A Minute With Writer and Producer Paul Fishbein

Paul Fishbein

Paul Fishbein (Photo courtesy of Fine Ass Marketing. Used with permission.)

by Flash

Paul Fishbein has been a mainstay in the adult industry since adult films were actually shot on film. After graduating from Temple University in 1982 with a degree in journalism, Fishbein founded Adult Video News with Irv Slifkin and Barry Rosenblatt. Adult Video News started in 1983 and at the time was just the size of a newsletter. Over time AVN became a magazine and Fishbein grew the AVN brand into the AVN Media Network empire until he sold his shares in 2010. Fishbein also created the AVN Awards show which are the most coveted adult film awards, comparable to the Oscars in mainstream films.

Fishbein formed Plausible Films, with Darren Roberts, in 2011 as a television production company that bridges the line between mainstream and adult entertainment. Among the many programs that Plausible Films has produced is Submission, a series that premiered on Showtime this Spring that Fishbein created with Jacky St. James.

Fishbein brings his decades of experience within the adult film industry into the documentary X-Rated: The Greatest Adult Movies of All-Time. Fishbein co-wrote, with Eli Cross using the name Bryn Pryor, the journey through the greatest adult films from over a 30 year period. Fishbein was also the executive producer for X-Rated, which was made by Plausible Films. X-Rated premiered on Showtime in February of last year and made its VOD debut last month.

Flash: What prompted you to create a documentary on the greatest X-rated films of all time?

Paul Fishbein (PF): The funny thing is, it kind of goes back to my roots. When everybody asks me what my thought process for starting AVN was back in 1982 it came out of being a film buff. When we started AVN as Adult Video News; we tried to make it a film magazine. If you ever read the early reviews they’re really not written for a trade magazine, they were really written like movie reviews – like any movie that would open up at a theater. And I had this very high-minded idea we were going to make a movie magazine – of course, we know how it evolved and what it became. I’ve always been a film buff and I’ve always loved those American Film Institute specials. Do you remember AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies where they would count down the 100 greatest movies of all time. And then they did the greatest comedies, and then they did the greatest screenplays, and they did the greatest westerns. And I love lists. They did greatest stars, where they picked the fifty top male stars of all time and the fifty top female stars and they counted them down. They show film clips and have commentary. I love those. A long time ago, while I was even still at AVN, we did an issue on the greatest adult movies of all time; in fact, we did it twice during my years. We did a countdown of the greatest adult movies, the greatest adult DVDs, whatever. The first time Nothing to Hide came out at number one I remember. Movies and lists and all that stuff, it is a lot of fun and you know how people like lists. One day while I was still at AVN and I was talking to the Showtime guys because we were doing the AVN Awards on Showtime I mentioned this idea that I had to do an AFI type series where you would name the greatest adult movies of all time, the greatest adult parodies of all time, all of that stuff and they kind of liked it. There was a regime change at Showtime and so my guy there kind of put it on hold for a while. He said right now we are just going to stick with the AVN Awards. Well time passed, I left, sold my company, started Plausible Films the production company, and doing shows for Showtime. I repitched them the idea and they liked it. They liked it. That’s really what it was. It’s an idea that has been gestating for a long time and so we finally brought it to fruition.

Flash: What criteria did you and Bryn Pryor use to pick the films that you included in the documentary?

PF: Criteria is interesting because we obviously had the list I had done at AVN as a starting point. Then it was just a matter of these are the films that we like – and there were hundreds on the list – and then you kind of sort of go through them and you want to make sure that you cover the entire history of the adult business and you want to try to make sure you are touching all the great directors of the adult business and want to make sure that you have a breadth of content going from the earliest days of the 70s right up until the day of. What you also want to do is you want to make sure that you take the films that are landmarks. Any objective list of greatest adult movies would never include Deep Throat or Debbie Does Dallas. So what we tried to do was we tried to say not only are they the best films but they are also the most impactful that had the most cultural or historical impact. A lot of that came from Showtime’s direction. They felt that it should be also kind of a history of the adult film business and I think it does become more of a history if you include Deep Throat and Debbie Does Dallas along with Opening of Misty Beethoven and other great films. You want to make sure that the landmark films are on that list. So you get Deep Throat, Devil in Miss Jones, and Debbie Does Dallas and that sorta gives it the historical impact.

The other criteria is what’s available. You’re making a TV show so you are saying what’s available and where can I get soft clips to show on TV. So there’s many great adult films that are really hardcore with a lot of hardcore sex and it’s really hard to find soft clips because Showtime has standards. You’re on pay cable so you can’t show hardcore you have to be very careful. Some films get eliminated simply because there isn’t any footage available, some films get eliminated because there isn’t even a good print available or the quality is so bad that there’s no possible way that you could show this because it’ll never pass QC, and some films that would have been on the list I just couldn’t find them and I didn’t even know they were available. Since that film came out I’ve discovered who owns certain movies that might have been on that list that didn’t make it. For example, a couple of the Alex de Renzy films that we would have liked to have included at least one of them on the list. We couldn’t find them; they didn’t seem available. They were available in bootleg copies but they weren’t really commercially available so we couldn’t include them. Then I found after who owned the rights to them but it was too late. So if we do another one we’ll be able to include those if we do like another 25 greatest or 50 greatest or whatever.

Flash: Was the classic era or the modern era the harder one to pick the films from and why?

PF: I think the modern era. It was easy to pick Fashionistas and Pirates. They were landmarks when they came out. Some of the other stuff, like the Paul Thomas films and Brad Armstrong films, they made a lot of good films. Both of them have made a lot of really good movies and so to whittle them down and try to be objective enough to figure out what are their best films you sort of have to really dig. Some of these films I haven’t seen in a long time so we have to rewatch them. So I think Bryn and I and a couple of our researchers watched hundred and hundreds of old films that we hadn’t seen. Like one film, Blonde Ambition, I hadn’t seen it since 1982 or something and I kind of forgot about it and all of a sudden I noticed that Steve Morowitz at DistribPix had done a restoration of it. I said I would love to see that restoration and then Bryn and I were blown away. We were going how did we miss this film, it was obviously before we started shooting. How did we miss Blonde Ambition, this thing was so unique and it is still unique amongst any adult films ever made. We have to include this film. A lot of times your memory is jogged on old films.

The newer stuff is harder because once you get into the high-def era people made a lot of great films. There was so much product so it’s really hard to hone in why do you pick Fallen from Brad Armstrong over Manhunters. Well, then it just becomes it’s a matter of our taste. There’s a certain point you look at it and you go, you know what I just like this film better for whatever reason. Obviously, it’s a list so it’s up for discussion; it’s up for argument. But there are some factors in how you make the list and one of the factors is you are making a television show so you gotta have good quality footage to put on the show.

Flash: Were there any films that you wanted to include but were unable to and why?

PF: Well, Femmes de Sade, from Alex de Renzy, because it just wasn’t available. I didn’t know who owned it. I also like Pretty Peaches and now I know who owns Pretty Peaches and I could have included that as well. I think Alex de Renzy should have been third. I thought New Wave Hookers was originally on the list. Then Greg Dark’s wife told me he didn’t want to talk about it. So not having Greg Dark talking about New Wave Hookers sort of eliminated it. We did actually cut a piece on New Wave Hookers but it just didn’t work without having Greg Dark but that was a landmark film that probably should have been on the list. There were a couple Cecil Howard films that might have made the list but they aren’t available and he’s so slow in having his stuff come out on DVD it’s tough to put something on the list when it’s not available. Now Scoundrels, which is on the list and is a personal favorite because it was the first film to win AVN’s Best Picture Award, is finally coming out on DVD. So it just felt like there were some films that for reasons that were out of my control couldn’t be included.

Flash: Did you and Bryn feel odd about using Upload and Corruption, both by Bryn, in the documentary?

PF: Bryn absolutely did. The story with that is as follows; in the modern era, those two films are two of the best in the modern era. I would put Corruption in the ten best of all time and they needed to be on the list. Just because he directed those films and was directing this documentary I felt comfortable that those films stand on their own and should be included. He didn’t want to include them. He felt that it was self-serving and I said no they need to be on the list. So I sort of convinced him to do it and I felt comfortable with it because I felt that they stand the test of time. Of all the criticisms that I’ve gotten of this film, that hasn’t been one of them. I’ve had other criticisms of it, some legit and some I thought were not legit but everybody’s entitled to their opinions. But I haven’t had anybody really come up to me and say you know that’s not fair that you included them because Corruption and Upload really stand on their own.

Flash: Some critics have called X-Rated a eulogy for adult feature films. Where do you think the future of feature films in the adult industry is headed?

PF: Unfortunately I don’t necessarily disagree with that comment. I know there are people still making features. I think that the era of the big feature is coming to a close simply because nobody is spending any money, nobody is buying these. DVD sales are wretched and they’re shrinking and I guess at some point people aren’t going to do DVDs anymore with everything streaming and everything’s downloadable. We can point to the tube sites and that’s part of the downfall but honestly, the audience for sitting down and watching a film has shrunk. And it kind of sucks because one of the best comments I’ve gotten from this documentary is people going man I never saw these films and now I want to go see them. I want to see The Opening of Misty Beethoven. I want to see Blonde Ambition. I want to see Upload. People have said that to me and they go we didn’t even know these films existed. And that’s the thing about it, the experience of watching adult films it just doesn’t exist anymore because people are watching clips on the internet, people aren’t spending money on porn, and if they’re subscribing to a site or HotMovies or Clips4Sale, they’re getting very specific stuff that speaks to their sexual preference or something that they want to masturbate to. The idea of sitting down and watching an adult feature film just seems antiquated to most people and the younger generation is not going to put up with sitting down through a plot to watch porn. So I do feel like we’re getting close to the end of the big feature film and that’s sort of sad to me because I’m old school and that’s what I was brought up on but hey what are you going to do?

The documentary X-Rated: The Greatest Adult Movies of All-Time is available on VOD now at Amazon and other retailers. The trailer can be seen here and here. This Fall the sequel X-Rated 2: The Greatest Adult Stars of All-Time will be premiering on Showtime.

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.

X-Rated Promotional Art

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