It’s been well over a month, and Sensate is finally beginning to come down from its brief love affair with PornFilmFestival Berlin. It was fabulous. And dangerous. Drive-by hard drive handoffs with moments to go until the international check-in closes, all-night encoding sessions resulting in the near-loss of one Aven Frey, my constant search for lentils under the pressure of a hectic festival schedule and the resultant ‘meat holiday’…dangerous indeed.
We screened the hell out of our little collection of shorts and I think it’s safe to say we were well-received. I suppose now it’s safe to come out about the months leading up to the festival, too, since people have already had the chance to decide whether or not we’re a sham! PFF and I had discussed my Filmmaker in Focus presentation in terms of Australian AltPorn, so I presumed that I would be screening the work of some of my colleagues as well. As it turns out, the Festival wanted 30 minutes of original Sensate Films content that was not already screening in the festival. At that moment, this did not exist. Aven and I were more than a little overwhelmed by this, but it was also an opportunity to make whatever the hell he wanted to make, to play with thematics and people we’d been wanting to work with, and to experiment outside of the constraints of ‘commerical viability’. We’ve never had the chance to do that in front of such a wide audience before, so while it seemed like a pretty mammoth task in the six weeks leading up to the Festival, we churned the stuff out like whoa and we are pretty happy with our work as it looks ‘under pressure’ with no capital. Imagine what we could do with six months and a budget! In that time, we made three short shorts (5 minutes or less), a 20-minute documentary, and a 15-minute explicit short.
Almost all of the work that Sensate screened at the festival will be made available for purchase soon – we are in negotiations to make them available by VOD (Video on Demand), and one of the films will be included on Petra Joy’s Her Porn 4 compilation. I’m told we’re in good company, with the likes of Annie Sprinkle and Candida Royale, as well as the other Joy Awards winners (more on that in another post).
It is hard to describe the response to our films, and I hope that some of the people who attended screenings will comment here to share what it was like for them – that’s probably a better evaluation, since we’re pretty immersed in the content at our end. For me it was so special to see our work in a cinema space, and how well it moves from our tiny monitors to a big screen. It was also a fantastic learning experience to see what happens with sound and imagery when you place it in this context. These days we almost never see porn on a big screen, and so rarely is viewing such a shared experience. I was blown away by the number of people who wanted to pay to sit in a room together and watch porn. I was also so pleased to hear individuals’ responses to the work, about what moved them and what made them curious, what emotions they experienced, what they were able to empathise with. To everyone who approached me in the breaks, in the street, in the seats in the cinema, at the parties: I am so grateful to have had so many incredible conversations and to feel like you picked up what we were putting down. People were so gracious with their feedback. I felt so affirmed that what we are doing is valuable and desirable. I also appreciated the critical voices that came through – I think my favourite piece of feedback from the entire festival was ‘I didn’t like your film, but it made me feel something.’
We are immensely grateful that the Festival was so generous with our screentime – we had 6 screenings in total and appreciated the opportunity to speak with the audiences of each. This is one of the most incredible elements of this festival, I think. The audience gets so much contact with the folks behind the scenes and such a rich understanding of where each director or performer is coming from. People came from all over the world to share their work and were so approachable and giving. I’d also like to acknowledge that the directors of the festival don’t sleep. They go all fucking day, 14 hours or somesuch, and then they GO TO A PARTY and are all graciously social! I felt my body shutting down at about day 2, and I was probably running at about an eighth of what they were in terms of responsibility and activity.
I think the greatest thing that this trip did for me and for Sensate, the thing that made all of that money worth spending and all of that sleep not worth having, was the connections I made with the individuals I met on the journey. So many incredible filmmakers, writers, activitsts, performers, porno legends, producers, educators, festival programmers, and generative spirits were present, and I had more heartfelt connections than I imagined one could pack into five days. I’d love to highlight them each individually, but I’m getting into dangerous territory for the length of time it’s taken me to write this post and I think I’ll get more opportunities to share their work later down the track. So I’ll just say that there were so many people I made contact with on my journey (Berlin – Amsterdam – UK) who I feel drawn to in so many ways. A true sense of kinship and border-crossing and smutty love. I fell right into step with people I’d never met before, whose work I only knew from a distance, and we turned Kreuzberg inside-out for five days, sharing work and desire and popcorn and porno.
There are a great many exciting collaborations to pursue, works to produce, and conversations to continue, and we’ll try to do a better job of sharing those with our friends and fans in the months to come. Berlin was everything we’d hoped it would be, and we will be back.