Press April 11-17
Paid Per View: On the Net, Sex Is Recession-Proof
..."TheWorkingGirl.com" is a feature-length documentary film
currently in post production. It was written and directed by James
Ronald Whitney, whose first project, "Just, Melvin," debuts
April 22 on HBO. Hearing that I was writing about amateur adult porn
as a cottage business for Mom 'n' Pop in the new recession, Whitney
suggested I screen a rough edit of his film, since it touches upon
some of the personal and professional pitfalls people encounter when
running an amateur online adult site.
"TheWorkingGirl.com" focuses on a single Midwestern mother
named Sharon Alt whose adult website was failing.
Whitney explains, "About a year ago I was contacted by my old friend
Sharon Alt, who'd written to tell me she couldn't pay her bills, especially
the health insurance and preschool bills for her four-year-old son,
Jake. Sharon said she'd done due diligence and concluded that the
internet was the place to be, because of the terrific amount of money
going specifically to these amateur sites.
"Essentially," says Whitney, "my old friend had decided to become
an amateur porn star to pay her son's bills. The problem was she had
Alt appealed to Whitney, a vice president at Wall Street brokerage
firm Tucker Anthony, and he set to writing a business plan.
"I soon realized that if I made a movie about her business venture,
the movie audience might then traffic her Web site. If they liked
what they saw, they might pay for membership."
...But first Whitney had to do some due diligence of his own. To learn
how to properly design and market an adult Web site, he turned to
none other than Rabbi, Jay Servidio.
In "TheWorkingGirl.com" Servidio struts the floor of the Cybernet
Expo 2000 Trade Show in New Orleans, introducing the doc crew (Whitney,
et al.) to all of the big players in the online world. Later, at a
table inside of what appears to be a Cracker Barrel restaurant, Servidio
gives Alt a point-by-point tutorial on porn site marketing and design.
Unlike so much of the popular discourse on the subject of porn and
porn people,TheWorkingGirl.Com suspends moral judgment of its
subject matter, leaving that entirely up to the viewer. The lighter,
if less effective side of the movie pokes self-effacing fun at the
director and crew, whose purportedly monastic sensibilities are quickly
drenched in the sticky fluid of the reality of shooting porn (sights,
sounds, delicious smells). In the course of preparing content for
Alt's new web site they take "Porn Cinematography 101" lessons with
online triple-X celebrity Teri Weigel and her manager/husband Murrill
Muglio who shout out instructional tips as they are performing sex,
"You'll want to use hairspray on the headboard to keep the glare down."
So it's a film with an avocation (and vice versa): to drive membership
to a web site, whose profits will then fund a trust for Alt's four-year-old
son...a fierce, exhaustive and objective mining of the ethical issue
at its core.
By turns, funny, steamy, educational and sad,TheWorkingGirl.Com
delivers that which P.T. Anderson, for all of his ambitious originality,
promising characters and interminable talkiness rarely seems to: A
purpose. (Sure, this is documentary, or a kissing cousin thereof --may
I offer "real-umentary"?-- Still, Mr. Anderson's fictions would prosper
from a viewing of Whitney's work.) Thoroughly explored are Alt's tangled
relationships, bizarre vacillations and dubious motivations for doing
porn. One of the film's more wrenching scenes shows Alt in a bitter
quarrel with...was once love, there's now only paint-peeling hatred.
That scene, which occurs late in the film, eventually delivers a much-needed
cathartic chestnut. But neither woman emerges victorious in any substantive
way. This is reflective of how Whitney, an auteur of steeping resentments
and final confrontations, prefers his art: unsettled, unsettling.
-- Andrew Baker