Marc Cushman [Interview]

When I was growing up in the 90’s there was a short period of transition from the beta world to the digital one. The internet was available, just not as widely in more rural as it is today. But, the world was shifting, for good or bad, it was shifting. Unfortunately, there has been a bit of innocence lost since the transformation came into full effect. I’m talking specifically about one thing here… films.There was a time when adult films were so much more than a random selection of barely viewable and indistinguishable from every other video that can not be rightfully called an “adult film”. There used to be some thought put into these things. It was an art. People had to actually write a script for them. And today’s interview subject is not only one of them, he is actually considered one of the best in the history of the medium. Because that it what we do here folks, we track down the best! And sometimes we convince them to share a bit of wisdom with us here. And that is what we got from the legendary screenwriter, in any and just about ALL mediums, the brilliant Marc Cushman. That is important to note: Cushman is an artist, first and foremost, regardless of whatever medium he is working on.

Having Mr. Cushman on the sites has proven to be one of the greatest digital experiences we have had here at Trainwreck’d Society. His answers are some of the most insightful and well thought out answers we have ever received, and we can not express just how excited we are to share them with you today.  So let’s get to it! Ladies and Gentlemen, the great Marc Cushman.

How did you find yourself in your line of work? When did you realize this was what you wanted to do for a living?
I’d always had a wild imagination, and used it to survive. I’ll explain that. I lived on a dairy farm when I was a kid and had plenty of time to use my imagination to entertain myself while being a shepherd to a heard of cattle. We’d rotate the cows from one field of grass to another, and my task was to take them to the new pasture and then sit and keep an eye on them, since there were no fences surrounding that particular area. Then, at the end of the day, return them to the main pasture that did have fences. Now, the farm was surrounded by mountains, so there wasn’t even radio reception there. I could read a book while sitting out in that field, or use my imagination to help pass the time. I did both. Back then, in the 1960s, TV shows would run a 60-second trailer for the upcoming episode. I’d see one of those trailers and, while sitting on a hillside overlooking the field where the cattle were grazing, I’d imagine the episode based on those 60-second of clips, and I’d run it in my head, real time — 60 minutes! Then I’d watch the show when it came on and see how close I got. Sometimes, my version was better. And that’s when I realized that perhaps I could do this as a living.
And what keeps you in the business after 30+ years in the business?
It’s what I enjoy; where my talent lies; and puts food on the table.
You have close to a thousand credits in the business, so I’m sure some films get lost in the collective memory, but I have to ask about one series in particular that has a stronghold in my memory… The Titty Slickers series. Titty Slickers 2 was my first foray into adult entertainment, which is actually one of the reasons I reached out to you. So, do you have any unique memories from making this film, or the entire franchise in general?

Internet Movie Data Base has a tendency to not fact check, so I’m sure some of those credits are not mine. In fact I know some aren’t. And there are other credits I have that are missing from IMDb. So you can’t take what you see there as definitive by any means. They did get that one right, though. Scotty Fox was the director. I’d written a horror film — a Friday the 13th type thing — for a director named Richard Mailer. Richard needed to raise additional money to meet the budget, so decided to shoot a couple quick adult movies to do so. He’d been a producer in that end of the business a few years earlier. He asked me to write the scripts. Scotty was assigned to direct one of them and liked my writing, so he started calling and asking for scripts, too, which he would shoot for other producers.

As time went by, my name and number got around and I found myself doing a lot of these, but I was also writing mainstream scripts, and, really, writing scripts for every genre under the sun, including music videos, commercials, infomercials, religious shows, children’s shows, and couples’ friendly, story-driven adult entertainment. Of course, I’d use a different name for the screen credits, dependent on the genre. In those innocent times, a writer could use pseudonyms and not worry about some corporate entity like IMDb being on a mission to connect all the dots … and not even bothering to make sure they get it right. Sorry for the sermon; back to Titty Slickers. The way Scotty worked, as with most director’s in that end of the business, was to tell me his budget, his locations, his cast, the amount of time he had to shoot the movie, and then I’d take all of that into account, then pitch him a couple of titles and log-lines to see which one clicked. Then I’d go off and spend a day or two writing the script, and then he’d spend a day or two shooting it. On this occasion, Scotty had a ranch location he would be filming at, so he asked for a couple scripts to use at that location, then he’d share the cast from one movie to another (in order to keep costs down). As for Titty Slickers, the Billy Crystal movie City Slickers was out at that time, and Scotty and I both enjoyed doing comedies, and, in particular parodies, so I wrote that for him. It sold well, and the company Scotty had shot it for (Legend Video, I believe) asked him to make a sequel, so I wrote Titty Slickers 2. I think we stopped after three. Now why we didn’t call it “Titty Lickers” is beyond me. We loved bad puns. Probably, we just felt people would associate it with the City Slickers movie better if we kept the word “slickers.”

Have you had the experience of having somebody tell you that your work has helped guide them into the world of adulthood and sexuality? How would you respond to this type of comment? (P.S. you did that for me, haha)

You’re the first to tell me that. Probably because the only adult movies I was ever associated with were made for cable (although usually there was a harder Home Video version released as well), and there are guidelines for broadcast that require that the sexual situations not be offensive and women not be demeaned. You can make the guy look like a jerk, but never the woman. But I’m not surprised to hear that this movie may have taught you some things, about your own sexuality and maybe even about how to treat a woman. For me, R-rated movies and single-X movies can be far more erotic than hardcore XXX stuff.

Women are beautiful, so it’s never been my desire to see them mistreated and spit on like it often happens in the really hardcore stuff. We treated them with respect. Plus, I always felt that it was story and character that made sexual and romantic situations come alive — and, of course, a good actress and actor. The more you know about the characters, the more you care about them, then the more interesting their interaction is. And the more erotic. So these scripts were usually 30 to 40 pages, allowing enough time and space to create a story and add dimension to the characters. Sometimes we succeeded; sometimes not so well. A good script can be destroyed by lack of money and time on the production end, or a leading actress who can’t act. But I recall that Titty Slickers 2 turned out pretty good, partly because of the script but more likely because of the cast. Scotty did a good job in picking the players for that one.

With the obvious advancements in the world of adult films since you first began, I have to ask what your opinion is on the matter? What have been some pro’s and cons of the advancements of technology and their effect on the adult film medium?

Generally speaking, I thought adult entertainment was better in the 1990’s than today when filmed on the big Betamax cameras, and using older lighting equipment, which was designed to bath a set with soft light instead of the harsher lighting that is used today. I feel that a lot of the newer technology, which is great for TV and mainstream films, gets in the way when used in adult entertainment. The cameramen will tell you this, as well, that high definition isn’t doing anyone any favors when the actors and actresses are nude. Very few human beings have perfect completions, and perfect bodies, and it’s better to use soft light and less revealing focus when people start undressing.

We had fun with 3-D, naturally, but the process of shooting in 3-D has its downside as well. It’s cumbersome and that slows down the production, so you lose spontaneity. With dialogue and pratfalls, its okay to lose spontaneity, because rehearsing and precision are key factors. But a cumbersome filming process is not an asset when shooting romance and sex. Everything becomes orchestrated for the benefit of the camera instead of the players — especially when shooting in 3-D. So, instead of the camera being there to follow the action of the players, thereby freeing them to truly get into the passion of the scene, it becomes stagey. I don’t know anyone in adult entertainment who was happy to see the coming of high definition or 3-D. But we learned to work with it, used its advantages to the best of our abilities, and tried to minimize its shortcomings.

The other change that I think is a bad one is the loss of story. No one, even broadcasters, are as interested in stories as they used to be, because moral guidelines have loosened up so much. I think a lot went out the window when adult entertainment switched over to wall-to-wall sex. The movies are more primal now, and while primal is certainly a good ingredient in sexual situations on film, a dash of story and character believability  helps a great deal. So does theme. Most writers in that genre don’t even know what theme means. I know because I’ve asked many of them.

Theme, of course, is the point the writer is trying to make by telling a particular story, and defining a character. If the writer doesn’t have a point, how can the movie? It just becomes like Reality TV. I’ve done a fair amount of that, too, and no producer ever asked me about theme in Reality TV. Cameras are rolling, stuff is happening, but it never adds up to anything worth remembering. Watching it is just a way to pass the time, and, to me, that’s wasting time. Why not pass the time by watching things that make you think and feel?

Having said that, there of course are still good movies being made. They are just far and fewer between.


Another thing I wanted to bring up is that you are a beast in the business, and obviously one of the best. But what the hell is the AVN’s problem? Unless my research is wrong, you have been like the Susan Lucci or Leonardo DiCaprio of the AVN? Do you think they will wise up, or is there a conspiracy at foot here?

I believe I hold the record for the most nominations by AVN (Adult Video News), the leading trade magazine in the adult entertainment business, and the one that gives out awards once a year. I have countless nominations in the categories of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screen Writer, etc. Even Best BTS (Behind-the Scenes) for a comedy feature I did once for a movie about the making of the movie. Actually, I won that one. But, otherwise, I was always the bride’s maid and never the bride.
One year, out of ten scripts that were nominated, six were by me (not always under the same name).
The critics there always told me it was a greater honor to be nominated than to win. I didn’t understand the thinking… for a while, anyway. Then one year, a couple of the critics called me (individually and secretly) and suggested I attend the award show that year because — and I wasn’t to tell anyone — I was going to be winning Best Picture, Best Director and Best Writer. I think it was for a movie called Lust in America, which was a takeoff on an Albert Brooks film called Lost in America. Or it may have been for Prisoner of Sex, which was a send-up of the 1960’ss The Prisoner series out of England. It may have been for both, because those were done in the same year and both were nominated many times over. Anyway, I went to the show. Before the ceremony began, the presenter came over to my table and whispered “congratulations” into my ear. I had another drink to steady my nerves. Then the show started. When each category that I was nominated in came up, the presenter opened the envelope and then looked surprised, and then announced Jonathan Morgan’s name. And Jonathon would look surprised, then go up and accept the award with no speech prepared. By the third time, he went up and said, “Didn’t anyone see Lust in America?!”
By the way, Jonathan did a cameo appearance in that movie and was hysterical. One of the funniest actors ever, in that genre of any genre.
What I was told later by someone “in the know” was that Wicked Pictures had bought more ad space in AVN that year, so the powers to be decided at the last minute that they needed to give Wicked a “thank you.” I’m not saying this was the case; I’m just passing on what I was told.
Now, I have to say, Wicked makes very good movies. And Jonathan is great and deserves any award he ever got. So there are no sour grapes here. I’m just telling you what was told to me, and, since I mostly worked for smaller companies that didn’t buy a lot of ad space in the trades, it certainly does help explain why there were so many nominations but only one BTS award and a Lifetime Achievement award.
What does the future hold for you? Anything coming up that you would like to plug to our readers?
I always did mainstream as well as side genres. And still do. So I am still very busy, and productive, working under various screen credits. I’ll leave it up to IMDb to try to figure out who I am this week and what I’m working on. It’ll give them something to do.
What was the last thing that made you smile?
Doing this interview. Thanks for asking.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

One Response to Marc Cushman [Interview]

  1. mmolyneaux says:

    Marc Cushman grousing about fact checking is hilarious hypocricy. The man once claimed Bill Gates invented the PC and the Internet, for God’s sake.

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