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Tampa's newest porn star? It could be you

Courtney Cummz will lead some of the, uh, activities at the Porn Camp.

Courtney Cummz will lead some of the, uh, activities at the Porn Camp.

Sometime this weekend, at some sexy, unknown location in Tampa Bay, a woman named Courtney Cummz will show two-dozen prospective adult filmmakers how to make a porno.

The film shoot is part of "Porn Camp," a weekend-long, $4,000-a-head seminar that'll cover everything from porn-star pay scales to set design to proper Web site design.

And at 1 p.m. Saturday, Cummz — the star of such fare as Whack Jobs and Face Invaders — will lead her students on an odyssey of onscreen coitus. They will shoot hard-core scenes, using local actors, and they will own the rights to whatever they film. It could end up on a DVD. It could end up on your hard drive.

It makes sense that Porn Camp will take place in Tampa Bay, given this area's long-standing ties to X-rated entertainment.

But it's also part of a wider trend in the adult film industry: The idea that, with a little training, anyone, anywhere, can be a porn star.

After all, nothing sells like sex. It sells in print, it sells online, and you better believe it sells in Florida.

And just think — you could be the one doing the selling.

• • •

Pornography long ago went mainstream. It's a market worth up to $13 billion, according to trade estimates.

Boogie Nights and The People vs. Larry Flynt are more than a decade old. Knocked Up stars a bunch of guys trying to start a Web site about naked celebrities. Superbad features two teens who debate which porn site to subscribe to.

And just as it's never been easier to be exposed to the porn industry — on the Web, in the multiplex, in the paper you're reading right now — it's never been easier to be a part of it, either.

Over the past couple of years, as the term "user-generated content" has entered the media lexicon, adult entrepreneurs have launched X-rated spins on everything from Flickr (Eroshare) to MySpace (xPeeps). The phenomenon — dubbed, predictably, "Porn 2.0" — has grabbed hold of the industry.

Consider: The hot trend in naughty entertainment is the rise of YouTube-like sites like YouPorn and RedTube, two of the many video-sharing sites that offer free, lengthy X-rated clips to anyone with a decent modem. As of this week, YouPorn and RedTube were the 31st and 47th most popular sites, respectively, on the World Wide Web, according to Alexa Internet, which tracks Web traffic. That's more visitors than Wordpress or AOL.com.

"User-generated content is very much a wave that the entertainment industry is riding right now, both mainstream and adult," said Suzann Knudsen of PornoTube, which launched in 2006. "The content has always been there; only the delivery methods have changed."

So have the participants. Some of the people on these sites are "professionals," people with their own Web sites who want to reel in potential members. Others are true amateurs — John and Jane Does with zero on-camera experience.

"It's sort of along the lines of reality TV and how much of it is manipulated versus how much of it is raw footage," Knudsen said. "It's one of the paradoxes that keeps the industry and the Web 2.0 platform unique."

And as with YouTube, all this user-generated content is making traditional porn producers a little nervous.

"These are people that have been in the business for 25, 35 years and don't know anything about the Internet," says Cummz, 26, who says she earns a six-figure salary acting in and directing pornos. "These people are used to making millions of dollars a year. They don't want anybody to pick up their niche."

One thing PornoTube makes clear: It's a delivery system, not a porn producer. PornoTube's user agreement, which everyone who submits footage must sign, makes it clear that the onus is on you to maintain records regarding age and consent, and they will comply with the feds should any questions arise.

All the more reason for aspiring Jack Horners to know the rules of the game.

• • •

Jokes abound about Tampa's alleged status as the Strip Club Capital of the World.

There's the Mons. The Todd. The spaceship at 2001 Odyssey. Tampa Tushy Fest, starring the estimable Seymore Butts.

Snicker if you must, but Tampa's adult film industry — and Florida's as a whole — is no joke.

An October cover story in the Adult Video News examined Florida's burgeoning role in the adult film biz, crediting a wealth of talent, a permissive attitude toward nudity (especially in South Florida) and a "healthy and vibrant strip-club scene" for creating a de facto "East Coast branch of the San Ferndando Valley's near-monolithic Porn, Inc."

But when it comes to porn, you're not likely to hear local chambers of commerce crowing about industry growth. Hundreds of Florida adult Web sites prefer not to advertise their location, lest they draw the ire of community leaders.

It happened with Voyeur Dorm, a site featuring college-age babes lounging around a West Tampa house. Claiming the site violated local zoning standards, city officials wanted it shut down. Voyeur Dorm argued that the "business" at hand was actually taking place in cyberspace, and therefore not subject to local ordinances, and it won. The city appealed the decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but Voyeur Dorm still came out on top.

Still, conflicts like these are why the adult industry carries on mostly outside the eye of the public. And for amateur pornographers, that can pose a ton of legal problems.

Take the case of Clinton McCowen, a.k.a. Ray Guhn, who ran a few successful adult Web sites from outside Pensacola. In 2006, McCowen was arrested on charges including racketeering, obscenity and prostitution.

Prostitution?

Yep. Authorities say McCowen and partner Kevin Patrick Stevens paid women to have sex on camera, which, when you get right down to it, does sound a lot like prostitution.

But it's not prostitution, say porn advocates. It's art.

Seriously.

"If it has artistic value, then it's not obscene," said St. Petersburg attorney Brandon Kolb, who's running the show at Porn Camp. "You're not hiring people to perform a sexual activity. You're hiring people to perform their interpretation of a theatrical role."

Don't laugh. In 1989, the California supreme court ruled that participants in an adult film were doing it solely for the money, not their own sexual gratification, and therefore couldn't face prostitution or pandering charges.

The case, California vs. Freeman, helped solidify the state's status as a porn mecca. In the years since, officials elsewhere have been loath to pursue similar charges against porn producers, lest their states become similar hotbeds of X-rated action. That's partially what's at stake in the Ray Guhn case, which will go to trial in late June.

"If we get a decision like they got in Freeman," said Larry Walters, McCowen's Orlando attorney, "that would clearly open up the floodgates and allow the creation of adult material without fear of prosecution under prostitution laws."

If that happens, watch out — Florida's under-the-radar porn industry might suddenly take center stage.

• • •

Kolb said he's been stunned by the attention his Porn Camp seminar has gotten so far. Calls from curious attendees came in from as far away as California. The Adult Video News and the popular smut-surfing blog Fleshbot have both written about it.

Cummz, a nudist and former fashion student in Tampa, will cover the production side of things, including Saturday's film shoot. She sees Porn Camp as another step on her way to becoming a director, not just a performer — a goal she's had since signing her first big porn contract three years ago.

"I see women directing out there, and I like what they do, but I think I can do something the way I see porno, the way I enjoy porn," she said.

Her advice for amateurs? "Always respect your talent. Don't treat them like a hooker, you know? Treat them like a person — because they are. And don't try to get anything for free."

Kolb will delve into the legal side of porn, including record-keeping requirements and rules on copyright violations. He won't say exactly where the event will be held, other than that the seminars will take place in a hotel conference room, and "there have been arrangements for a secure place to do the production part."

"Too many people hear 'adult entertainment' and want to just come and be looky-loos," he said. "That's not what the seminar is about."

He believes there's a demand in Florida and around the country for Porn Camp seminars, for people who want to create legit pornography. He's planning his next Porn Camp, and may even try to tie one to Tampa's annual FetishCon convention, which draws 2,000 fans each year.

The market for self-made porn is there, Kolb said. He just thinks people need to be smarter about it.

"When it's talked about, it's talked about as a joke," he said. "But at the same time, just count all the adult businesses in the area. And go back over the past 10, 15 years — other than ones that were put out of business by local government, see how many adult businesses have failed for economic reasons.

"There aren't that many."

Contributing: John Martin

On the Web

Learn more on Porn Camp at www.porncampseminars.com.

Tampa's newest porn star? It could be you 03/27/08 [Last modified: Friday, April 4, 2008 5:17pm]

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