DVDTalk Interview: I Hit It With My Axe
DVDTalk Interview: I Hit It With My Axe
Zak Smith and Mandy MorbidZak Smith is not your average, everyday porn star. Most porn stars don't have an M.F.A. from Yale. Most porn stars aren't renowned artists with gallery shows. And most porn stars don't have their own web series documenting the Dungeons and Dragons games they lead as Dungeon Master. Together with his girlfriend, adult model Mandy Morbid, he stars in I Hit It With My Axe, a show on EscapistMagazine.com that's gained a lot of interest due to the concept: watch D&D as played by a group of people from in and around the porn industry.
In New York to visit friends, attend a gallery opening and a promotional stop for The Escapist, the duo woke up after a late night in NYC to hit ComicCon and talk with DVDTalk's Francis Rizzo III about why movies aren't porn, hate mail and why gaming can be more intimate than being naked on-screen.
DVDTalk: How did you get started playing with this group?
Zak Smith: I live in LA and everyone we know is in the adult industry or a stripper, pretty much. So when we wanted to get a game going, we pretty much had to convince people, because that's all we knew. We moved to LA three...
Mandy Morbid: Three years ago.
ZS: So when we moved, those were the only connections we had. So if we had to get a game together, it was with people we had done movies with.
MM: My friends.
MM: I got my friends playing.
ZS: Pretty much, yeah.
DVDTalk: How is the topic broached, since gaming can be an outsider thing, and in an industry so focused on appearance...
MM: He's played since high school.
ZS: She has no shame. She'll talk about anything. You know what I mean? So she was like (high-pitched voice) "Oh, I was playing Dungeons & Dragons."
MM: There were girls I knew who seemed like they would be good at it, or would enjoy it. It took a while, but I convinced them.
ZS: Yeah, Satine [Phoenix] was on it before us, and she was like "Let's play" and then, we had been playing in New York with people we know here. Once enough of your friends are doing something, you're like, "Oh, I'm sure it's okay."
DVDTalk: For people who aren't gamers, there's an angle to the show, where there's the people in the industry, but if you watch the series is not really about the industry. So who is the series for?
ZS: For me, when I'm pulling a show together after a shoot, I think about that show Top Gear, the car show from England? I don't drive, I don't know shit about cars, but I love that show and I watch every episode. I think it's just, there's people being interesting and you try to make it interesting.
MM: We just wanted to have fun ourselves, and then it's like "Hey, let's film it. That's an interesting thing."
ZS: And also, we're not the guy holding the gun. The escapist is aiming it. We're just the gun. We're just going to play anyway and film it and make a show, and they're the ones who thought it would make money. It's really like, "Why do you think anyone would watch this?"
MM: We really had no idea.
ZS: It was Alex' [Macris, publisher of The Escapist] idea that someone might actually watch the show. We're playing anyway.
MM: Satine has a certain kind of fan, and I have a certain kind of fan and even Kimberly Kane has a certain kind of fan, and those are the kind of people who are into it. Not the additional stuff. They want to see it straight.
MM: They want to see us doing real life stuff, us being ourselves.
ZS: Yeah. The people who watch a lot of their movies, they'll ask about everything, your shoe size, whatever.
MM: What books are you reading? So they want to see us doing that.
DVDTalk: Does it feel natural to be filmed playing D&D? It seems very much about the people around the table and now you have people outside watching.
MM: No. (Laughs)
ZS: The thing that I do, is really make sure it's very unprofessional.
DVDTalk: I know you have a hybrid game you play...
ZS: I don't know if you no this, but everybody who plays for a long time does that. Nobody plays by the book, except people who are really new and those people... they're dorks. But anyway, everybody who plays for a long time, if you're a real dork...
MM: And it says in the rulebook, you can adjust things to make it work for your people. That's one of the rules.
ZS: It's like the Hell's Angels. There's a rule that you have to ride a Harley, but there's also rules that you have to modify your Harley. It's the same thing. Nobody plays D&D right out of the box, unless--
MM: You're 12. You live in a basement.
ZS: You're 12 or you're trying to give this new system a fair chance. But as soon as you play for a year or two, you start tweaking under the hood. And so part of it is stuff that I changed, just because I think it's interesting, and other stuff is stuff I changed to make it so we can have new players all the time. Because, you know, Kimberly Kane is getting her GED right now. So, she's not a math wiz. But some people are really good at math, so you make the game playable and not... I think the problem is the stuff that the company that makes D&D is putting out now is that they seem to be making it seem like rocket science. Unless you played World of Warcraft, or have built your own dune buggy from scratch, you shouldn't be able to play the game, and I don't like that. And that's not how the original game was. It was always about imagination. The changes I made were about that.
As far as the naturalness of filming it goes, which just have our friends film. People who we worked with on movies before. So they're all people we know.
MM: I was a little hesitant at first...
MM: Playing for me was a really personal private part of my life. I feel way more exposed playing D&D on film than I ever felt doing any adult work ever. And the response we got was much more negative in the beginning, from playing D&D than anything naked online.
ZS: Because the audience isn't people who want to jerk off, and they'll be happy if they jerk off. It's people who are like (nasal voice) "Well, you went 32 inches down this corridor, instead of 31, and it says on page..." It's like "You are 12."
DVDTalk: Do you ever get complaints about the fact that it is purely about gaming, despite the fact that the group is made up of adult stars?"
MM: We get any kind of complaint you can imagine.
ZS: But we get less now than we used to.
MM: We basically shut everyone down. We explained ourselves.
ZS: After a while, the only people... you know the first time Star Trek was on the air, it probably got a lot of mail from people who just shouldn't have been watching Star Trek. (Nasal voice) "How come the ship is always right side up?" It's a show. And then, after a while, those people stop watching and they don't send mail anymore. But we get the most hideous, misogynistic hate mail, compared to the porn stuff.
MM: I mean, I knew that was going to happen. I was prepared, but it was still kind of shocking, the sheer amount and venom of the hate mail. People were like "You're a girl and you shouldn't be doing this," and "You should be ashamed because of your line of work."
ZS: Or they just assume because you are in porn that you couldn't possibly play or be doing it right.
MM: Or that were actually enjoying it. "There's no way you'd be doing this if you weren't getting paid." Well, no. We were doing this for a long time before anyone offered money. (Laughs) We're not getting paid to play. We're getting paid so you guys can see us play.
ZS: We played a game a few days ago, and nobody filmed it. It's just their stereotypes and self-loathing. One person would be like "You guys are dorks for playing D&D." And then the next person is like, "You guys are dorks, you're not really playing D&D."
DVDTalk: How long do you think some people watch before they say "I don't see any nudity."
ZS: I feel like the first episode, obviously... you know, our numbers go up every week, but I feel like... all kinds of people watched the first episode because it's weird, and then after a while, only people who started getting interested watch the ones after that. But then they told people who they knew would be into it, you know? So, the audience grew from those people, who were like, "Oh, it's actually a show about D&D." The people who are really into it are people who like the game. If you want to see Mandy deliver a pizza or play beach volleyball, there are other places on the Internet.
DVDTalk: How do you bring new players into the game?
MM: They're our friends, so we're talking about it. And they know we're doing this thing, and they'll express interest, like "Oh, I've always wanted to play." Or "Oh, I played a couple times in high school." So we're like "Oh, you're the one we want on the show."
ZS: You know, you're here [at comic con] so you must like comics or something. You have friends who are like "We're going to talk about football." And you have friends who say "We're going to talk about Green Lantern." You know, even without asking, that we have friends I know we're never going to ask to play.
DVDTalk: I bring it up, because it seemed like [porn star and guest star] Sasha Grey was not quite into it.
ZS: The thing about Sasha is she'll do anything. She's just really sarcastic. That's just the way she is. Like she'll...
MM: We were having fun that day!
ZS: Yeah ,but I think that like everybody really liked Justine [Joli], who was the next person. Justine's like crazy enthusiastic like all (excited, high-pitched voice) "My God, I get to be a troll!" Whereas Sasha was like, "I'm a troll? Really?" But that, to me is funny, that was the fun of it. Some people were kind of threatened by that, and people who are assuming it was fake were like "Ahh, it's all fake."
DVDTalk: [Porn star] Gia [Jordan] seemed really into it, and said she played in high school.
ZS: I actually feel like Sasha and Gia were the quietest at the table, and Bobby [Starr] and Justine were a real...
MM: And Stoya was amazing.
ZS: But Stoya you cant see online yet. Justine did a great job. When you're editing you want someone talking and to go "Wow!" real loud, and she was really loud.
DVDTalk: Are there any plans to bring I hit it to DVD?
ZS: I think once there is enough. They are only five minutes long. Once you get a critical mass of them that that might happen. I think right now we're working on other kinds of merchandise, Like gaming products and things like that. We keep getting questions from people outside, like gaming companies, who say "Can we use this idea?" So I said why don't we make the gaming products? I mean we wrote all this stuff. So we might be putting out Axe game material before that.
MM: People keep asking for T-shirts.
ZS: As far as the DVD goes, I know you're from DVD talk, so you want DVDs. (laughs) It will probably be about eight months at least. It'll be a while before we have enough episodes. Then we'll make that decision.
DVDTalk: Do you have extra material for the DVDs?
MM: There's a lot that gets cut out, because we take an eight-hour gaming session and make it into a few episodes that are 5 to 10 minutes long.
ZS: We have some people saying funny shit about some unrelated stuff.
MM: We have some stuff from non-I Hit It With My Axe games, like somebody hit play on the webcam.
ZS: We have a lot of stuff that is extra. It'll be like, "Okay, you bought this," so we'll give you something new.
DVDTalk: You guys are adult stars playing D&D. Is there any plan to bring the game to the adult side?
ZS: I feel like the thing about porn movies is that even though they're made of the same thing as movies, they're not the same thing. You know, it's not like you can add porn to another thing and you've made, I don't know, an erotic science-fiction movie. It's really just like it stops being one thing and it's something else for 10 minutes and then it starts being the other thing again. I feel like somebody may ask for but...
MM: People have asked for it.
ZS: Yeah? It'll happen. Probably sooner or later there will be something like that.
MM: I don't really perform very often anymore. So it won't be me.
ZS: It could happen.
Over 30 episode of I Hit It With My Axe are available on EscapistMagazine.com.
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