From left, Michael Abbott and Bryce Wagoner at former porn star Raylene's L.A. home during the filming of "After Porn Ends."
The iTunes movie-download chart tends to have the same big-studio movies that dominate the theaters The Dark Knight, We Bought a Zoo and so on. But occasionally, something truly unexpected sneaks in like After Porn Ends, a straight-to-video documentary about the pornographic-film industry that was directed by East Carolina University alumnus Bryce Wagoner.
Wagoner studied in ECUs theater department before moving to Los Angeles and working as an actor while trying to break into directing. He got his chance with After Porn Ends, which traces the post-porn lives of more than a dozen stars now involved in everything from bounty-hunting to religious activism.
After Porn Ends has climbed as high as No. 29 on the overall iTunes chart, while also topping the charts for documentaries and independent films. Not bad for any movie, especially by a first-time director with no advertising budget. Given the subject, its about as non-exploitive as you can imagine.
Q: So how did you come to this subject?
I was working as an actor on the Smackdown vs. Raw game, doing motion capture. The crew was watching porn between takes and somebody made this offhand remark: Man, how the (expletive) do you do anything in your life after porn? Now, Im not a huge fan of porn, Im still a good ol boy from back home. But that stuck in my head. Howard Stern used to have porn stars on his show all the time, and I remembered some names. So I fired up Google and Bianca Trump came up, this epic story involving the Aryan Nation and prison for meth and kidnapping. I wanted her to be the main theme because it ended in redemption, which didnt work out because she wouldnt let us film her. But I was intrigued and started digging, and the stories were amazing. I always thought my first movie would be something scripted, but these stories were just too compelling.
Q: What did your family think?
Well, I told them I was directing a project, actually getting paid, and I waited until I had some footage. I showed my grandparents about seven minutes, no cursing or nudity. And my grandma says, Well, darlin, Im just glad you came up with the idea before anybody else. I told them there would have to be some nudity, and my grandpa says, Son, you cant make a movie about lumberjacks and not show some trees gettin cut down.
Q: What did you learn that you didnt expect?
I didnt think Id come to care about the people in the film so much, and how open they were willing to be with this kid from the South with a funny accent. It was life-changing. The reaction from the participants has been quite good, mostly. Some people were not crazy about the edit, but we had 100-plus hours to edit down to 93 minutes. So not everybody got exactly the story they wanted out there.
Q: Parts of it are very sad, how damaged some of these people seemed.
Porn stars are people, too. I come from a very conservative family, but I dont pass judgment. Unfortunately, a decent amount of these people went into porn with problems that it exacerbated.
Q: One of the films most heartbreaking moments was Asia Carrera talking about her awful childhood and saying she packed up my suitcase and a teddy bear and went to Los Angeles to be a porn star.
I had all these scripted questions, but to hear her say that her parents told her she should kill herself wow, that has to be one of the top-five worst things Ive ever heard. But she was strong and brave, and used porn to get ahead. She thought it made her better. Now thats not my personal belief, but if thats what she did to get through it, God bless America.
Q: Has After Porn Ends opened some doors for you?
The crowning moment was meeting (director) Morgan Spurlock. I saw him out one night and went up to him: Mr. Spurlock, I dont want to bother you but youre a big hero of mine. I made a movie because you inspired me. He asked what it was, I told him and he said, I just watched that! You should be very proud, its awesome!
I was blown away. We talked for about 20 minutes about how we should advertise, get some controversy. Then he brought his production partner over and he gave me his card, told me to call. Thats been my favorite part so far. Supersize Me is why I did this.