Interview: Nica Noelle Talks Sweet Sinema and More
There’s a reason for Nica Noelle’s successful run of movies as writer, director, and occasional performer at lesbian studioSweetheart Video, straight couples-oriented studio Sweet Sinner, and – coming soon – Sweet Sinema. Quite simply, she uses her fantasies and turn-ons for inspiration. After all, what turns you on is what you will give the most passion and imagination as a creator. We appreciate porn directors who, like Nica, listen to the rhythms of their sex drives.
Teenage Nica was obsessed with classic Hollywood, had a crush on James Cagney, and wanted to be like Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, Jennifer Jones, and Dorothy Dandridge. Her obsession with Golden Age movie stars gave way to a fixation on the likes of Nina Hartley, but years later, Nica was drawn to Hollywood again as inspiration for her own adult movies, especially the Lesbian Noir films. Now she’s drawing inspiration from Hollywood and other sources for Sweet Sinema, a studio that will be home to erotic adaptations of movies, plays, books, and any other compelling romantic stories.
Your Sweet Sinema movies are not going to be parodies, as you’ve said in interviews, but more along the lines of the erotic reinterpretation of “The Graduate” you did with “My Girlfriend’s Mother.” It seems parodies are on the way out, but features are on the rise again. Why do you think there is a trend toward features in porn?
I think fans enjoy seeing stories that are familiar to them told in an erotic way – especially stories that feature iconic characters perfectly suited to adult films. The industry has churned out parodies for a long time, but to many of us the very idea of a “parody” runs contrary to what makes for a great erotic film. Parodies are silly and funny and goofy, and while that’s entertaining, it doesn’t really enhance sexual arousal. Sweet Sinema productions are more serious, with high emotional content, and even more realistic sex than we’ve shot previously.
I also think features have come back into fashion as a result of all the thoughtless, mindless gonzo porn that permeated the industry for more than a decade. The fans have apparently had enough of it. They want more than cold, uninspired fucking – they want fantasy and imagery and emotion. As an audience they’ve become more vocal about their needs, and more discerning in their tastes.
Women are becoming more vocal about what they want to see, too, and that’s definitely encouraged the men to “come out of the closet” regarding their own porn habits. For so long porn has been a hot-button issue between men and women, so it’s great to see couples watching porn together, and to also seewomen buying porn all on their own!
What other adaptations would you most love to do?
We don’t really like to announce what we’re planning to shoot too far in advance, as everyone in this industry is always looking at each other’s paper and trying to get a leg up on the competition, but I will say that we’re not limited to just remakes of movies. Books, plays – any story that has a high emotional and romantic content and features a compelling relationship between the two main characters is fair game for Sweet Sinema.
Will there be any lesbian Sweet Sinema movies?
There’s a very good possibility that you’ll see some lesbian themes, even if there are also b/g scenes in the movie. You may also see some spillover of this concept at Sweetheart, our all-girl studio. The studios are all connected by our parent company Mile High Media, so when something does well for one studio, we see if the audiences for our other studios might also enjoy it. There’s a lot of overlap with the fans, so the answer is generally yes. For instance, many of my g/g fans now watch Sweet Sinner religiously and they’re eagerly awaiting the first Sweet Sinema release.
Your movies are full of performers who can also act convincingly, for example, Samantha Ryan and Manuel Ferrara. What do you look for when casting your talent?
I look for someone who can hit to all fields, as they say in baseball. If someone is great with dialogue but a terrible sex performer, obviously that’s an issue. Likewise, if you’re a great sex performer but can’t speak dialogue convincingly, that’s an equally big problem. Mind you, many adult performers have never had an opportunity to act or to show real emotion on film. I don’t hold that lack of experience against them, because I’ve found if a performer really wants to do this, if they’re into the idea of approaching their work as an art form, they’ll get there. So ultimately, the mindset of the performer is my main consideration.
Manuel Ferrara is always challenging himself. Even though he’s considered the greatest male performer in the industry, he doesn’t rest on his laurels. He wants to do meaningful work and to find the truth in his character’s sexual encounters. I’ve seen an emotional depth to his performances that I just never expected to see from someone at his level.
Katsuni is the same way. She reminds me of a violin. Her sexuality is like a finely tuned instrument, and it behooves you to treat her with a great deal of respect and reverence. And if you do you will get a performance unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
Conversely, there are some big name performers, very popular, well known “stars,” that I was completely unimpressed by and have no desire to use again. Some girls do prefer gonzo, and they shy away from anything that requires emotional depth. They’re not interested, or they don’t want to “go there,” maybe. And that attitude carries over to their sex performances, in my opinion. You can see that they’re not having real orgasms or anything even close. There are a few big name performers I don’t use because they’re not what I consider true performers, true artists. Maybe for a certain type of movie they’re perfect, but they’re a bad fit for us.
The acting and the levels of intimacy in your productions both seem, from the outside, as if they go beyond what porn normally asks of its performers. Would you say they find it more challenging to act and learn dialogue, or more challenging to get as intimate with their costars as your productions require?
Again, I think it goes back to the performer. People like Samantha Ryan are chomping at the bit for the chance to play a character with emotional depth, and to add that extra layer to the sex scene. Magdalene St. Michaels is another performer who always finds the emotional truth to the scene – in the dialogue AND sex. For those performers, that’s what this work is all about. Their performances have dignity, because they approach their work with a certain mind set. Having cold, meaningless sex on film is hard for them.
But other performers, again, don’t want to give those things. They’re here for the money and the lifestyle and to be “the baddest bitch” or what have you – it’s a different agenda. Their approach is not what we look for. And I think for those performers it’s hard if not impossible to achieve the emotional intimacy we look for. They’ve closed off that part of themselves. They may give great “performances” in the most clinical sense of the word, but they’re just technicians of sex. We want artists.
Do you have any exciting new talent you’d like to tell us about?
I’m always excited about new performers, even if most of the time they’re just new to me and they’ve actually been around a while. Natasha Nice is one of my current favorites. I think she’s just amazing. A truly unique and powerful sex performer. Evan Stone is someone I just started working with, in the last year, and I can’t say enough about him as an actor and sex performer. He’s the best, in terms of excelling at everything, every single time. There’s never any “hit or miss” with Evan.
I’m also shooting some new girls who are working exclusively for me, which is of course very exciting for any director. When you’re chosen because of your reputation or the quality of your work by someone who would have otherwise never considered doing porn, it’s an honor. Sovereign Syre is one of those girls. She’s this extraordinarily beautiful woman – that old-style Hollywood beauty – with a ridiculously evolved mind, quick witted, very thoughtful and intense. She’s committed to doing something meaningful and beautiful here. Same situation with Jasmine Jem, a civilian fan who came to me because she wanted to explore her lesbian side. She’s very much the kind of girl you’d bring home to mom, a very understated, intelligent beauty. I’ve written a feature for them to star in together which we begin shooting in mid-July.
What does it take to make you decide to step out from behind the camera and do a scene these days?
I have to feel that my crew can handle it – that the movie or the scene isn’t so complicated or difficult that they’ll feel lost without me. And I also have to feel a special connection with the performer. I treat a scene like a date – I really think about the person and I prepare emotionally and physically. It’s like a prize-fight to me, I guess. I won’t have sex with anyone in my private life in the days leading up to the scene! I have the luxury of approaching my work so thoughtfully because I don’t have to perform all the time like some people do, just to pay their rent. I can pick and choose and give a lot of thought to what I’m doing and with whom. And I feel very lucky in that regard, because performing stays new and exciting for me, always.
You’ve mentioned that you’d wanted to work in the adult industry since a young age, and that some of your all-time favorite porn stars were women like Seka and Kandi Barbour. How has performing and directing affected your enjoyment of porn, if at all?
It’s affected me quite a bit. Obviously I’ve developed the ability to disconnect from porn in terms of my own arousal, or I’d be jerking off all the time at work, which would be a problem. That could get a little creepy! But I still get turned on from watching certain scenes or performers. I guess I’ve become more of a connoisseur, if you’ll pardon the lofty term. I’m much more specific now about what I like and which performers I like. And I can make very informed judgments, obviously.
As a director who interacts a lot with your fans on message boards, how much do you take into consideration their suggestions for casting or movie themes?
If I hear from several different fans that they want more of one thing and less of another, I do take it seriously. Even if it’s only 10 fans, those 10 represent hundreds more, in my estimation. Maybe thousands. I’ve found there is a certain “group consensus” within fans of a respective genre. For instance, most fans of girl/girl porn want to see certain things. And they all seem to agree those particular things make for a great scene. There may be some division on a second level, like which performers are pretty or sexy, or whether young girls are more desirable than older women, those kinds of arguments still erupt, but other preferences are surprisingly uniform.
When I was first starting out as a director and I visited a lesbian forum for the first time, I was shocked to find my tastes were pretty “classic girl/girl fan.” I’d always thought I was unique in what turned me on, but I discovered I was sort of the garden-variety “no toys, lots of kissing, lots of oral and trib” girl/girl enthusiast the forum catered to. So I don’t think it’s any mystery as to why I’ve been so successful at girl/girl porn.
With boy/girl, that’s less true. Boy/girl fans run the gamut, obviously. I’m finding our fan base within that sea of diversity, and as I make the movies, our fans have emerged – our “niche” has emerged. Fans have started offering feedback, and again you start to see certain patterns. You notice the same comments, the same suggestions, the same requests for more of this, less of that, coming from fan after fan. And the market – one nobody thought was there – has emerged, fully intact. It’s pretty fascinating.
What are your favorite things about doing girl/girl and boy/girl porn, respectively?
I love the different dynamics. Girls are so different when boys aren’t around. They hold their bodies differently, they speak differently – the timbres of their voices change – they relate to one another differently. The minute a guy becomes part of the equation, you’ve got another dynamic entirely. And that one’s exciting too, because it’s so primal. With girl/girl I can explore more textured, emotional relationships, because women are such emotional creatures. With boy/girl, the sex tends to be more lustful – way more lustful – more animalistic, with an increased sense of emotional disconnect between the man and woman. With boy/girl relationships and sex, there’s a struggle to reach each other, to be understood by each other. And those things can be used to build an incredible sex scene. The trick is to get the performers to push each other’s buttons during the dialogue sequence, during the set up, so the emotional content can spill over into the sex.
It seems like you must get very little sleep. Between Sweet Sinema, Sweetheart Video, Sweet Sinner, and everything else you do, how do you balance the workload?
I don’t, always. My personal life takes a big hit. But this is the time in my life where I have to be devoted to work. We’re building something special, something incredible, and people are responding to it. I never forget how lucky I am to have been given this opportunity and to have had the success I’ve had and will hopefully continue to have. Trust me, I’ve had times in my life where I was consumed by personal problems and I had no career to speak of, and I much prefer my life today. I much prefer being consumed by a career I love.
I was reading an interview of yours where you mentioned that when you were a kid, you wrote a play called “Hookers – A Musical.” I have to ask, semi-seriously, will you ever write a comic musical? There are porn stars who can sing, and maybe it’s just me, but I think that title is crying out to be used for something.
I think dancing is incredibly sexy and can lead to hot sex. But I don’t think I’ll do a musical with breaking into song, like “Singing in the Rain” or something like that. Again, some ideas sound so great on paper, or so funny and clever, but you have to step back and think “Sure, it’s a cool idea – but will that kind of story enhance the sex or detract from it?” I never forget that I’m in the business of turning people on, and that the stories in my movies, the dialogue, the locations, the costumes, everything, are there to enhance the sex and to make the sex scene more authentic and powerful and arousing. If people want to see a musical, there are multi-million dollar budget musicals they can see in a mainstream cinema or by renting a mainstream movie. If you’re in the mood to see singing and dancing, you aren’t thinking about sex, generally speaking. You want to be entertained in a much more lighthearted way.
In making erotic films, I’m appealing to one very specific area of the human mind, and I never lose sight of that or lose respect for it. I don’t ever want to turn that into a joke, and I see how easily it can happen. It’s a very small area an erotic director has to work within, and it can be challenging. But it’s crucial not to compromise your integrity because “wouldn’t it be funny if Fred and Wilma Flintstone had sex?”