We got the chance to sit down and chat with one of the most sought-after bondage directors, riggers, and handlers in the industry. Award-winning director, The Pope, is known for his mastery of manipulating the human body, his care and respect for models on set, and incredible attention to detail. It was no surprise when he was announced as the first BDSM director and performer inducted into the AVN Hall of Fame this year. He took some time away from directing this week to talk to us about what it was like to pioneer the BDSM genre in a time when the internet was still growing, his love for making story-driven BDSM films, working at Kink, and much more.
Interview with The Pope
What early influences lead you to BDSM and bondage and what is it about it that you love?
I didn’t have any early influences as far as BDSM goes that led me to the lifestyle. There was always this underlying desire to make and watch people suffer, but it always ended with everyone being OK, which I now know to be consensual BDSM. What I love most about BDSM is that people have a place to explore their sexuality in a way that the majority of non-BDSM people find odd or offensive. It’s a community that embraces their sexuality and is proud of it, not shamed by society for the most part.
How did you get started making content and directing? What were some of the major successes and major hurdles back then?
I started in 2004 doing professional work as a PA/photographer. I was dating a model who came out to San Francisco to shoot with Kink around 2002 and we met another producer, who eventually would offer me a job. I packed up a duffel bag and a carry-on suitcase, and got on a one way flight to the Bay Area. He gave me all of the opportunities I could handle and within the first 18 months he allowed me to direct my first shoot. It was crazy back then and the internet was still growing, and was not as over saturated with content as it is now. One of the biggest hurdles was sex and bondage. It was illegal when I started, but once a court case was won by Stigliano there were 3 major studios that started making it instantly, and the company I was working for was one of them. It’s crazy that I played a big role in pioneering that genre, and that I’m lucky enough to still be shooting it.
Kink was lucky enough to hire you back in 2010. How did you end up working at Kink and what was your role?
The story I was told was that Peter hired a new executive producer and he asked Peter if there were any other people he wanted working for him that he didn’t have already. Peter said he had heard good things about me, so the executive producer reached out and recruited me. I did a few test shoots and was hired a few months later to direct The Training of O and The Upper Floor. I went on to direct several more sites after that and still love making BDSM content.
What was it like taking over The Upper Floor and The Training of O channels? How did your own personal style of BDSM come to influence these channels?
The ironic part is that I was never interested in D/s relationships before I started directing for those sites. With that said, I dove in head first and studied the one person who I considered the pioneer of that genre at Kink, James Mogul. I am a natural sadist, so trying to incorporate my style into what he had already done was challenging, but I made it work. He was very polished and cerebral, while I was rough and aggressive. But there was a middle ground that I settled on that I was happy with.
Can you talk about that experimental time when you had cameras rolling all day in the Armory and you were in your zoot suit doing inspections with the girls every morning? What were those days like and do you miss them?
This was the most ambitious time of my career to say the least. We set up 12 cameras that streamed 24/7 for free and showed the entire upper floor. It was the most immersive porn experience available at the time to my knowledge. Almost every room was equipped with chat computers that read all of the members chat aloud, so the upper floor was alive. I wore those zoot suits as my uniform to stay within the role that I was assigned in the house. It was a crazy ride being so immersed in the reality that we created with the models, and towards the end it was almost overwhelming because we were so deep in the roles we were playing. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything, but I would also never do it again.
The quality and quantity of content you produce on Kink is unmatched. What channels are you currently responsible for and do you have a personal favorite right now?
I currently direct Hogtied, Device Bondage, Dungeon Sex (formally known as Brutal Sessions), Sex and Submission, and we are starting Fucking Machines again. I also do a series called School of Submission and Diary of a Madman. I love all of them because they are so different, but Hogtied is my favorite because it’s so focused on rope bondage and domination, which are two of my favorite things ever.
Where do you draw inspiration for your amazingly complex bondage predicaments? What was involved in the process of creating those sadistic metal devices and sets we see particularly in Device Bondage?
I love all aspects of bondage, so I am constantly watching other riggers and their work. The shapes that can be created by the human body with bondage are remarkable and inspiring. I am constantly trying to manipulate the body in new ways, and sometimes it turns out really cool. There are a lot of amazing bondage riggers in the world, and I am honored to be part of such a rich and creative group of people. The devices are just a different medium instead of rope, and it’s fun to create the devices to do the same work as the rope, but in a totally different way.
You built a reputation for being one of the best bondage directors to work for very early on in your career and models appreciate the high level of communication that goes down on your sets. How do you establish trust between you and your models? What do you require of your models to help build that trust?
I establish trust with clear and concise communication. I’m very honest with them from the first interaction to the last, so they always know exactly what is going on. I also empower them to communicate with me the same way, and give honest feedback so that we all have a good day.
You’ve worked your ass off bringing BDSM and bondage out of the shadows and further into the mainstream. Where do you see yourself and the genre 5 years from now? How much farther do you think the industry can push some of the current “boundaries” we have?
We have come so far since I started making this content and I never imagined that it would be as accepted as it is now. It’s still “scary and weird” to a lot of people, but I agree that it’s becoming more accessible in the mainstream. I don’t really know how much more we can push the boundaries that we currently have. We have pushed so many. Kink is a household name now, so constantly raising the bar a little more with each production is the path I’m going with for now. One of my main focuses now is raising the bar for the cinematic value, and trying to make it look better than it ever has before.
Do you have a shoot, project, or movie that stands out as being your absolute favorite? What about your most challenging?
All of my feature movies have been some of the most amazing content I’ve ever made. I love being able to tell stories and have real bondage and BDSM activities in them. The “Diary of a Madman” series has also been quite rewarding for the same reasons. The DOM series is probably the most challenging because we are telling a very long and detailed story, so it has to be broken up into episodes. That is tough because I’m always trying to make each episode amazing, but sometimes telling a story isn’t always about the sexy part. Sometimes it’s just telling a story. There’s a lot more work that goes into making these types of movies, so they are challenging, but also the most rewarding.
Can fans get a teaser about any exciting projects or hot collaborations on the horizon?
As I mentioned above, we are in the process of relaunching Fucking Machines, which I know has always been a fan favorite. I have selected the next model for the School of Submission, but don’t want to disclose her name yet…sorry y’all. I may or may not be thinking about doing another DOM as well.