Greg Lansky. COURTESY OF GREG LANSKY

Artful Porn and anti-Semitic Threats: The Man Behind the 'HBO of Adult Films' Bares All

He was harassed by skinheads as a kid in Paris and was rejected by his Jewish community. Twenty years later, adult film producer Greg Lansky is striving to realize his dream: making porn into an art form



LOS ANGELES – Greg Lansky’s youth in France was nothing to write home about. He was an outcast, considered the worst pupil in the class and routinely suffered from anti-Semitism. Finally he dropped out of school. With a father in real estate and a homemaker mother, there was nothing in his background to hint at the unconventional future that lay in store for him. But one adventure, at the age of 21, following a random meeting with a former high-school friend, shaped the course of his life.

“In that period, I saw how all my friends were in university, finding jobs, and I had no direction in life,” recalls the 36-year-old Lansky, then a low-ranking employee at a production company and participating in research on the porn industry. When he saw his old friend, Mike Andriano, again and the two were reminiscing, Lansky told him about his dream to be part of the industry himself.

“To my surprise, Mike said that it was his dream, too. And then – I don’t where the idea came from – I told him that we need to produce a movie together,” Lansky says. “I had a little experience in production, and his parents had a big house in the south of Spain. Within a few weeks I was on a plane on the way there.”

The two approached a German actor, flew him to Spain, rounded up some unknown actresses and shot the movie at the first opportunity, when the house was empty. That episode ended with an amateurish, low-budget production, but Lansky decided to take it to an erotic industry trade fair, Venus Berlin, in 2005, which was held a few months later.

“I tried to corral all kinds of producers, but none of them would even look at me. I realized I needed to change my approach. When I was introduced to one of the biggest producers in Germany, I told him about the movie but said, ‘It’s not for sale anymore, someone else has put an option on it.’ Right away his expression changed. ‘Do you know who I am?’ he snapped, and demanded to see the movie.”

After a very brief negotiation, Lansky sold the rights to the film, “Slut Diaries.”

COURTESY OF GREG LANSKY

“At that moment I knew I could make money doing what I loved. It’s the first time I felt alive.”

Brave and beautiful

A decade and a half later, Lansky, who now resides in Los Angeles, is a prominent figure in the porn industry. He had won the AVN award – the Oscar of the industry, sponsored by Adult Video News trade magazine – as director of the year, three times in succession. A producer and entrepreneur, he has created three websites that offer subscribers hundreds of films in different categories, and have become familiar labels worldwide: “Tushy,” devoted to anal sex; “Blacked,” devoted to sex between black men and white women; and “Vixen,” his general site.

Lansky is consistent in his work: His films are meticulously made and avoid the usual violence and humiliation endemic to porn. As far as he’s concerned, his aim is to put passion on the screen. Some of his colleagues would say that his type of porn is too soft. But the proof is in the pudding. Within a few years, his style has spawned an economic empire with hundreds of thousands of paid subscribers. In an era when porn is disseminated freely and producers are choosing to make ever cheaper films, Lansky has taken the opposite track.

“I am the HBO of the industry,” he likes to boast.

Nor is he content with prizes and economic success. He wants his industry to be considered an art form. That wish began to be fulfilled in a Rolling Stone profile about him last year. “Meet the director turning porn into high art,” the magazine’s headline blared. When he won the director of the year award in 2016, he took advantage of the stage to urge people working in the industry to take pride in their work. “Adult performers YOU are artists!” he tweeted. “You are brave & you are beautiful! [Others] do not define what we do.”

“Greg has created a company that’s identified with glamour,” says Dan Miller, chief editor of the AVN site. “The locations of his movies are prestigious, the camerawork is the highest quality there is, it’s all very clean, very now. The brand he’s created sets a high standard for the entire industry and induces others to try to make quality movies. The aesthetic of his pictures is something we weren’t used to before him.”

According to American sociologist Chauntelle Tibbals, who has researched the porn industry, “Besides the aesthetic aspect of his shots, you see how he makes his actors feel on the set. You see the kind of performances he gets from them. Actors are very enthusiastic about working with him, because they feel they are part of a creative team. Lansky’s message, according to which the porn he makes is art, is a strong message that empowers many people.”

“When I walk onto a Greg set, I’m taken care of, I’m respected,” says Abigail Mac, an actress in the industry. “It’s a feeling I never had on any other set. They ask what I would like to wear, I get asked my opinion. Sometimes we would shoot a scene 18 times. No one else in the industry is doing that.”

Last year, Mac starred in one of Lansky’s most successful films, “Abigail,” which won almost every possible award in the industry. It lasts four hours and includes mainly anal sex.

‘The Jewish thing’

Greg Lansky grew up in Paris, the son of a Jewish father of Algerian descent and a Christian mother. “I did the whole Jewish thing,” he says now. “I fasted on Yom Kippur, went to the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and had my bar mitzvah. But even though I felt Jewish, I was never fully accepted as a Jew. I was stuck between two worlds: On the one hand, I suffered when skinheads provoked me, and on the other hand, the Jewish establishment explained to me that I’m not Jewish, because my mother isn’t a Jew.”

Still, Lansky emphasizes that he sees himself as a proud Jew – one reason being, perhaps, that he is often reminded of his identity in anti-Semitic emails and online comments. “I would say that almost all the threats I get are directed toward the fact that I’m, like, Jew this, Jew that – it’s all about this Jewishness. They pinned negative stereotypes on me; said I was a Jew who got into the porn industry to pervert society. Some people came up with conspiracy theories about Jews trying to take over the industry. I get emails calling me obscene names. You could say I was getting the stick from both ends, but it doesn’t bother me. I’ve learned to love my life without fear.”

But it must affect you.

COURTESY OF GREG LANSKY

“As a kid I always wanted to be loved, to be accepted, to feel I belonged. So now, when I look at the adult [film] industry and the people in it, who are not accepted by society – I’ve taken on this effort because I feel like I belong in this fight for acceptance.”

His was a liberal, open home, he recalls, where no one made a big deal out of talk about sexual relations or seeing naked women on television. Even so, he was thrilled the first time he got his hands on a copy of Playboy magazine, at age 12. “We were on a family vacation in the south of France, and I wanted to buy an adult magazine, a porn magazine. I looked for a cool, young guy who would buy a magazine for a kid – because, you know, I’m not 18 years old then – and I found one. I remember there were incredible photos of super-hot girls, but the first thing I did was look at the page where they had the names of the staff and the editors. Looking at those names, I knew I wanted my name on that page, too.”

At the age of 12 you already wanted to be part of that world?

“I had anxiety about living a regular life, that was not what I wanted. In France they look down on children with big dreams, they want you to think small, it’s the opposite of America. But even then I had no doubts. I knew that this is what I wanted to do.”

Brian Guido
COURTESY OF GREG LANSKY

Did you watch a lot of porn as a teenager? It wasn’t so accessible then.

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