On-set with luxe pornographers for British GQ

Writer and photographer Adam Baidawi goes behind the scenes on X-Art.

Originally published by British GQ

Off a rugged dirt road in Ibiza, in a fantastical villa that sits in the clouds, Brigham and Colette Field are creating what they shyly deem, "an erotic revolution." We’re on the set of X-Art, the pornography phenomenon that promises to turn sex into art cinema.

My weeklong triple-x embed seeks to discover whether so called “romantic porn” is a legitimate craft, or another hasty turn for an industry relegated to post-‘Tube desperation.

Disillusioned after witnessing the attacks of September 11 from his downtown New York marketing firm, Brigham Field embarked on a career change that began with erotic photography, and grew, after meeting his would-be wife, into perhaps the world’s most sophisticated cinema erotica. Investing in next-level cinematography—with a mantra to eschew porn tropes—the mom-and-pop US startup has grown into a global production team, digested by viewers in the hundreds of millions.

Field’s singular talent is the intimate. It’s a whispering blonde wrapped in white sheets and a yawn of morning light, whose smile is as sexy as it is tender. This nuance—an emotional intelligence—has proved a hit in a market saturated by the quick, rough and jejune.

The production swears by discerning casting: So tall and lithe and sirenously beautiful are the women, you’d half think they’d been plucked from runways. (Several have been.) Crucially, many of these models only film scenes with their real-life boyfriends. Most only do so for the Fields.

It takes a few hours on the island set to realise their operation has a knack for attracting serial monogamists. Mr. X, a McConahey-lookalike with a deep tan and a quick smile was one of the first performers involved. He has a girlfriend in the States.

“It’s a mindfuck,” he tells me on his day off.

While the prior week's filming had been dedicated to X-Art’s couple performers, this week’s performers are all single. The narrative theme is the imaginary. I learn this by chance, after witnessing a majestic poolside three-way in which, I deduced, a hairless man named Libor made love to a tanned Czech beauty, then miraculously willed-to-life a near-identical twin, just in time for a cathartic poolside release.

And sure, taking all of this in isn’t without revelations. Like how the plucky Libor needed to maintain mettle for a full 90 minutes, or how, surely, this must be made more difficult considering how contemptuously his co-stars desert him, in favour of a cigarette, between takes.

Some behind-the-scenes actualities (“Okay…have an orgasm now…”) are less surprising than others (many female performers won’t allow coital ejaculation). But, perched a few hundred metres above the Mediterranean, the visitor’s mind still labours over innocuous matters. What are the emotional consequences for these performers—many hand-picked for their emotional intelligence?

“I’m a hopeless romantic. That’s the hardest thing for me as a performer. Sometimes you build up this chemistry. You have this amazing, incredible, passionate time, and then…cut. Done. She walks out.”

I meet Tyler Nixon: a bright, young Californian with surfer physique. He’s been in the industry for a year. A serendipitous one-night stand with a Playboy casting director led to softcore, and now hardcore shoots, where his boy-next-door charisma has made him one of the industry’s most in-demand male performers. He recently came out of a 6-year relationship.

His next scene is a “boy-girl” with a new Latvian model, Baby. They’re meeting for the first time in Ibiza, and language and cultural barriers will need to be overcome. “It’s my job to make her feel comfortable,” Tyler reminds me.

Their director is a European visionary whose career is rising so rapidly I haven’t been allowed to identify him. Back in LA, he’s in pre-production on a tentpole film for a major Hollywood studio.

Still fixated on flights of fancy, the set-up is a sort of reverse Libor: Baby will lie on the bed, self-pleasuring, then Tyler will appear, an erotic apparition. (Naturally, he will have corporeal form.)

The filming proves sweltering, with regular intervals to pan, fortify erections, and reach over for lube and water in equal measure. The director barks out surgical orders (“That’s too porno!” “Can you make her cum?” “Tyler, I can’t see your cock!”)

The shoot is punctuated by the smearing of fake cum on Tyler and Baby—a particular brand of leave-in conditioner.

The crew heads to the van. We need to make it to a nearby beach by sunset to shoot the (fully-clothed) denouement. As we careen down the hills at speed, Baby starts giving Tyler a massage. “I might just fall in love with you right now,” he grins.

While the director sets up the camera and Spanish beachgoers gawk at the scene, Tyler and Baby wander off in the distance. They’re taking photos by the water, poking fun at the ludicrousness of their situation. Huddled together, Tyler starts skipping stones across the lake, like a Nicholas Sparks marionette. It’s getting harder to discern the real from the leave-in conditioner.

And then, before it begins, it’s over. The sun has ducked behind the hills. The shot has been missed.

During the ride home, after the European visionary has methodically put away the rig and Field has plunged into his iPhone, Baby ruffles Tyler’s hair again. She grabs the arm of the imaginary boy with the imaginary cum. 

“I can see when you’re looking at me,” she whispers, as audible as the breeze. “I can feel that.”