We arrived at Blake’s parents house just before dark on Sunday evening, having taken twists and turns deep into Washington state to get there. We’d left Mount Shasta at sunup that morning having all of Oregon and most of Washington to drive through before the trip was finished. We also decided to stop at a few fun places along the way.
We stopped in the town of Weed in Northern California and Blake bought picked up funny gifts for her porn crew with the town name clearly emblazoned on them. We’d found the town on accident on our way to the the last Blockbuster Video on the planet, where we also stopped for the amusement of it. Our second day on the road was more whimsical than the first and as luck would have it, even prettier.
The mountains in Oregon were snowcapped even in the summer heat and the trees stretched skyward, covering the hills for as far as you could see. We passed through arid places where plants struggle to hold on in the dry, cracked earth and crossed bridges spanning beautiful rivers and and lakes as we climbed up and down the pacific north west. We stopped in weird little towns to let Bixby out or fill up the tank and we made getting there as much of a part of the journey as where we were going.
The dirt and gravel roads were just wide enough to slip the SUV through and a few low hanging branches scrapped the antenna on the roof as we crawled down the country road toward our destination. Blake’s mom didn’t know we were coming; we’d gotten the code from her step dad, who Blake made the arrangement for the surprise with.
Blake’s stepdad was on the mend from a bout of cancer serious enough that he and her mother had started putting all their affairs in order. Blake was due a visit but she doesn’t fly, so she asked me if I’d come to California and accompany her on the drive.
I’d never met Blake in person before the trip, though we talk or text nearly every day. We’d had plans to do things in the past that had just never panned out and it was only a matter of time before we met, but I hadn’t expected it to be on a road trip to meet (and stay with) her family. She doesn’t fly though and the drive is 20 hours, so we talked about it for a few days and then decided we we’re doing it; before I knew it, I was on a plane from one coast to the other.
She did all of the driving the day before and the second day it was my turn. I crossed over bridges and twisted through mountain roads for hours until we got to the secluded house that was deep in the woods. Blake hopped out and opened the metal gate and we crawled quietly up the rest of the drive to make the most of the surprise. I hung back when she went up the steps and her mother opened the door, elated to see her.
Her family was incredibly welcoming and they set Blake and I both up with guest rooms down the hall from each other, making sure I had an internet connection for work and taking no issue with the fact that what I do is porn. They knew that Blake works in the industry too and I feel maybe like it was comforting for them to meet someone (semi) normal who was in the same line of work.
During the day I sat outside on their deck, with views unlike any I’d ever seen, answering emails, handling invoices and editing content for the sites that I’m working on. In the afternoons we’d go for drives and visit the small towns around them, grabbing a bite or wandering through shops in quaint old fashioned downtown areas that felt a little lost in time with their vintage store fronts filled with modern offerings wedged between ice cream shops and pool halls. These were the kinds of places that you imagine when someone tells you they are going ‘into town’.
This was a departure from my life as of late and it was one that I needed more than I realized. In the span of less than a week, I travelled over 3,000 miles by plane, 1,200 miles by car, met Blake in person for the first time and was introduced to her family too. I met new people, experienced a different way of life than my own, visited states that I’d never been to and managed to walk away feeling clearer about the changes in my life I want to make now that I’m back home.
Five days before we’d never seen each other face to face, but it’s certain now that Blake is and will be a real part of my life.
In the last few days I’ve seen performance ‘kill fees’ debated hotly on social media and I wanted to weigh in on the matter but felt it too complex to deal with 280 characters at a time.
First let’s start with the basics of what a kill fee is:
A kill fee is a payment on a shoot or production made to the performers and crew when a shoot is “killed” or canceled. This is a fee that’s meant to offset the cost of everyone’s time, locations, fees etc. It’s also meant to stop people from flaking on a shoot when their 10th maternal grandmother passes away in two months. This goes for male talent as well; they also have to pay a kill fee if they don’t show up or they “tank” and the scene is cancelled because of it.
Kill fee’s are usually set by the agent and are part of the agreement of booking a shoot to help a director or producer rest assured that there is a real commitment by the agents, performers and crew to seeing the shoot through. People invest time, pass up other work and sometimes pay money out-of-pocket for the costs of a shoot and when a shoot gets cancelled, everyone involved looses out.
This is not unique to adult entertainment: it happens in Hollywood films and even in freelance writing. Robert Downey Jr. Was infamously uninsurable for years because of the fact that his personal demons got in the way of him completing films. Insurance agencies had to pay for reshoots with other actors and the cost of that got to the point where they were no longer willing to take a gamble on him. A director reportedly guaranteed the money out of his own pocket to get RDJ back to work, or he might be languishing next to Lindsey Lohan now instead of starring in ‘The Avengers’.
How kill fee’s are distributed depends on many factors and sometimes people forgo the kill fee’s because they understand the circumstances. When two performers arrive on set and one of them isn’t able to perform, one might pay a kill fee and the other might be paid a kill fee. Sometimes the actors themselves will agree to a reshoot on another day instead. I know firsthand a number of male performers who agreed to come back for a reshoot or waived the kill fee because their scene partner wasn’t up to the shoot the day of.
Sometimes you don’t get everything you need in one day, so people agree to come back for reshoots because they are committed to making the best scene possible happen. To me this is a reminder that this is a business, performing is a profession and people do care about their work.
It’s also important to remember that the people in our industry are professionals who are relying on the income that they make from the scenes. We can’t always forgo a kill fee because many of any of us have families,pets, homes, cars and just normal everyday lives and we might be depending on that paycheck for that reason. Bottom line, as fun and creative as this industry is, it’s still a business where people rely on this income to survive.
When a shoot gets cancelled is an important factor in whether a kill fee is applied. Is it in time to find a replacement? Was there something spent on the shoot that will be a loss (airfare, special costumes, specific locations)? Is it the first time the person has cancelled or is it an ongoing issue?
Some agents are very strict with enforcing kill fees. They feel like it’s their way of making sure that production companies will still continue to work with them and the models they represent. It’s something that I would really recommend that a model considers carefully in choosing an agent because I have seen it applied high-handedly.
My personal belief from a production standpoint is that a kill fee shouldn’t be charged if a suitable replacement is found in time. There are plenty of other models out there looking for work, but if it’s not just a standard boy/girl scene, then it can be harder. There isn’t typically a line up of girl’s just waiting for a last-minute phone call to do a first DP or a first gangbang for instance, which means if that shoot is killed the day of, it’s probably going to be a complete write off for a producer or director.
Why the shoot got cancelled is another factor. Directors and producers have a responsibility to make sure that everyone on set is safe first and foremost and comfortable as well, so if something is wrong they not only can, but absolutely should kill a shoot. If the model doesn’t feel safe or happy, or if they aren’t up to doing a shoot they should absolutely have the right to call it and the kill fee, when applied fairly, is a small bit of insurance for them to lean on so that they know the other performers, makeup artists etc aren’t going to lose 100% of their income for the day. It’s a fraction of the pay, but in unavoidable circumstances some people feel like it’s better than nothing.
I don’t know personally any directors or producers that take kill fee’s for themselves. So where do kill fee’s go when a model pays them? Typically to the other performers, crew and sometimes locations. Anything beyond that is probably going to the agent themselves and that part is a practice that I don’t really agree with. I understand the agents might waste their own time in the booking, but just like the directors; it’s sort of an inherent risk of doing business.
Everyone’s time is valuable and should be treated as such. When a shoot gets killed, no one comes out ahead: with a kill fee, everyone just come out a little less behind. Respect yourself, but respect others too.
I was once booked as a still photographer and showed up to a house where ten performers, two makeup artists and a cameraman where trying to figure out what to do because the shoot had, only moments before, been cancelled. Some of the performers had flown out specifically for the shoot and they lost money for their flights. The makeup artists had already started working and they used their products, which they paid for out of their own pockets and didn’t get paid. Everyone there wasted time and some of us had turned down other work to be there. It’s for this reason that I don’t disagree with kill fees in principle.
Kill fee’s are a safety net and they also hold people accountable. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need them, but we live in the real world and work in an industry that necessitates them. Of course, sometimes things happen that are beyond our control and I would implore people to be compassionate about that wherever they can be.
Performers: If kill fee’s are being used as some sort of debtors prison by your agent, you are with the wrong agent. If you find yourself facing multiple kill fees because of your own actions or circumstances, it might be time to take a step back from the industry and take care of yourself. We are all human and have needs and limitations and if the stress and toll of this or any other job on your life is too much, then you should find something new that makes you happy.