New Shopping Cart

Hi Everyone

Today we’re introducing a new shopping cart system (the same system as EleganceStudios.com uses) for people who prefer to purchase sets individually rather than get them all with a Restrained Elegance membership. We’re keeping the old cart system for old sets in parallel. (With 5000 sets on there it’s too big a task to port it all across in the absence of an automatic data transfer system).

It’ll now be possible to purchase a set individually on release day, rather than waiting anything up to a couple of years for it to appear on the old system.

The new cart is a more modern system which is a lot easier for us to maintain. It also allows us to include the full-sized JPEGs for each set as well as standard size for the first time. Both are included when you purchase and download a set. (The full sized versions are in the “full” subdirectory, naturally enough).

Videos are in full HD MP4.

I know many people prefer to buy individual photosets and videos than get a subscription.

We’ve been trying for ages to catch up with posting sets on the old cart system (Classic Restrained Elegance).

That system is old, but flexible… the downside is that the data entry takes a long time. I’ve been paying a friend, Stefan, to add stuff to the cart for me for at least the past decade. Bless him, he’s religiously managed to find half an hour or so almost every week for TEN YEARS to do just that, but catching up just doesn’t seem feasible. At least not without me spending literally weeks of Hywel time to do it, which given I have to shoot and edit new stuff isn’t feasible either.

Although the new cart isn’t as flexible, it *is* a lot faster to do the data entry. We can only have one pic to illustrate each set on the cart product page but that’s OK, I’ll live with that.

I’d have done this a couple of years ago except that I was hoping for a possible automated way to transmit data from our content management system direct to the shopping cart – meaning only one lot of boring data entry for both cart and membership site. I’ve just bitten the bullet and done the data entry by hand for a couple of months of updates. It wasn’t too bad- much quicker than the old cart.

So from now on you’ll be able to purchase photosets and clips from the shopping cart on release day.

Follow the updates here: http://www.restrainedelegance.com/whatsnew.php and you can see a “Buy This Set” button for each update.

I’ve gone back as far as April for new sets. I’ll be adding new sets to the cart as I update the main website, and I’ll work my way backwards until I catch up with Stefan posting older sets to the archives and the old cart system working forwards.

The latest content will go to the new cart. Old stuff stays on the old cart. There’s a few gaps especially in the archives; I’ll fill those in as soon as I can.

I’ve put links on the preview tour What’s New page to the cart entries for archive stuff as well. All 5000 old sets will eventually get linked that way- I’ll add the link to each set as sets come up in the members’ archive. There will be gaps sometimes in the archive links where sets were uploaded in multiple parts originally or where formats don’t play well with the cart systems.

I hope this will be much more convenient for those of you who want to purchase sets individually. The new cart should all be up and running and working- it is the same cart Elegance Studios uses- but if you do find any oddities or spot incorrect links etc. please let me know. Having two carts is not ideal but it seemed like the most sensible solution.

Cheers!

Hywel

Shackled Maidens

Hi All,

Three blog posts in a day is a record.

Unfortunately this one has some sad news. As some of you may know, Matt, the photographer who ran ShackledMaidens.com passed away recently.

I didn’t know Matt well- we did a couple of shoots together in the early days, and he worked with Ariel a few times. We kept in touch second-hand because many of the models who work for us also shot for Shackled Maidens. We were very sad to hear of his passing, his work was lovely and so dramatic.

I’ve just been contacted by his family who are looking to sell the extensive collection of metal bondage gear that formed the core of Matt’s bondage equipment. They said they’d rather deal with it by private sale than have to put everything on eBay and they asked me:

a) Whether I wanted any of it and

b) If I would pass on the word to the UK bondage and photographic community in case anyone else was interested.

Proceeds will go to supporting Matt’s family.

They don’t have an extensive list of the equipment but you can see a lot of it on the site and on the tumblr blog here: http://shackledmaidens-com.tumblr.com.

If anyone is interested, please email me at webmaster@restrainedelegance.com and I will pass your email on to them. I’ve already nabbed the “cage of contemplation” (standing cage) but the rest is available.

Hywel

A few thoughts on Brexit

Hi All,

Sorry for polluting the site with politics, but after a few tweets attracted some “You understand nothing, Jon Snow!” comments I wanted to set out a few thoughts in longer form.

I do not believe that leaving the EU is inherently bad. There are plenty of faults with the EU both in theoretical constitution and in practice. But there’s plenty of good in there too- not least of which is the power it puts in the hands of individual citizens to live, work, love and settle down where they please. If we are going to make a success of Brexit, we should start by acknowledging that. The stuff about a “British bill of rights” and repealing great swathes of health and safety law, turning Britain into a tax haven trouble me greatly. Nonethelss, I think some forms of Brexit could be perfectly workable- Norway and Switzerland are doing OK, despite what looks to me like an overly onerous way of doing things.

So given that I don’t believe Brexit to be inherently bad, why am I so upset about it? It’s because of the way it is being done and, consequently, my fear that the people leading the process do not understand what they are doing. Worse, they are refusing to listen when people who do understand try to explain it to them.

The referendum was appallingly constituted and alarmingly vague. But that should have been OK- it was an advisory vote to a representative Parliament in a democracy. We could have had a debate in Parliament over which bits of the EU we thought, on balance, would be sensible to stick with and which bits were not. White papers could and should have been written examining in detail the consequences of falling out of the EU in a hard Brexit on a two year timescale. What about the customs union? What about the single market? How about considering the ETFA?

Had there been some sort of functioning opposition, I believe they could have required the government to go through that process, in detail and in the open. Theresa May has no personal electoral mandate, not even from her own party. The Conservative manifesto of 2015 has a commitment to remaining within the single market. Even strongly pro-Brexit politicians had said that no-one was talking about threatening our position in the single market. May has a razor-thin majority in a party which has been riven by devastating divisions over Europe for the last 30 years or more. It would not have taken genius to get a few Europhile Tory back benchers on side to ensure that the options for staying in the Single Market, customs union, EFTA and so on were at least debated and studied.

Maybe we’d still have concluded that hard Brexit is the way to go. But at least we’d have considered the options, gathered some data, and made up our minds in an informed manner.

And yet here we are, the day that Article 50 is triggered, about to have our EU citizenship removed from us. And there has been no functional debate over any of this. Two weeks ago, the minister in charge calmly admitted to a select committee that they hadn’t studied in detail what will happen should we fall out of the EU with no deal in two years’ time! Now however unlikely you think that might be, it is the grossest dereliction of duty not to have studied it! If you are entering a negotiation, the first thing you need to do is to know where you stand, and the second thing to know where your counterpart stands. All Europe has to do for the next two years is nothing, and the UK is so comprehensively screwed that international trade will, at least temporarily, grind to a halt. We ought to be hiring tens or hundreds of thousands of people to guard against the possibility that this might happen. The scale of the potential mess is very alarming, and at very least we should understand what it would entail!

Last week, the pro-Brexit MPs “politely” walked out of a select committee detailing the possible consequences because it was too gloomy. These people will soon get a stuff dose of reality when they realise all the EU has to do is nothing for two years and our situation becomes nightmarish. As Michael Hestletine put it last night, we are now entirely at the mercy of the EU dictating to us the terms on which we will be allowed- ALLOWED! to trade with our largest market.

This is down to the failure of Parliamentary scrutiny in general, and Labour’s decision to vote with the government on invoking article 50 in particular. David Cameron is responsible for the incredible lack of detailed preparation and cavalier attitude to the referendum. But Parliament failed to demand a detailed plan and proposals then, and has continued to fail to do so.

I fear that this is going to be a watershed moment for our country, and not in a good way. When we look back on this I think we will ask why Parliament and the Opposition didn’t demand more scrutiny and more discussion of the various options that could have been pursued, but weren’t even considered. Parliament has rolled over and allowed the executive to perform a massive power-grab on the pretext of a slim majority in a badly-constituted vote in which both campaigns demonstrably lied like lizards!

I don’t buy the argument that the Labour party had no choice but to run a three-line-whip in favour of Brexit. That relies on short term polling and people will change their minds when it becomes apparent that we’re making a huge mistake as a country. I think we will remember that Parliament failed to even consider the alternatives to hard Brexit and history will not be kind.

For the record, I am also aware that the SNP are not supporting EU membership out of the purest of europhile motives, and I’m very annoyed that the Lib Dems keep harping on about being the ONLY party to oppose Brexit when they demonstrably are not- even leaving aside the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Sinn Fein, there’s still the Green party who now have more MPs than UKIP. Common courtesy would demand acknowledging them, and common sense would say that a progressive, pro-European alliance opposing Brexit and appealing to the 48% would be a good idea. And one might have hoped that a few more Tory rebels would vote against Article 50 rather than just poor old Ken Clarke. But no, party politics at its usual depressing best prevails on all sides.

I’m not saying it is “all Labour’s fault”. It’s not all anybody’s fault. But even leaving aside that I think the whole hard Brexit route is verging on insanity, I am saying that this has been a complete failure of the proper functioning of the legislature in exercising due diligence over the work of the executive. And you wonder why I’d like to retain my rights and protections against the stumbling incompetence of my own government as an EU citizen?

Here endeth the rant.

Hywel

16th Birthday Thoughts

Hi All

Restrained Elegance is 16 years old on 1st April! What a magnificent, unexpected, wonderful, lucky thing that is! I never expected anything of it- when I opened the site I was just hoping to help cover the costs of models, and maybe make enough profit for a holiday or something.

Instead I’ve been lucky enough to be doing this as my full-time job since 2003. I hope I’ve never taken that for granted- it is only the support and generosity of everyone who has worked on the site and paid to watch what we make that’s allowed it to happen.

The industry is currently changing very fast, so it’s a good time to have a bit of a think about the future. I’d really like RE to still be around in 16 more years’ time… what can we do to make that happen, I wonder?

Changing Purchasing Patterns

I have to admit I don’t join paysites as often as I used to. Partially that’s because as a producer myself it’s a bit of a bus-man’s holiday, but also it is because of the rise of places like twitter to see a little of what I like for free.

I don’t surf tube sites and pirate forums. By the way, if you see whole videos or whole photosets if different producers on a website, I guarantee you 100% it is stolen and posted without the consent of the creators. And more importantly it is being distributed without sending any money back to the creators to help fund new productions.

But there’s not even any need to view pirate stuff to get a steady trickle of fun little “hits”- just follow your favourite models and producers on Twitter/Instagram/etc.. We don’t know what effect piracy has had really, but allied with the legitimate drip of freebie pics as advertising from producers’ and models’ twitter feeds, it definitely feels easier to see a bit of what you like for free than it used to be.

What’s more of a question is how sustainable this all is. If people stop producing, those freebie streams of content are going to dry up. Reading between the lines of producers’ feeds, I think we are within a whisker of a mass exodus from the industry and sudden, drastic shut-off of new production. We’re close to the point of making production uneconomic for small producers.

Since the financial crash of 2008, and especially in the last year, money has felt tighter and tighter and it is harder and harder to justify luxury spending.

This is bourne out by the data. Median income in the UK has flat-lined. And I think recent political events in the UK and USA (our two biggest markets) have made people more and more cautious.

Although it is horrible to hear it, it is in some small way reassuring to hear that we are not alone in having had a drop in turnover since 2008, and a major drop in the last year. Kink.com have just stopped fetish production at the Armoury and moved to cheaper places; the news reports say their turnover has halved in the last few years. I don’t know of a single producer who hasn’t had something of the same.

Our turnover has declined drastically too, and we’ve already pulled the “move to a cheaper part of the country” trick three years ago. In all honesty if it wasn’t for the dollar-pound exchange rate, my profit margin (i.e. the money I need to eat and keep a roof over my head) would have been zero in February (March is looking better, February is always a rubbish month).

On that depressing note, I have to look forward.

Although producers seem to be struggling world-wide, models are doing rather well. So it isn’t all doom and gloom by any means! Web 2.0 platforms like Clips4Sale and social media mean it’s easier than ever before to connect directly with the models you fancy, rather than viewing them at one remove via producer magazines/videos/DVDs/websites/etc..

So people ARE willing to spend money, and spend money often very generously. It’s just the way we are spending it is changing dramatically, and quickly.

How to still be making BDSM erotica in 16 years’ time?

With all that in mind, how can we work to make sure that Restrained Elegance is still around in 16 more years’ time?

Should we even rebrand and refocus and just shoot Ariel the best we can, and release under her brand rather than the RE brand? It’s drastic, but I wouldn’t mind being her cameraman. On balance probably not; it puts too much pressure on Ariel for starters. But if the industry is moving that way, we’re going to have to make some adjustments. If I end up assisting Ariel more than she ends up assisting me, that’s fine- it’s just that the RE production schedule will have to be scaled down accordingly.

I also have to bear in mind that when I started the website, I was in my early thirties. I was full of energy, I had a day job, and it didn’t matter much what I shot- I could be as experimental as I liked, and I didn’t know enough to be able to do that good a job… but it didn’t matter because everything was opening up on the internet and there was a big appetite for new things. Everything was faster to shoot because it was rough and ready, but that didn’t matter as there were few polished big competitors around anyway. 3 megapixel images didn’t show enough detail to need much editing, and even with 15 years of computer power development the 3 megapixel images were faster to handle then than 42 megapixel RAW images are now. And as for video- our first miniDV videos were 30 seconds long, with resolutions around 640 pixels. Now we shoot at 3840 pixels to deliver in 1920, shooting RAW-like formats on a digital cine camera. It’s awesome, but it’s a lot slower than it was.

Now I’m nearly fifty, middle aged. I’ve got vastly more experience and skill as a photographer and film-maker, and I’ve shot around 5,000 of my bondage ideas already. Shoot days are hard but fun; I’m still energetic, but stuff takes longer than it used to because I know how to do a better job. Processing sets and editing videos is time-consuming, but deeply satisfying because I know I can make technically much more polished work than I ever could in 2001. It does take a bit more time to do the job right, and in classic middle-aged fashion, it is hard to recapture the verve of doing it and making mistakes and ploughing on with the ideas regardless the way one can when one is blessed with youth, innocence and a bad haircut.

One of the reasons model-centric channels like OnlyFans are taking off is that smartphone cameras are now more than good enough for purpose- direct connection with the model and an image adequate to show you what’s going on, plus built-in ability to upload to the distribution platform.

Maybe if I were young, hip and happening, I could figure out a way to make an iPhone based business work for me as a producer rather than a model… but I’ve always been a bit of an image quality fetishist, and I don’t want to let go of the awesome look that comes from a Hasselblad or a RED and decent lighting. Even technophobe Ariel likes looking nice with nice light on her smartphone selfies! To me, shooting for Restrained Elegance *requires* shooting like it’s for the cover of Vogue- that was always the mission statement!

Censorship and Regulation

In 2001, the internet was still in its “Wild West” growth phase. Now we are in the Web 2.0 era of mega-corporations, and even kinky stuff online is dominated by a few big players and platform providers (I’m looking at you, Clips4Sale). Worse, governments are moving in and trying to impose authoritarian control on the freedom of information and people online- something which will be much easier to do if we’ve all centralised onto a few platform providers, incidentally.

In the last few years, we in the UK have seen wave after wave of badly-thought out, badly worded, out-dated and just plain corrupt enforcement come our way. ATVOD were SO crooked even OFCOM realised it, and abolished them. The latest wheeze is age verification- to even look at free previews, you may end up having to have your age verified with some giant database company somewhere.

The costs to fetish producers of doing this may well exceed our turnovers. And would you want to hand over your credit card details even to look at a site’s preview tour? Me neither. In ultimate irony the company in cahoots with the government to do this are MindGeek, the people who have been bleeding producers dry by stealing our content and giving it away for free, generating spam advertising revenue for them at the expense of people who actually shoot stuff.

Leaving aside the asinine security risk presented by MindGeek having a huge database of everyone’s legal names correlated with their porn surfing habits, the feeling we in the UK production community are getting is that it’s probably only a matter of time before something comes down on us which will be SO prohibitively expensive that we may have to shut up shop… or at least, may have to stop running little indie websites and succumb to the inevitable and only sell via platforms who handle stuff like age verification for us, in exchange for a huge chunk of our revenues.

It’s hard not to feel a bit down-hearted about all of this. I’ve had the time of my life being a cottage industry producer, beholden to no-one, making the romantic, elegant bondage erotic art that we want to make and asking for no-one’s permission.

Responding to these big three challenges

I have to face up to the fact that these three big challenges- what feels like a sea change in our buying patterns away from subscription websites, increasing regulation and government censorship, and my own advancing years- means that I’d better not plan on still be running Restrained Elegance as a five-updates-a-week subscription site until the day I retire. (Which incidentally is about as far in the future as opening the website is in the past, hence my thoughts about it today).

I’m not totally glum. We can probably find a way through stuff like age verification- I think it is quite likely that Clips4Sale will be big enough to find a solution which all of the small producers can piggy back upon, for example.

People are still demonstrably interest in looking at bondage erotica, and are willing to pay for it if it is offered in the right form at the right price. It just seems that, like magazine subscriptions before it, the model of paying a low monthly fee and staying a member long-term is on its way out.

I certainly plan to be shooting bondage for as long as I’m physically capable- it’s just that I shouldn’t plan on still being able to generate 5 updates a week by the time I’m in my late sixties and ready to retire. So… how to manage the change over the next 16 or so years?

It’s a shame and a challenge- the great beauty of website memberships was that they were the original crowd-sourcing method.

Websites as Crowd-Sourcing

The content over the whole of Restrained Elegance’s lifetime has literally cost over a million pounds to shoot- and if you join the site on any given month you get the benefit of about 18 months’ worth out of 16 years of that… so the stuff on the members’ area of RestrainedElegance.com on any given day probably cost £100,000 to create. That you can download and keep all of that for just $39.95 (about £30) is testament to the power of crowd funding.

Sure, a Hollywood film costing $100 million can be bought for $10, but that just emphasises how important it is to have enough people chipping in. It’s REMARKABLE how ambitious we’ve been allowed to be with our silly little bondage project, given enough people paying to see it.

I’ve made a comfortable living from RE, but consistently over 80% of the money you’ve all paid in over the years has been invested straight back into RE. That’s how we’ve acquired the cameras and lenses to shoot with. It’s how we afford to hire the models. It’s how we’ve bought a storeroom full of bondage gear for shoots. It’s paid for locations, props, costumes, clothes, memory cards, lights, safety scissors… it’s gone back into the business. It’s worked like a charm for 16 years.

But what happens when people just don’t like that subscription model any more? I can run special offers, come up with Game Of Slaves and new features, do a better and more beautiful job. But none of it matters if large scale economic and social change means that people just aren’t interested in buying via the subscription website model any more. And anecdotally I don’t know of a single established producer who hasn’t experienced the same cliff-edge of sales over the last few years. Even mainstream porn production companies keep emailing me with “75% off!!!” sales – and let me tell you nobody reduces their prices by 75% unless they are pretty desperate.

And here’s the thing- even at 75% off, I didn’t want to rejoin their site. Although it was nice enough, it was a bit soul-less and didn’t really offer me what I wanted. I’m sure that’s been true of RE for an awful lot of the 100,000+ people who have joined at some point over the last 16 years. And even for people for whom it’s pretty great, they are still being more parsimonious… in the same way that I’m thinking of cancelling my Cineworld unlimited card and just going to films I really want to see.

What Should We DO About All This?

So really this post is an open question to you, the people who have made shooting that million pound mountain of erotic BDSM art possible… which direction do you think we should go in? I’m determined to still be around and still be producing BDSM erotica for another 16 years, but it looks like the current sales model will probably not last the distance with us.

Restrained Elegance is ours- yours as much as mine. So together we need to brainstorm a longer-term plan. Even if you all think I should switch tack to shooting everything on iPhone and distributing on the day we shoot via OnlyFans, I’ll give it a go!

I should emphasise that unless the government censor arbitrarily shuts down overnight, none of this is going to happen in a hurry. As usual we’ve got 18+ months of content already shot and on disk ready to be processed. We’re looking at how we need to evolve and change over the coming YEARS, not at making drastic changes tomorrow.

What we decide now will feed into our production schedules. There’s lots of stuff we can try, but only so much we can do whilst still running RE at five updates a week. So we’re going to need to prioritise and try things out rather than make any drastic changes too fast.

Here’s a few thoughts of mine, but I’d love to hear your ideas.

Update Schedule

We could gradually reduce the update schedule. At some point in the next 16 years this is probably inevitable; what should it change to, what mix of stills and video, what sales channels should we concentrate on, and how should pricing reduce to reflect the lower output? What should we do to the archive updates? Should we go for having everything up at once? But if we do that, how do we protect against site rippers, and how to we ensure we don’t lose money on every membership from the huge bandwidth bill?

We reduced the update schedule once before, when we went from daily updates to five days a week. That was more a consolidation and rationalisation; we didn’t actually shoot fewer updates, just stopped splitting them into multiple parts in a way that dated back to the days where one physical roll of slide film, 36 shots, was by definition an update. The average number of photos and hours of video has gone up since then, not down.

At some point between now and the day I retire a genuine reduction in output will become a physical necessity: doing four shoot days in a week is already a bit challenging physically for both Ariel and me. There’s no way I can commit future me to still doing that when I’m 65.

Unfortunately, reducing the update schedule does little to reduce fixed overheads like web hosting and business insurance. The site is so big that reliable web hosting is just expensive. We could certainly shop around, but it’ll mean changing payment provider too, so it’s a pretty drastic step. It therefore needs to be considered “in the round” with everything else.

My personal feeling is that I’d rather see the same quality maintained and fewer updates (and some sort of price reduction, for sure, although it’ll depend on the economics of how many people are willing to join at the lower price point). Do you agree? Or should I concentrate more on quantity at the expensive of quality?

Pay Per Update

We could move towards a pay-per-update delivery model. Interestingly, the two relatively new successful sites I know of made their start this way- shooting customs and their own ideas for Clips4Sale, and only later opening a subscription website with older content.

That’s the reverse of the way we’ve been doing it so far, with new content going on RE first, and on the shopping cart and Clips4Sale quite a while later. We always intended to catch up but never quite did. And my sales via C4S have never been spectacular, for whatever reason… maybe part of that reason is that it wasn’t the latest greatest newest unseen sets going up on there. Maybe it simply forces people to pay higher prices to get just what they want; there’s certainly an argument that the subscription model devalues what each individual update is worth.

The pay-per-update model has some great advantages- the main one being that you can release according to your own schedule, not according to a regular update schedule.

My main reservation is that what sells is stuff which is mass-produced with cheap production, piled high and updating every day. I’m not really up for rolling back technically to shooting stuff on a cheap camcorder in one rolling take with no editing, and I’m certainly not capable of shooting a video a day to RE production standards.

Nonetheless it’s a very attractive prospect for those of us on regular RE billing to get more money from a different pool of customers by putting stuff up on C4S first, then on RE later… you’ll still be able to see everything for one low price, as now.

I will shoot some stuff specifically to test this idea out. And will be adding new sets to the RE cart system on the day they come out, rather than 1-2 years in arrears as currently. (Work is in progress to facilitate this as we speak).

Personally I’m not a fan of individual clip purchases for what feels like “regular” website content. C4S in particular feels massively over-priced to me compared with the awesome value of a subscription site. But a lot of people obviously find the value proposition in just purchasing what they want- individual movie sales rather than paying for Netflix. Where is the right tradeoff for you?

Different Pricing Structures

If we moved hosting and payment providers we might be able to look into more novel pricing structures. I once joined a site where the longer you remained a member, the more of the back catalogue you were able to access. (And I think you could short-cut that by joining for a year all in one go).

That’s quite attractive- it would save me work scheduling archives, provide a double incentive to stay as a member, and allow long-term members to download anything and everything in case they get a hard drive crash etc..

I don’t think that’s something we can do under the current content management and payment provision system. But if we move providers we can look at it. Of course, the fact that this model hasn’t caught on generally is salutary. If it were that good, I’m sure Kink.com would be doing it.

I can’t make over a terabyte of content (16 years worth) available for $0.99, however much I would like to. (The bandwidth costs alone would vastly out-strip the income). So where is the best value proposition for you between individual purchase, subscription site, archive material, and new updates?

Patreon/Indiegogo Supported Production

Moving away from the pure subscription model, we could try something like a Patreon model where people pay a variable amount to support our production in exchange of increasing levels of early and special access, bonus features, tutorial days, etc.. Possibly I could build up a “pot” of sponsorship, then do a photoshoot every time the pot got large enough to pay for it.

My main concern with this is that it relies on a kink-friendly platform provider. My experience from PayPal onwards is that unless it is their core business, you’re only ever one CEO decision away from total loss of your business. (Just wait until Twitter nukes all accounts which have ever posted adult content- something they could do tomorrow if they felt so inclined).

Even FetLife has to instantly kow-tow to the payment providers, as recent events have shown. The big benefit of C4S is that kinky stuff is core business for them, so they’re on our side when it comes to making sure as wide a variety of stuff as possible stays available.

So I think this might be part of the solution. It can’t be the whole solution but for future EleganceStudios.com productions it’s well worth a go. I note in passing that we’ve not done Elegance Studios films in a while unless they were sponsored by custom video- it’s just too expensive to schedule a multi-model multi-day shoot on spec at the moment. Getting some pre-purchases to cover production costs would make a big difference here, and I’m very enthusiastic about the idea of doing big-budget ambitious ES shoots again. I will try this once the summer landscape photography experiment is over (see below).

Some of Everything

I think it is very likely that we’ll end up with some mix of these models. It seems more and more that one needs multiple means of support and payment, from direct sales of products through to paying for behind the scenes access (like OnlyFans).

The only real issue I have is that each of these sales and publicity and support channels takes TIME. Restrained Elegance is currently a full time job for me, and employs Ariel half time as well. If we’re going to have increased time overheads to deal with lots of different platforms, we will need a reduced production schedule in parallel so we can cope. Hiring more people to help is a complete non-starter at this point in time: too risky for too uncertain returns.

Annoyingly we might need to cut production a bit in advance in order to have time to bring these other activities and platforms online, which is a nasty double bind. There isn’t the cashflow there used to be to buy in a bit of extra help while we experiment.

We’ve been trying to get my landscape photography hobby transformed into a little, little business and it has emphasised exactly how fully-committed our time currently is.

We’re doing this because we want me to have at least the germ of a business I can switch to if censorship or government regulation just plain takes us offline, incidentally. This summer’s project is to try to sell landscape photos to establish whether there is a viable business in there or not.

Getting the time to do that has required a nine-month intricate logistical ballet dance just to free up a few weeks of time during the summer vacation to see if we can sell stuff. I’m not complaining- it is good fun, and a break from shooting for a couple of months is always helpful to creativity when we come back. But it does point out how routinely Ariel and I are working 12 hour days already, and forces us to acknowledge that we need to prioritise ideas for the future for RE because we need it to be time efficient.

16 Years Hence???

So maybe by the time I’m in my 60’s we might be aiming at two(??) stills updates and one(???) video update a week? Or a couple of stills sets a week and several longer EleganceStudios.com videos a year, without shooting shorter videos at all.

Production would be partially supported by Patreon/IndieGoGo style pre-funding, plus custom video/stills production. At the very lowest level of support, patrons get to enjoy seeing us tweet samples as now, and get email updates with bonus stuff and behind the scenes. Higher level supporters get early access and exclusive updates that don’t go up on the other sites for a year or more, photography or rope tutorials online and possibly set visits and tutorials and other in-person rewards for big supporters.

New stuff would go up on all the various pay-per-update channels (C4S, ManyVids, YouKandy, direct on the RE shopping cart system, Amazon eBooks, whatever else pays and allows us to distribute via their service).

Then all this content gets put up onto something a bit like the current RE website, in whatever form we’re allowed to have by the legal situation, so that those of you who have been with us faithfully every month for the last 16 years can still get full benefit of the power of crowd-funding to create brilliant stuff by spreading the cost between lots of people, and in this case between lots of sales platforms, too. But it might be that the subscription site becomes the archive for the individual purchase sets… wait a year or two and you can get it all for a reduced price. (Which is a reversal of how we’ve been operating up to now).

This seems like a feasible and reasonable way we might be able to keep Restrained Elegance going as a subscription site too… maybe even for another sixteen years or so, until I’m ready to retire and really step down the production. I’m still going to keep doing BDSM production as long as I’m physically able and not totally prohibited by law, but when I’m 65 I definitely won’t be wanting to be committed to a regular update schedule any more! And as I said, don’t panic and think that anything drastic is going to happen soon, this is a long-term plan.

We’d love to know your thoughts!

#GameOfSlaves for producers and models

This page is for producers and models interested in getting involved with #GameOfSlaves. If you aren’t a producer, photographer or model this page may be a bit dull, you might find the #GameOfSlaves Trailer page of more interest… and that’s the page you should check out first for an overview and flavour as a producer, too.

What is #GameOfSlaves?

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In the fictional world, it is an underground, decentralised social media tag for sharing subversive, clandestine BDSM erotica which has been banned on the sanitised interwebs of 2047. Popular performers gain fame and wealth from rich fans in the game who commission customs, host private parties to be filmed or promote their favourite dommes and subs. A good enough player in the game can become a millionaire.

In the real world, it is a series of loosely connected stories about the fictional game world. Some stories follow characters’ development from starting sub to top player or from middle-ranking domme to top-ranked sub. Other stories are just self-contained posts from the fictional characters posted on the game to try to get likes and followers.

As I said, the #GameOfSlaves Trailer should convey the general look and feel of the world.

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How Do I Get Involved?

Shoot, post, tag #GameOfSlaves

The simplest way? Decide on a character you are going to play in the fictional #GameOfSlaves world. Shoot something- still photos, selfies on your phone, selfie video, anything. Post it to your usual sales or distribution channels: your own web site, Clips4Sale, ManyVids, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, anywhere. Tag it with #GameOfSlaves. Job done.

Amateurs VERY Welcome!

You DO NOT have to be a pro to join in! Take a selfie on your phone, tweet it, tag it – congratulations, you just created a character and now you are on #GameOfSlaves!

What about photographers?

If you’re an amateur photographer, next time you are shooting with your partner or a model, take a few photos set in the game world with a collared sub or a styled-up domme. Post it, tag it – you’ve just helped us build the #GameOfSlaves world.

We’d be honoured to host guest galleries of your work on RestrainedElegance.com as well, email me and we can sort one out.

Not a hot chick?

See diversity section below. EVERYONE is welcome to join in. Although RestrainedElegance will be primarily featuring female models, it is an open world. Come and join in, whoever you are and whatever your orientation.

You can find a style guide down below if you want more inspiration or want to follow the format we’re using more closely, but remember than the characters in the game are shooting stuff themselves and posting it in a decentralised way. So by design, anything you post and tag should fit right in!

We’ve decided to do most of our promotion via Twitter, via the hashtag #GameOfSlaves. If you post with that hashtag and tag me ( @RElegance) I will see it and retweet it. If we all do that, we can hopefully build some momentum to share links and publicity and build it into a real-world event.

To facilitate that we’ve decided to use models’ existing names and consequently their Twitter handles as the names of the characters they are playing the game. That keeps things simple and maximises the opportunity to cross-promote.

A link back to RestrainedElegance.com would be much appreciated, but is not necessary.

If you’d like me to promote your clips/photos/etc. then email me and send me a trailer, a selection of pics for a guest gallery, or the first video you shoot in a series and let me know where to link back to so people can buy the full clips or the rest of the series.

I don’t use Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. much so if anyone wants to volunteer as the contact person to help us all cross-promote and cross-post on those platforms please get in touch!

If you would like to shoot something but would like more input to get you started, or you’d like help underwriting the cost of production, I can help.

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Getting Involved: Collaboration

Content Share

If you’re already a producer or model, I’d be happy to collaborate! You shoot a clip or photos with some input from me, I feature the clip on RestrainedElegance.com, you can sell via your own websites and places like Clips4Sale.

I’ll pay you something towards the production costs in exchange for being able to feature the content on my membership site. You retain the rights and can sell everywhere else.

We both build on the #GameOfSlaves publicity and hopefully get to carry on and shoot more and make a living. Since Clips4Sale and others are fussy about clips not being uploaded twice, I’m happy to forego the clip sales in order to feature the clips on my members’ area. If you have a members’ area I’m happy to have you put the clip there too of course.

If you have an idea you’d like to shoot, please email me to discuss.

Custom Shooting For #GameOfSlaves

I am willing to buy content outright for use of RestrainedElegance.com if it fits in very well with the world, it’s sexy, and the production values are high enough. If you have an idea you’d like to shoot, please email me to discuss.

This is not my favourite option- frankly, it is a bit high risk for me. If I want content shot to our production standards, why not shoot it myself? But I’m always up for a compelling proposition: I know that there’s stuff I am not very good at directing, models I’ve not had the opportunity to shoot, places I don’t get to go… Make it big and exciting and thrilling and fast-paced like an action movie with beautiful barefoot girls in hot BDSM action and I’ll certainly consider commissioning you to shoot it!

Regular RE Model Shoots

Of course we will be shooting plenty for #GameOfSlaves ourselves in 2017. If you’d like to model for us, please drop me a line to email me but be aware that our shoot schedule is pretty full for the first half of the year already. It would be hugely helpful if you could shoot a selfie or two and post in the meantime 🙂

I know that’s a bit cheeky but the more we build the buzz around #GameOfSlaves the better. We get contacted by more models than we can possibly shoot… but I’m hardly about to pass up a shoot with someone who’s already kindly been shooting stuff to help with #GameOfSlaves! So in the meantime please consider shooting something yourself or with other producers and help build the momentum and we’ll shoot you as soon as we can.

Only Female Subs? What About Diversity?

Restrained Elegance features female submissive barefoot elegant bondage and BDSM. That’s what Ariel and I are into, so it is the only thing we feel qualified to do a good job of shooting.

The sub-set of the #GameOfSlaves world featured on our site will be likewise focussed on women getting tied up. We’ve decided to make male doms a rare occurrence, more like game enforcers than participants. That’s because Hywel HATES appearing on camera!

BUT THIS IS AN OPEN WORLD

#GameOfSlaves is an open world- nothing is stopping you shooting a more diverse set of characters! Please do! Male subs? Male doms? Trans? Genderqueer spanking? Sissy transformation? Pet play in 2047 on a post-apocalyptic farm? Go for it. Just shoot something in character for the world, tag it and post it! HAVE ALL THE FUN IN THE WORLD WITH IT!

We’d LOVE IT if you could shoot the stuff we aren’t good at!

Style Guide and Background Information

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Setting

The year is 2047. Global warming has happened; lower-lying parts of the world flooded. The world is ruled by three economic superpowers: India, China and Facebook. The USA is a dust-bowl post-civil-war wild west. Russia has collapsed under the weight of corruption. Europe has fallen apart, the bits which function best are greater Germany. The UK suffered massive economic decline after the leaving the EU and now survives by exporting the thing it has been best at for a hundred years- entertainment.

Facebook rules half the globe in fact if not in name, and rules the information infrastructure with an iron hand of prudish “safe for the children”, and “all your secrets are belong to us”. But it is still built on the internet, and there are places and spaces and ways. So while posting a nipple online in 2047 might result in revocation of Facebook privileges and instant loss of job, home and reputation, there are still cracks.

Twitter survives, and out of Twitter and the underground BDSM scene, some entertainment entrepreneurs in the UK started the latest forbidden sensation: #GameOfSlaves. Contestants vie to live out their BDSM fantasies on screen for an audience of kinksters deprived of any other outlet. The game is decentralised, no mastermind to arrest, and no-one to stop you entering yourself just by posting a video or a picture and hashtagging it #GameOfSlaves.

Contestants choose whether to enter as a dominant or a submissive. In the RestrainedElegance version, effectively all contestants will be female- but see “diversity” above. Just because we don’t feel qualified to shoot a male-sub version doesn’t mean you can’t! We’d love you to.

Dommes outnumber subs approximately two to one. So subs are very valuable, and dommes compete with each other to assemble a stable of desirable, popular, highly-ranked subs. This brings dommes into conflict with each other constantly, which means they end up battling it out and getting tied up by rivals at least as often as the subs do. It’s important to maintain that feeling of subs being valuable and dommes being at each other’s throats for tension and drama in the setting. You don’t have to actually show them on screen- just saying at the start of a single-girl struggling clip that she’s been tied up by her rival “Mistress Dariah” is enough to invoke the world-build.

Contestants start out with selfies shot on phones and webcams. If they are popular enough, GameOfSlaves will send a camera crew to film them. The top ranked contestants live a life of luxury in secret kinky manor houses provided by shadowy wealthy fans of the game where they play out their kinky fantasies in front of the cameras.

There’s a big crossover between the mistresses and slaves because a large fraction of the viewing population likes nothing better than to see a top-ranked mistress brought low and turned into the abject slave of an up-and-coming dominatrix bitch. Especially if she is reduced in social rank in the household to below that of former slaves and mistresses over whom she used to preside. A slave might collaborate with a popular mistress to develop web shows that will get them both followers, or fight to free herself and usurp the previous domme’s position. Everyone is out to improve their own ratings, forming temporary alliances and betraying them when they get a bit stale.

There is a shadowy distributed, decentralised open-source organisation in charge of the game and who enforce the small number of rules. This is something we’re going to expand upon in stories on RestrainedElegance.com.

Feeling

The contestants are doing something for which they could be arrested. It’s tense, but for many it is their only outlet for BDSM. And it is their only chance for fame and fortune, too. Some contestants shoot stuff as though it were fictional, some as though it were a documentary, but many break the fourth wall to speak directly to the fans and viewers because they know they are being filmed.

Make it gritty, edgy, exciting. Or make it cute as the character plays up to the cameras. Up to you. If you are old enough, it’s like recapturing that feeling the first time you saw BDSM porn on the web or a Usenet newsgroup!

Game Rules

These are optional but would help fit in with what we’re going to shoot.

The only weapon permitted in the contest is a stun gun, which stuns the target for six to ten seconds. We’re using Star Trek Next Generation phaser toys for this (with an appropriate “zappy” sound effect added in post). The guns recharge slowly: you only get one shot a minute. So dommes have to be quick and accurate at zapping a sub they want to steal or a domme they want to conquer.

The distinction between the Mistresses and Slaves on-screen is obvious. Slaves may or may not be naked, but Mistresses never are. Mistresses may or may not wear necklaces or neck adornment, but slaves are always collared.

You can enslave a mistress by stripping her naked and collaring her. Doing so will be grounds for a long-running feud. Should the mistress ever free herself, you’ll be her target forever.

You can steal a sub just by grabbing her and carrying her off. It is customary to replace at least her slave collar with one of your own when you get her back to your base.

To free yourself from slavery you need to get your collar off and get some clothes on, in theory. But in practice you need to physically escape from your captor’s clutches and shoot a film of yourself showing that you’re free for it to have any meaning in the game. Pics or it didn’t happen.

One exception: you may also free yourself if you manage to strip naked and collar your current owner on camera. If you achieve that, you are automatically freed and your previous owner is enslaved for a mandatory 24 hours where she cannot be freed by any means. Make good use of the time to either make good your escape or take control of your ex-owner’s household!

Styling

Slaves are ALWAYS collared. They are usually naked but nothing stops them filming themselves enslaved in sexy satin or hot lingerie or rainwear or latex or whatever their owner or fan-base prefers.

Dommes are ALWAYS clothed. They may possibly wear something around their necks but avoid anything which looks like a collar. Because losing all their clothes gets them perilously close to enslavement, they tend to wear multiple layers of clothes which are hard to remove.

In the RestrainedElegance.com version of #GameOfSlaves that means saris, chinese dresses, silk and satin, corsets and a steam-punk influence. See #GameOfSlaves Trailer page for more examples.

Because I’ve got a bare foot fetish, dommes and subs are usually barefoot in all our stuff (and on SilkSoles.com too. If you don’t have a strong feeling about footwear, making the girls barefoot would make me very happy 🙂

In our stories, subs are mostly going to be locked up in metal whereas when dommes tie each other up, they usually use rope. That gives a rival domme chance to escape eventually (although not in time to prevent you running off with her stable of slaves). Using metal is tantamount to saying you want to enslave her, which is much more likely to spark a long-running feud.

Of course, subs can be rope tied for their owners’ or viewers’ pleasure as well!

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Visual styling: go low key, lots of darkness in frame with pools of light, saturated colours. Add some backlight for maximum glamour. Our style is lush, decadent, moody, elegant. Of course, a lot of the characters are selfie shooting so there can be a lot of variation.

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Stories and Ideas

For your first video, why not introduce your character? Who are you? Why do you want to be on #GameOfSlaves? If you love talking, like Ariel does, you could film a piece to camera in the manner of a YouTuber. If you hate talking, you could just shoot an edgy bondage video of yourself and post it just labelled with the hashtag. If your character is a domme, she could be punishing a sub, or just dominating the camera, or giving jerk off instructions, or have the camera spy on her in voyeuristic style. Really, anything sexy and shot with the background in mind should work just fine!

If you’re a solo model, you could do some simple self bondage with handcuffs (make sure the key works!). Or just tell the camera a fantasy you’d like to have enacted upon you. Want to be spanked? Want to tie someone up? Show it or say it. Shoot more explicit stuff than we’re good at- edging, toys, whatever.

Just make it sexy, intense, fast-paced, dramatic. The whole thing should be like a trailer for a film you just HAVE to see. Don’t hang around, change the camera angles a lot. Cut it down so it moves much faster than a normal one-rolling-take video. The characters are trying to grab attention in an underground, jaded setting. Make it compelling and stylish and leave them wanting more.

(That’s the thing we are going to be working on most intensively ourselves for 2017).

HAVE FUN!