Murder, mystery and representation, oh my! : An interview with Shine Louise Houston

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Representation in media is important – not merely for the sake of diversity, but for the sake of creating positive and meaningful images of people from all backgrounds and all identities.

Enter Shine Louise Houston, a queer woman who produces and directs adult films that accurately and respectfully portray intimacy among people across the spectrums of gender and sexuality.

After graduating from San Francisco Arts Institute and working at sex-toy manufacturer Good Vibrations, Houston entered the porn production industry by founding her company Pink & White Productions.

Since 2005, Houston has won numerous international awards for her work, including multiple Feminist Porn Awards for the popular The Crash Pad Series and Heavenly Spire.

Currently, Houston is working on her fifth feature film, Snapshot.

Below is my Q&A with Houston on her projects – past, current and upcoming – as well as her career and goals as producer and director of queer erotic cinema.

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  1. What inspired you to become a director and producer in the adult film industry?

I saw a need in the market while I was working at Good Vibrations and decided to put my film degree to good use. I went to a college that had an emphasis on experimental film, but later I realized that I loved narrative, even experimental narrative as long as it had a good story.

All of my artwork up to college had addressed ideas around sex and gender. As a senior in high school, my artwork was almost banned from the senior art exhibit because it addressed issues of homosexuality and the Catholic Church. So, in hindsight, going into porn made perfect sense.

  1. How do think that the film industry has changed since you started in 2005?

Technology has played a major role in inviting more voices into the industry. You don’t need a $5,000 camera to make a decent-looking movie these days. There’s a wonderful artist that shoots entirely on her iPhone, Sonya JF Barnett of The Keyhole Sessions. You still need skill, but the door to the film world is much wider than before.

I think the proliferation of budding pornographers has challenged the older institutions of the adult industry and disrupted how porn has traditionally been produced and distributed. Many artists including myself are choosing to self-distribute online because that technology is also more readily available.

My company right now is crowd-funding a project that we’ll be distributing online because we wanted to bypass the usual model of getting outside funding from another company for a percentage of the film. We want to keep full ownership of Snapshot, meaning we keep creative control and our company values.

We’re funding on Indiegogo.

  1. Do you feel like the images we see in porn have become more inclusive over the past decade?

Over the past two decades, starting with the opening up of the women’s market with directors like Veronica Heart, Candida Royal and Nan Kinney, there has been steady progress in particular areas of the industry. A section of the industry knows these days as feminist porn makes a concerted effort to showcase diverse bodies, sexualities and gender expressions without putting them in niche categories. I’m pleased to see in just the last three or four years a jump in trans performers represented in more respectful and empowering ways.

  1. In what ways has creating diverse adult films made an impact on the industry and its viewers?

 I’m not certain how much of an impact I’ve made on the industry, but I do get some great feed back from viewers every once in a while. I’ve had people tell me that our web series, The Crash Pad Series, helped them become more OK with their sexuality.

An older man at a conference told me, on the verge of tears, that watching my short film Bed Party was the first time he’d seen male sexuality represented in a way that reflected his own experience. He said, “I felt seen for the first time.” I mostly sit in front of a computer working and don’t engage much with our viewers, but when it happens its quite uplifting.

  1. Can you talk about Snapshot? The film is ultimately a coming out story. What compelled you to combine a murder, mystery and romance with a coming out story? 

 Snapshot is a romantic thriller about a young photographer Charlie who accidentally photographs a murderer, and how she finds love instead of a mystery but soon the mystery finds her.

I’m a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock. He created this term, MacGuffin. It’s really a plot device that drives characters in one direction, but doesn’t have any real weight in the true story. So the photo that the main character, Charlie, accidentally takes of a murderer is a device to get her to meet Danny, her love interest, and begin a journey into uncharted emotional territory.

Plus, I love Rear Window and Antonioni’s Blow Up, so I had to do my own version. As for the coming out part, there are many different ways and times that we ‘come out’ and I wanted to present that narrative without the usual tropes.

  1. What do you want to achieve with Snapshot in contrast to other films that fit the traditional coming out narrative? 

In Snapshot, the character who has a coming out experience is an older butch, Danny. Next, there’s no identity crisis or having to explicitly reject heterosexuality or normalcy. I don’t believe all shifts in being are fraught with angst. Sometimes, it happens as easily as slipping into a warm bath.

The conflict comes up in the emotional exchange between the two main characters. Realizing that you love someone can be way more challenging than knowing what turns you on.

  1. Without giving too much of the plot away, in what ways do the characters of Snapshot reflect your personal experiences as a queer woman of color?

Both Charlie and Danny hold a lot of my own personal experiences, but in general, they’re both strong willed and Charlie is unapologetic about her sexual needs.

  1. What kinds of projects can we expect from you in the future?

Besides our down and dirty web series, The Crash Pad Series, our masculine appreciation project Heavenly Spire, and our straight queer docuporn series Bed Party, I’m starting to produce micro features based on three-page scripts I’ve been writing over the years. They’re intricate short stories about sex told as succinctly and beautifully as possible.

  1. Is there anything that I haven’t asked you that I should?

I love squirrels, Tabasco and high heels…not necessarily all together. And go fund Snapshot, you know you want to see it! 

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Catch Shine Louise Houston on Twitter and YouTube.

Like Pink & White Productions on Facebook.

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