NOTE: I originally posted this on tumblr in 2016. I’m moving all of my tumblr posts here, so some of this content appears as new but was written years ago.
I’m relatively “new” myself compared to a lot of people in the industry, and I’m not qualified to give advice on much, but I’ve learned a few things along the way. I’ve seen a lot of people being called out on Twitter recently for copying others’ clips. I’ve thought about doing it myself a few times, but what stopped me is knowing that customers love to order the exact same clip from multiple ladies. I also remember how many times I’m ready to post a clip, search for my proposed clip title on C4S only to find 1-100 people who have already used the title or filmed the idea. In fact, a long time ago I complained on Twitter about three girls stealing my idea & title within one week, I mentioned the title, and a veteran model linked me to her clip from 2 years prior… with the same title. Oops. Now I see new clips with that title or theme pop up at least once a week. I know some people totally copy on purpose, and I’m not admonishing anyone for how they deal with that.
If you’ve been around a while, you’ve likely experienced someone copying you, whether intentionally or not. Or you’ve been the first to do a certain type of clip then watched in dismay as hoards of ladies caught on. Or you’re among the first to start filming using a certain method, or angle, or using a certain lighting technique. Or you’re the first to use special effects in a particular way. Then… they… come. (And yes, I’m sure I’ve been a “they” to many.) Even though I’ve only been making clips for a few years, I’ve had the experience of filming in a certain “category” before it even existed on C4S (or another site). Then someone made an actual category for it. Now it’s flooded. All that is a bit hard to take.
Ask yourself what YOU did when you first started. Now, if you were among the first dozen people to start making clips, this probably doesn’t apply to you. But for everyone else, the basic method of learning how to make clips is to look around & see what others are doing, add in what interests you, put your own spin on it, and develop your persona from there. Or you already have your persona, you look around to see what interests you, etc.
Think about Starbucks, whose first store opened in 1971. Seattle’s Best actually opened in 1970, and moved to Seattle in 1972. By 1983, both companies were expanding. The Coffee Beanery opened in 1976. Caribou Coffee opened in 1992. Dunkin’ Doughnuts opened in 1950, and I remember when they started offering iced coffee concoctions. Now they sell their coffee beans in stores. There are so many companies doing pretty much the same thing. They all started in different places with different offerings, they evolved differently. But all of those companies have looked around to see what the competition is doing & have either copied it outright, or with their own spin, & they’ve all done what they can to “one-up” the others. Some will succeed, some won’t, and creativity/ innovation isn’t always the deciding factor. A friend of mine likes to remind me that most businesses operate this way. It’s just in the industries which pride themselves on creativity, and which is comprised largely of independent contractors (like our industry), where people get so personally offended.
Despite all that realism, practicality & business sense, here’s a few words of advice to producers just starting out:
1. Just because you WANT to be a certain personality doesn’t mean you’re going to succeed at it. Your real personality, your talents, your looks, and your customers will largely determine at what you’re successful. This is a touchy topic. Not everyone can be “brat girl”, not everyone can be a “porn star” & not everyone can be a “posh lady”. It makes sense to dip your toes in where you’re interested, but you’ll quickly find your place if you listen to your heart & your customers (read: your sales stats). You’ll do yourself a great disservice trying to emulate someone else simply based on your desires, and rigidly sticking to that idea despite evidence showing that you’re just not that person. Embrace what is unique about you. Feed it & watch it grow. I’ve had conversations with more than one producer who is frustrated about what her customers want from her. I’ve experienced that myself. So then it becomes a matter of finding a balance between what you like to do & what actually makes you money. That can take a long time, and you’ll find out that it’s ever-evolving. My first clips were a mess. I tried being a brat girl, and it was hilarious. Props to those who do it well. Sure, I’m bratty in some ways, and I don’t take crap from people, but I’m just not a brat girl. Now I’ve developed a persona that is super close to who I really am when I’m not on camera, and not having to pretend to be something else entirely has really worked out for me. I think my customers recognize that too.
2. Be as original as you can be in a world full of copycats. It’s actually kind of hard to be completely original. Pretty much everything has been done. Even if you’re being creative about your methods or your stories, you’re still calling on stock tropes or even well-known TV or movie icons. We are what we know. We do what we know. What we know is known by others, and has usually been re-done by others. But still, you have to try. And you CAN make original content. I think of some of my most creative clips, and I can probably identify influences if I take a hard look, but I doubt I’ve done anything that’s exactly what another person has done (some customs excluded). I probably have some completely original clips, but I don’t spend much time examining it. My clip filming method used to be this: come up with an idea, search around to see if it’s been done to some degree, then go back to the drawing board 75% of the time. It was time-consuming & discouraging. Now I come up with an idea & film it. Then I come up with a clip title & search for that. Sometimes I find out later that my idea was done before, but oh well. I can only control so much. Maybe somewhere in the back of my mind I stored an image or phrase I saw online or on another store’s listing, but I know that I’ve done all that I can to be original.
3. Try not to make enemies. I have met some amazing ladies (and guys) through my work in this industry. So many people have helped me get where I am, and I help other people too. We’re all competition to varying degrees, and we can’t give it all away, but we help where we’re comfortable helping, and we want to see one another succeed. I’m sure I have some kind of reputation among other producers, but I have no idea what it is, and it’s really not any of my business. All I know is that I try to be as nice to other people as possible, I accept other people for who they are (whether or not I choose to continue to work with/ communicate with them), and I try not to make enemies. Other people in this industry can be friends & they can be resources. It’s hard to come back from developing a bad reputation. Some day you might need advice, or you might want to work with other people. You might be a very independent person but you still exist in a world of other people, and you’re in an industry where your reputation matters. Also, respect those who have come before you. Sure, you can try to do it better, and maybe you’ll succeed, but have some respect for what they’ve accomplished, their vast knowledge & experience, & how they’ve shaped this industry.
In the end we’re all here to have fun & make money. The same basic rules of humanity, ethics & business apply here as everywhere else.