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When any movie plays at Sundance, I’m interested in seeing it just on that credential alone. Hot Girls Wanted was one I wanted to see at Sundance but missed it, so I was really glad Netflix released it on their instant streaming service. The subject of women who star in amateur pornographic videos is fascinating, and to get into Sundance it would have to have more perspective than what we all already know.

Hot Girls Wanted follows a group of girls living and or working out of a house for porn shoots. They were recruited by Riley, who sends them out to shoots that begin as live webcams or “barely legal” shoots but evolve into more extreme, aggressive fetishes. I got to interview directors Ronna Gradus and Jill Bauer about Hot Girls Wanted, which is now available on Netflix Instant.

Hot Girls Wanted, on Netflix

Hot Girls Wanted, on Netflix

Nuke the Fridge: How did the Kinsey Institute help you with research for Hot Girls Wanted?

Ronna Gradus: That was Jill’s idea so take it away.

Jill Bauer: So when we made our first film, Sexy Baby, a lot of people came to us. It was about growing up in the digital age and social media and how it’s affecting kids and about their exposure to pornography. So people said, “We want hard data. We want information. We want numbers about all of it, every aspect of it.” So when we set out to make this film, we said, “Okay, we are going to go to the place, the sex research institute that has a lot of credibility. They’ve been doing research on sex and pornography for years so we’re going to go there.” But we didn’t know anybody, so we made a cold call. Researched who the person was there that was doing a lot of research and was up to date and knew what was happening now in this culture. So we found this thing called Kinsey Confidential. It was written by this woman Debbie Herbenick at the Kinsey Institute. She’s a big deal there so we cold called her, got in touch with her and that relationship began. Then we started working with her associate there, Bryant Paul, and his specialty is pornography and researching pornography on the internet. Then we went and started shooting our movie. And we actually brought them anecdotal information.

Hot Girls Wanted on Netflix

Hot Girls Wanted on Netflix

We were starting in a whole different place. We were going to go interview college boys and see what they were exposed to and see how they were acting everything out and if it was affecting them, because we didn’t know. So we started with the boys, because we had filmed women in Sexy Baby. Then we said, “Let’s go see what the boys are watching and how it’s affecting them.” We started there and then we said, “Wait a minute, this is really interesting what they’re watching.” Then we decided to film this porn world, because we got in, and the girls that are getting into porn. Then we said, “Okay, now we’re going to bring this to the Kinsey Institute now that we have this relationship and we’re going to say to them: give us numbers. We know who the girls are. We’re going to tell you about these girls. How many are getting into it a year? Because we think a lot are because we’re seeing on the ground that a new girl turns 18 every day as one character in our film says, the recruiter. So we need numbers, numbers numbers.” We actually brought the anecdotes to them and then they researched the numbers and got them for us. So it’s all very fresh research. It’s never been done.

Ronna Gradus: Right, the kind of porn that we cover has been coined as pro-amateur porn, which is real girl next door. She’s an amateur, she’s never done this before and now we’re getting her on camera for the first time. So that’s the genre that we explored. So when we went to Kinsey, they weren’t familiar with that specific type of porn. So when we said, “How many girls are getting recruited every year?” They really didn’t know. They did that specifically for us to find out. I think it was a little eye-opening for this guy who does porn research to see what a growing genre this is. Also there were some other things that he found surprising, again based on our anecdotal stories, like the abuse porn. What we had been seeing was oh, this seems very popular. So again, this is one of these things that we asked him about and he didn’t know numbers. He was pretty shocked.

Nuke: It’s interesting you started out looking at men, because I wondered: Why isn’t there porn for men who want to be loving towards a woman? I imagine they can only make that extreme porn if there’s a market for it, so I’m thinking why is the audience for “abuse porn” there in the first place?

Ronna Gradus: That’s a very good question.

Jill Bauer: That’s why we shaped the film the way that we shaped it. It does definitely, in a natural way because it is a verite film, I think it definitely does make people ask that question. I think it’s kind of like okay, let’s question ourselves, all of us because whatever’s popular on the internet isn’t popular just because there’s supply. Clearly it’s because there’s demand. So what comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Ronna Gradus:  His theory, Bryant Paul, is that the reason it’s happening on the production side is that it’s so much harder to monetize pornography now because of the internet. So a lot of these companies are just filming these clips that have everything in them, just to get more bang for their buck, no pun intended. If we have this kind of thing and add in this hardcore thing and then this other kinky thing, they can slice up the clip to various sites and make more money that way. So that’s his theory from a research perspective as to why a lot of stuff is getting more extreme. But, there is a question, like: Or, is it the consumers want more hardcore content that’s more violent?

Riley and his girls in Hot Girls Wanted

Riley and his girls in Hot Girls Wanted

Nuke: Is the recruiter, Riley, like a Revenge of the Nerd gone too far? Revenge would just be becoming a successful, beloved person despite the ridicule you may have gotten from jocks. He’s taken it to the point of exploiting other people.

Ronna Gradus: Riley’s a nuanced character and we tried really hard not to villainize him because really from his perspective, he is just catering to a need that already exists. He’s 23 years old when we met him. He really, I think, ironically can identify with the girls. They’re working class, he’s working class, they want a better life, he wants a better life. Together they have found this world where you can make quick money.

Jill Bauer: They identify with him. We were at Indiana University at Kinsey a couple of weeks ago and Rachel, Ava Taylor XXX was her porn name, someone in the classroom asked her about Riley. She said, “The thing is, he’s just like us. He grew up the same, the way we did and he’s sort of our same age. Let me tell you, there are recruiters and agents in this world that are really bad. Bad old dudes who are preying on women. He was really nice to us. “And the whole time we were in the house, we witnessed that he was actually quite kind to them and nice to them.

Ronna Gradus: Right, as far as agents and recruiters go, he’s definitely on the nicer part of the spectrum. If he’s guilty of anything, I would say he’s not thinking through the ramifications of his actions. He’s just not critically thinking about what he’s doing.

Jill Bauer: He’s a cog in a wheel.

Nuke: Right, I responded to when he said he was unpopular in high school and “look at me now.” Well, look at you now!

Ronna Gradus: Right, but I think that’s a big motivation for all these kids getting into porn. They think it’s a ticket to a glamorous prosperous lifestyle.

Jill Bauer: And I think the way he’s saying it is a little Hugh Hefnerish. Here I am, I’ve got my girls, I’m surrounded by my girls. He says, “I’m the sh*t” technically. “I was bullied in high school and I’m the sh*t.” It’s just the idea of a fantasy for a guy.

Ronna Gradus: But I wouldn’t say it’s that he feels like he’s getting revenge. I think he just feels like he’s getting his chance.

Jill Bauer: We were saying a cog in a wheel. When we think of the industry, we just don’t like to pick on him because he’s really the low hanging fruit of the industry. He’s part of the industry, but you’re talking about companies who are making billions of dollars. That’s the question mark.

Ronna Gradus: Yeah, if anyone’s doing the exploiting, these girls are making $800 a scene and these big companies are making thousands.

Jill Bauer: Slicing, dicing, selling and making a lot of money.

Hot Girls Wanted on Netflix

Hot Girls Wanted on Netflix

Nuke: When you show clips of the actual porn sites, does that fall under fair use?

Jill Bauer: Yes.

Ronna Gradus: Yes, thank goodness. Thank goodness for fair use law. You know how the process works where you work with an attorney and you kind of state your case and battle it out to say, “No, this is important and relevant.” It wasn’t that hard. The story is very direct. These are the girls and here they are on these sites.

Nuke: When you filmed behind the scenes of the shoots and the house, were you careful not to show nudity and not to make anything titillating?

Ronna Gradus: Absolutely, absolutely because basically, most people who are going to see this film know what pornography looks like. So we didn’t need to illustrate that for them. So we really just wanted to show these girls for who they are as people, not as porn stars.