Interview With Director Noel Alejandro
Just minutes into my first peek of Noel Alejandro’s Bad Medicine, it became instantly clear that I was not watching your average porno. From the breathtaking cinematography to the skillful way that it evokes a sense of authentic sensuality—blended with an almost animalistic lust—I was immediately swept away by Noel’s powerful directorial vision.
And as more of his stunning work joined the GHM library, the Spanish director’s creative brilliance proved that he is one of the most fascinating directors to emerge in recent times. To learn more about the man behind the magic, Noel was kind enough to take time for an interview with me about his inspirations, thoughts on the industry, and what fans can expect next.
GHM: What led you to studying filmmaking in 2008? Have there been any other career paths outside of film that you’ve pursued?
I remember being interested about cinema ever since I was a child. There was something powerfully magnetic about the way that someone’s look would possess you through the screen. Then I started studying and I realized that cinema is a sort of fake life, some crazy wonderful thing that drives you safe through a thousand experiences. I wanted to make people feel this, make them feel the same things I felt, and I couldn’t do that in any other way. That’s all I ever wanted to do.
GHM: Tell us about the work you completed with feminist director Erika Lust in 2012. In what ways did your work with her lead you to erotica?
During my years with Erika Lust, I learned that pornography is a strong taboo in our society, and that sometimes it’s mistreated by the media and its moralist purposes. Erika taught me that you can work in porn and be proud of it. To be honest, during all those years we worked together, I would rarely see myself as a porn industry worker. Our meetings to find the plots on the stories, the contagious energy that Erika emanates—it was exactly what a cinema lover would dream of. When we were working together, we felt like we were giving dignity back to eroticism, a dignity that was lost in time. It was very real for us because we really believe in it. But there’s still a long way to go. Every day I handle tons of jokes from a lot of people about my work. It’s the outcome of the not very intelligent guidelines that porn followed during the last decades.
GHM: Because of its beautiful, cinematic quality and exploration of the sensual and emotional sides of sex, your work is undeniably unique. Have you ever felt any anxiety around making porn from a perspective that differs so much from what audiences are used to experiencing?
Anxiety is my second name! It comes right next to depression and a few short highs of extreme happiness. For me, filming is a therapy itself. It allows me to transfer all my thinking on the celluloid. Little by little, I’m finding my own voice in my films and they are becoming a big reflection of who I am. Somehow, I’m transferring my personality to my characters and it just feels so liberating. I end up speaking about a lot of intimate, emotional things like solitude and sadness, for example, and those aren’t subjects easily found in the mainstream porn. Of course, there’s a lot of work when it comes to finding the proper story to tell, and the proper way of telling it, the correct performers to bring it to life, and the most difficult, find a way to insert the sex that’s not cheap or random. It takes a lot of time and energy. I’m glad that so many people are noticing the difference between my porn and others.
GHM: You’ve said that the major goals of your work are to challenge the norms, stigmas, and misconceptions that our society projects onto gay pornography. How does your work challenge these things?
During the last decades, gay pornography has been made with an absolute lack of sensitiveness. My guess is that all gay porn directors just prefer not to be part of the art scene. Which for me is very strange since the need of a narrative is the first thing that should come up when someone grabs a camera. “Ok, they are looking at each other, but what if it is not this simple? What if one of them had a bad experience few days ago on a date and now flirting with someone is not the same again?” Those are things that run into our heads always, so this is why my films are different, because I’m conceiving a life for my performers. An invisible background. That’s the feeling, that’s what cinema is: the needing of bringing to life a porn scene, and that’s the thought that made me shoot Eloi & Biel. It was my first film and it’s actually about love. Then I made Bad Medicine, Roomies, thank you… and in each one of them there’s a unique story, a unique universe so that the hot sex scenes are more than just sex.
If all porn companies out there choose to go for the classic bareback scene in hotel room, with inexpressive or over-whimpering actors, then all I see is people who don’t want to take risks and are only worried about the money. Which is fine, don’t get me wrong, but I still think there should be a little curiosity, or at least the will to go beyond and narrate something else. It’s like many gay porn filmmakers have absolutely no interest in portraying something else than sex. Not me. I want to tell a thousand different stories, discover all the possibilities in erotica, and depict all the humanity in it, the imperceptible details nobody notices unless they are there.
GHM: Before making it yourself, were you a fan of porn? What are your thoughts on the current state of mainstream gay porn?
It is funny because before working for Erika Lust, I never even thought about it. Like many others, I had assumed that porn could not be done in a different way. Actually, every time I watched porn and films that tried to show something else than sex, I would just skip it. But then I realized that the reason why me (and everyone else) would skip the intro of a porno was because it was terribly done, really bad. Not only the acting but the filming, the narrative, the lights, the cheap video look…
Then I watched I Want Your Love by Travis Matthews, and it totally opened my eyes and made me see how powerful a long, hot, real sex scene in a normal film could be. It was a whole new way to enjoy cinema. I tried to find more of that but no one else was doing it. So I started making it myself.
GHM: What do you think directors outside of the realm adult entertainment think about your work and porn in general? Do you find that you and other porn filmmakers aren’t taken as seriously?
I don’t really know, I never asked for opinions. I never heard anything negative about it though, which makes me think that I am being understood. But although I feel I’m taken seriously by directors, it’s up to my audience to decide if my work is enjoyable. If they buy my films, then I’m happy, because it means that it has value.
GHM: What have been some of the greatest challenges in making your work? What have been the greatest accomplishments?
The greatest joy is always in finding a correct plot for my films, and manages to justify the sex in it. When it comes to challenge, the fact that the actors in my films aren’t really professional actors makes it difficult to have a real dialogue, so I had to learn how to work with improvisation. And while it’s difficult to drive a plot based on improvisation, it does often brings better results. My film thank you… was completely improvised and you actually don’t notice it at all, because what you see is so natural.
GHM: What have been some of the biggest influences of your work (inside or outside of adult entertainment)?
I’m deeply inspired on Jaime Rosales films; there’s this lovely simplicity in every take and every cut. I would say that I always tried to be like him. Sofía Coppola is also such an inspiration due the magnificent way she uses to portrait the solitude and emptiness. Martin Provost is another great inspiration, and the Austrian Markus Schleinzer with Michael.
GHM: What has been your favorite project thus far and why?
The film I am working on now. It’s about a depressive man who lives alone in a big house, and one day he finds someone sniffing around in his basement. It’s the ghost of a porn actor from the 70s who had been walking nude in his house, and ends up changing his life by bringing him joy and human contact. The ghost himself is as a happy entity, he doesn’t need to get out of the house, get dressed, have friends or work for living. It’s such an interesting depiction of human feelings, and in top of all the sex is so erotic. The film is called Call Me A Ghost.
GHM: If you have one, what would your dream project be and who would you cast?
I’m happy making my own sex films that are already a lot. It’s nice to have your own business and to have something to work hard for. Maybe in the future, I would enjoy making feature films. Maybe a drama-horror film? I would love it!
GHM: What can your fans expect next from you?
A completely different kind of gay sex movies, a new and alternative way of understanding cinema, and a lot of new hot moments.