PVV – Porn School 101: porn star, contract girl, freelance talent!

It was announced recently that dirty cutie porn star Bree Olson and leading production house Adam & Eve Pictures have broken up after a hot and heavy three-year relationship.

Sigh… now I have long been a fan of Bree’s Midwestern sunshine (literally – she’s from Indiana) and I love Adam & Eve for their films, their inclusivity, their work in health promotion, and their deep deep roots in social justice (among many other things), so this break up is a little disconcerting – kind of like when that perfect couple you love hanging out with parts ways, and you’re left wondering… why?

I hear that the want to split was mutual and amiable, and that Bree has loads of work lined up with an array of “edgier” companies… so yay – I loved this little missy in Adam & Eve blockbusters, and I’m looking forward to seeing her freelance work in harder hardcore.

Bree’s transition from Adam & Eve contract girl to free agent got me thinking about some questions I’ve been getting lately about the talents’ occupational statuses – What’s a contract girl?  What’s constitutes a “porn star”?  Freelance talent, huh?!  So for those of you who have been asking for a little vocabulary lesson, prepare to be edified! 

Talent (& Performer) 

Talent are the sex performers in adult films and scenes (“performer” is also used).  The referent describes women, men, and trans performers; and no, I don’t this the term is problematic or pejorative – “talent” is used in mainstream film, music, modeling, and even in the voice-over industry.

Put simply, pretty much anyone you see fucking in an adult production is an adult performer or talent, including Ms. Bree Olson.  I would say that the major exception here is people who have been featured in sex tapes, celebrity or otherwise.  So for example – although Paris Hilton may be a coked-out trainwreck, she’s not talent in this sense.

Contract Girl

In some instances, a production company will sign a girl (or “woman talent” if you want to be pc about it) to an exclusive performance contract.  So for example, up until very recently, Bree Olson was an Adam & Eve contract girl.

Contract girls are paid via salary installments for their performance in a predetermined number of scenes/movies and public appearances at mainstream and industry events over a set length of time, often with the possibility of renewal. Just like modeling agencies specialize in particular sorts of talent and baseball teams need different players for different positions, production companies often contract girls who are coincident with some dimension of their profile and/or who fill some space in their overall repertoire.

Contract girls may occasionally work outside their respective studio with “permission” from their employer, although permission for hardcore work is rarely granted.  This arrangement allows a production studio to limit the public’s access to particular talent, which presumably sustains and possibly augments both contract talents’ and the company’s market demand.  For this reason, many of the bigger and more established studios/companies have adopted some form of this employment model (although there are some indicators that this may be changing).

Generally, girls are moderately established performers with good reputations and an established fan base when they get signed.  Such was Bree’s case.  Sometimes, something about a very new girl may be regarded as so unique, so hott, and have such a buzz going that the girl in question gets snatched up almost immediately… even if she has very little (if any) preexisting work.  Wicked Pictures’ Lupe Fuentes is an example of this very rare trajectory.

It is also rare to see exclusive contracts for men talent in straight companies (because “contract boy” sounds super silly, you know… jk!), although it has happened now and again.  Companies do contract directors though, but that’s another class of employee and is, thus, for another time.

(pictured: an example of an approved outside job completed while under contract)

Freelance Talent

Whereas as contract talent are kind of like salaried employees, freelance talent literally are contract-by-contract employees.  They work as independent contractors on a scene-by-scene basis for various production companies.  Freelance talent generally have representation from one of several established “modeling agencies” specializing in adult talent management.  Bree Olson, for example, is represented by Foxxx Modeling.

Standard rates for women talent to perform in a girl-girl scene are $600-$800 and $1000 for a boy-girl. Rates for women talent vary as sex depictions vary, generally on the basis of four specific factors: 1) popularity: if the specific woman talent has a significant fan base and her films sell well on the basis of her presence, she can command a higher rate; 2) aesthetic: a woman talent’s perceived “hotness” and perceived appropriateness for a particular role will also allow her to command a higher rate; 3) film genre: talent will be paid more for performance in a currently popular genre; and 4) time and complexity: the more time and acting skill that is required for a scene (ie dialogue), the greater the rate.

These patterns don’t hold forever though – the rates women talent can command will generally decrease over time as their images saturate the market.  Oh, and men talent… Established men talent with good reputations generally make $600-$800 per scene, with far less rate variability and negotiating power.  The end.

Porn Star

And what constitutes a “porn star”?  Well, that totally depends…

This term is tossed around a lot by the mainstream press, generally as a referent to anyone who works as adult film talent.  I have some issue with this conceptualization though, mainly because of the multiplicative nature of what constitutes “stardom” in the world of porn.

(pictured: Bree with two of the funniest dudes ever, Dave Attell and Daniel Tosh)


Working as talent a few times doesn’t make a person a porn star.  Darcy Tyler, who is also represented by Foxxx Modeling alongside Bree Olson (a quintessential porn star bebedoll), has worked in a few scenes… but I’m not sure I would call her a porn star.  I mean, who even knows who she is? (sorry honey!)  The aforementioned Lupe Fuentes, however, has also been in virtually nothing and is currently considered one of the hottest stars in the industry.

Working as talent for years and having an established reputation may make you a porn star.  For example, I would call Courtney Cummz and Tory Lane porn stars.  Both women are well-respected and have established, active careers… but outside of the industry and their respective fan bases, does anyone know who these ladies are?

I would also call Katie Morgan a porn star, even though she hasn’t worked in over a year (to my knowledge) and so would most people with even a slight knowledge of mainstream popular culture.  She was “Stacey” in Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008), working alongside another porn star who hasn’t worked as talent in a really long time – Traci Lords (who played a porn star named “Bubbles” in that film, such is the circular irony of life).

I guess the point here is that the assessment and attribution of “porn star” involves many dimensions – it’s way more complicated than just working as talent and is somewhat arbitrary.  Kind of like irony, circular or otherwise, a porn star is difficult to define… but you know it when you see it.

Just for fun, check out Bree in this Flo-Rida/T. Pain video below… awww!

 

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PVVOnline – Critical Commentary on Adult Production