Jacky St. James Discusses 'Paparazzi' with HotMovies

Jacky St. James is an award-winning director and screenwriter whose critically acclaimed, plot-driven XXX features are often regarded as female-friendly. Beyond being a stalwart of the “porn for women” movement, St. James seeks to convey complex characters and storylines in her movies beyond the archetypal porn tropes we’re all so familiar with. HotMovies was lucky enough to secure the exclusive VOD release of St. James’ highly anticipated title, Paparazzi, and the esteemed director was kind enough to grant us an interview to discuss the film ahead of its release. Learn more about the adult industry, Jacky St. James, and Paparazzi in our exclusive interview below!

Paparazzi from Sweet Sinner

Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for us, Jacky. How has directing for Sweet Sinner been for you so far?

Incredible. I have so much respect for the Mile High team and it starts with Jon Blitt, because he respects his staff. He makes me want to be a better director and writer. He also has a wide variety of talented people on his staff, from editors, to graphics, to public relations. I’m not going to lie, adjusting to the two-day feature has been challenging – one I have yet to really master. Telling four interwoven storylines in about 18-20 pages over a two-day time period is insanely difficult. I’d gotten used to the four-day shoots (which allow for more character development), so it’s really about figuring out the madness – and being an effective storyteller!

What can we expect from your newest Sweet Sinner release, Paparazzi?

Not only do we have an insanely sexy cast delivering some unforgettable sex scenes, but we’ve got a storyline that will keep you constantly guessing. It’s sexy, surprising, and ends exactly as I think it should. I had four days on Paparazzi, so there’s a lot more development, twists, turns, and moments. I’m excited for everyone to see it!

Ivy Wolfe & Tommy Gunn in Paparazzi from Sweet Sinner
Paparazzi from Sweet Sinner

How did Paparazzi come about and materialize?

Jon Blitt came up with the idea of doing a story about the paparazzi and I ran with it. I love taking an idea and running with it. Jon always gives me a lot of freedom with story, so when he said, “Can you do a film about the Paparazzi,” my mind just went crazy. It was interesting, the development process. It’s not the same story as it was when I first started brainstorming. I guess that is true of most longer features I work on. I let the characters tell me where to go – I don’t try and fit them into a box.

What are your feelings on paparazzi and entertainment gossip outlets like TMZ?

Oh boy. You know, tabloids really are the best and worst thing ever. As much as I hate what they do (exploiting people’s privacy), I still will be the first to click on a “shocking celeb story” online. I’m naturally an inquisitive person, so the more I know about anyone, the better. I like information. So I’m part of the problem. Anyone who consumes tabloid gossip is part of the problem. We live in a world though where privacy really isn’t our own anymore and everything is out there for public consumption – even people who aren’t celebrities. As an insanely private person, I hate that. I cannot imagine a world where I can’t go to dinner or to the grocery store without photographers or people hounding me. That sounds like hell on earth.

In 2018, I feel like porn is more mainstream than ever, with Stormy Daniels in the news virtually every day. Do you think we’re finally starting to blur the lines between the Hollywood entertainment industry and adult entertainment?

No. I don’t. Because at the end of the day, Stormy is still referred to as PORN STAR STORMY DANIELS. Mainstream outlets don’t offer a lot of credibility to people working in adult. We’re the punchline to a joke. We’re the “shock value” to every story. While we may still get coverage, it’s usually with a negative spin. Not always, but usually.

Jade Nile & Small Hands in Paparazzi from Sweet Sinner
Jade Nile & Small Hands in Paparazzi

Have you ever had any experiences with dealing with paparazzi yourself, working in entertainment?

When I first moved to LA to be an actress, I worked for Splash News (yes, the tabloid picture agency). I did accounting and transcribing of interviews (since I type over 100 WPM). My accounting work was working out the payment for the paps and the photos they sold. It was eye-opening how a shitty shot of Britney Spears can pay your rent for a month, but it can. And what was more eye-opening were how many paparazzi there really were. At that time, celebrity culture was interesting to me, but the longer I’ve lived in the LA area, and the longer I’ve worked in entertainment, the more I can’t stand it. Leave people alone, damnit!

What mainstream movies have you enjoyed recently?

8th Grade. I loved how Bo Burnham captured the true 8th grade experience – the awkwardness, the self discovery, the heartache, the pain, the small victories. Even the way in which it was shot and the moments they showcased from that period were so evocative of that teen awkwardness. That uncertainty and insecurity of figuring yourself out.

Which do you enjoy more, the writing process or being behind the camera, and why?

Oh don’t make me answer this. The truth is – writing. It’s always been about the writing. I could tell a million stories and still have a million more to tell. There are so many stories inside me. So many unfinished books and poems and short stories and erotic fictions. I never tire of telling stories. I’ve done it since I was in third grade and it has been the one constant in my life above all else. However, that’s not to say I don’t love working in production. I have one of the most talented crews and I really enjoy interacting with the talent and helping mold them into the best possible version of the characters that I’ve written. But still, if I had to choose – continue writing or continue directing – I’d always pick writing (even if it doesn’t pay nearly as well).

Mona Wales, Abella Danger & Ramon Nomar in Paparazzi from Sweet Sinner
Mona Wales, Abella Danger & Ramon Nomar in Paparazzi

You have an extensive body of work in plot-driven erotica films and won multiple awards for your movies and screenplays. How do you ensure that you get the best performances, both dramatically and sexually, from your casts?

I cast the right people. I think it is my greatest strength as a director, and this strength comes from having acted for so many decades and having worked with mainstream casting directors, producers, and agents for over ten years. I know who can sell what. I know how to see the diamonds in the rough. I love taking chances and they’ve always paid off. Sometimes, I lose my ideal casting choice out of the gate and then the day before the shoot I am forced to scramble to find a replacement. In those situations I rely on my ability to really reach people emotionally and get them to evoke the mood necessary. It can be disappointing, but sometimes the best part of my job is making a shitty situation work out for the better!

Sexually, I always (without fail) ask the talent who they want to work with or if they like working with a particular person. I want them to enjoy the sex – because at the end of the day, it’s really hard to fake having a good time sexually if you just aren’t. I also make sure the environment on set is low-key and laid-back so that everyone is comfortable to get their groove on!

You’re known for being extremely detail-oriented and going for the difficult shot in your films. Can you share one of the more difficult shots that you nailed in one of your movies that made you proud?

In The Puppeteer, Alex Ladd did one shot from the entrance through the front door, downstairs, then back up another flight of stairs. I liked keeping it in one shot to give the viewer the sense of urgency and stress that the main character was feeling. We were really WITH her in that moment. I love stuff like that. Oftentimes it’s the one-shotters that are tough because everything has to be perfect – blocking, acting, sound, camera. They’re tough and they can really slow your day down if you have to do multiple takes. But when you get them to work – it’s magic. That shot Alex did of Kenna James was magic.

What do you think was the hottest moment to ever happen on one of your sets?

Abella Danger and Michael Vegas in The Mistress. It was unexpected, because the movie itself wasn’t a BIG feature, but the tension and buildup leading to their first kiss was something (I’m not gonna lie) I thought about a lot afterwards. Nothing has topped that in terms of sexiness yet.

Abella Danger in Paparazzi from Sweet Sinner
Abella Danger in Paparazzi

One of your goals in the industry is making movies that appeal to couples. During your writing process, what details do you put in the script to try to appeal to couples specifically?

I write smart women. I write consenting women. To me, those are the most important components in creating something I am proud to put my name on. Unless I’m writing comedy, where stupid people are critical in creating humor, I like keeping the women powerful (or at least strong) in my films. For me, what appeals to couples is creating what is appealing to both sexes. Generically speaking – for women it’s looking at other women who are strong, intelligent, and interested in sex. For men, it’s women that are interested in sex. But a lot of the details come outside the script, like casting the right people. Nothing can be successful all on its own. It’s putting together all these pieces of this gigantic puzzle and rejoicing when they all fit together.

When directing a shoot, who are the unsung heroes on your film set?

Every member of the crew. The crew is first to set, last out. They’re the ones loading up their cars two hours before call time. They’re the ones unloading all the gear when they get to set. They’re the ones carrying heavy equipment in 100+ degree heat. They’re the ones loading up gear after all the talent have left set (sometimes after a 15-hour day). They’re the ones driving home and then having to unload the gear all over again. They have the longest days. They are never late. They seldom ever complain – even when they have reason to.

On Twitter, your pinned tweet reads, “Someone at @apacsocial asked if social media effects who I hire. YES. If you’re cruel on social media you’re either a coward or a dick.” Do you think performers have become more conscientious of each other on social media lately, or is this still an ongoing problem in the industry?

It’s still a problem. There is a divisiveness in the industry. There are always haters, negative people, nasty people, nosey people, overly opinionated people. Our culture has become one of negativity – and of exploitation. People take joy in attacking people online, outing tweets from five years ago, stirring up trouble for attention. It’s really sad. But in porn, no. We aren’t more conscientious – but there are a lot more people willing to stand up for what’s right now. A lot more people defending those that need someone to defend them. I personally experienced a lot of bullying when I got into porn and I’ve learned how to deal with that nonsense, but it was the people bold enough to stand up for me and defend me – that really made a gigantic impact on my own personal well-being. We need to look out for each other. We need to be braver.

Ivy Wolfe in Paparazzi from Sweet Sinner
Ivy Wolfe in Paparazzi

You recently tweeted congrats to Kayden Kross for her new Tushy release. Do you find that XXX directors are generally supportive of each other, or is there too much competition?

When I first started, I had a lot of people attacking me on Twitter: female directors. And there are a few that continue to do that. But there were some women who always supported me or respected me (Joanna Angel, Dana Vespoli, Angie Rowntree, jessica drake, to name a few). For me, while it is a competitive business, I think acknowledging someone’s work is important (if I deem it worthy). When we acknowledge someone’s work – whether a friend or acquaintance – it keeps us humble. I cannot understand people that feel the success of porn begins and ends with them. There are so many people doing so many great things – many of whom never receive acknowledgement. This is another reason why I like giving credit. When the critics or award shows don’t, it’s my little way of saying, “I see what you’re doing and while I am not ‘everyone,’ there is someone out there that absolutely thinks what you are doing is phenomenal.” There isn’t a single person in this business that is going to be on top forever. It ebbs and flows. Today’s star won’t likely be three years from now. Falling from that stardom can be hard for one’s ego. I’ve seen it cripple some. Why not spread respect and appreciation to those doing creative work? Why not show support? Why is everything a goddamn competition? And really, at the end of the day, what does winning even prove? Absolutely nothing. Doing good work and being a good person is what matters. When I leave this business, that is what I want to be remembered for – not the awards I’ve won.

Paparazzi wasn’t your first time directing Abella Danger. How has it been to watch her grow as a performer since filming your first movie with her?

As much of a pain in the ass as Abella can be, I adore her. She is one of my favorite performers and I absolutely LOVE her commitment to the work. She cares. She wants to do the best. She wants to please. She wants her performances to be better than the last and as a director, what more could I ask for? Abella has come a long way in the last few years and I am excited to see where she continues to go.

Abella Danger in Paparazzi from Sweet Sinner

If you could bring one performer out of retirement to direct one last time, who do you think it would be?

Oh wow. That is an AMAZING question. You know honestly, Steven St. Croix. I know that’s not going to happen, but he had so much respect for me as a director (even when I had barely directed anything). He respected my education and background in acting and always wanted to tell the best story. Outside of Steven, I’d probably say Remy LaCroix. She has a magical quality to her. We still talk and are friends and her own life experience as a mother and wife has really helped her evolve into an even more nuanced and complex person.

You once said in an interview that your hope was to change women’s views on sexuality and help them to embrace the normalcy of adult entertainment. Do you feel like the tide is starting to change in terms of women’s relationship with pornography?

Yes and no. I still think there is a lot of miseducation out there. People still assume what they see on the home page of a tube site is a reflection of what is happening in porn. It’s not. Not as it pertains to what I do. My work has been illegally uploaded to tube sites and then rebranded to appeal to a male audience. I’ve seen a scene I directed with Chanel Preston (as an overbearing boss) and Anthony Rosano (as her passive assistant) retagged as “Big Titted Bimbo Pleases Her Boss.” The only thing they got right was that it was a boss movie. It’s things like these that prevent people who would watch my work from not watching my work. If people paid for porn, there would be a greater understanding of what’s out there and a more positive shift towards normalizing adult.

Do you think we’ll ever see a fifth Emma Marx film?

Never say never. I know Penny Pax and I joke about it. “The series that never dies.” I’m not gonna lie. If I was asked to write and direct another one, I’d do it! For me, stories never have an ending – they just evolve.

What do you like to do when you aren’t working on a movie?

Write erotic fiction. I’ve been doing it since 2007 and it’s been a major outlet for me. I also love going to Ventura (my favorite beach), taking a stroll, getting coffee. I like spending time with my three dogs and eating sushi. I am a very, very simple person so what I like doing really isn’t anything crazy. Oh! But I will be training for my second marathon next month! So, that’s kind of exciting… and time-consuming!

What projects can fans of your work look forward to from you next?

Aside from Paparazzi, I’ve got a film coming out for New SensationsLove in the Digital Age (for those who are fans of romance flicks). I’ve also got a hilarious Christmas movie coming out in a few months for Sweet Sinner. I’m super proud of Infidelity 2 for Sweet Sinner about a teacher’s affair with a student. I actually think that movie was executed near-perfectly. And I’m always directing, so follow me on Twitter for updates on future films!

Watch Paparazzi exclusively on HotMovies! Coming September 16th

Follow @HotMovies on Twitter