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Porn Industry Gives up on Legitimate Filming in L.A.

Porn Industry Gives up on Legitimate Filming in L.A.

Justin Hall/Flickr

This is the world capital of adult video production. And the porn industry hasn't given up on L.A. just yet.

But it has certainly abandoned attempting to film scenes legitimately in the county. Under a law approved by voters and enacted at the end of 2012, film permits for adult video productions require filmmakers to commit to having male performers use condoms.

It's widely believed that, as a result of the mandatory condom rule in L.A., porn producers have simply stopped pulling permits and moved their shoots to places that don't have prophylactic police. New data from the regional permit organization known as FilmLA seems to back that theory:

A spokesman for FilmLA says there were an estimated 480 adult permits issued in 2012. Last year there were 40, he said. And so far this year there have been about 20.

Steven Hirsch, founder of what is perhaps the world's largest porn studio, Vivid Entertainment, says the reason for the reduction is clear: Mandatory condoms.

"That's why you see the drop in film permits," he told us. "I think the the overwhelming majority of production is leaving L.A. County, and the revenue is going with it."

However, Hirsch admits that it's also plausible that some producers are simply avoiding the permit process altogether so they can sidestep the condom rule. "Not everyone pulls permits for every single shoot," he said.

The industry has been threatening to leave L.A. since before the 2012 law, spearheaded by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, was approved by voters. Now it's really really going to pull the trigger if California enacts a proposed law that would make condoms mandatory statewide, Hirsch says.

See also: Porn's Proposed Condom Law Suffers a Setback

"People aren't going to continue shooting under those conditions," Hirsche warns. "If the law passes it's certainly another nail in the coffin for L.A. production."

The multi-billion-dollar, Valley-based industry has argued that consumers won't purchase condom porn, and that requiring it will force production out of state and even underground, where conditions would be less safe.

Porn Industry Gives up on Legitimate Filming in L.A.

Jack Liddon/Flickr

Porn is only explicitly legal in California and New Hampshire, however. Otherwise producers are paying for sex acts, and that's prostitution.

That's one reason that many of the larger studios have stayed put for now. Hirsch of Vivid admits this fact, but he says that those producers going out of state, to places like Florida and Nevada, have so far seen few consequences:

They aren't being investigated. Their shoots aren't being visited. They feel safe shooting in other places.

See also: Fearing California Condom Law, Kink Porn Studio Opens Facilities in Vegas

Mainstream, above-ground producers in L.A., meanwhile, adhere to a testing protocol that asks performers to submit to STD checks twice a month.

See also: Porn Defends the Money Shot

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has argued that state and federal law essentially require condoms even without the extra legislation in L.A. County and Sacramento: Employees at their workplaces aren't supposed to be subjected to blood-borne pathogens of the type carried by sperm.

Filmmaker Mike Stabile, who has been speaking for the industry trade group Free Speech Coalition regarding the issue of condoms, argues that the result of this condom fixation has been less local work for performers and others who toil behind the scenes in adult video:

Larger companies like Vivid and Penthouse have moved productions out of state or overseas since 2012. Smaller companies who can't, on the other hand, may feel pressure to shoot without permits. Once people start shooting without permits, other safeguards like testing and insurance may be dropped too, as it's evidence of production. Either way, the net impact on performers is negative ...

Vivid hasn't shot a film in L.A. since the local condom law was enacted in December of 2012, Hirsch confirms. The big question now is whether or not bigger companies like his will uproot their offices as well.

"I'm not sure what the next step will be," he said.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.