Q&A: Bree Mills, Stills by Alan Elevate XXX
LOS ANGELES — Bree Mills and Stills by Alan are a cinematic cocktail, especially when it comes to the art of filming cock and tail.
A dash of Gamma, a splash of directorial Mills instincts, flamed by painterly Alan lighting and served in a Girlsway glass. Neat. Or, perhaps you prefer your martinis PrettyDirty, like their newest label? No matter the vintage of cooze booze, the aromatic erotica is sure to be intoxicating.
Heck. Pour yourself a flagon of what they’re mixing, because Mills and Alan are making a very unique brew. Have you seen how smoothly this geek chic and hawk-eyed duo crisscrosses during production? Sticking to clearly defined lanes, they strike a match at the midpoint of each X in XXX, before pulling back the bowstring to notch another. Twang, bang, thank you ma’am... and mang.
As some of the freshest purveyors of lesbian porn via the XBIZ Award-winning Girlsway, Mills and Alan are now venturing into hardcore boy/girl loving with PrettyDirty.com. And, the two Bostonians share more than a hometown in common, driven by a mutually passionate ferocity that churns out dozens of scenes every month. From pen to camera, casting to shooting, they have proven themselves adept at maneuvering the adult space in hyperdrive.
XBIZ pulled up a barstool to learn the method behind the Mills and Alan mixology madness. While the ingredients are explicit, much of their spellcraft rightly remains a riddle.
XBIZ: Tell us about the genesis of your creative partnership. What led to you becoming professionally intertwined?
BREE MILLS: When I first took over as head of production for Gamma Films, Alan had been one of the directors that our president had hired to shoot some test scenes for us. He and I had an introductory Skype call and I walked away from it knowing that he was someone very talented, someone who shared the same passion, dedication and enthusiasm for filmmaking as I did. From that first meeting, we clicked and have been working closely together ever since… from a handful of scenes to what is now a well-oiled production hub responsible for writing, directing, producing and editing almost 50 scenes per month.
STILLS BY ALAN: When I first met Bree, I was already shooting for Gamma's first original website WebYoung.com. At the time, I was working directly with the president of Gamma, Karl, and he informed me that Bree was taking over as head of production. She and I hit it off from the first Skype meeting we had. We are both from Boston so we had that in common. Plus, I could tell we were both extremely energetic and passionate about the content we were making. Since then, our partnership has blossomed and we have done some amazing work together over the years and it keeps getting better and better every year.
XBIZ: Each of you brings a diverse skillset and background to production. How do your strengths complement one another?
MILLS: I believe that it takes three key values to make a strong adult brand in 2016: compelling visuals, interesting stories and a direct relationship with fans. Alan and I take these values and plug them into everything we do — and each of our individual skills support this. For the bulk of our content, I’ll lead the overall vision and writing, whereas Alan will lead the cinematography and direction. For our features, we co-direct and I’ll focus on the what and when and he will concentrate on how to bring my ideas to life. That’s how we are able to achieve the final product we do… with an incredibly talented crew helping us every step of the way.
ALAN: Part of the reason Bree and I are such a great team is that we both have such different yet complimentary skillsets, yet we share a passion for the product we are making. As a photographer, I come from a very visual background and I have tried to preserve that polished aesthetic in our content where every frame of every scene could stand on its own as a photograph.
XBIZ: What does your collaborative dynamic as producer and director look like before a shoot, as far as brainstorming, script writing and casting talent?
MILLS: For standard shoots, we follow a pretty regimented process and schedule. I’ll kick things off with a production bible that includes the scenarios and basic needs for production that Alan and his team will flesh out in terms of booking. He and I have running lists of talent that we want to bring in and we also work very closely with our website members to get their requests. Now, as for how we plan our features, that’s a whole different process and one I’m going to keep a secret!
ALAN: After four years of working together, Bree and I have things down to a science. We start with a production bible at the beginning of every month that contains summaries of all the scenes and Bree's list of casting requests for the month. I add my own casting list and look on the forums for member requests and use those three lists to cast the month’s scenes. From there, my team and I just do our best to translate the written scenarios that Bree and the members write into movies.
XBIZ: During a shoot, do you sometimes trade hats on the fly or are your primary responsibilities clearly defined at the outset?
MILLS: In order to maximize our efforts, Alan and I have pretty clearly defined roles when it comes to our co-directed projects. I lead production management, presenting my vision to the crew, and then focus most of my efforts on directing the actors. I call it my “Porn Script Theatre” style. Alan leads the cinematography and will translate my vision into the best possible way to capture each sequence. Of course, there are times where we have suggestions for each other, but we try to take them offset so that we can present an aligned front to our cast and crew. There is nothing worse than too many cooks in the kitchen when you are trying to follow direction!
ALAN: Our roles are pretty defined. Bree sticks to directing the talent so their performances are true to her written vision. That frees me up to concentrate on blocking and capturing their performances. Sometimes we have suggestions for each other but we usually coordinate that in the background so as not to confuse the talent.
XBIZ: How has Girlsway evolved since it first launched in 2014, both in terms of vision and execution?
MILLS: It has evolved tremendously. We started out with four distinct lines, each very different from the other. Over the first 6 months, we evaluated what was working vs. what wasn’t and ended up retiring two of the lines to concentrate on more original “out of the box” content such as our features and mini-series. That move towards series (vs. fixed “sites”) was what really blew the doors wide open for Girlsway in terms of growth and popularity. But every project remains a learning experience and I am sure we will continue to evolve as actively as the market does around us.
ALAN: 2016 Girlsway is night and day different from 2014 Girlsway at launch. Our stories are a lot more elaborate and we have moved from single scene stories to multi-part series and that has made possible a lot more complexity in the stories we are able to tell. Also, we have a much more active and vocal member base to interact with in 2016 so we can react to their feedback and requests.
XBIZ: What other filmmakers, either in adult or mainstream, have influenced you?
MILLS: I’m influenced by so many different people, it’s hard to narrow it down. But here are a few of the filmmakers who have most influenced the features we’ve released so far: Michael Mann, Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, Fritz Lang, John Carpenter, David Fincher.
ALAN: My influences are much more visual. I like to bring influences from music videos and Victoria’s Secret commercials. I also like the cinematography in “House of Cards” on Netflix and other shows like “The Walking Dead.”
XBIZ: If you had to describe your signature filmic style, both visually and content-wise, is there a consistent thread binding together the diverse labels you oversee?
MILLS: We definitely have a unique style that we carry through all the lines we produce together. It’s our attention to detail in the cinematography and story that I feel sets us apart. We have our own twisted sense of humor and a great passion for interconnected plots and recurring characters. We are literally building our own universe and intend to cross over between all our different brands.
ALAN: I would say the thing that separates our content from other production houses in the industry is the attention to detail. We spend a lot of time on the lighting as well as lots of close-up detail shots. We also spend a lot of effort developing the characters in our scenes and we have built these recurring characters into a universe, so to speak, so it gives us opportunities to tie the different scenes and stories together.
XBIZ: Give us a glimpse of what’s to come for your brands. What’s on the horizon?
MILLS: For Girlsway, Alan and I are concentrating on our features and recent mini-series efforts, which are projects where Alan lends his writing skills. We also have a very active member base that we work with to influence all the standard scenes we produce. Plus, we just launched a little project called Pretty Dirty.
ALAN: We are hoping to continue to make Girlsway a success in 2016 and beyond. We also have a new website PrettyDirty.com that we are launching so we are hoping that website will be successful as well.
XBIZ: Tell us about your new creative venture, PrettyDirty.com.
MILLS: I have always wanted to take the spirit of what we created for Girlsway and spread it to other genres… particularly within the boy/girl world. There are so many sordid and wonderfully perverse stories to tell involving men and women… so I got the greenlight to develop this brand late in 2015. I am very proud of the content we have put together for launch, including two features, and also of the work done by our core crew. Alan has been very active in helping me to craft the vision and we have brought in director Craven Moorehead to spearhead a lot of the new production. Moorehead has been one of our top cameramen and directors for years, so it was a perfect fit.
ALAN: Pretty Dirty is an opportunity to take some of the storytelling and cinematic techniques we have learned and employed at Girlsway and apply them to the B/G genre. We are also tapping Craven Moorehead, who has shot camera on Girlsway since its inception, as a director on this new product.
XBIZ: Any long-term career goals for your collaborative partnership in 2016 and beyond?
MILLS: Alan is under an exclusive contract with Gamma Films so we have no plans of stopping or slowing down our collaborative partnership anytime soon. I think it’s safe to say that our next plan of attack is to grow Pretty Dirty in the same spirit as Girlsway, without compromising on the quality or attention to detail that has helped us achieve our success so far! That… and… world lesbian domination!
ALAN: Bree and everyone at Gamma have been like a family for me and I have definitely found a home there. I have been under exclusive contract with Gamma for over two years and I have no intention of going anywhere else. I shot some of my first movies for them and I have every intention to shoot the rest of my career with them. And I think Bree and I would both tell you our long-term goal is... world lesbian domination!