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Aug 15 2010

Interview with “Alice” Director Erica McLean

Author: Corva Siouan (via xPeeps.com)

Most people’s image of a porn director is probably male and not very nurturing. Those who have that image are likely unfamiliar with Erica McLean. The former model and makeup artist helped her late husband, director Clive McLean, bring the influential series Barely Legal to life in 1999 and has directed it for five years. Dismiss any preconceived notions about porn directors, because she will shatter them.

Erica’s new release is likely to become a sensation and deservedly so. “Alice,” out August 24th on DVD and exclusively on AEBN VOD theaters, is a modern, urban retelling of Alice in Wonderland. It’s no parody – it’s good hardcore sex from a woman’s perspective with a plot adapted from the classic tale and the surreal qualities you’d expect. Women and men can enjoy “Alice.”

“It was a lot of fun. There’s a lot of thought process going into it, casting the characters was pretty easy. I already had my Alice in mind when I went into production,” Erica says. “The costumes are very important and the characters are very important… it’s told in sort of a new age, hip-hop, urban way of looking at Alice. It’s a classic fairy tale that’s been told many times and will probably be told many times after. It pretty much was my late husband’s script, his idea and I just put a little twist on it. He wrote it in 2004. We had hoped to do it in 2004 but he was diagnosed and passed away so I took it out of the closet and brought it to life. I had a lot of fun doing that. Doing my projects, I always sing from my heart anyway. Whenever you do something that you love and you’re passionate about, it shows. I love what I do.”

Erica takes her work so much to heart that she literally brings it home with her, filming segments in her yard, including scenes with Alice and her sister (Kimberly Kane) and the scene where Alice follows the white rabbit (Andy San Dimas) down the hole. “I live in the Angeles Forest. It was burned down and we used the burned down forest as a backdrop and it was sort of an homage to that. I decorated a tree with some crystals just to make the forest happier.”

Casting this iconic character could’ve been tricky, but Fate may have helped Erica meet Sunny Lane. “Sunny and I picked each other. It was like two meteorites colliding… I’d never met Sunny, it’s a great story. I was thinking, okay, who am I going to cast as my Alice? When I went to Europe… my friend Jan who I wrote a book with said, ‘You’re probably going to go to Europe and you’re probably going to find your Alice there.’ I said, ‘Oh, Jan, there’s no way’… it’s difficult to bring Europeans here and there are a lot of Americans.” Erica traveled to Berlin for the Venus Awards, where she was up for Director of the Year. When she arrived, Theresa Flynt introduced her to Sunny at dinner. The next day it clicked. “We were going to the show and the elevator door opened up and there was Sunny waiting in the reception as I was coming down. I looked at her and knew automatically in my heart and my soul… I said, ‘Sunny, I’m doing a film and I just found my girl, I found my Alice.’ She just looked at me and said ‘OK, whatever you say.’ It was meant to be that we met and of all places in Europe,” Erica says.

“I absolutely love Sunny Lane. She’s my little girl that I hope to do more projects with, which I have,” Erica adds, referring to “The Flying Pink Pig,” an upcoming Hustler film. “She absolutely is Alice as far as I’m concerned, she has all those elements and she’s a naughty little Alice… She enjoys sex and she enjoys what she does. She got what I was trying to do, she sang from her heart and really learned the lines and really came. Her whole attitude was absolutely there.”

Erica likes to plan scenes with her performers. “I love it when the actors bring in what turns them on, so I’ll talk to them. I’ll say ‘I need to have this happen, I need to have this gradual transition from one to another, and then we also need to do soft,’ for Playboy Channel or whoever we sell it to,” she says. “I know what’s going on right now is a lot of gonzo and a lot of fast in and out, sorry the pun, and then that’s it and that’s all people want to see. But I disagree, I believe the art of erotica is a fine art and to capture that and to do hardcore is very interesting, because you want to capture each moment that the actors have between themselves. The kissing, the touching, the nibbling on the neck, the dialogue, the little bit of sex talk in between is a turn on… Whether it stays in there or we edit it out, nonetheless, the actors need to know what each other likes. You’re putting two people in that are virtually strangers to each other; they may have worked a couple of times. To make it look convincing and very sexy and sensuous, that’s what I want to bring.” Erica is known for welcoming, relaxing sets. “When you have a comfortable set and a comfortable setting for these people, it works. It makes it look effortless even though you’re working 20 hour days, trying to make everybody feel comfortable and everybody special and you’re catering to their needs at that moment. And they’re helping you paint your picture.”

The picture painted in “Alice” is stunning, with a cast that couldn’t be better. Every great Alice needs a great Mad Hatter, and Sunny has hers in Evan Stone. “I couldn’t have had a better Mad Hatter. Each one of them is exact and they all brought their energy there, also my crew, each one. I share it with everybody.”

This includes sharing directing duties with co-director Carlos Batts. “I met Carlos at a birthday party and he happened to be sitting across from me with April Flores, his partner. We started talking and then he gave me some of his work,” Erica says. April was cast as the Queen and Carlos became Erica’s collaborator. While Erica was outside with Andy San Dimas and Nicki Hunter (the Duchess) filming establishing shots for both the movie and a music video (for the theme song, “Yeah I” by Dirt & Bank featuring Young Cuz), Carlos was shooting the sultry scene between Alice and the Cheshire cat (Mikey Butders, aka Michael Pacino). All but one of the girls in the movie is in the video, which was all filmed alongside the movie. “We only had the downtown location for two days and we had a lot of work to do,” Erica explains. “I’ve worked solo for five years doing Barely Legal and with ‘Hardcore Circus’ I worked alone and I did eight sex scenes. That was my first indie film and I did it alone, and I thought of joining forces with somebody, seeing what they have to bring to the table and giving it a little bit of a twist and a bit of artistic flair.”

Collaboration doesn’t come naturally to all artists, but Erica enjoys it. “It’s like making a fine gumbo, seeing all the ingredients and asking someone else, maybe it needs a little of this or a little of that. He brought things to the table that maybe I wouldn’t have thought of… I’m glad that it turned out the way that it turned out. Everyone is making different Alices as you can see,” Erica says. “People are always going to do twists and turns on things. There’s always going to be that, but there are no two artists the same.”

“Alice” had some post-production delays, but the film was worth the wait. “I had somebody else edit it and they didn’t get the vision. I had it re-edited by my editor that did ‘Hardcore Circus’ and it came out beautiful, because she understood it,” Erica says. A project so close to her heart needed to live up to the vision that she shared with her late husband. “It’s totally from the heart and I want people to know that I share the crown and the laurels with everybody… I’d hope that everybody who walks down the road with me, at the end of the road if there are awards or applause, we all stand up.”

Erica enjoyed the process of collaboration so much she’d like to try it again. “When you work with a team it’s more powerful… You’re not just a lone wolf, you’re running with a pack and your pack gets what you’re running with.” She bonded with her pack for “Alice,” as she does with every team, and in the film it’s clear that they all went beyond the norm. “I want to give back a little artistic love to an entertainment business, the adult business, something they so deserve. We get such a bad rap and I want to be among mainstream people and sing from my heart. There’s nothing you can say to me that’s going to rock me because I’m going to be rock solid. As a spokesperson for the adult, I want to be an intelligent woman who makes erotic art, it’s not just typical.” From the saturated color palette to the costumes and sets, erotic art is exactly what “Alice” is.

“I want women to look at it and not be repulsed by it. I want them to say, ‘A woman did this, I can get off on looking at something like that.’ I get very emotionally attached to my projects because that’s just who I am. I’m emotionally attached to everything I do and every person I come across,” Erica says. “I love the people I work with. I want to love them for that moment, for that day, for that hour; to touch somebody’s life, to make them feel good, tell them they did a good job, from lighting, to makeup, to costumes, to my actors, to everybody.”

Erica’s career has involved lots of collaboration since she helped Clive start the Barely Legal series. On “Hardcore Circus,” even though she directed alone, she worked with friends. “It was actually a dream that I had,” she says. Around that time she did a gay parade float with her friend, the late Blue Iris, a Howard Stern’s Wack Packer and granny porn performer whose son has AIDS (the float raised money for AIDS patients.) After Erica described her dream, Blue Iris took part in making it a film. “We had a couple of meetings with my stylist and a couple of people, the writers, and we made it happen. We did it in November in my backyard – all that’s shot in my backyard – and it was erected in two days, we put it together in two days and shot it in three. All those wonderful cast members came together like magic. Everybody got it. Somebody looked at it and said it’s a Fellini type of movie, Fellini and Tim Burton meets Cirque du Soleil and John Waters… meets Erica McLean. With Alice it’s kind of the same way, modern day artists meeting and painting another picture.” If you’re into creatively erotic films, “Hardcore Circus” and “Alice” can’t be missed.

“The beauty is when people get that it is abstract and the sex scenes are good. That really is one of the major things in itself. It’s important for me to relate that to my audience, for the fans of all the stars who see it to say that was a great scene that Sunny did with Otto Bauer, or that she and Evan did, and both of their fan bases go ‘Wow, that’s an amazing scene, an award winning scene,'” Erica says. “It got a really good rating in AVN, it got four and a half stars, so that’s pretty good.”

With years on Barely Legal and two excellent independent films, Erica stands a great chance of building her own legend. “I had another amazing, vivid dream just the other night that I want to bring to life. I’m hoping that I establish myself as a woman in this industry so that when I say to somebody that I have this vision I want to bring to life, they go ‘OK, it’s Erica McLean, let’s give her carte blanche and let’s let her go. Let’s see her bring this to life now.'”

Erica is filled with ideas and plans that extend beyond films, including setting up foundations in memory of her husband and of Blue Iris, to benefit those living with cancer and with AIDS around the world. “I wish I would have gone on that cruise with my husband instead of taking him every day to the clinic, because those moments you spend with people that are ill are so important. Maybe through my imagery, any proceeds that I get, I can set up a foundation with all my films to make a mark in the world. Not only with my erotic art… There’s something more than my love and my passion for my filmmaking: my passion for people, for mankind in this world that so desperately needs it.”