Interview: Thomas Zupko

Get Email Updates!

Tags

Set Your Language

About the Author

Roger T. Pipe

It started as a cure for writers block. I was working on some other projects and would come home every night and write in a journal as a warm up. One day, I was reading alt.sex.movies and found some reviews of porn flicks. I've always loved movies and porn, so I decided to review some tapes form my personal porn collection. I wrote a review, found that I liked it and posted it to asm. The feedback was positive and I just kept writing. I found it a great way to get me started each day, writing about something I enjoyed and pretty soon, people were asking me to review their films and work on a web site. The rest, as they say, is history.

INTERVIEW: Thomas Zupko
Thomas Zupko Movies

Sept. 2000

Thank you for taking the time to do
this interview and I want to thank my readers for wanting to put me right in
the line of fire, across from Thomas Zupko. Before we start, I want to give
you open mike to speak on anything you would like to.

Do you want me to start at the
beginning?

Unless you want to respond to something
I’ve written or said.

Go ahead and ask me some questions, if
anything comes up, I’ll throw it in there.


OK. How did you get started in this
industry?

I went to college for three and a half
years for journalism, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. The
problem was, I fell in love with pussy. It became my obsession. I realized
that the easiest way to get pussy was to be in the adult entertainment
industry. When I got out of college, I actually tired to write mainstream
stuff. I could paste the rejection letters all over the wall. Then in 1986,
I wrote a piece for Screw magazine. The editor said it was the most
brilliant piece on pornography she had ever read. I got a check and that was
the most amazing thing to me. Getting a fucking check for something you
write. It progressed from there, I wrote pornography for a few years. I was
in a heavy metal band, but I was making a really meager living writing
pornography. I had always been a porno fan and I realized that I could do it
better. I came to Vegas in 1991 to get into pornography, but I was about
three hundred miles away from the porn epicenter. I called Bill Margold who
had known me as a writer. I asked him who he knew in the X rated business in
Vegas. He told me, Ray Pistol. I called him up. He was right in the middle
of a political campaign for city council. I told him I was writing
pornography and he said “you’re a writer, you can write
anything.” So I ended up writing on a political campaign which was very
interesting. That evolved into managing bookstores. To me, the key to
pornography and I know you may disagree, is that pornography evolves. This
is something John Stagliano told me. He said that when he started he would
use a 35 millimeter with this big fucking rack that you had to carry on your
back to shoot. When you look at the old movies, even though the way they
were shot and the plot lines were better, the sex is horrible. If you
compare sex today to sex in movies twenty years ago, it’s completely
different. What happed is that it evolved. John was the first guy to come up
with gonzo and get shots that no one was getting. Everyone copied him, then
it evolved to a point where anyone who watches porn can pick up a video
camera and they already know the shots. In terms of shoot sex, your weakest
cameraman today is better than that best ones from twenty years ago. The art
of shooting pornography, specifically the sex, has evolved. We didn’t have
things like the gaping asshole shot before. It’s constantly evolving.


How does that fit in with what you try
to do?

With Anal Ball, which I know you
didn’t like, I had to recognize that things were in a state of evolution.
The highest compliment I’ve ever been paid was that people said to me that
it’s the first porno they have seen where they didn’t want to fast
forward though. My formula is this, sex has to be first and foremost. It has
to be something that makes you want to jack off. That’s our primary goal.
When I managed bookstores, I would watch these guys come in and rent three
and four movies a day, every day and on Tuesdays and Thursdays when the new
releases come out, line up at the fucking door to get the new releases. It
wasn’t like going to the 7-11 for food, it was almost like going to
church. I really studied them and I really think that this stuff filled a
spiritual void in their lives. I really started to study them and we had our
peep booths and our preview booths and our rental tapes and sale tapes and
every customer had his own little nuances. I did that for like four and a
half years, learning about them and taking bookstores from sixty thousand
dollars a month to a hundred thousand dollars a month just by understanding
the needs of the customers. So when people said about Anal Ball that they
didn’t want to fast forward, that was just the greatest compliment. These
guys get three or four tapes, you know they are looking for the hottest
scenes. After they bust a nut, if you have something to hold their interest,
that’s something. You can’t plot it out like a mainstream movie, there
just isn’t enough time. You don’t have character development and
conflict. You have to do things that are quick and grab the viewers’
attention. That’s what I try to do, create great sex to jack off to, then
create something interesting enough to hold their interest afterward. All
these fucking guys who make movies like they’re punching a clock in a
factory. There is nothing there, it’s all the same. I will never do that.
I sex scene may take me five or six hours to shoot, but I want everything to
be perfect. The controversy that comes, yeah. It’s all a part of my
upbringing, it’s part of the demons that I wrestle with. I look at
pornography as a legitimate form of artistic expression. I don’t look at
it as we’re the bastard child of art. If you really do it right, you can
create a little stage to for your ideas. My goal is to make people jack off,
think laugh, you know? I want a reaction. Even in the review that you wrote
of Anal Ball, I thought it was extremely entertaining. It got highest
rating, I was nominated for two awards, but it took you to a point where you
hated it. That still, to me, makes it a success. It created something and I
don’t care what the emotion is. It could be, wow, that’s brilliant, it
could be hatred, whatever. I loved the line where you said “Zupko owes
me two hours of my time.” It actually elicited some type of emotion.
Regardless of whether it’s positive or negative, it will generate
interest, unlike the four or five thousand movies that are released and
forgotten about. The hardest thing that I have to deal with Arrow and Evil
Angel is that you have to cater to their vision. They couldn’t’ just say
let you bring a vision to life. So in the process of getting a product from
your head to the shelf, it had be distorted and modified. That interferes
with the product. The beautiful thing that I have here at Extreme is
freedom. With this first movie, they said to me shoot whatever you want.
Take your vision where you want to go with it. I’ve never had that type of
freedom before. They have total belief in what I do and I think that this
movie will be brilliant. In the Days of Whore is very dark and very intense.
I was reading where people said I was going for shock value, no. It isn’t
about shock value, it’s the whole story line. This microcosm for life with
really intense sex going on. I think when people look at this, they are just
going to say “My God, I’ve never seen anything like that
before.” Like with Luis (Cypher), I respect him as a director. I think
he’s very good. But it’s more than just the moment of what you’re
doing. It’s very easy to say “I’m going to let the girl go with
what she wants to do.” I think it has to be more, so if I have to be
difficult with a performer, if I have to take them that little extra mile to
a place where they may hate me, I’ll do it. Everyone I’ve ever worked
with has said they would work for me again. Now, in the process of making
the movie, they hated me. In the end, when they see the results, they are
all willing to come back. You can never lose sight of that man who puts his
fucking money on the counter, whose whole life revolves around porn. He
knows every performer in the business, and every scene they’ve done. I
know Luis sometimes has this attitude of fuck the fans, but for me, I always
try to give the fan what he wants. I want to provide them with something
they’ve never seen before. I think “In the Days of Whore” is by
far, the greatest movie that’s ever been shot, bar none. I think it will
redefine pornography when we’re done.

Why?

We’ve got Taylor St. Claire, a
glamour girl who has never done anything remotely nasty. She worked with her
boyfriend and did girl/girl shit. She is just fucking defiled in this movie.
She gets fucked in the ass six times, in four different DP positions. She
gets dropped off a ladder, chased by Vikings and has this leper shove her
head on his cock. It’s fabulous stuff. I’ve got Kristi Myst who is a
contract girl, I have to have that. Then I have Taylor St. Claire, who has
never done anything like this. That gives me an edge in promotion as well.
You take all these different elements and you have something huge. The
acting is brilliant, everything is in place. François Clousot shot it with
Tommy Byron on second camera. It just blew my mind.

You wrote a number of screenplays, but
was Anal Ball the first movie you directed?


I did write a number of screenplays. I
don’t want to mention any names here, but I worked for Arrow for two and a
half years on thirteen different sets with a director with no vision. I was
horrified. I was told to watch him and learn. What I learned was how not to
direct a movie. It came to the point where I saw these scripts just
desecrated and he was just there to collect his paycheck. That is not the
way to do this. There has to be this intense passion to do this. That’s
why I started Apocalypse. I shot Anal Ball, which was originally going to be
distributed by Arrow, but the salesman looked at it and said ‘no fucking
way.’ They wouldn’t take the movie after I was promised that it would be
distributed. That’s another story. I took the movie to John and he called
me up one morning and said ‘this is the greatest porno movie I’ve ever
seen.” He wanted it, but then by the second movie, he went from Jeckle
to Hyde. John went ballistic on me. Then I went back to Arrow and did a
movie there. “Pussy Crimes” got fairly good reviews. I wasn’t
satisfied with it.  We did Pool Party was a fucking nightmare. The
cameraman wouldn’t listen to a word I said. The editor fucking sucked. It
blew. I said fuck it, give me all the masters, all twenty six hours. I cut
it with Jose at Art Attack and it got five stars in Video World, AVN and
everything. I didn’t have all the elements that I need there to make the
movie. At Extreme, it’s the first time I’ve had everything I need.
I’ve always said that if you give me all those elements I will do
something that is going to blow people away with every movie. Just real
quick, a note to my friend Ramsey, I appreciate your support dude and you
will be very impressed by this movie. I’ve been making movies with two
hands tied behind my back and now not only are my two hands free, but I’ve
got other people’s hands to work with me. I’m so grateful for that.

I read that Pool Party was banned. Were
distributors not taking that movie?

If you just take Pool Party for a level
of controversy, it doesn’t compare to Days of Whore. There was the pissing
in the pool scene that disturbed distributors.

The same distributors who had no
problem with Anal Ball were upset by someone pissing in a pool?

I think Evil Angel said ‘you take
Anal Ball or you’re not getting the new John Stagliano product.’ Arrow,
and I love the owner to death, just doesn’t have that kind of pull with
the distributors.


I watched Pool Party and I couldn’t
imagine anyone having a problem with what went on in that movie.

I think Pool Party is a pretty good
movie. Tim Connelly at Adam Film World said it best, he gave it three and
half stars and called it “violently uneven, with moments of inspired
brilliance.” That’s the way I look at it. I was not happy with it at
all, but I do think there are some good moments in there. I had two days to
prepare. I am actually proud that I can take something that I considered an
absolute abortion and turn it into something that is actually worth
watching. Now, I’ve got everything I need. I have a scene with Monica,
this French girl, that just made me wide eyed. I’ve watched maybe ten
thousand pornos and I was just blown away.

(Rob Black pokes his head in the door.)

Rob- Are you recording?

Yes.


Rob- Thomas Zupko is a big, fat
bastard.

Come on, don’t put that in.

Rob- Make him tell you about the dead
fish in his cubicle.

(He slams the door and leaves.)

That’s actually perfect timing. When
Anal Ball came out, you took shots directly at Rob Black. How much of that
was the ‘show’ and how much was genuine hostility and disrespect?


I’ll be totally honest with you. Rob
did what I wanted to do, he made movies that made people uncomfortable. He
got kicked out of VCA, he had a vision. He followed that vision regardless
of what people said. People slammed Rob Black, they hated him, he was the
Anti-Christ. He stuck by that vision and I respect that immensely. To be
completely honest, I wanted to shoot that kind of movie. Not exactly what
Rob was doing, I have my own vision, but in that same vein. I felt that I
was a small company starting out. What was the most effective way of getting
our name out there? It was to attack somebody similar to my style, in a
position of power. Rob Black. That’s why I attacked him. They understood
that. It was never anything personal. I didn’t even know Rob or Tommy
then. I’ve worked with them now and they’re great people. I’ll say
this for record, in spite of what Rob just said, Rob Black is, in spite his
exterior, one of the nicest human beings I have ever met in my entire life.
He has a heart of gold and that was unexpected. Everything I did was to get
noticed and obviously it worked. I aspired to be where Rob Black is, doing
things on my own terms without being told why I can’t do this or that. It
took getting kicked out of a couple of companies, when all I had to do was
tone it down and I could have been very comfortable financially. I wasn’t
willing to do that.

Other than the fish in the cubicle, do
you think that some of the things you said have made your reception here a
little cold?

No. This is like boot camp. Everyone
who has ever been here has been through a little initiation. That’s
nothing. The bottom line here is results. They gave me a budget that is
bigger than any director here, they have gone out of the way to make sure I
have everything I need. Rob just talks like that. He calls everyone a fag or
a fat fuck. That’s Rob. When you don’t hear that, when he doesn’t give
you the time of day, that’s when you know that he doesn’t like you. At
first I wasn’t used to it, but I’ve figured out the reality. Rob has
talked with me for hours, sharing his knowledge and shit. Practical jokes
happen here all the time, but that’s the atmosphere. Where else can you
sit at your computer and drink a beer? I think the people who work here just
want to keep me grounded so all this doesn’t go to my head.

One of the themes that you hit very
hard in Anal Ball was religion. Are you working out issues in scenes like
that or just pushing buttons.

Working out issues, don’t think I
missed that line in the review either. Here’s how I look at it. We’re
all on this little ball. We all think that we’re something, we’re
butterflies that flap our wings for a second and we think it’s eternity,
we’re nothing. We’re here, we die. We’re transitory, insignificant
creatures so we create all these reasons why our existence has purpose. I
was forced to be born a Roman Catholic. I went through everything, first
Holy Communion, Confirmation the whole fucking thing. I’ll never forget,
one day, I was about ten years old. I was sitting there during the
priest’s homily. He went into a rage, an utter tirade about how all these
potential seminary students were writing to him and spelling his name wrong
on the envelope. That was his whole homily, about how they spelled his name
wrong. Believe it or not, I do believe in Christ on my own level. I don’t
believe in the perversion of the Roman Catholic Church. If you ever read
Dostoevsky’s ‘Grand Inquisitor’ or “The Brothers Karamazov’
it’s how Christ comes back and the Arch Bishop, the second in charge next
to the pope comes to Christ and says ‘we’re going to kill you because
the message has changed. It’s not the goodness. I always say to people who
don’t know, who have no direction in their life, read Christ’s Sermon on
the Mount. Everything is there. So, I believe in my own way. I look at
cinema as a reflection of society. What I do is not an attack on Jesus
Christ per say, it’s an attack on the perversion of the Catholic Church.
It has become a big business. It’s no longer about giving your last penny
to your fellow man. So yes, I do exorcise those feelings in what I do. In
the movie ‘Pussy Crimes’ I did a thing where a Jewish Rabbi was eating a
bagel and Phyllisa Ann sticks a beer bottle up her ass and says “This
Bud’s for Jew.” That got cut out of the movie and I got some heat for
that. But I’m half Jewish myself, so I’m not picking on someone. It’s
not that I’m offending Jews. I’m taking what we have, the stereotype of
everything that we believe in, rather than the pure foundation and the
beauty of the Juedo-Christian religion. If you take a black guy and have him
going nuts for watermelon, it’s not that you’re making fun of blacks,
you’re making fun of this whole stupid stereotype that we’ve created.
That’s what I’ll attack. A lot of people take it the other way.


Are there any subjects that you would
consider untouchable?

Me, no. I will shoot fucking anything.
There is the problem of people who have gone through personal events so
disturbing that it becomes a personal offense when you attack certain areas.
That’s something I have learned. If I were to attack the holocaust, it
would only be to question, how this could fucking happen. It wasn’t just
one man, Hitler, it was a whole fucking society that turned a blind I eye to
this. I would attack it, but I think that people who went through it and
suffered the real pain wouldn’t understand that that’s what I was trying
to do. So I wouldn’t do a holocaust film.

Not in porn anyway. You could do it as
a mainstream piece.

But I will always see everything within
the context of a porn film. Because of the stigma that porn carries with it,
nothing I do would be taken seriously enough to be seen as what it is. Porn
totally exploits whatever you’re targeting and that’s all anyone would
see. If I were to do the same thing as an Independent film, it would be
considered genius.

Do you have time to watch other porn
these days?


I watch some.

Anyone who impresses you?

I know that Luis said some things about
me in the interview prior, but I’ll be honest. I’ve seen his stuff and I
think he’s very good. I think he makes his mistake when he loses contact
with the porn fan. He says I’m going to do my stuff my way, I don’t give
a fuck about the porn fan. I’m the complete opposite of that. Even though
people might not think that, I’m all about the fans. I am going to throw a
big promo party for porn fans across the country. I know Luis accuses me of
being an egotist and arrogant and only going for shock value. What I don’t
do is shock value. My primary focus is to make people jack off and create
these things around it. Maybe that’s because he’s not competent enough
to do it on the same level I do, I don’t know. I think a lot of times, he
uses his reasoning, his I don’t give a fuck, as a cover for his fear.
He’s afraid to take the time that’s necessary to really take it to a
higher level.

You’ve recently made some postings to
some internet newsgroups. Have you been following these sorts of things for
a while?

Let me clear something up about that. I
read a couple of responses in the newsgroups about this. ‘How convenient.
There are a few press releases from Extreme and now we do an interview.’
That’s not the way this stuff happens. Tommy saw your posting, saw top ten
interview subjects, saw Rob Black and Thomas Zupko and that was that. Tommy
said ‘let’s call Rog up, make it happen.’ This wasn’t some
pre-planned thing. That gives us way more credit than we deserve. Like it
was some pre-meditated thing where we put out these press releases, then you
come in. It was a total coincidence.


Something that Tom has always
understood, that I don’t think some people get is that talking to me,
isn’t talking to Rog, it’s talking to the people who read the sites, who
read the newsgroups. I don’t think I  matter.
When Tom calls me and says that Black and Zupko want to do interviews, it
tells me that they want to talk to the fans and the people who read my site,
not that you want to sit down with me. The people who read my site, like me
or fucking hate me, want to hear you talk to me, in part because of some of
the things I’ve said about your movies. Same thing with Rob, or Max.

I’ll say this to everyone out there
who is going to read this interview. I’m very confident. I’m not
insecure in any fucking way about what I do. Sometimes I play the game of
being angry, but come on. I read your review of Anal Ball and I actually
laughed. I thought it was great. That’s your job. I want reviewers to look
at what do objectively. I don’t want someone to like the movie because
they have met me and think I’m a great guy. You do what you do, I do what
I do. I am very secure in what I do and nothing anyone can say is going to
change that. I find your stuff very entertaining and in a way I took it as
an indirect compliment. It didn’t bother me at all. If someone makes a
movie, porn or mainstream that everyone likes, there is something wrong,
someone has rigged something along the way. I appreciate that there are
people out there who defend it enough to respond to you. I appreciate and
respect talent and you’re a good writer. I would much rather have a
negative review that is written as cleverly as yours was, than a positive
review that is just some generic piece of vanilla horse shit. Not that I
don’t want positive reviews Rog, don’t get the idea that you have to
hate everything I do. I respect anyone who takes what he does seriously and
doesn’t just look at it as a nine to five job. So, back to your question.
To be honest, I just got into reading the newsgroups. I think it’s a very
viable format for people to exchange their ideas about pornography honestly
on a direct level. Most people will never have the chance to interact with
the people in the business this directly except at a trade show when people
don’t have time to communicate. So I think it’s a great thing.

Are you a better director that Rob
Black?

No. It’s going to sound like I just
don’t want to answer that honestly, but I’m being truthful. I only
watched a few of Rob’s movies before I did my own stuff. Now I’ve
watched more and Rob is an extremely creative guy. He is brilliant and I
have a lot that I can learn from him. I think our styles are somewhat
different and it’s like comparing apples to oranges, but if I was forced,
with a gun to my head to pick the better director, I would say that Rob is
better. I swear on my late grandmother’s heart, who I love more than
anyone, that I’m not just saying that because I’m here now.

Anything more you would like to say.


I want to say this to every other
fucking director in this business, can fucking blow me. Every other director
out there is a fucking cancer. Get out of this fucking business because
everyone here is going to blow away the putrid garbage you spill out. You
are done. Say whatever you want on the newsgroups or web sites or fucking
magazines, but you are done. The new regime is about to take over. There is
a new sheriff in town and his name is Tom Zupko. Thank you very much Rog.

Thanks.

Did you like this? Share it:

Leave a Reply

Please Answer the Following to Post: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.

Copyright © 2017 RogReviews.