NY 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 no audience."

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

DIRECTOR'S FILMS: GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York, GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: Hollywood, Telling Nicholas, Just, Melvin, TheWorkingGirl.com
Find out more about James Ronald Whitney's Productions at the Fire Island Films website
: www.FIFproductions.com
Comments or questions about the Web site contact the Web Master at www.SolutionsWebDesign.net

© 2003 James Ronald Whitney