I had a chat with Tabitha Stevens about working on a project that so closely mirrored her life.
I got a chance to see a screening of the movie. It’s very different. I guess the thing that stood out the most for me is… did you do your own stunt work? Because there’s all kinds of a some crazy things going on in this movie.
Yes I did.
So that was you doing the… I think they call it a suicide swing?
And I did. I was going through some crazy times in my life and I heard that it’s like a relief. It takes you to a whole other place. So, it’s interesting the way it happened. I had professionals on set that hooked me (laughs). I was on a rig and they hooked up me up oh probably about 10 feet in the air for about 20 minutes or so.
Wow! So did find you find your true enlightenment much like your character in the movie? (laughs)
Oh you know, I enjoyed it very much. What happened was, and this is what’s so great about is, when you first get hung, they have you hanging… They have you just a little bit. They don’t really raise you too much your first time up. They let your skin stretch a little bit, and then they say “How you feeling?” and you tell them that you’re doing good, and then they raise you up and you know for a good 10 minutes my head was down. I didn’t really move, I kind of like just hung there and all of a sudden my adrenaline kicked in.
So my legs and my arms started like moving like crazy, and the guy who was in charge of you know putting me up in the air, he had actually taken me and spun me in circles while I was hanging by my hook. You know, it was a great feeling. It was… as free as you could be I suspect.
Oh wow. That‘s a lot to do for art. Can you tell me about your character in “Sanatorium” and how you approached doing this film in a different way than your previous movies?
Oh yes, this is definitely not your average porn film or porn feature film.
“Sanatorium” is about a porn star, myself Tabatha Stevens, who is exposed the secret, dirty double life of politicians, preachers and prosecutors who attack porn in public, but who are addicted to perverted sex in their private lives.
That’s an all too familiar story.
So that’s pretty much what the story is about, and you know about myself the character… you know there’s a lot of me in the main character. She’s a woman who got into porn because she loves sex and you know at first it was all great, but then you know she learns all too fast that she was instantly stigmatised and then you know as we get on into the story you know, we find that she has a mental breakdown. She wants to get out of the industry, but once the stigma is there, she’s trapped. So she goes on a vision quest to become stronger and you know seize her depression as she you know gets trapped.
And she wants to fight her demons. She wants to really go after the politicians and the preachers you know who are leading these double lives. So essentially what she does is she survives this crazy dream of insanity and comes out a sexual warrior.
How much is that true for you, like how is the stigma of being a performer in your industry affected you?
Oh, of being stigmatised?
Well not just me it’s anybody in my industry gets stigmatised, you know, because it’s sex, and people who are usually of higher power, be it you know a senator or a preacher or a politician you know they’re so quick to judge and you know they talk about “family values” and how important that is and you know the first thing that comes up for a politician to get re-elected is how they’re going to abolish porn and people take to that and unfortunately for us, you know we’re good people. We’re just out doing our jobs, having sex and there’s nothing wrong with having sex, and it’s just sad to find that the same people who are put us down are actually having sex even dirtier that we are.
Originally we wanted to do this film; it was going to be a NC17 rating. It wasn’t intended to be a porn film. It was about you know life of a porn star who was going through this crazy journey because she was so stigmatised by what had been happening to her from the porn industry.
We kind of sat on it for a little bit and we were doing a bunch of other projects in the meantime, and then we revisited it about 5 or 6 months ago, and you know seeing what’s being going on in the news over the last few years and how the scandals have broken on all these people, all these politicians. We figured that’s what we should do, we should turn this an adult film. I mean this sets the context that it’s in anyway, so we just changed the story a little and made it more current to what’s happening in today’s world.
So I know this film probably draws different audiences from your normal films. I actually watched “Donnie Darko” right before I watched this film, and I thought there were kind of similar themes in there. And I’m pretty vanilla. I actually don’t watch a great deal of adult movies, though I write about the adult industry. And I have to say as a movie I enjoyed it.
Oh awesome! Thank you. We wanted to make it to where (even though it’s a bit dark there) The thing is anybody, you know men and women can watch it because there is a plot and it is interesting. You know, and of course, you know, like when you’re in porn, a lot of times you get bored with sex anyway because you know you’ve already done that. (laughs) It’s a story worth watching. It’s a story that, you know, you’re going watch it and you’re going get confused, you will.
That’s our intention – we want to the viewer to watch the sex scenes over and over again if they’d like to, but we want them to watch and look at the story because there are hidden riddles throughout the story, and it doesn’t, it’s not supposed to make sense the first time you watch it because it’s a non-linear film.
N’jaila: Kind of like “Mulholland Dr.” (laughs) .
Yes, it very David Lynch-y. If you’re a David Lynch fan.
(laughs) I am, I am. So that’s probably why I like it so much. So, do you want to continue to make more mainstream films?
Mainstream porn or just mainstream mainstream?
Uh both actually.
Yes, I enjoy being in mainstream shows. I was on, for example, I’ve been a guest on Howard Stern’s show for 5 years, which is still a mainstream deal. I’ve been a favorite guest and he’s been wonderful, that show but I love it. It’s all me doing whatever I want to do. And then I did the E! Channel “Dr. 90210” for 5 seasons. I was the only celebrity that appeared on that show every single season. And obviously it’s obvious that ratings were involved, so obviously I did well enough. And there’s where I think I had a hard time with the whole stigmatism thing, because people put it down. You know, that when you put porn on a show like that, people want to watch it, they want to see what that porn stars doing.
I’ll continue produce more -I’ve been producing. I’ve produced 13 episodes of “The Erotic Traveler” on HBO Cinemax. That’s my husband’s show, but he had me produce the entire show, 13 episodes. So, you know, I have good credentials. I’ve produced a family show. I’ve produced all kinds of different shows, and so I’m kind of going in that direction again and I want to direct a few, you know, a few adult films. But they’re gonna be feature based films, I like to explore the plot.
What I liked about this film particularly it had a very strong female protagonist and I know that you don’t really see that a lot in most adult films. Will you be hopefully bringing more of that to the surface?
Oh absolutely, absolutely. You know, my husband is very good with that. He likes the fact that women in power, because the way he was brought up himself. You know, he was raised by him mom. She was in a very strong woman and they had a great relationship when he was younger.
The things I’ve even gone through, made me very strong person. I’ve lived through things. Like the bravest thing I’ve ever done – I was married at 22 years old to a very wealthy young man and at the age of 25 we weren’t really having sex. I left him to do porn. I mean I didn’t have to work a day in my life and I decided, you know what, I want to have more sex – I’m gonna do it on camera. And that’s probably the bravest thing I’d ever done.
You know, how many girls would say “Oh, I’m gonna give up this life of luxury, you know to do porn” (laughs). You know I wanted to find myself and that’s what I did.
How can people get “Sanitorium?
I believe if you go on to Zero Tolerance http://www.ztod.com/. Zero Tolerance is our distributor, so if you look up Zero Tolerance online, or you can go to AdultDVDEmpire.com http://www.adultdvdempire.com/. I know they have that available on there as well.
So, thank you for talking to me. Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about the experience of making this movie?
That it was just an awesome experience. It was a very long process. We shot, like I said, in 20 different locations and, you know, there were days that we were shooting 16 hours, you know, and we were in, you know, the desert in 120 degree weather, walking around with no shoes on and falling down hills naked. (laughs) So it was a little tough, but overall it was a great great experience.
“Sanitarium” is nominated in the following categories:
- Best Feature: Sanatorium (Orona Stevens/Zero Tolerance)
- Best Non-Sex Performance: Teddy ZigZag – Sanatorium (Orona Stevens/Zero Tolerance)
- Best Director – Feature: Gary Orona – Sanatorium (Orona Stevens/Zero Tolerance)
- Best Art Direction: Sanatorium (Zero Tolerance Entertainment)
- Best DVD Menus: Sanatorium (Orona Stevens/Zero Tolerance)
- Best Editing: Gary Orona (Orona Stevens/Zero Tolerance)
- Best Make-Up: Sanatorium (Orona Stevens/Zero Tolerance) Tabitha Stevens, Lori Elle, Cori Segal and Rocky
- Best Overall Marketing Campaign – Individual Project: Sanatorium (Orona Stevens/Zero Tolerance)
- Best Packaging Innovation: Sanatorium (Orona Stevens/Zero Tolerance)