Anna Lee is the president and executive producer behind Holofilm Productions, and directs much of the steamy new VR porn coming out of Holofilm’s adult entertainment brand, Hologirls. Long a pioneer of the sex-tech movement, Anna Lee is also the President of Utherverse Digital Inc, and helped launch one of the web’s first virtual adult experiences, Red Light Center.
What are your thoughts on the adult industry’s impending shift to VR?
The adult industry is very interesting. It’s both innovative, and drags its heels. This happens when every new medium comes out. You had the magazines back in the day. And when VHS started coming out, the magazine guys dragged their heels. When DVDs came out the VHS guys dragged their heels. And then the internet came out and of course the DVD industry was like, [sighs]. And now you’ve got VR. (I just kind of dumped you the history of porn really fast there.) But you’ve got the same sort of thing now. Porn leads innovation, but some of the oldtimers in the industry are very afraid of change. And this is probably something you’ve heard multiple times; I’m not the first one to say it. (Surely, not the last.)
So you’ll see a small outcropping of people really adopt this new thing. The amount of people producing VR content is growing. People are pretty interested in this, and it’s gonna catch on. But it’s gonna take a while for the oldtime guys to catch on too. A lot of them, like I said, who didn’t give me the time of day last year (in September), are now writing to me after I spoke on a panel at Phoenix Forum being like, “I’m interested in this, I want to get into this, how do I do that?” I got an email yesterday actually from someone who I tried to pitch this to back in August and back then he was like, “I don’t want to have anything to do with this.” And now he’s writing me asking, “how do I get in?”
I’m noticing a huge difference between this time last year and now. Last year I tried to pitch this to people and they were like, “I don’t get it,” “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” and, “no.” Now, I get people writing me saying, “we want to be a part of what you’re doing,” “we want to be on board with HoloGirls,” “I want to be a HoloGirl.” It’s pretty cool.
With [Utherverse], we had that barrier of entry. We had to try to explain to people for years and years and years what that was. They didn’t get it. And finally, people started to get it. With this, it didn’t even take a year for us to say, “this is what we do,” and for people to be on board.
So something is making people feel a lot safer about making the move to VR production.
Well, [production studios] have been open for a little while now. [Holofilm has] been open since January. And several other studios have been open for at least six months. So we’re starting to see numbers. And the numbers are good. The sales are good. So people are realizing that this is actually something that is not only coming, but is now here, and is going to change things.
Do you think that this shift in mindset correlates with headsets hitting the market?
Definitely. Also, Samsung really promoting the heck out of it. And Facebook purchasing Oculus. It’s really received a lot of mainstream attention, and people are getting it. It’s not just a thing for geeks anymore. It’s actually a viable piece of hardware for entertainment.
Gear is being sold by a company that makes cell-phones. Samsung is familiar to people, and they’re marketing VR goggles alongside ordinary pieces of technology.
Exactly. If you get a Samsung S7 you get a free headset. It’s kind of like they’re giving them away now.
I think this is the beginning of a revolutionary way of experiencing entertainment in general and not just adult entertainment. Haptic technologies – that’s the hardware you experience other aspects of VR with: teledildonics, Kiroo, things like that – are in their infancy. When you combine that with the VR headsets, and then the actual tactile sensations, you’re getting into a realm where you can completely manipulate someone’s experience. And like I said, I think everything is just in its infancy. So, we are going to see eventually – ten, twenty years from now – complete immersion. Which is both exciting and a little scarey at the same time. I see this as just the beginning of something that’s gonna be more sophisticated and more evolved as time goes by.
Part of the accessibility issue with VR porn is that there’s less of it available than of more traditionally produced adult content. Is that something that will change fast? Or is free VR porn something that we shouldn’t expect until further down the line?
Pornhub just announced that they’ve opened a VR channel. And they have an exclusive deal with Badoink VR on that. So it’s already out there. Pornhub is already giving out free content, and really promoting it.
Yes, there is not enough content currently, but demand has just started for it. Headsets just became available and the first batch of Oculus is still shipping. I just got an email three days ago saying that my headset’s arriving soon. You can see content producers trying to hustle; Badoink got a good head start, VirtualRealPorn got a good head start. But there definitely is a lack of content right now.
What I think is really going to drive this, is when people come together and create as much content as possible. The more content is available, the more inclined people will be to purchase headsets, the more business there will be for everybody.
We’ve done an immense amount of shooting this year. We did a very large scale shoot last year in late December, and that shoot had some of the top names [in porn]. We came back in March and shot for five days. We shot something like 70 scenes, and released a huge press release about that. Some of the top performers we had were Riley Reid, Manuel Ferrara, Charles Dera, Joanna Angel, Anikka Albrite, Abella Danger, all the ones that won the awards we had with us. It was wonderful. And it’s really nice to see them being so supportive and wanting to come shoot with us. It’s been really exciting to see the…not support, the….the….
Yeah! People are really excited about what we do, and we’ve been getting really good feedback and the top performers are really attracted to working with us. So it’s been really nice. I was a little uncertain of how this was going to go, how it was going to play out, because we’re relatively new to the live production space. You know, working with live models is something that we had minimal experience with. The reception that we’ve gotten has been so warm, and people are wanting to work with us! It’s amazing.
We’ve had the opportunity to work with Joanna Angel and BurningAngel. We signed a deal to shoot twenty scenes with them. It’s her first VR, and she’s exclusive with us right now. That’s been really wonderful. And she’s amazing to work with, and an amazing business woman, and an amazing performer. So it’s been such a treat to be able to do that.
Do you foresee the adult industry being Holofilm’s primary client base, or do you envision producing non-adult content in equal amounts?
Well, Holofilm is the production company and HoloGirls is the members site you can go to purchase videos under that brand. Eventually, we’ll open other brands as well, for our different creations. But that’s what we’ve started with so far.
I do think we’re going to produce both. Right now, adult content is really driving the revenue. It’ll help us finance. Also, with the adult content we’re able to experiment and learn a lot. And then I think, we’ll be able to focus on some of the non-adult stuff. We’ve already shot a couple concerts and other experiences. But right now, the demand that we can see is honestly for adult content.
We’re making adult content now, but people see the potential in all areas.
Utherverse and Holofilm both have a dual existence; they produce adult content, and non adult content. But being affiliated with the adult industry often complicates taking on non adult clients. How have both companies been able to achieve this successful duality?
Well first of all, I think the stigma of adult versus non adult is not as bad as it used to be. I think people are a lot more receptive to the adult industry and realize that as long as you keep your nose clean, you’re alright. We market things separately though, obviously. We have to pair different brands with different things. The one thing that all our brands do have in common is that they market adult experiences – not necessarily sex or porn experiences, but adult experiences.
With Utherverse, you have an adult community. It’s not necessarily a sex driven community (that is a component of it), but it is an adult community. I think that people realize we want to keep kids safe and out of the way of things that could potentially harm them.
And the technology is something that, even though you can use it for adult content, has a myriad of uses that are amazing. Like in Utherverse, you’re able to have concerts, you’re able to have classes, conventions, which we’ve all done successfully. And those are things that, whether or not it’s used for an adult reason, translate really well into the mainstream.
But we’ve never really had an issue. We used to, back in the day. 15 years ago people would be like, “you’re adult, we don’t want to touch you.” Now, it’s different. The lines are blurred. Even adult performers cross over to mainstream and back and forth. I think it’s sort of universal, societal, this acceptance that’s going on right now. Even for MiKandi, with the whole T-Mobile thing. It’s coming around. People are cooler about it. As long as you keep things separate…and behind walls, we’re good. [laughs]