Q&A: Director Greg Lansky Discusses Blacked.com, Career
LOS ANGELES — Director Greg Lansky would be the first to admit he was “fucking clueless” about how to break into the porn business a decade ago.
Fascinated by porn from an early age in his native Paris, Lansky decided to take matters into his own hands and called his high-school buddy Mike Adriano with an idea.
“The way we got into porn is almost worthy of a movie,” Lansky says with a laugh.
The ballsy duo concluded that shooting their own porn video was the way to go, so they did just that with a little good fortune and a lot of improvisation in Spain, where Adriano was working in the real estate biz.
“We had no clue what we were doing,” Lansky recalls. “I don’t even know how we pulled a movie together. We just started shooting at locations he had access to and no one knew we were sneaking shoots.”
A few months later in October 2005, the pair went to the Venus Show in Berlin where Lansky managed to sell the movie they made on the first day for a modest one-grand profit. But the pivotal moment was an introduction to New Sensations owner Scott Taylor through their mutual friend Steve Holmes, the veteran performer.
Determined and hungry, Lansky and Adriano hounded Taylor that day, returning to his booth several times to express their interest in getting a shot with his company.
“He was almost fed up with us coming back so many times but I think he saw how motivated we were, so finally he said, ‘OK, you know what, if you make it to L.A. someday I’ll let you do a movie.’
“Well he’s a man of his word.”
Later that year Lansky and Adriano moved to L.A. and co-directed what would become the 2006 release “Slut Diaries” for Taylor’s Digital Sin brand. It led to dozens more chances to shoot for New Sensations/Digital Sin and laid the foundation for both Lansky and Adriano’s careers.
Now more than 170 movies and hundreds of web-based scenes later, the 32-year-old Lansky is perhaps best known as the creative force behind Blacked.com, the interracial heavyweight that captured the 2015 XBIZ Awards for Adult Site of the Year – Niche and Interracial Release of the Year for “Dani Daniels Deeper” in January.
Adriano meanwhile has established himself as both a reliable performer and director with his distribution deal with Evil Angel.
“He is very successful in his own way and we still talk almost every week about everything,” Lansky says. “When we look back on it, we were 14 hours on a plane away from L.A. It was a long shot that either of us would’ve made it, but we both did.”
In this exclusive interview, Lansky discusses his path through the industry, his vision for Blacked.com and his next big project, Tushy.com.
XBIZ: Where were you born and raised?
GL: I was born and raised in Paris, France.
XBIZ: What were you doing for a living before adult entertainment?
GL: I started in the adult entertainment industry at 24 and before that I worked as an assistant producer for a European production company that produced some of the most successful TV shows in Europe. I think it’s where I really learned how to use my creativity and read the market. Launching an adult pay-site is a very similar experience to launching a TV show. They both need to appeal to a large audience and they both need to keep that audience entertained and happy through episodes or updates.
XBIZ: What was the name of the European production company you worked for?
GL: Cellcast. … They have offices all over Europe and a lot of reality shows.
XBIZ: How long did you work there?
GL: About a year and a half. I worked in the nightlife business before that. I met a lot of people from the TV business in the nightlife business. After a while, almost two years, I just didn’t feel like this was really my calling.
XBIZ: Did you attend a university?
GL: No, I have zero degrees whatsoever. The only education I have is my experience.
XBIZ: How and when did you break into adult entertainment?
GL: I had always been fascinated by the adult industry and in 2005 I decided to make a move. I called up my friend Mike Adriano who I went to high school with because he and I would always talk about how we wanted to get into the adult industry when we were young. He was living in Spain and working in real estate but like myself he was ready to move on. We came up with the crazy idea to produce our own movie and then hopefully sell it but we definitely did not have a clue what to do.
I had some production experience and that helped but we were pretty lost. It was quite funny, just not at the time. We flew some girls into Spain and hoped to shoot in some of the houses Mike had access to without any permission, but hey we were ready to take risks. Thankfully, we also flew in Steve Holmes who became one of our closest friends.
In between a few too many shots of tequila and some very light work Steve was kind enough to give us a crash course on porn production. It helped. A lot. A few months later we headed to the Berlin Venus show where I was able to sell our movie the first day.
The profit was terrible but the experience was invaluable. The next day I met Scott Taylor from New Sensations. We came up to his booth to see if we could maybe direct movies for him. Scott wasn’t too sure about it but he did ask us to come back later. Since he didn’t give us a firm ‘no,’ we came back five times that day and the last one he just smiled and said, ‘If you ever make it to Los Angeles I’ll give you one movie to try.’ A month later we were in L.A and the rest is history. Scott was the first one to believe in what I could bring to this industry and I’ll always be grateful for this.
XBIZ: What was that movie you shot for Scott?
GL: That first movie was called ‘Slut Diaries.’ He came up with the title. It’s just kind of a funny experience looking back on it now. Scott was happy enough with it that he gave me another opportunity to do another one. And I did another one but I couldn’t tell you the name of the No. 2. It’s kind of like a blur after that.
XBIZ: Did you work with Mike Adriano on those first movies?
GL: Yes it was collaborative between Mike Adriano and I. We moved to L.A. together. Because we were so new at this working together on movies made sense. I don’t think we could’ve done it on our own. I think he performed in every scene in the first one and we took co-credit on directing. It was a great adventure to start that way.
XBIZ: How would you describe your shooting style?
GL: Ambitious creativity and a borderline unhealthy level of perfectionism and attention to details. I think everything matters. I like to showcase natural beauty; beauty is really what drives me.
XBIZ: How has your style changed or evolved over the years, if at all?
GL: I think I have evolved as a human being over the years and it has by default greatly improved and changed my work. I stopped trying to please everyone or appeal to a ‘market.’ I do it for me, and if it connects with a group of people, great. If not, then I know I need to make better art. Adult pay-sites are difficult to make, risky and frightening to start. I admit that a few years ago I almost let reviews and comments destroy my work. I was so worried about unanimous feedback, about pleasing everyone that it paralyzed me.
A few years ago, I led the creative direction on a new site that was very successful. I had put my heart to it and it was important to me. The site got a great amount of positive feedback from the users who paid for a membership and the people I cared about loved it.
Still I was reading every single review and comments written about my work until I realized what I was doing. I would read 30 comments and 29 would be very positive, sometimes really incredible and one would be negative... like a brutal attack that was harsh on my work and what I was trying to achieve. And for the next few days all I would think about is that one bad comment from that ‘anonymous’ user. I wouldn't create anything during that time just look for more validation on Twitter and forums. It's a terrible, vicious circle because of course when you look for more validation you also find more negative comments about you and your work. I was only focusing on the negative and that was serving no useful purpose. It definitely wasn't making my work better. It destroyed any creativity I had.
Today I don't read most comments or reviews, only the ones I choose to by people I respect and know. It's not that I'm a coward I just want to be able to keep creating and keep doing it for an audience of my choosing.
Directing and creating sites is a lonely business, and after a movie, a scene or a website is released, many directors look for validation. We check the best-seller ranks, the Alexa rank, the adult reviews and ADT reviews. We read the comments in the member’s area and see if anyone has said something about our work on Twitter. There’s absolutely no economic logic here, because there’s no connection at all between these bits of feedback and the money you may or may not make. It’s all about ego. I learned that once you can separate that and focus on what you truly believe in, that's when you win and connect with people.
After you created a site or a movie it's done. What the audience does with it is out of your control.
XBIZ: Who are your professional influences?
GL: I love the photography of Mario Testino, Helmut Newton and on a business and leadership level, Benjamin Franklin, Charlie Munger and Richard Branson.
XBIZ: When did you begin working with Reality Kings and what did you do?
GL: I started working with Reality Kings in 2006 and stopped last year to concentrate on my own sites, Blacked.com and Tushy.com. It was an incredible adventure.
The guys behind that company — Mike, Bob and Ernesto — are visionaries and they revolutionized the adult industry and even pop culture. They wanted to do things differently than everyone else and they gave me a chance to express my creativity. Working with them was the most rewarding experience I ever had. I directed and produced for most of the sites and it was really rewarding having complete creative freedom. I started just producing content for them and within a year I fully got on board and participated in the creative process of launching sites and making them successful. No one ever had titles; it was like a mastermind group where we would all collectively participate.
XBIZ: What inspired the creation of Blacked.com?
GL: I created Blacked because I had a vision for a high-end, interracial pay-site. Most ‘experts’ told me it was a bad idea but I learned to follow my instinct and now it’s one of the top adult sites on the web. We definitely took some risks and we did not copy anyone.
If you merely copy what has been done before or if you offer the same style of content as this ‘other site’ that you heard does well, then nothing remarkable has happened. Of course you don't need to come up with something beyond outrageous or stupid just to be different but the art is to push it far enough that it's original but not too far that it's just not sellable. In other words, understanding where the line between ridiculous and boring is...
I prefer to risk being wrong than being boring.
XBIZ: Who else is involved with Blacked.com?
GL: Besides me, Steve Matthyssen. He is a wonderful entrepreneur. He’s the guy who created PornTube.com, an amazing platform. He’s a pioneer in content partner programs, which allow a content owner to monetize their content on tube sites. He and I have been good friends and he has an amazing tech team based out of Barcelona.
And Mike Moz is really my right-hand guy. He is amazing at what he does. The best way to describe what he does is he is more of an associate producer who helps me run the production.
Steve and I work collaboratively. I lead the creative direction and marketing and he leads the operations and the affiliates and the tech side of the business. He’s such an amazing mind to consult on everything. He and I are polar opposites really, so it’s very rewarding to have partners like that.
XBIZ: What was your vision for Blacked.com?
GL: My vision was to create the best quality available in that niche and beyond. The format has evolved since but not the focus. For me quality is everything. I am not interested in beating my competitors on costs. In every niche there’s a great market for customers who do see the difference between a cheap product and a top quality one. We’ve proved it with Blacked.com and we’ll prove it again in the future.
XBIZ: How do you cast for Blacked.com?
GL: Natural beauty is definitely my main focus. I also look for women and men that can represent the upscale feel of the brand.
XBIZ: What is the vision for your new website coming soon?
GL: My team and I are launching in a few weeks Tushy.com. It will be an anal site and just like Blacked this website will be focused on quality. I grew up watching high-quality adult movies from Marc Dorcel with huge budgets and incredible production values. These movies were not ‘soft’ and not outrageously hard. They were right in that sweet spot. That’s what I like. I want to bring the best quality on the market with the right balance. We will be bringing our own flavor to this niche and next level quality on production values and customer experience. We will also feature a lot of exclusive first anal scenes.
XBIZ: Is Tushy.com only anal scenes?
GL: If you have to put it in a category, it’s an anal site. It’s not only going to be anal sex but it’s primarily a niche website.
XBIZ: What’s an example of a ‘first’ you have planned for Tushy.com?
GL: Coming up in the first week or so of the site is Abby Cross’s first anal. We have an amazing scene with Abby and James Deen. She came to me to do her first anal scene. We have a great working relationship; she really likes my work and I like hers too. She’s a wonderful Texas girl who looks better than ever.
XBIZ: How often will Tushy.com post updates?
GL: To start we will update it every week. For Blacked we do an update every five days and I don’t think there’s a lot of websites that update as frequently. Tushy.com will be every seven days.
XBIZ: Will this content also be available on DVD?
GL: We definitely are going to be on the DVD market and we’re definitely going to tailor to that market and not just comping scenes and dumping them. We’ll tailor to that market in the best way we can. … We’ll probably release one DVD a month to start through our distributor Jules Jordan Video.
XBIZ: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about directing adult movies and launching adult sites?
GL: There's no bad concept to pick just bad execution. I learned over the years that it's beyond useless to spend time trying to imagine how you can create content that will be aligned with what users will want in the future.
No one knows the future… Always work on project that inspires you. I've personally turned down very lucrative contracts because the projects didn't inspire me. Because I knew no matter how hard I work I wouldn't be able to create something good if I wasn't inspired. I also learned to have empathy for our members and customers and care deeply about how my work will affect them but… I do what inspires me regardless. I don’t do anything in anticipation of the reviews or praise of others.
XBIZ: What’s the best part of your job?
GL: I think being able to inspire my artistic and business side every day is amazing.
XBIZ: What’s the most challenging part?
GL: Overcoming the fear of failure, staying true to your visions and ignoring the people who don’t get it. The challenge is to work hard to please the right people, and just enough of them, to provide the best quality.
XBIZ: What are your hobbies?
GL: Reading, I try to read a book every week, I’m a knowledge junkie. Also, travel, boxing, and psychology.
XBIZ: What kind of books do you like to read?
GL: I love psychological books in general. For me it’s all about what you can learn from it. I’m not big on fiction or stuff like that. For me it’s just more about what can I get from the book? Every time you read something you get to become a better person.