What It Costs to Film a Porn Video

“It’s the only industry where you can do one shoot and be called a star, whether or not you’re good at it,” says Shira Tarrant, a professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Cal State Long Beach.

One of us (Joe) published an interview with Tarrant earlier this week, shortly after her book, The Pornography Industry, was released. In the interview, she walked through the financials of producing a porn video, but those statistics were edited out of the Q&A before it was published. So, one of us (Andrew) made some graphics out of them.

Tarrant is reluctant to talk about average rates—in this industry, “there’s no such thing as average,” she says—but she laid out what it might cost to produce a video that a typical viewer would see on a big-name porn site. The following figures are for a shoot in Los Angeles arranged by a relatively large production company. “There’s that whole other shadow world where people are trafficked or exploited,” Tarrant says, “and obviously [these] rates don’t hold.” Tarrant has also observed alarming disparities in pay between performers of different races, which these numbers don’t capture.

With that in mind, here are some typical rates for female performers for common scenes, according to Tarrant:



Porn, interestingly, is one of the only industries in which women consistently and substantially out-earn men. “I think a lot of guys would say, ‘Yeah, I'll receive a blowjob for $50,’” says Tarrant. “But if you think about it as someone’s work, and how long it takes to shoot the scene and what’s required … that rate of pay then maybe isn’t so exciting.” Here’s what male performers might expect to earn for different scenes:



And all that is for only one side of the camera. If the video is to look polished, a whole crew must come along for the day as well:



There are also more mundane expenses, the sorts of things that would be expected at any sort of film shoot: food, props, insurance, renting a space, securing film permits. Wardrobe, too. “Obviously there’s not a lot of wardrobe in a lot of porn, but [this comes up] especially for fetish scenes,” Tarrant says. She adds that as she talked to people in the industry, several of them brought up the cost of an industry staple: baby wipes. Don’t forget the baby wipes.