A Hive of Activity?

When things go quiet, it is usually because we’re in a frenzy of behind-the-scenes activity which will make its way to the screen for you soon. Here’s a “state of the fetish empire” update.

At the end of 2013, Ariel and I did a shoot with the lovely Sophia Smith on location in the Welsh borders. After the shoot, we both independently said how much we’d liked the shoot, but also how much we’d liked the area.

We currently live in the South East of England, quite close to London. We moved here for work, but in my case the job was a lectureship which I quit a decade ago. The south east is very crowded and rather expensive.

We vaguely mused that we might consider a move in a year or two, and planned to spend a few days at the end of February scouting out quieter areas of the country where we might be able to get a little more for our money house-wise. When your house is your photo-studio, space becomes an all-consuming demand: more rooms means more potential sets and more places to store the mountain of clothes, bondage gear, lights and camera gear that our two businesses require.

Somehow “consider moving in a year or two” became “let’s look on Rightmove” which became “Let’s put our house on the market” which became “moving house in a couple of months”, assuming everything goes OK. So our scouting trip at the end of February has morphed into a second viewing of the house we are hoping to buy. We’re very excited- I don’t want to say any more publicly because we superstitiously don’t want to jinx the whole thing!

Needless to say, this has meant January was whirlwind of stuff to do, not helped by the fact that I was called for Jury service potentially taking me out for two weeks at the start of February. (In fact I ended up showing up for two days, not being drawn to serve on the jury twice, and being told I could go. I was actually quite disappointed, there’s nothing I like more than learning new things and I was interested to see the justice system at work).

We’ve been hard at work processing photosets and editing videos to make sure we have enough stuff queued up to cope with a potential house move, and now we’re getting back into shoots for the spring shooting season. Our first shoot of the year was with stunning new model Fiona Jane:

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We’ve got more shoots with new models coming up in the next few weeks, and one or two with fave models to make sure we have enough sets of them to carry us through and make sure we don’t have a panic if timescales slip on the house move.

We also took the opportunity to do a few sets with just Ariel and me, which is something we really must make more time for. Poor Ariel has been very brave stepping up to rigging for the site and it was nice to get her back on the right side of the rope!

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We’ve also been frantically editing videos we shot before Xmas. The two best-fun shoots were a big RE reunion location shoot with Steve, Merlin, Kate, Katy, Ariel, Hywel and Natalia Forrest, and a weekend shoot with Ariel, Hannah Claydon and Janey.

The first thing we shot that week was a thrilling new historical epic for Elegance Studios, called Highwayman. I’ve finally had chance to do a rough cut of that:

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As often happens with Elegance Studios, editing the rough cut showed up that we didn’t really have all the footage we needed to tell the story properly. I guess it is just hard to fit shooting a 30+ minute feature indie-film style into a single day! So we’re going to have to pick up some extra scenes the next time we have Ariel and Natalia together- hopefully a very early shoot at the new house, since it should fit in quite well with the look of the footage we shot on location last year.

We’ve got another proto-Elegance-Studios film in the works which we started just before Xmas at an action-packed weekend shoot with three of the models who I think are really superb, natural actresses: Ariel, Hannah Claydon and Janey. It was the first time in a couple of years we’d managed to schedule a shoot with Janey and it was absolutely wonderful to catch up and see her do her stuff again!

The long video we started on is a sexy spy thriller with a seventies twist called “The Island of Doctor Destructo” (think The Prisoner with a hint of Stepford Wives). I haven’t had chance to put together a rough cut yet, as usual I suspect we might want to add a few scenes once I’ve seen it cut together, but here are a couple of framegrabs of raw ungraded footage as a teaser:

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What about the other sites?

As you’ll probably have seen if you’ve checked out Restrained Elegance our idea of a world where being a nude in metal girl was a fashion and lifestyle choice like being a goth or a hippy has found a great home as a new special feature. We had considered launching this as a separate website and I guess if it is really, really popular we still might at some point in the future. But overall it seems much more at home on Restrained Elegance and we’re very happy with it there. It is great fun to shoot, so we’re looking forward to expanding the world and the ideas soon.

Bastinado Girls is sadly on indefinite hold. We had some of the best times ever shooting for it, but as Ariel explained in her blog, she suffered an injury last year from which she is yet to fully recover. As the problem is her knee but with complications including pain in her foot, we’re just not going to risk bastinado until she’s better. No amount of sexy fun is ever worth putting your partner at risk so we want to be sensible.

We do have a little fun project to fill in the gap with just Ariel and me shooting together, but that’s at too early a stage to say anything about it yet.

The British Film Festival idea is also on hold. The film producers we got together are still keen to organise something, but we’re thinking more along the lines of a film-makers skill-sharing event than a public screening at the moment. We’ll hopefully organise this if and when we move house (it doesn’t make any sense to plough through the bureaucracy in the South East if we’re about to move away).

Last but not least is Silk Soles which is very close to my heart but which I knew was something of a self-indulgence when we started it. I have a foot fetish, and Silk Soles is what I like when the girl isn’t tied up (or isn’t tied up YET, if I am more honest with myself!)

When we launched Silk Soles , we decided to give it a year and see if it was commercially viable. It wasn’t a great time to be launching a new site- most webmasters I know were still in decline, despite the economy at large starting to pick up. The year is almost up and it is getting towards crunch time- in the next couple of months we’re going to have to decide whether to book more shoots and shoot more sets with new models.

Frankly, Silk Soles has not yet broken even.

It’s a terrible dilemma.

We have a band of faithful members who say it is just the very best foot fetish site they’ve ever seen and they love it to bits. One member said he loved the way the videos are like frozen moments, the thrill of seeing a girl’s bare soles the first time and the breathless anticipation of seeing her naked. It’s probably too gentle and innocent for today’s foot fetish porn market, but there are still some people who can see the romance and the eroticism… and for some of those people it is just the ticket.

Ariel and I love shooting for it- it feels so fluid compared with bondage shoots, and the knowledge that the audience is small but dedicated has allowed us to experiment with things a bit more freely than we might for RE, which remains the cornerstone of the “Empire” (and the thing which pays the bills). That artistic freedom leads to fun new ways to shoot, which feeds back into the bread-and-butter shoots for RE. We really appreciate having side projects to stretch us a bit, we think it is important for helping us stay fresh.

We thought we could shoot in a quicker and less painstaking style for Silk Soles than we do for RE. It turns out we can’t. More specifically, I can’t bring myself to produce work to a lower standard than that of which I know I am capable. So initial plans to shoot stills and video using the same lighting went out the window, and as a result Silk Soles sets take very nearly as long to film as RE shoots do… and the membership as yet doesn’t justify it.

But… damn it, we really enjoy it, and the membership HAS been growing for the last few months.

I should emphasise that if we do stop updating we’ll make sure everyone gets all the updates they paid for- we work far enough ahead that we’ll notify everyone in good time that the updates will stop on whatever date and everyone will get their month’s worth of updates at the very least. It’s not going to suddenly stop. What we’re talking about is deciding whether to launch into another round of shoots in the knowledge that we may not make our money back soon, or possibly ever.

But it really brought home how much we enjoy it just recently when Ariel and I shot a batch of videos for Silk Soles:

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I guess what we may do is to carry on the pattern we’ve recently established of having every other update feature Ariel for SilkSoles: that way we cut the costs of the shoot (since I pay Ariel, but obviously that money stays in our household so we can still use it to pay our bills and mortgage!)

I wonder what SilkSoles members think of that idea? I happen to think Ariel has very pretty feet and personally I’d be delighted with a site that was 50% Ariel… obviously still featuring all the other regulars like Natalia, Tillie, Hannah Claydon, Anita deBauch and the other RE girls as they come for their shoots with us.

What do you think?




Stories and scripts

So, it’s the last evening of my “Creative Retreat”, two weeks spent away from the usual run of processing photos, editing videos and answering emails that are the day-to-to running of a website.

I set myself the challenge to come up with ten log lines – I did, see previous post.

Then I set myself the challenge to come up with a screenplay, either one feature or several shorts. I did. I wrote three short scripts, half a draft “hour-long” hybrid that might have the kernel of a feature in it, one fully worked out idea with dialogue to be improvised at the shoot (like we shoot now) and a whole stack of index cards which might one day turn into a dense 90-minute feature.

As I thought, the shorts proved more fertile. I want to get more experience working with stories framed as screenplays, with their pared-down style, stripped dialogue, three act structure, etc.. So I’m going to make some of the shorts into films and release them before embarking on a feature.

So now I have…

Bondage Intern – Ditzy blonde intern must run business when boss breaks his leg. Only trouble: business is running a bondage website. This one I decided needed the improv. touch to deliver humour, I’m not at all confident that I can write funny dialogue! That’s now a full story outline, in usual RE style.

The Face Of Metal Bondage – Too old & too tall, lifestyle BDSMer Audrey must defeat the horrid fashion models to be crowned million-pound face of metal bondage fashion. 8 page short screenplay.

Good Time Girl – Good time girl provides service: perfect embodiment of any fantasy. Kidnapped by mob pimps, she must escape; her only client is her husband! 13 page short screenplay.

Friendly Fire – a military intelligence officer kidnaps his cynical civilian superior to prove to her than the interrogation techniques at which she sneers are no walk in the park. But can he defend his honour and integrity when she attempt to seduce her way out of the situation? 20 page short screenplay.

A partial draft of Dating Epic Fail. Ditzy girl installs Bad Idea Bear app to make all date decisions for her. Ensuing adventures lead her to sub identity BDSM. 22 pages, but needs either sharpening up and condensing to a snappier 15 minute short, or expanding to an hour allowing more time for character development. I have extensive notes but the main thing I am missing is the hot BDSM scenes (which curiously are usually the bits which fall into place most easily). If I can think of lots, it’ll become a longer film. If I can’t, I’ll try to make it a super-pacey 15 minute short.

A LOT of index cards and notes for Journalist mistakenly invited to BDSM scene. She goes, intending exposé, finds own fulfillment. Now she must battle tabloid exposé herself. This one I really see as a feature, and one which might be able to appeal to a more general audience… if I can make the characters and the storyline compelling enough. So this is one I’m going to work on steadily and see how far I can develop it, and maybe even look for mainstream involvement down the line.

What of the two most popular ideas from the log lines?

Wile E. Coyote bondage. Incompetent kidnapper keeps trying to grab her victim with bondage traps but keeps trapping herself in bondage instead. This is a great comedy idea, but I decided the first thing that needed doing was trying to figure out some practical ways of actually making the bondage traps. I decided to wait until I had bondage gear (and Ariel!) to hand so we could experiment. Might need to recruit some bondage engineers to get very far with this! I still love the idea but the feasibility/safety on our budgets needs testing to establish.

Nymphomaniac Zombies. Contagion turns young women into sex fiends. Capture and bondage the only option until a cure is found! I wrote a detailed outline, but the more I wrote, the more frustrated I became with the scale on which we’d have to shoot it. My original idea had LOTS of sexy women on screen, and that’s likely to be a budget buster.

I explored a few of the standard horror film ways of making the budget smaller- isolation is the big one. So… a hotel, on an island, with a small group of characters and (say) a convention of makeup sales-girls to bring up the babe quotient. The more I wrote, the more it felt like a less-good remake of The Evil Dead… and there have been enough less-good remakes of The Evil Dead already.

So this one will have to wait until a lightbulb moment which makes the original sexy vision fit in a “zero budget” filming story.

One good thing though is that I’m now confident that will happen, I just need to mull it over long enough. The reason I know that is that I’ve had the Friendly Fire film idea running around in my head for a couple of years. I had some very strong images, a basic story arc, and the main character sitting there… I just couldn’t write down the framing story in a way that a) made sense or b) was possible for us to shoot.

The way I’d originally thought of it, she would be a business bitch character, and the central idea is hatred as a powerful aphrodisiac between her and the dom in the story, who I had down as a policeman investigating her committing a massive fraud in the city. No matter how I sliced it, though, the story didn’t hang together. The things I thought a policeman would do, the things the two characters would have access to, any sense of urgency as the plot unfolded.

When the idea came to me of making them intelligence officers, rivals at a similar level, used to dirty tricks and with a lot more resources to call on, I knew I had it. (Note to self- going for a walk is definitely the best way to solve story issues. Subconscious delivers).

It remains to be seen if these screenplays are any good. Next step is a read-through and re-edit with Ariel, to see if they really do hang together. The dialogue certainly needs tweaking- I’m sure most of the characters talk too much like me, for example. And it remains to be seen whether we can film these more ambitious story lines (and if anyone can/will learn the lines I’ve just sweated over writing!)

The main thing is that I’m very happy at having come up with several stories which have actual third acts, endings, not just fade to black while she’s in bondage. The bondage scenes have somewhere to go, and hopefully it’ll give them more impact as a result because the characters have an emotional arc through the hotness, as well as just the hotness.

It’ll also allow me to do more detailed visual planning before we shoot them, which should help produce beautiful images as well.

Right. Must pack my bags. Hopefully the next you’ll hear of my ramblings is that we’re about to make one of these into a movie you can actually watch!

Which of them sounds most intriguing to you?