Back Stories – JoyBear Pictures’ Justin Ribeiro dos Santos

You may recall that, pre-AEE, I reviewed two films from UK-based production house JoyBear PicturesStreet Heat and The London Sex Project (here). Both were incredibly unique and super hott; but, even after my review of their products, JoyBear was still a bit of a mystery to me.

I knew the company had been around since 2003 and that, although only two JoyBear films were available in the US, they had produced a bevy of really interesting looking content… all of which was just beyond my reach – damn you, international adult film production!!

Now don’t get me wrong. There wasn’t a total dearth of JoyBear information, and I was able to find little snatches of press here and there. It seemed that, almost universally, JoyBear Pictures’ films were described as “Girl-Friendly Porn,” with all the bells and whistles necessary to meet heterosexual women consumers’ needs.

Now I know claiming that one thing (or one series of things) can meet the needs and wants of even the smallest and most homogenous-seeming group of women is pretty outlandish, but I gotta tell ya – cultural differences, market variability, platform preference, and the fact that even the UK version of Cosmopolitan is capable of taking adult content seriously (and that totally wasn’t meant as a hater comment, Cosmo) aside, JoyBear has gotten some seriously laudatory reviews.  For example:

“It ticks all the right boxes for girl‐powered filth.” – Forum

“If as a couple you have not watched an erotic film together, this would be a perfect opportunity to dip your toe gently in.” – Scarlet Magazine, Review of JoyBear’s Private Thoughts

“He’ll love it and so will you, filthy girl.” – New Woman, Review of JoyBear’s Street Heat

‘The perfect DVD for a bloke to buy as a present for a porn‐curious partner” – Scarlet Magazine

“[JoyBear] films successfully avoid clichéd soundtracks and cringe‐worthy moments, making them a perfect introduction for anyone who has ever been put off by porn and anyone wanting to enjoy it with their partner.” – Jo Knight, Erotic Review

“And there’s not a hint of anal. How refreshing. Joybear focuses on all the things that the rest of the porn industry have forgotten: situations, glances, genuine human beings and the majority of porn studios would do well to follow their lead.” – Knave Magazine, Private Thoughts Review

Not a hint of anal?!! People get really riled up about anal… Dip your toes in gently? Porn baby steps!! I had obviously seen some JoyBear content, but the ubiquity of fully charmed responses such as these got me to wondering: what’s really so special about this company?

Well, as luck would have it, I had the honor of interviewing Justin Ribeiro dos Santos, an English man with a Brazilian father and the mastermind behind JoyBear Pictures back in January (January!!).  I got to learn a little bit about Justin and why it is that he’s making “girl porn.” I know you’re curious – read on!!

(pictured: Justin Ribeiro dos Santos)

Justin was minding his own business, fresh out of college and working in a mainstream sales position in the early 2000s, when a friend pointed him towards a Playboy-sponsored reality TV show contest. In it, contestants were given £8,000 (roughly $13,000) to make their own adult film in a kind of apprentice environment. On a semi-whim, Justin, who had studied film and photography as an undergraduate, decided to give it a go. He won, and JoyBear Pictures was born.

Listen to Justin tell the story of his transition from “civilian” to “pornographer” here:

Not one to fall victim to the contestant curse that plagues most reality show “winners,” Justin parlayed his winnings and dove headlong into adult production. His company with the friendly and non-threatening name (that’s all that’s meant by it) has been growing steadily, but slowly, ever since. Currently JoyBear consists of Justin himself, three additional full-time employees, and a collection of regular contract crew workers – a “small, but formidable” team.

Justin seems very committed to maintaining this steady-yet-slow process.  This includes consciously refraining from producing too many films too quickly.  His philosophy of “sell the films you’ve made,” rather than keeping to a production schedule that may contribute to an overabundance of product, seems to have worked well so far – JoyBear has only produced a handful of titles, but those wares are in consistently high-demand.

According to Justin, the UK market was predominately driven by DVD sales when JoyBear first came on the scene. And although much lip service has been paid to the specter of web-based platforms, online consumption has not replaced DVD sales in his experience. Consequently, JoyBear has placed less emphasis on its online presence in lieu of developing international markets and distribution.

This is great news for those US consumers who do not prefer online/VOD-type viewing. The two aforementioned JoyBear titles, Street Heat and The London Sex Project (reviews here), became available in the US only as recently as 2010 (distributed by Wicked Pictures) …and hopefully more are on the way!!

Justin talks about JoyBear’s structure and growth here:

(pictured: Justin+2 performers behind-the-scenes of his newest release, Chloe’s Column: Fuck Fame)

JoyBear films are described repeatedly as being “girl-porn,” which I take to mean women focused and friendly. But what specifically constitutes this sort of content? Well, according to Justin, it involves avoiding certain stereotypical porn cheese – big hair, bad music, shmarmy guys, amateurish acting, poor storytelling, and apparently excessive anal among other things. (fyi: there’re some anal scenes in some JoyBear content; but like everything else about this company, it’s subtle)

It also involves a certain amount of instinct.  Regarding marketing, casting, and even production decisions, I get the impression that Justin often goes with his gut, a tactic that has been resonating positively with women in the UK since he made his very first adult film. Have a listen:

Justin is not content to let JoyBear rest comfortably on its laurels though, and he is constantly looking for ways to improve his products by seeking feedback from consumers.  And he occasionally gets some surprising results!!

Case in point: he recently surveyed JoyBear customers about “bi-curious” content featuring men performers.  How did people feel about it? Specifically, how would people feel about it being included on the JoyBear site? He found that 70% of respondents were either indifferent about or in favor of seeing gay content on Surprising results? I thought so, given JoyBear’s bread-and-butter offerings… but that’s why Justin runs a successful production company, and I conduct the interviews ;)

So although JoyBear has no plans to move into gay content production (which only makes sense given their steady-yet-slow business model), they do have plans to add a discreet “Gay Curious?” button to their main navigation bar in the near future.

…and I’m left to wonder “Who woulda thought?” Who would have thought gay/bi-curious content would be a welcome addition to a very heteronormative-seeming (in the best possible way!!) site? Who would have thought the UK’s most successful producer of “girl-porn” was a man who learned by doing, a man who is constantly looking to evolve alongside the consumer?

Who would have thought a reality TV show “winner” would make good on his commitment to create something new?

JoyBear is a fascinating entity, and Justin Ribeiro dos Santos is a fascinating individual. He seems to be setting the pace for a new, pioneering sort of adult content.

Stay tuned for an in depth review of the JoyBear site and some more of this company’s absolutely luscious content, including their newest film Chloe’s Column: Fuck Fame (2011).

In the meantime, here’s a little taste of JoyBear: the trailer for Chloe’s Column, a link to their blog site (awesome teasers and images), and Justin explaining where the heck the name JoyBear came from in the first place. Such interesting stuff!!

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(images courtesy of JoyBear Pictures and Justin Ribeiro dos Santos)

From performers to post-production, office workers to executives, PVVOnline Back Stories explore the lives of people who work in all aspects of the adult industry. For more industry insiders’ Back Stories, go here.

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