On the Set of a Sci-Fi Porno


I’ve done set visits before. But I’ve never done one quite like this one, shot (unsurprisingly) inside a nondescript building in the Valley, next door to apartment complexes whose residents likely have no idea that they live in gang-bang territory.

Saving Humanity, though, wants to be a very different kind of adult feature. Specifically, the kind released in R-rated form first, to be perceived (they hope) as a sci-fi film first, just one that happens to have a lot of truncated sex scenes that totally make sense in the context of the plot. Then, a month or so later, out comes the X-rated version on DVD to bring a true sense of climax to the scenes you saw in trimmed form.

Producer Kim Nielsen and director Harry Sparks have done this once before, with last year’s Revenge of the Petites, a Revenge of the Nerds homage in which younger and more natural-looking ladies took on a more stereotypically big-boobed sorority. You may not have heard of it – odds are that unless you follow the adult industry, you haven’t – but as everyone involved with this production will tell you, it got a positive review at CraveOnline, which gave it 7.5 out of 10. That “beat War Horse, which got a 6, and Men in Black 3, which got a 2!” notes Nielsen. While it’s not really fair to compare grades like that – any critic can tell you that each movie is assessed based on its own goals – it’s a reasonable point of pride.

Not your standard SAG rules

Nielsen, an impeccably dressed Asian man with a soft English accent that gives him a bit of a Bond-villain vibe, worked at General Motors for seven years and then discovered the profitability of Internet porn when he went back to college to get a doctorate in marketing. Nowadays he makes most of his money from subscription sites, but his goal is “to merge and be known for merging mainstream and eroticism in a meaningful way, where the sex is part of the storyline and not just an add-on, or the stories are made up just to string a bunch of sex scenes together…Women aren’t necessarily objectified or degraded – that’s what sets our stuff apart.”

For director Sparks the transition has been away from mainstream, as his frustrations with censorship issues over his non-XXX films All Hallow’s Eve and Rotkappchen: The Blood of Red Riding Hood are a thing of the past. “I just found that so restricting,” he says. “And then I guess was inspired by (the adult film)Pirates 2, like hey, maybe I can tell a story or feature and use what I learned from mainstream to tell an adult feature.” Asked the difference between union actors and adult stars, he says the latter are easier to direct because “they have fewer hang-ups.”

The male star of the film is James Deen, recently the subject of mainstream media attention both for acting opposite Lindsay Lohan in Paul Schrader’s The Canyons, and for his upcoming, Kickstarter-funded (non-porn) steampunk western Cowboys & Engines, set to star Malcolm McDowell and Walter Koenig. Deen looks more like a mainstream leading man than the muscular, tattooed dudes on so many DVD covers, but he brushes off the notion that he’s some kind of special crossover star.


“People project a lot of things on to me,” he says. “I’m not ever trying to accomplish some big grandiose goal; I kinda want to do things myself for my own personal self-satisfaction and growth. So I have the whole thing of people telling me, ‘Oh yeah, you’re expanding the borders,’ and stuff like that, but it’s not my motivation for doing anything. If things get benefitted, then cool, great, awesome.”


I try to get him to dish on Lohan by talking about my friend Chris Sivertson’s movie I Know Who Killed Me, for which she didn’t always show up to set, but Deen has his diplomatic answers down pat, laughing and saying, “I have no response to that. I was not on that project.” Of the lengthy New York Times article about her Canyons on-set antics, among other things, he says only that it’s “accurate enough – it is real-life events reflected in a mirror and retold for dramatic effect. There’s enough in it that’s true that we can’t say it’s not true, but there’s also so much else there than what they described just in that article.” Of his own experience, he calls it “awesome.”

In Saving Humanity, in what director Sparks admits is “sort of” a reference to the independent film scene, Deen plays a villainous businessman named Weinstein. On this day, he has been aged up with some drawn-on crow’s feet and a ruffled brow.


As for the plot of the movie, Nielsen describes it thusly: “You have a heroine from each of these four time zones. There’s prehistoric man, the caveman era, then the 1950s, then you’ve got the world of today, and then you’ve got this bleak future where sex is not allowed between humans; humans are cloned as adults and terminated as adults when their economic utility is done. We have an overarching message with this movie that maybe we’re losing some of the elements that make us human, and if we continue down this path, we might end up in this bleak world that’s run by corporations.” He dismisses concerns that viewers might reject porn that’s overtly political, saying the anti-corporate angle is “up to the viewer’s interpretation.”

Sparks’ description of the writing process makes the conception sound more chaotic. “Kim gave me a list of things he wanted to see in the film, like time travel, a monolith, cloning, maybe some martial-arts fighting, maybe a dance number, so the challenge was to take all those things and put it all into a script; a story that made some kind of sense. But we finally got it; it was the hardest script I’ve ever written.” The final page count was 82 pages, where the usual adult feature tops out around 30. They also tend to shoot for long, 20-hour days; this one is taking 10, and operating more or less under the schedule and timing of a union shoot, even though they aren’t technically required to do so.


In the interests of good journalism, I felt it my duty to interview some of the actresses, because hey, this is work, right? It was a moment of pride when Sinn Sage proved her nerd cred by showing off her X-Files tattoo…and voiced her extreme disappointment that she wasn’t cast in the porn parody.

As bummed as she was in both that missed opportunity and the second X-Files movie (“My heart broke, you don’t even know”), she was glad to be part of a sci-fi film that wasn’t just a direct parody, and the chance to use her imagination against a green-screen. “It’s like a muscle you can exercise. It’s nice to be able to use it and play with it,” she says, noting that imagination isn’t usually part of a genre that leaves nothing unshown. Though she’s not specifically looking to break out of porn, she does say that “I love acting, so the fact that I’m finally in a movie where I have the opportunity to act – I’ve done it before, but not very often – to have it be shot and made like a mainstream movie, it feels amazing.”


And then there was Andy San Dimas, who couldn’t wait to tell me about the five-way orgy she was looking forward to shooting, telling me “I like to have sex with lots of girls at the same time; I like to multitask. Orgies are fun, because you don’t have to stay doing one thing.”

San Dimas actually has been in it least one mainstream hit – she played a stripper in Drive, and got a dialogue scene with Ryan Gosling – and while she’s happy with the paycheck, she’s less interested in it as a goal. “I’d like to do more parts like that, but I’m not really going all out for it. I did porn because I wanted to do porn, and getting those opportunities are cool every once in a while.”

While I’m waiting to hear if any actual sex scenes are going to be shot during my time on set, Nielsen comes over with a sense of urgency to tell me they’re about to shoot some nudity. It’s being called a closed set, but in Inigo Montoya fashion, I am not sure that word means what they think it means. On a union set, closed sets for nudity are strictly locked down – I acted in a movie called Wicked Lake in which I played scenes opposite a nude actress, and was kicked off set every time I wasn’t in the shot, even though I had obviously seen all there was to see. On the set of Saving Humanity, by contrast, I’m not the only one who doesn’t need to be there – the polite request that I not take nude photos (sorry, guys!) was about the only thing “closed,” as far as I could tell.

So anyways, I didn’t get to see sex, but I did get to see – from a distance – four naked girls jumping backwards and forwards in front of a gigantic green screen. The things I endure for you people.

But as it turns out, according to special effects guru “Digital Dave,” sex on green screen sets is a bad idea and causes many technical problems. I don’t think he was talking about the staining potential…and honestly, I dare not ask further because I really don’t actually want to know.

Correction: An earlier version of this article listed the movie title as both
Saving Humanity and Surviving Humanity. “Saving” is the right one.