Peering into the Peephole of the Porn Industry with Maximus Skaff

Valarie Merced Blog

Maximus Skaff is a filmmaker, cinematographer, director, writer, and producer. His eclectic style is a mix between fantasy and freaky. Between his colorful candy man aesthetics to an exploration of the weird, Max has created a unique path in this world. 

Max’s break into the porn industry came when he wrote his first porn and pitched it to Erika Lust of XConfessions. Since then a large part of his career has been dedicated to creating porn that amplifies and celebrates trans bodies rather than fetishizing and degrading. 

I sat down with Maximus Skaff to discuss what it is like to work in the world of independent, high-quality, and downright fucking beautiful pornography. 

The Interview

Valarie: 

Hi Max! So, I just wanted to ask some questions about what it is like to work in the porn industry. What exactly do you do in porn and what’s your favorite part about the process of creating porn? 

Maximus: 

Well, so basically all of the porno’s that I’ve done, I mean I’ve worked in the industry not only as a director, but most of the time I do write it, direct it, and I do edit it as well. 

So, it’s like you know my film, but I’ve also done you know, cinematography and editing for other [porno’s] too. But yeah, for me like all the porno’s I’ve done I’ve wrote the scripts for them. Though, I don’t really write out the sex scene necessarily because that’s something that happens kind of the day of and it also depends on the performers, you know what I mean. There are the conversations that need to happen prior, and they have to understand what people’s yeses and noes are and how comfortable they are with certain things and so for me usually I’ll direct more of the scripted scenes if there’s dialogues or something or like my butterfly film which is more surrealism and avant-garde shit. So just basically directing where to place them, movements.

And then in terms of the sex scene usually we have an intimacy coordinator and do a meeting before the shoot to go over anything with the scripts and start the conversation about sexual preferences and yeses and noes. What do you like, what do you not like, where do you want to be touched? Where do you not want to be touched? And then we check in again the day of because, you know, we’re people… we’re not the same every day and maybe one day we wake up and we got gas or some shit, so you don’t want to be penetrated a certain way or something.

But yeah, I love doing it, you know, I feel like for me, it’s helped me with my own sexuality, and in coming to terms even with my sexuality and gender. To have representation of trans masculine bodies in that way. I don’t think were represented well before, except for more fetishizing ways or cliche ways. There was nothing creative or natural that I saw and so for me, it was just like, kind of owning my trans body and seeing its beauty, not as this weird thing or whatever.

Valarie: 

Yeah, absolutely. And you’ve done a beautiful job with that. I think that the way you represent bodies in general is really in the realm of like this magical fantasy while also being so real and grounded. Yeah, it’s just really beautiful to see. I love your work 

Maximus: 

Thank you! 

Valarie: 

So, when you first got into the industry What surprised you about it?

Starting off in the industry

Maximus:

I would say for me what was interesting is I didn’t work in mainstream porn. I was already a filmmaker and doing commercial productions and branded content and things like that. So, for me, like in terms of filmmaking, I don’t think there were any surprises. And I knew I would be working with a different type of performer. Not the movie actress, but a sex performer. 

That was the main difference is kind of fitting this script to them, so that they could have that movement and you know, the acting can be as natural as possible. So, I just say “here’s what I wrote, but you don’t have to get all the words, right? You say it how you want to say it, you be yourself.”  But I was lucky because my first porn that I did I worked with Victor Belmont, who is  like a trans a older brother, and he’d been in the industry for a long time.

And so, it was his first high quality, commercial value production. And that was my first porno. So, it was really cool, because we were able to teach each other. And in terms of how to treat performers, how to talk to them, and figure out what they need and everything, he really held my hand through that. So I was, like, trained by an actual sex worker, I didn’t just go in as a commercial director and be like, do this do that, you know. So that was really valuable to me, and I kind of just from there, have built upon that and have gotten more comfortable in general talking about body parts and sex anyways.

Valarie:

That brings me to the next question, what advice do you have for others in this industry, or who are looking to break into this industry as a director?

Advice for others breaking into the industry

Maximus:

I would say that any directors or filmmakers that are looking to get into the adult industry it’s important to remember that first and foremost, it is about the performer and their needs, because that’s what makes the movie but also this is a humanity thing too, of treating humans with respect in an industry that usually doesn’t treat these humans with respect. So, I would say listen to your performers, talk to them, work side by side with them, and just check in… just keep checking in. Because this is intimate. Extremely intimate. It’s shooting explicit content. 

Valarie:

Yeah, you’re right, that is vital.  So, what do you think in terms of SLFEX, this platform that we’re creating, how do you think this could benefit performers and creators of adult content?

Maximus:

I mean, I think with what we’ve seen with only fans, such a big company like that and what we see in what sex workers have to go through in general, it goes beyond content creation. The implications are getting your bank accounts shut down, your Venmo account shut down, your PayPal accounts shut down. Shit like that, people don’t want sex workers to use their services, period. Especially if they’re on the commercial level like that and I think that Only Fans really saw like “Oh, we’re only a fucking thing because of sex workers.” And then they were like, “Oh, never mind.” But it’s like no, that’s not a stable option clearly, they’ve (Only Fans) proven they’re not a stable option if you can just take it all away anyways…

I don’t even know what that site is for anyway! Besides that, I mean, I’m like, What? What? Isn’t that what it’s for? Sex work?

Valarie: 

Exactly!

Maximus:

It’s like, we don’t really know the CEOs of that company. we don’t know what their values are or what they’re into…

Valarie:

The intention wasn’t there to support sex workers at the beginning.

Maximus:

Exactly. Creating a platform that was specifically intentional for [sex workers], that’s a different story.

Valarie:

And finally,  what do you see for the future of porn? And for the future of sex work?

The future of porn

Maximus:

Well, there’s a lot of people out there. I’m also doing the docuseries with Sex Workers Project at Urban Justice Center. And so like, we just premiered that a couple weeks ago, and then it’s going to be playing at New Fest, which is awesome, because I always wanted to play at that Festival, it’s on October 16.

But I think that filmmakers in this industry, not to brag, but we’re paving the way because we’re now getting these topics of, you know, like my documentary is based on the sexual healing powers of sex work and about decriminalization and de-stigmatization, and average person has no fucking clue what these things are, or how it could affect a human.

And so, it’s great that festivals like New Fest or other LGBT festivals, and you know, Europe or the United States are starting to house these high-quality production value art pieces about sex work and pornography. Because their films, you know, it’s not something you just slap up on Pornhub it’s a film that a group of people created together. So, that’s what I hope will happen is decriminalization, de-stigmatization because people are ignorant, and they don’t know about these things. And not only can people be ignorant but also there’s this sexual repression which can breed ignorance and thinking sex needs to be a certain way or, you know, shit like that.

Valarie: 

Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for chatting with me Max and sharing your wisdom!

You can follow Maximus Skaff on Instagram @unclemaxieboy Interested in watching a screening? Check out his film at New Fest in NYC and at the Berlin Porn Film Festival. You can also create and XConfessions account and find his films here.

Maximus Skaff

Maximus Skaff is a Brooklyn based Transmasculine writer, director, cinematographer, & editor. Skaff’s visual talents have been featured in New York Magazine, Huffington Post, NPR, New York Times, among others. His films have been screened globally and won awards at festivals such as SIFF and NewFest. In 2015, he founded his full service production company, 422Luxe. 422Luxe’s work ranges from narrative short films, to documentaries,  to branded content, and to music videos. 422Luxe focuses in offering diverse LGBTQ+ and responsible sex industry perspectives through their work.