Double, double toil and trouble
Roulette, available at www.courtneytrouble.com, contains seven different scenarios, including:
“An engaged gay couple brings a one-night-stand appeal to their punk rock sex on a rooftop, a queer femme hosts–and directs–her own pool table gangbang, a porn star fulfills her career-long fantasy of doing a messy sploosh video, a horny wrestler fucks himself with his teammate’s glass dildo, a real life lesbian couple proves that staying home is anything but mundane…”
“These drastically different scenarios are authentic documents of queer sex, culture, and desire, proving that queerness is as hard to define as it is to ignore.”
I first met Courtney Trouble on a street corner at San Francisco pride. She noticed a sign I carried advertising my trans porn stories and I traded her some of my hand bound zines for a month’s membership to Nofauxxx. Later, she was the photographer for a shoot I was in, but it was during the weekend of the Feminist Porn Awards that I finally got the chance to get to know her better.
Courtney’s passion for her work was clear. During the after party she flitted from one impassioned porn activist to another, giving encouragement, advice, and more tangible offers of support – all the while constantly taking the pictures of those willing to be photographed. That’s when I realized I wanted hear more from her about her work inspiration and vision, and I arranged an online interview.
Tobi Hill-Meyer: How did you first get involved in pornography?
Courtney Trouble: I started doing phone sex in 1997, when I was 18. Photography has been "my thing" since I was a kid, and in 2002 I started taking erotic photos of me and my friends and then started NoFauxxx.com. After doing phone sex for 5 years, the erotic photos were a chance for me to explore my fantasies as opposed to my clients’ fantasies.
Tobi: When you first began No Fauxxx, did you balance your fantasies and your models’ fantasies with those that the audience might like, or was it all just about you and your models?
Courtney: I never really considered the audience's feelings, and I think that's what the audience generally likes about the whole experience. We just end up shooting what we think is hot.
Tobi: What kind of responses did you initially receive?
Courtney: I think the first real audience – and many models – were people who were part of my online zine community, Fat Girl Break Down (you can see the archive here). It was the only place on the net for this kind of porn. The Alt Porn scene, which was small at that time, picked up on it.
Tobi: Can you describe what kind of porn the original No Fauxxx had?
Courtney: At the time, it was the only place on the net where you could find "alt porn" that was open to all sizes and genders, included queer identities as well as straight. It had an openly political stance on safer sex, accessibility, race, and appropriation in the adult industry.
Tobi: Have you been able to make money with it?
Courtney: It pays for itself, but hasn't gotten to the level where I could pay myself a salary or hire employees. That's fine with me, though. I’m not interested in making big bucks with it. It's always been more of a labor of love, or an art project.
Tobi: How do you think that changes your work? When you aren’t focused on profits, what can you do differently from other porn producers?
Courtney: I think it allows me and my performers the freedom to express ourselves in new ways, and there's no fear of other people's expectations. The whole project is built up to be a collection of honest erotic portraits. With no pressure to make a ton of money, I'm free to experiment however I please. In a way, I created a genre for myself ("Queer Porn") and have managed to train the audience to expect the unexpected.
Tobi: In your latest movie, Roulette, you made the unusual decision of putting music videos between many of the vignettes. What inspired that idea, and what was its goal?
Courtney: I wanted to make a movie that represented the queer community beyond how we fuck. Scream Club and Katastrophe are huge in the queer community, and I thought it would be a fun way to represent it.
I think there are parallels between queer music and porn. Both art forms are underrepresented at large, and artists both in queer music and queer porn largely do what they do out of a feeling of necessity. We're all trying to put the queer community on the map through our art. With Roulette I wanted to make a connection between queer music and queer porn, as I feel like the reasons for making both are quite similar on a political level. We're kind of like the Riot Grrrls of the 00's.
Tobi: Is there anything else about Roulette, or your work in general, that you want to be sure to get across?
Courtney: I cross many lines as far as gender and sexual identity are concerned. I love shooting trans folks, and I especially love working with people who identify as genderqueer. I hope to be able to do my part - although I am a cisgender woman - to bring these various gender identities to the table on a public level.
There's always the chance that through my work, a younger generation, or the closeted and confused can see that there really are options out there and that we don't have to be what others have named us -- that includes the diversity of gender roles that non-trans folks can inhabit as well.
Tobi: And it’s not just token diversity. I really appreciated seeing things in Roulette that show people at their realest.
Courtney: ...or at least deep into a very real fantasy, like with the gangbang scene or Dia's milk play.
Tobi: Well, fantasy is one of the deepest places for us. Dia's milk play seemed incredibly real. Even though the break in was obviously staged, it depicted a real part of her that normally wouldn't be given room.
Courtney: Dia specifically asked me if we could do a "splooshing" scene – it was something she had always wanted to do.
Tobi: And I especially liked the scene between Walter and Nikolaj. They had a very strong connection and passionate lust that was palpable and never lost its sweetness, especially as they kept breaking for more kissing.
Courtney: Yes! I love Walter & Nikolaj. They got engaged to be married the day before we shot, and that was their first sex as fiancés. Walter soon moved to Berlin to marry and live with him.
Tobi: Wow, that's wonderful! So, what kind of working relationship do you have with your performers? How much do you talk through what they are going to do?
Courtney: Many of my performers are my friends! It always has been that way, really. So, working through a scene and collaborating on the action and theme is always quite easy. When I work with bona-fide porn stars (so far, I've worked with April Flores, Kimberly Kane, Madison Young, and Dia Zerva), I often ask them to put themselves in a scene they would honestly love to do, as opposed to be cast to role. I often think of myself as a "fly on a wall" in shooting situations. I can be quite silent and observant during sex scenes. I prefer to let real chemistry unfold on its own.
Tobi: You've got some new stuff coming out soon. Can you tell me about it?
Courtney: I have started working with a brand new production company called Good Releasing on a line called Reel Queer Productions. I'll be doing a few Roulette sequels, as well as some more sophisticated artistic porn. On August 17th Nostalgia will be released, which is a film inspired by classic porn but completely queered into obscurity. There's an orgy, a "deep throat" scene, some awesome switching, and a foursome between me and my wife and April Flores and Kimberly Kane. In September, my first "storyline" porn, Speakeasy, will be released in color HD as well as black and white. It's a noir-style detective flick starring Lorelei Lee, Jiz Lee, and some hot hot new faces. It has a lot of rough sex, and even a suspension bondage scene. The cast is mostly FTM's, and as I'm editing I'm constantly having to stop and take a deep breath. It's so hot, it's even turning me on!
Tobi: Sounds great. I'll be keeping my eyes out.