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      Meet the Married Couple That Designs Your Favorite Porn Parodies' Sets

      July 20, 2014

      Photos courtesy of Vivid Entertainment

      When we think about porn sets, we automatically picture white leather couches, nauseating pieces of art tacked up on the (also white) walls, and a stray shag carpet. A million porn clichés burn in our heads, revolving around aesthetic choices secondary to sex, but thanks to Vivid's parody films and successful Vivid Superheroes imprint, the porn industry is undergoing a production design renaissance.

      Most of Vivid's farces are directed by modern day porn legend Axel Braun. In AVN award-winning pornos like Batman XXX and Star Wars XXX, which X-Critic called "The mother of all porn parodies," the performers fuck and suck on sets that look like the bastard children of George Lucas's Industrial Light and Magic. Cum shots still take precedence to narrative, but the budgets are bigger, the costumes often look like the superheroes they're mimicking, and the sets are less janky than you'd expect.

      One married couple designs most these sets, winning AVN Awards for films like Star Wars XXX in the process. Kylie Ireland, a former performer who belongs to the AVN Hall of Fame, and Andy Appleton, a former nightclub manager, have been married for five years, and together they have made recreations of the Fortress of Solitude and other iconic sets. Like many couples, they talk over each other and have firm beliefs in their ideas—like their theory that their designs extend parody porn's fantasies, allowing viewers to believe parody porn is as close to watching Princess Leia blow Darth Vader as they'll ever get.  

      Interested in learning more about the design duo's artistic sensibilities and the process that goes into designing a porn parody, I called Ireland and Appleton to talk about their artistic process, making icebergs for porn stars to fuck on, and why they put so much effort into making set pieces that get less screen time than superheroes' jizz.

      VICE: How did you start working in production design and art direction?
      Kylie Ireland: I was dating a director named Eli Cross in the industry before I met Andy, and Eli was doing a lot of big movies, like $350,000 budgets—this doesn't sound like a lot but it was. I started doing production design because we were working together. I started by directing things—a lot of gonzo—but I started art directing because it was a small budget and they couldn't hire production, but I personally wanted the set to look cute or neat. I never really was officially into interior design; I just have a knack for it. 

      What makes a sex scene more interesting or vibrant in terms of design?
      Andy Appleton: We don't try to date the films, so it's like, "Oh, that was shot in 2014." If we were doing a scene with a lawyer fucking his secretary, then we'd take into account that he'd have money.
      Ireland: Or he'd have a bookshelf because he's smart. Does that matter? Maybe not. But I care about it. If you give me a small space, I can make magic with it.
      Appleton: We'll have one location that's first a living room, then a dentist's room, then a moon base. We always manage to pull it off, but it's always that little thing we spot that no one else spots.
      Ireland: I think the attention to detail makes porn visually pleasing. 

      How does adult film production follow the Hollywood structure?
      Appleton: We have a lot of pre-production meetings. We have a lot of background on characters on the set—especially for superheroes. Like we'll actually research their enemies, their costume, how they appeared in the comics over time.
      Ireland: Once we had to build a castle for a shoot. You know what we did for that? I gutted my house. I gathered everything that was on my shelves that looked vaguely witch-like or dark art-related. Another time, we had to shoot the Superman parody in the desert because of Measure B—we had to be shooting out of LA County—so we go all the way out to an aircraft hanger that was empty.
      Appleton: We storyboarded it because we had seen the movies. Everyone knows what the Fortress of Solitude looks like—it's at a 45 degree angle. We had to construct icebergs.
      Ireland: We're getting really good at building things. Fans want it to be as close as humanely possible; the geeks and fans will notice and pick it apart.
      Appleton: This is my fifth year in the industry, and every year we've been nominated for a production design award. Last year we won for Underworld, and also the year before for Star Wars XXX.

      Haven't you won some awards yourself for acting?
      Ireland: I was Best New Starlet in 95. I didn't win for ten years, and then I was inducted into the Hall of Fame. I was also a producer on a lot of big movies like Upload and the The 8th Day. I have a bunch of awards now! I stopped performing about three years ago.

      Why did you stop?
      Nowadays you get labeled as a MILF, and you have to start working with younger girls or younger guys—and younger guys are boring. After a couple scenes, I walked away feeling dirty because the actress looked 15 even though she was 18. And around that time I had met Andy. We do cam shows and clips for sale, so I'm still out there.

      What's poorly done in porn production?
      Ireland: I notice bad editing a lot.
      Appleton: Yes that!
      Ireland: I don't watch that much porn because at this point we know everyone in them. I know if the guy is struggling, or if the girl is bored. I loathe the studio look, maybe because I worked in it. In the 90s they were shot in one of three different studios. They were dingy, and had the same crappy couches, and had the same crappy walls, and it just had that empty porn look. Something that drove me nuts in the gonzo era, the 2000s, was the Valley houses. All the houses look the same—all white. 

      In terms of production design and costumes, do you think colors subconsciously matter to the audience?
      Appleton: There are supposedly statistics that say colors do sell. The companies monitor it all online and figure out what sells better and why. Apparently certain colors and certain sex positions do sell more. 

      Over the course of your career, what was the hardest set to design?
      Appleton: The Land Speeder [from Star Wars XXX] was the most complicated. Fortress of Solitude was a close second. Someone will often ask us to design something, and then Kylie will have to explain why the idea is not feasible.
      Ireland: I'm the best support for the performers because I did it all myself. Someone on the directing side will pitch something, and I'll say, "No that will be impossible to have sex on," because I've been there. I take into account the height of objects, the angle, the material, and every specific aspect.

      If you could make any porn parody, what would you do?
      Appleton: I would love to do The Empire Strikes Back. Star Wars was so much fun, but making Yoda's home planet would be amazing—it would be a nightmare, but I'd love it.

      Is it ever frustrating that so much time goes into the design of these sets and they are always secondary to sex?
      Ireland: People ask me, "Why do you do it?" Like for Thor XXX, we had to make a big hole in the desert, a crater, for when he slams the hammer. It took a few days, and in the movie you see it for less than two seconds. Often we spend hours building things and they're on screen for just a second, but it's that moment like finishing the Cantina [in Star Wars XXX], and all the lighting guys have done their thing, and you walk behind the camera, and it looks like the Cantina—exactly like it. That's why you do it.
      Appleton: And for the Instagram pics. 

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      Topics: Vivid, porn, parody porn, production designers, Superman, Star Wars, DC Comics, Wonder Woman, cleopatra, Kylie Ireland, Andy Appleton, Axel Braun, Vivid Superheroes, porn production designers, production design, set design, costume design, porn stars, design, Art Work, World Cup, porn couches, porn white, cocaine

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