8 Things I learned as a runner on a porn set 5 years ago

8 Things I learned as a runner on a porn set

In the summer of 2013, after graduating from film school, I spent a year living in Hollywood and trying to 'make it' in the movie business.

After weeks of handing out CVs to no avail, the situation was starting to look pretty bleak.

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Luckily, I met another British film school kid staying in a hostel who told me he knew of some decent work that was going to virtually anyone enthusiastic enough with experience.

I can't tell you the name of the adult entertainment company he introduced me to (we'd probably get sued) but it's safe to say you might have heard of them.

In total I worked on three big porn shoots in LA as a runner, the lowest rung on the filmmaking ladder. It largely involved doing the jobs everyone else didn't want to.

Here's what I learned in my short time behind the scenes...

(Via: Carsten Reisinger / Shutterstock)

(Via: Carsten Reisinger / Shutterstock)

​Porn is really hard work

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I can't speak for the pornstars themselves, but everyone else working on a porn set is drained by the end of the day. Every laborious task you find on a normal film set is there – carrying cables, rigging, lifting lights – but everything takes ten times longer because everyone is standing around waiting for the male talent to get an erection. Just like every other 'cool' job, the pay is sh*te and the hours very long.

Everybody except the director is an intern​

I don't know if this is more about keeping costs down or being able to sack employees willy-nilly (pun intended), but much like working in traditional media all the minor staff members appear to be under the age of 25 and desperately vying for a full-time position.

The director takes a big cut. The best make-up artists and camera people are freelancers. Everyone else seems to be disposable and is super scared of losing their job.

(via Getty / TommL)

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Pornstars are reassuringly normal​

When I talk to my mates about having worked in porn I am usually met with one of two responses: 'Phwoar!', or serious sounding questions about exploitation and drug abuse. In reality, it was pretty normal and not-at-all dissimilar from working on any other film set.

The actors were all humble and friendly, some of them even struck up polite conversation between takes. Then again, I worked for a very big, very famous, production company which most likely isn't representative of porn's seedier side. We even had sandwiches...

It’s surprising how much food people eat

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Filming a single scene can take days. Especially if it's long or if it involves exterior shots and cut-aways. Judging by how little the staff get paid (and the fact most films are shot in borrowed houses) I assume a big chunk of the budget is spent on catering.

My most memorable experience of all time involves watching a professionally choreographed 'money-shot' while eating a cucumber sandwich.

(via Getty Images / Lauri Patterson)

You can’t help but feel seedy and guilty afterwards

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Due to stringent regulations and fear of being fired, crew banter on a porn set is severely limited. The combination of long eerie silences and a lack of humour leaves you with a sour taste in your mouth once shooting ends.

Even if you know the people having sex were being paid a hundred times more than you, the awkwardness of having lurked in the background fully-clothed can't be avoided.

You quickly become desensitised to sex

The giant 4K lamp used to light the face of the actress is too heavy to fit on the rig. You're going to have to stand next to her while the camera is rolling and reflect it at her face.

After fifteen minutes your hands are hot and sweaty and it's starting to feel like a workout. At that point, the last thing you care about is the fact that two consenting adults are rutting like stags two feet away from you.

Truthfully, I didn't masturbate for a week after each shoot. Porn felt like the last thing I wanted to look at.

It’s both grimy and glamorous

There was an undeniable aura of excitement around working in porn. At least for the first shoot I worked on.

Sure, there were moments which seem forced and superficial, highlighting how shallow porn really is. Other than that though, it's just long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror whenever a producer orders you to run to the fridge and get him a Coke.

Nobody will remember your name

This is probably a good thing in the long run but in the heat of the midday sun, while clapper-boarding a scene where two 'lesbians' take turns stripteasing for sixty-year-old man in a hot tub, you start to seriously question your life choices.

When the director says "Hey you! Dude! Grab that! No, buddy, not that, yeah that! Move it out of shot, pal! Quick!" you feel like a bit of an eighteenth wheel. Ultimately though, I wrapped the last porn shoot with a warped sense of pride and a big appreciation for the work ethic of the people who make it.

I also wanted to go home and take a shower.