first boy/girl the other day with a real male performer guy. I am going to try to shoot a few more before she gets got. There is not a lot right
now but they are cute. There is a girl, Valentina Vaughn, that we have been shooting this week who is fantastic looking.
She doesn't do any guys yet but she is amazing looking. Those are really about it that I can think of at the moment.
Big D: You've used a number of the Digital Playground contract girls in your movies. Do you feel obligated that you should
shoot them and include them or is it part of their contract that they have to appear in a number of Robby D
movies? Robby D: If I could have them for every episode I would. Who doesn't want Teagan in every episode?
Jules Jordan and Joey Silvera used to put her in a
lot of things like back to back releases until we got a hold of her. Originally Teagan was going to be a reoccurring
actor in Jack's Playground like every month. She would have been in another sex scene each time but she ran into her
situation and did what she wanted to do with her career. I shoot them (DP contract girls) as often as I can get them. I wish DP would give them to me more
often. They are always great to work with. There is nothing like working with your own contract girls. I love Jana Cova.
I've known her for about six years. Sophia Santi and I are becoming really, really good friends. She is just amazing to
be around. Teagan was fun. They are all fun to be with. I love having them in the gonzos. I think nowadays, gonzo
compiles about 90 percent of the market. I don't think people need to look at gonzo anymore like 'it is just gonzo' and blow it off. Gonzo is paying
everyone's bills now. Gonzo is where it is at right now. I use that term loosely really. To me when a company has a good gonzo product like
Jack's Playground or Teen America or whatever and they hire a
contract girl, they should definitely intend on smothering her in that gonzo product. That's the stuff that gets out to the consumer. If you start
putting up a wall full of product with your contract girl on a lot of the different boxes, it sure beats the hell out of a feature here and there.
There are different theories. Some companies want to do a few releases with the contract girl to make the sales better. How can you ever get sick of
seeing Teagan? That's a stupid question. You could put her in every movie you want and no one is going to say,
'hey, I am kind of tired of seeing Teagan.' It's like Nautica Thorn.
You ever get tired of that girl? Without a chance. Or Jenaveve Jolie? No way man. I love having the contract
girls in the projects. I wish I could get them more often. We try to do it differently here I guess.
Big D: Seems like Digital Playground is not your typical specialized porn company that only puts out a certain type of
product. Is it helpful or a challenge to be with a company that is so diverse in its products?
Robby D: I've done so much gonzo stuff while I was at Vivid. With Action Sports Sex
it was a character thing. Color Blind was semi-character. I think Colorblind started before
Bangbus. I am not really sure. I think I have always been character driven and
Joone here is really, really, really character driven. He's even way more character driven than I am. I think
somewhere he and I fell into it. We wanted to represent a company that was the one stop shop for what you needed. A true filmmakers company. I didn't
want to be just good at gonzo. I don't want to be just good at features. I wanted to be able to encompass everything but to do it the best. Not just be
a jack of all trades that can get it done. I want to be really well respected for everything I do. I think Digital Playground
is respected for everything we do. We definitely have amazing features. We definitely have the Andrew Blake stuff
covered with the Celeste projects. We definitely have the gonzo stuff covered with the
Jack's Playground and then we go even more hardcore with the Teen America.
Now we are going really, really raincoat with the Control series. We also have the
Island Fevers too. I think a distributor can go to Digital Playground
and pick up something he needs for every demographic that he can think of. Evil Angel does gonzos.
Zero Tolerance does gonzos. Red Light does gonzos. And that's it. You don't go to
Red Light looking for a feature. Maybe they do now. I really don't know anything about
James Avalon. You don't go to Evil Angel looking for their latest feature.
I think DP tried to make that a target and to be that one stop shop. Luckily I have been a part of that. I am really happy to be able to do features and
gonzos and all that stuff.
Big D: How did you come to create the Jack's Playground series and thus the
Teen America line? Those two series are considered gonzo but is much different than the typical five or six
scenes that include five positions changes and each one ends with a facial.
Robby D: I still really like the gonzo. I like the guerilla style of it. I like to be on set but I don't like to be there on set with a bunch of crew
watching me. I like to run around doing guerilla stuff putting it together at the end of a month and you have a project done. One night I was watching
a music video on MTV and I can't even remember the band's name. For some reason, the way they were sliding images in and out, kind of like the first few
Jack's Playground's did, I was impacted by the idea. I came up to Joone
and said, 'look, let's do this, blah, blah, blah.' I wanted go with a music video style and then he suggested, 'why don't we do the whole music video
director guy type of thing?' I said, 'yeah like a Buttman. A wannabe director type thing.' It just became this
big collaboration from that day and it's the coolest thing in the world. Jack's Playground became a collaboration
between Joone and I and all the editors and their two cents. Teen America
spun off of Jack's Playground and the character just grew. The only thing that stayed continuous between
Jack's Playground, Teen America and
My First Porn was Jack and his goal stayed the same. Everyone else
becomes their own little character. It's kind of like Saturday Night Live where the same people are different characters all the time. It's just the
way you've got to do it. The only common denominator is that Jack stays Jack. It just grew. We collaborate on
everything here and I have the best production team to work with. I say that in truth. Every year after the AVN show I get job offers from everybody
else. I turn down some really, really amazing people a lot from companies that I have always wanted to work for. In the end I have to turn them down
because I am really, really happy here. I know I will never find a situation where we collaborate together as well as we do here. The two editors here
are my best friends. It's a collaborative effort and that's how we come up with all of our projects. Big D: Do you find it hard to cast people in Jack's Playground? You guys make fun of anyone and no one is safe.
I did a review of Jack's Playground #25 and you guys were getting on
Tommy Gunn for not producing a pop shot sooner or saying Melanie Jagger
is turned on by all-you-can-eat buffets because she is a bigger gal. Do people get tired of being the butt of all your jokes?
Robby D: We make fun of ourselves equally if not more than we do the other people. We make fun of myself, make fun of the editors. We dog on ourselves all
day long. If you don't keep a sense of humor in this business you better get out. So far I haven't run into that problem at all. Actually I have people
left and right that want to be in Jack's Playground. Most people don't ask to be in
Teen America or My First Porn because of the comedy of Jack's. It actually
works the other way around. I have people always wanting to be in Jack's Playground. Most people come in and look at
the 'dailies' if that is what you want to call it, and they will die laughing. We make fun of Scott Nails and
Eric Masterson. Those guys are sitting here and will be crying at what we did to them. I'll call them up laughing and
say to them, 'I got you this time buddy.' They will start dying and say, 'No! What did you do to me this time?' It's been really great. I do tend to use the
guys that I know. I am not going to hire a guy that's got the reputation for blowing up on directors and starting fist fights on set. They might not want to
deal with some of the humor. Pretty much all the girls in the industry are all really, really cool and open minded to do just about anything, obviously.
It's like, 'hey you want to come over and be in a comedy or do you want to do a five guy anal gang bang? Which one do you want?' Everyone is always on board
to do it. I don't think we make fun of anyone hurtfully because we make fun of ourselves. I think if we weren't making fun of ourselves someone would be able
to say something. It's all just comedy and it is all in fun.
Big D: You mentioned you are pretty fired up about Control coming out. What other projects are on the horizon for
Robby D: We are going to continue with the Celeste movies. Pretty much production as normal. Winning for
Pirates and kicking a lot of ass this year was great again. I think we did a lot of damage with the gonzo stuff and
I think I got something like nine awards total throughout the year at different shows. It was really cool to be recognized for
Jack's Playground like that. It's definitely innovative and really cool. It is definitely not a raincoater's sort
of movie. Since the industry is so oversaturated with the girl walks in and gets fucked by three guys it is really cool to see people responding to it.
But, I still like that other stuff too and I watch the stuff where she is fucked by three guys. I think what I like about porn the most is that there is
so much of it and I have so many different choices. I think Digital Playground encompasses that aspect for me. We are just
going to continue going in all sorts of different avenues and I hope I get to be a part of those directions. Control
is coming out which is the biggest thing I have been psyched about in six years. My First Porn is still going. We
are probably going to try to do a few more big movies along with Island Fever continuing. Hopefully we will stay in
the public's eye in a positive manner and see if we can't influence the industry to do a better job.
Big D: Speaking of influencing the industry, where do you see it going? It seems like the consumer has only about three choices. There is gonzo dominating
90 percent of the porn landscape, regular features and then the super feature like Pirates or
The New Devil in Miss Jones. Will it expand or more of the same in 2006?
Robby D: I think the gonzo will cross over into the regular feature category. Jack's Playground is kind of a feature in
a sense. I think people might put more into their gonzo. They'll probably make it a better production, more interesting with more details. I think you will
see more of the bigger features because of Pirates. I don't think anything is going to change. Human tastes have just
evolved and we love gonzo. I think people will start demanding just a little more out of that gonzo. When your company is putting out 16 directors and 30
titles a month of gonzo, that's ridiculous. You are going to tell me they don't all start to look the same? I'm on set. I work with people. I do one scene a
day when I work. I don't shoot five or six scenes a day. I don't think you can make anything that interesting when you are doing five or six scenes a day.
I think people will change a little because I think the market is going to change. We are going to realize, 'wow, we need to add a little to this and make
it better or it is not going to sell.' To me, Fashionistas was this amazing, break through project.
Pirates now was this amazing break through project. I hope that encourages people to do more of those amazing,
break through projects but still keep all their gonzos going. Just step it up basically.