A Minute With Director Angie Rowntree

Angie Rowntree

Angie Rowntree (Photo courtesy of Angie Rowntree. Used with permission.)

by Flash

Angie Rowntree and her husband Colin Rowntree, who runs the BDSM site Wasteland.com, first started out with a mail order catalog that featured BDSM toys, gear and apparel. They soon realized that surfers were far more interested in looking at the women wearing leather than actually ordering anything. Hence, Wasteland.com was launched in 1994 as the very first BDSM content site on the web. Then in 1999, filling a niche that was missing from the market, Angie started Sssh.com, which was a website that features porn for women.

At Sssh.com, “women and men are depicted as equals, and sex and intimacy are shown as something that is enjoyed,” Angie said describing porn for women. “Our films celebrate women’s pleasure and sexuality. They are empowering”

“I’ve always taken the approach of asking women what they want to see (we have an online survey), instead of assuming I already knew,” Angie said. “My films try to be as true to their fantasies and desires as possible, while still maintaining my own creative paradigm. All our movies are shot from a female perspective, with great care given to the narrative and aesthetics.”

Fast forward 18 years: Always priding themselves on being on the cutting edge of adult entertainment, Sssh.com along with PervOut.com, run by Lance Hart, have co-produced their first VR 360º movie – Empowering Ava.

Empowering Ava is a short subject adult movie, which is viewable on VR 360º devices and on browsers through a customized viewer, that tells the story of erotic writer Ava, played by Ava Mir-Ausziehen, and her husband, played by Lance Hart. Ava is writing a story about pegging and her husband and her husband becomes intrigued by the concept.

Flash: What made you decide to make a VR 360º movie?

Angie Rowntree (AR): At first I wasn’t sure if we would be able to utilize VR and still maintain our ethos of taking our members fantasies and desires and turning them into onscreen realities. I couldn’t reconcile how I could accomplish that with POV VR, even though it was what everyone else was doing. Shooting compelling movies filled with chemistry, connection, and really hot sex just didn’t seem, possible in a POV environment.

Then in April, I went to the NAB, National Association of Broadcasters, show. It was a real eye opener. I went to a number of workshops and talks and also attended the Kaleidoscope VR Film Festival.

The main focus was something called “dynamic storytelling” and after a very short demonstration, of what dynamic storytelling was, it really did not take long before I realized that this was something I could work with. It was different, it was fun, and a challenge. Now I was telling a story on a 360º set, and directing the viewer’s attention via sound, among other things. It was like the theater. I loved it!

Armed with the concept and my newfound knowledge, I started looking at the equipment. Colin and I decided to make a mid-range investment as we wanted to make sure that this type of VR storytelling would be something our members wanted to see. Even for Wasteland.com, the BDSM site, it was still something very different than what was already available. Worse case scenario there wouldn’t be a market for it, best case scenario we have a new, really fun medium to tell stories.

One item of note; at the film festival I watched a number of movies and I very quickly realized that I did have problems with the less expensive headsets fitting correctly, due to my narrow face, while the expensive ones were more adjustable but heavy. I’m hoping that as VR becomes more popular the prices will become more reasonable. With that said, it was the number one reason we released Empowering Ava in a way that you could view with or without a headset.

Flash: What was your experience shooting in VR 360º for the first time?

AR: It was a learning experience, just like anything you do the first time. Empowering Ava was done in three acts. Each “act,” was rehearsed and blocked. One thing you have to keep in mind when working in a 360º environment, is that your set design and dressing must also be 360º. In traditional film, your blocking within a much smaller area. VR 360º really is like theater. In a stage production, the director works with their actors leading up to the performance, but once the “curtain” goes up, the director steps back. I was actually in an adjoining room watching on a wireless iPad.

Going back to sound… I wanted to use that entire 360º space. For instance, I had Ava sitting at a keyboard typing, you could hear the click of the key’s. Then Lance would enter from the far end of the room. You, as the viewer would automatically look to see where the sound of the door closing was coming from. We directed attention using sound.

Flash: How did the sex turn out?

AR: It was provocative, amazing and very, very real. As there were no interruptions, both Lance and Ava had the opportunity to talk, really connect, and explore each other’s bodies. There was a very natural flow to the sex that quite honestly I have not seen before in porn, and you can feel their tangible connection.

Empowering Ava

Flash: The sex scene, was that the first take or did you have to do several.

AR: First take.

Flash: Really?

AR: Yep. First take.

Flash: That is impressive.

AR: The kitchen scene we did a couple of times, outside we did once, and the sex scene we did once.

Flash: That’s very impressive.

AR: Oh, thank you, but it really was them. They were fantastic. We all went into this knowing it was an experiment. Ava and Lance were on board and willing to put the work into it. They are both strong actors and obviously had a very powerful attraction to each other, the end result was amazing.

In retrospect, shooting in 360º VR is exactly like a stage production. It has such a different feel to it than a traditional film.

Flash: How much do you have to change set design for VR 360º shooting?

AR: Everything the camera sees. Even if a room is not active and the camera can see it in the distance, it needs to be dressed.

Flash: What problems did you experience?

AR: Our biggest challenge was lighting. We didn’t realize the cameras were quite that sensitive, even though they were tested.

Not problems specifically, but rather, what we learned. The trailer, I’m really glad that we shot in three acts as that enabled us to cut back and forth between acts to create it. It flowed well. I was really happy with our “stitching” Also, coloring, effects, watermarking, and pretty much everything else has to be on the equirectangular footage.

Flash: Why was the forest scene so short?

AR: The forest scene had two purposes. First, we used it as a transition between the kitchen and bedroom and because I wanted to create different environments for the viewer to explore. It had originally been longer, but for a number of reason, we cut it down.

Flash: What are you going to try to change with the next ones?

AR: We have two more in the works. The second one will be entirely outside with a focus on environment. The third one is going to be much more story intensive. We are going to try to build emotion and suspense, using both sound and visuals.

VR has so much potential I want to try and utilize all of it.

Flash: How does the VR 360º style work for features?

AR: It’s a unique way to tell a story. It’s organic. It’s a wonderful medium for the right story.

I’m very happy with the results, considering this was my first time out of the gate. I also believe that this is the first time that somebody in the adult industry has used dynamic storytelling which lends itself to everything from shorts to feature films. We’re really excited about it and what the VR future holds for us as our movies become more and more intricate and feature-rich.

Flash is an adult film reviewer and can be reached via e-mail at adtflash@gmail.com. Flash’s adult film reviews can be read at www.adultdvdtalk.com/reviewer/flash. Flash’s other interviews can be read at interviews.adultdvdtalk.com/category/interviews-by-flash.

Angie Rowntree’s (@AngieRowntree) Sssh.com can be found here and Lance Hart’s (@LanceHartFetish) PervOut.com can be found here. The trailer for Empowering Ava is available here.

Empowering Ava boxcover

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