California State University Northridge is located in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, just east of the capitol of the pornography industry.
The porn industry takes in over $8 billion in revenue and according to the CSUN alumni association, over 165,000 CSUN graduates are contributing to the community.
When the requisite five years have been completed at CSUN and a degree has been earned, recent graduates are faced with the double-sided challenge of paying back student loans and finding a job.
One student, John Smith (which is not his real name), found getting a job in public relations right out of college to be extremely difficult and resorted to taking a job through a friend. He has now been working as the head publicist at a San Fernando Valley-based pornography company for the past seven years.
Sam M. found it equally difficult to procure a position after receiving his bachelor’s degree in arts in 2004 and has been in a lucrative career as a freelance “fluffer” for porn films for three years.
Internship directors at three universities in Southern California each said that students rarely ask for academic credit for internships within the pornography industry, but that when they do, processes are in place that deny credit for jobs in that area of the entertainment business.
Ben Harris, who works at the University of California Los Angeles as a film department internship coordinator, said that the school’s official policy for situations like this is virtually non-existent, but that he is sure pornography industry internships would be denied academic credit and advised against by cinema professors.
“We have not received any of those requests,” Harris said. “I don’t know ? hmm. Honestly, I’m not quite sure what we would do if we did. I don’t think there’s a protocol in place if we did.”
Harris said, however, that the organization of the film department’s internship database makes getting pornography-based internship opportunities very difficult, if not impossible.
“The way our internship program works is a company submits listings to our site, and our staff sifts through these,” he explained. “Our faculty looks through the listing and makes sure it is with a legitimate company.”
He said that the school has only received a handful of internship submissions from companies in the pornography industry since he started at the office.
“If we had a pornography company contact us, chances are it would not be approved,” Harris said. “For what reasons, I can’t tell you, we don’t have an official policy regarding this, but as it has never come up, it’s not (a priority). We try to be as inclusive and open-minded as possible, but I don’t think it would go through, to be honest.”
He said that after students begin their internships, their progress and learning experience are closely monitored by regular meetings with a faculty adviser.
James Kim, an administrative assistant within the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, said that his department does not have a strict policy set up to deal with students who may desire an internship with a pornography company, largely due to the fact that no students come in and make that request.
“You know, I haven’t had any students come by inquiring about that at all,” Kim said. “We haven’t had to confront that issue in terms of setting up any kinds of rules or standards. Our internship program is pretty open in terms of students being able to have projects to embark on. ? I’ve been working here a while, working as the internship coordinator for around seven or eight years, and we’ve never had someone come in and ask about an internship in that profession.”
He acknowledged that it is possible that students could do jobs on their own time in the pornography industry, but said he hasn’t heard much about this possibility.
“They do a lot of internships and things on their own that we don’t know about,” he said. “But if students want to do internships and get credit, which they should, they come by our office, usually to do more legitimate jobs.”
More legitimate positions, he said, include internships at companies such as Warner Bros., Paramount and “high-profile production jobs,” where students “work in office settings and read scripts and things like that.”
Kim said that while it is possible USC students work in the pornography industry, most seem to know that they could get their foot in at bigger, better cinematic enterprises.
“There very well could be students working in that, but I wouldn’t know who they are or why they chose to do it,” he said. “Most of our students recognize what would be the best learning experience” and what could hamper their future success in the entertainment business.
A representative of CSUN’s CTVA department said that generally internship listings are red-flagged by the office if the listing has to do with pornography. After they are flagged, they are made unavailable to students. However, he said, this process broke down in one case.
“We’ve only had one case where that did occur, and we have requests that come through the department all the time for internships,” he said. “We have paperwork processing so that when we see an employer with a red flag like that (the internship request in question is deleted from the database).”
This process is admittedly a bit slow, as the CTVA department is only able to flag internship requests after paperwork is received from the company.
“We’re not able to screen internship requests directly, but we do need to get paperwork from the employer, so when we get that it gets flagged if they’re, uh ? (a part of the pornography industry),” he said. “And we let the student know that this is a bad idea.”
The pornography production company’s publicist said that “CSUN will not accept employment ads at the Career Center from adult companies, because I tried placing an ad at CSUN a couple years ago when I needed an assistant (and) they refused. The company, as in me, has never tried posting ads on other school Web sites, but I would assume they would have the same issues as CSUN. Most of the adult companies seem to post ads in the Daily News and L.A. Times. We have gone through temp agencies and hire on a temporary to permanent basis. We have also posted ads on craigslist.com and hotjobs.com before.”
CSUN’s CTVA representative said that he thinks the university’s location could lend itself to more students being involved in the pornography industry.
“This is a problem we face because it is the porn industry, and that primarily takes place in the (San Fernando) Valley, and we are in the Valley,” he said.
CSUN has had a long, albeit hidden history of involvement with the porn industry. According to John Chandler, spokesperson for CSUN, “There has been a long history of indirect involvement (with the porn industry). I know we have students who graduate and go on to work in production, editing and so on. But I don’t know them personally.”
Although Chandler and the a licensing representative for CSUN deny it, the ability for a pornographic movie to be filmed on campus is certainly possible.
“Our P.R. department requests and reads through the entire script to be sure that there is no nudity and no discrimination in the script,” the licensing spokesperson said. “We want to be sure to uphold the educational integrity of CSUN in films.”
However, Chandler said, “If someone wants to film on campus, P.R. reviews the portion of the script that will be filmed. Through conversation, or one way or another, we can tell if the script is for a pornographic film or not. We don’t need to review the entire script.”
Both Chandler and the licensing representative agreed that they would not in good conscience agree to a film if it would bring “ill will, bad feelings or controversy.”
Recently, a porn production company requested the use of CSUN’s foot ball field for a non-nude portion o
f the film. They were denied access, however. Chandler said he had never been made aware of “any instance where a porn company wanted to film on campus,” but added that “the licensing department can veto a project before P.R. gets the script.”
When asked about the rumor of the porn filmed in the CSUN dorms, Chandler replied, “I’ve certainly never seen it, although I have heard that rumor.”
Also on CSUN’s campus is the Center for Sex Research and the largest collection of pornography in the country, located in our library. The Center for Sex Research has been affiliated with CSUN for more than 40 years and in the late 1990s underwent a detailed audit for the conference on pornography. The audit found the center innocent of any financial wrong doing, and the center continues to promote sex research and education.
Jessica Drake is a porn star with Wicked Pictures. She graduated with honors from USC with a degree in film and gravitated to porn because she already had an interest in the business. After being a production assistant on set for two years, she was asked if she would like to be in front of the camera, and now she is one of the most well known stars in the industry.
“I already had an interest in porn and I went for it,” Drake said. “If someone asked me for advice, I would definitely recommend the porn industry, precisely because of the experience you gain.”
The pornography company’s publicist initially got involved in porn because “a friend who worked in the biz knew I badly needed a job, and I wasn’t having any luck right out of school finding anything in the mainstream industry. So I decided to give the adult biz a shot.”
But when pressed, he warned students or recent grads looking for experience that “it is a tough business to get out of. Once you get in it, you get stuck in it. Many mainstream companies won’t touch someone who has worked for an adult company, it is just a fact. … I have been told to my face in a roundabout ‘nice’ way that the reason why is because I work in the porn biz. … The adult industry is awesome, but if there are students out there looking to get into porn biz to gain experience and then get out and get a job in the mainstream industry, it rarely, rarely happens ”
Sam, the CSUN graduate who works as a “fluffer,” which requires him to keep the male actor prepared for the next sex act in between takes, said he loves his job.
“I didn’t get much help in the way of career choices from CSUN. I felt like they did their job and then gave me the boot and it was up to me to pay them off. I’m really just thankful I got any job at all,” he said.