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:
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!
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:
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:
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:
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?