Porn stars put East Van on the map

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The East Van Porn Collective never expected its first and only movie to screen beyond East Vancouver. After all, the budget was just a few hundred bucks. Plus, it's the work of seven non-filmmakers, with the help of one member with a couple of documentary-film classes under her zipper.

In spite of all that, the film is an independent filmmaker's wet dream. Thanks to a self-funded tour, Made in Secret: The Story of the East Van Porn Collective is now an international”¦well, if not quite sensation, then certainly an international rumbling. Over Earl Grey tea at the Our Town Café on East Broadway, the Georgia Straight met with alt-porn stars nerdgirl, JD Superstar, Monster, Mr. Pants, and Professor University. They're just back (with the exception of nerdgirl) from a six-week tour throughout eastern and central North America.

"We slept on couches and floors; it was like an old-school rock band," Professor University told the Straight, explaining it was Greyhound, rather than jets and limos, that carried them from screen to screen. "Everywhere we went, people wanted to pick our brains about how to make movies."

A cozy homecoming awaits the collective at the Pacific Cinémathí¨que on November 11 and 12, where the film will screen, followed by a Q & A with the "actors".

Made in Secret is pretty much the pinnacle of the "democratization of filmmaking", a phrase that professional filmmakers utter with either hallowed respect or barely concealed disgust. Without a penny from Telefilm, the NFB, or a big studio, the film got made, got screened, and got hot. As a test for what's possible, it's encouraging. But it was costly for the individual members.

"Every time something good happens, it puts us deeper in the hole," Professor University half-joked. "Someone wants to screen our film? Damn-we have the cost of postage."

The collective never asked for grants, and admitted that, even if they had, typical film funders probably would have laughed them out of the room. Professor University pointed out that low-budget has its advantages: the freedom to make mistakes, and to take as much time as they needed.

Monster agreed: "Because there was no money, there was no weirdness about money. We weren't paying anyone, so there was no keeping track of pay or hours. It was just for fun."

The funding is part of a larger learning process. Months ago, the naive collective thought they were making a film about the feminist process.

"Come for the sex, stay for the process," Monster explained, tongue-in-cheek.

Instead, Made in Secret effectively announced a call to arms: grassroots porn stars unite! You have nothing to lose but your cheesy cum shots. The collective's tour seems to have detonated a revolution in sexy filmmaking.

In Toronto, audience members sent clipboards around the theatre to sign up for make-your-own porn. In Philadelphia, the collective found a community hungry for an alternative to "did someone call the plumber?" ennui. In Pittsburg, a filmmaker from the mainstream porn industry was excited about the alternative images that, JD Superstar remarked, show up only fleetingly in the film. The filmmaker plans to work on changing the way sex is portrayed in some of her company's films.

Part of the film's charm is that the collective members look like typical East Vanners, quiet revolutionaries who might serve you a latte, drywall your basement, or teach your kids second grade. Another part of the charm: the film is so utterly East Van. Even the name of the porn film within the film-Bikesexual-has a whiff of Commercial Drive about it.

How was such a Vancouver-oriented film received in New York and Cape Breton?

"There's an East Van in every town," Mr. Pants said.

"People kept asking us about the van," Monster said. "'Where's the van?'"

Thinking deeper, though, the collective reflected that Vancouver's bicycle culture is uniquely sexy. Out of all the places they visited by Greyhound, they didn't find a bike culture quite like it.

"Bike culture here is about free love and cycling," said JD Superstar. "It's a response to SUV culture, to the waste we produce. We use our own bikes to propel ourselves. There's an ethic of community."

Monster remembered that Bike Culture in New York City was serious and radical compared to Vancouver's. There, Critical Mass is essentially illegal, whereas in Vancouver, city council candidates campaign on two wheels.

Mr. Pants noted that Vancouver's bike culture is growing.

"Vancouver is a very sexualized place," he claimed, explaining the bike-Vancouver-porn connection. "There's a big porn industry here. And, people who ride bikes find people who ride bikes sexy."

Similar to cycling, the East Van Porn Collective is a small space for cultural disobedience that takes back power, impacts the planet, and makes a political statement.

Soon, the East Van Porn Collective will screen in Winnipeg, Portland, Seattle, and Santa Cruz. Plus, the collective is considering hosting a Web site for newbie collectives, from Austin to Iqaluit, to hook up.