✖︎ PROXIMITY

Jun 29, 2019

We're looking back at some of our very first films and our very first ongoing series, Proximity.

The original Proximity film was one of the very first we ever made. I was maybe 22,  we didn’t really think of what we were doing as “film making". I was working as a model for a soft core site called GodsGirls.com and posting nudes on tumblr and I’d just started experimenting with camming. I just wanted to experiment with shooting with a really shallow depth of field and a very close distance and make something interesting and abstract.

I wrote this little blurb which had way more grandeur than the actual execution of that first video:

The ‘Proximity’ project uses the triggers of intimacy with the narrow distance between the camera and subject as a starting point. The camera explores the bodies and captures their connection in more intricate detail, highlighting parts commonly overlooked, skin, breath, touch, the atmospheric over the explicit.


It's the kind of thing that I'm glad exists but going back to it, I cringe and watch it through my fingers because our film making, editing and execution have come on so far and I think everyone finds it painful to revisit their first clumsy steps into developing a technique. (Let alone, if they include you masturbating.)

I often think about vanishing these early films from the site, they don't often have "full length" versions because they were only made for posting on tumblr and I'd love to appear like we just came to Four Chambers as professional, capable film makers but that would be disingenuous and the less-proud half of my brain loves to see the origins of something and values the process and the learning and the mistakes.

It was in making these early films, with no purpose or agenda that we fell in love with filmmaking and making pornography. They're the roots of this weird twisted tree that lead my life to where it is now, somewhere I'm really proud of and still in slight disbelief that I get to do.

>> watch proximity I


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After this first film we decided we were going to go all in and we travelled to San Francisco in the summer of 2013 to shoot the second part with Owen Gray. This was the first time I had met someone from the internet to fuck them, let alone a professional porn performer and I was nervous as hell. The shoot went so well but it's strange to look back now on how tough that was for my partner at that time to watch me fucking someone else that close, with that kind of intensity. A testement to the intensity of cinema and how easy replicating intimacy on a screen can be.

It's barely mixed or color balanced, I like that our faces are red and you can see my spots and my shaving rash and the exposure of the whites are all burned out. I think this is our messiest but one of our most successful early films in it's intention and simplicity and that it's just... still... hot. It's good sex.


This was the write up:

proximity II was created in response to the original exploration of intimacy in the first session. This initially focused on one subject connection with the lens and therefore the viewer. While in proximity II, the viewer watches two people focused on each other. It intends to highlight the intricacies and minutia of sex, things often lost in conventional porn. The closeness of the camera allows for greater focus on breath, sweat, touches that might otherwise be lost. Body parts merge and skin blends. It becomes less about clarity and more about atmosphere and experience.

This was were we also hit the road block regarding what we could put in a teaser. We didn't have the expertise to know how to host our videos ourselves and we were still running the project through a tumblr blog, we used vimeo previously but we'd run into issues with censorship, they'd tried to close our account for nudity before. So we decided to try and make a teaser that kept the intensity and the atmosphere of the fucking, but without any of the explictness at all, no nudity at all. It was a test to see where the line of the censor would be drawn. This stayed up and formed the basis for how we cut our teasers going forward.

The teaser comes as a test of the idea of "safe for work" - the internet defines 'sexual' and therefore 'unacceptable' by arbitrary levels of nudity. In response to the vilification of naked bodies, in this teaser, the full uncensored video has been stripped of deemed explicit content but the intensity and eroticism remains, technically making it SFW

This film was our first to really go far in terms of reach. I was excited to be doing something different that people connected with, I just wanted to make more. That year we submitted it to the Berlin Porn Film Festival and were entirely shocked to see it get in? Watching it on the screen in Berlin was probably the first moment I saw what we were doing as something more than just 'messing around' it also reinforced that watching a 28 minute long film of fucking in a room full of people is paiiiiinfully long. From then on we aimed to keep everything under 15 minutes unless absolutely necessary.

>> watch proximity II


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We then went to France, to reunite with Dwam after making Crystalline and film the third part of the series with Magenta. They had a romance at the time that was infectious and they showed us around the city and we filmed them fucking in a beautiful sun lit apartment with a secret garden. This was the first time we'd made a film I'd not been in front of the camera, I loved watching and directing and getting to see everything unfold through the viewfinder and in front of me without being caught up in being a physical part of it. I still stand by that people always look at their best while fucking, not their most put together or perfect, but their best. Pleasure and intensity and nervous energy make everyone look good, and not wanting to sound trite but it's something pretty special.

>> watch proximity III


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After that we took a break - from this series at least - we made 10 more films in that space of time. We learned a lot and improved a lot.


I contacted Damien because I love his work with Oh Boy (he's also an incredible filmmaker in his own right) and I saw that he also occasionally performed. We always want to work with people creating things we love because it gives us the opportunity to meet them, to learn from them and they always bring incredible energy and ideas to shoots. I chatted with Damien on skype and proposed the idea of the shoot and asked if he had any thoughts about who could be his partner. I had seen Viktor's photo floating around on tumblr but had never connected the face to the name before. These guys were an absolute dream to shoot and the film was a dream to edit, probably the easiest in a long time.

I love to create weird set ups and creative edits but sometimes there's nothing better than the simple pleasure of watching two people with a really intense connection have great sex. Continuing the Proximity series always re-grounds us in how great that truly is.

This is obviously new ground for us as it's the first time we've shot anything with two guys. It's my hope that with Four Chambers that even if what or who is on camera isn't what turns you on there's hopefully enough else that makes a film interesting that it's enjoyable none the less. 

Anyway I'm sure my heavy breathing and excited squeaks probably make a cameo at some point.


I remember being a tiny bit nervous because as much as it's easy to say that we didn't make films with a specific audience in mind it was impossible to ignore that the idea of the imagined porn consumer breaks down into two categories, straight man and gay man and never the twain shall meet. I knew really that the community watching our work was more diverse than that but did have a twinge of worry about scaring away the straight guys. I should have had more faith, this was one of our most popular and most celebrated film releases that year.

Damien and Viktor were an absolute joy, super hot, incredibly sweet and so excited to get to fuck. I remember holding my hands over my face to stop myself squealing with joy because they were so cute. At one point Viktor was telling Damien how much he'd missed him. Here's some cute behind the scenes shots from that day:


And here's baby me, editing the cut:

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>> watch proximity IV


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Somehow this went and turned into a history of the early beginnings of the project! I love this series and I've been saying forever that we should revisit it, I think it forged a lot of what we do now but it's essentially Four Chambers without a lot of the construction and artifice, I guess it's as close to "authenticity" as we could get. 

I'll end by including some pages from our first book on the proximity project about replicating intimacy through video work and fucking and watching through screens.



✖︎


TRANSPARENCY

Jun 16, 2019



Recently you see the same words and labels circulating - words like, ethical or feminist can be easy buzzwords to look for, especially in relation to porn because (despite what they might say) I believe that some people watching really do care about how porn films are made and the people in them. I know this because I get to read the messages of support you send and the questions you ask.
 
We don't and haven't ever chosen use these words in relation to the Four Chambers project (despite the fact that it might improve some SEO or google positioning or other branding stuff that I'm not very good at) I'd like to think that everyone making porn or creating anything that's self directed thinks they're doing it "ethically" - but that's exactly it, ethics are essentially subjective - there's no universal definition on GOOD or BAD, it's all based in our own moral values, culture and perspective. 
 
Just putting a label of ethical/honest/feminist on something without a clear idea of what that label means in reality for the people its meant to protect is just advertising, plain and simple.
 
That's maybe more complicated and potentially dangerous than it initially seems. When we take these definitions at face value we might not be look beyond them and push to ask the important questions about what's actually goes on. It can mean that it plays into ideas about divisive respectability politics, adding more shame and layers of heirachy to an already stigmatised community.
 
So we don't reject these labels because we don't care about ethics or we think they're not ideas or issues worth talking about, it's exactly because they're so important that we refuse to reduce them to advertising buzzwords.
 
So let's talk about them.
 
We thought about it and honestly the best way to decide if something is worth your attention and funding is to have the information about how the project runs behind the scenes and on set, so that you have what you need to make your own informed decision.
 
When we began making films as Four Chambers we started with the idea of a co-op or an art project, the aim is and has always been to centre transparency as much as possible as a priority. Talk is cheap and language and buzzwords means nothing without actions. We often reject labels for our project and performers, we don't want to brand ourselves one thing or another when what really matters is just what we actually do on the ground.

This is not to say this is the objectively or universally correct or best way, this is just what feels right for us and our project. We think it’s important to know what kind of project you’re supporting and potentially funding and where that money goes.

So that's what we're aiming for in this post, so that it can be reference point for potential and current project supporters, performers and collaborators. I tried to write about what I would want to know. Thanks for reading.


THE PROJECT

Four Chambers is mostly just 2 people. Based out of the North in the UK, hello.

Vex works full time on the project amongst other online sex work and has a partner (who has to remains anonymous because of what they do) who works part time around another full time job. 

All the films, camera work, the editing, the photography, graphic design, merch design, writing and maintenance is by Vex and her partner unless otherwise stated.

The site is built and maintained by Matt (@matthooks) and the site design is by Vex with help and tweaks by Matt.

Vex has an assistant, Peg (@paegward), one day a week to help with some social media, emails and merch orders.

The music in the films is sourced from sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud and then we pay to license the track from the artist for use in our films. The cost varies from artist to artist but we are currently looking to license for approx $500 a track. We won't pay more to license a track to be a film than the performers were paid to be in the film.

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Performer pay is a priority for us. Porn performers take on the most risk in a society that unfairly stigmatises putting sex on screen. We have always paid a flat rate to all performers regardless of gender, physical characteristics, “fame”, experience or acts taking place. This rate is currently $1100 per shoot. 

This rate has increased as the project has grown. Some of the very first films back in 2014 were shot for content trade (where all parties share the rights to sell the content) and since then we have paid between $200 - 1100) through the years as we have grown. Since mid 2017 the rate has been constant at $1100 at the peak of our Patreon fund. When we lost our fund and were removed from the Patreon site maintaining this fee for performers was a top priority. 

This fee is not fixed and will increase if the money we collect for the project increases and we work to build our fund back to where it was on our own site. If the project grows, this rate will continue to grow too.

In lieu of royalties we run an affiliate scheme for performers. This means that performers promoting the films and the site can receive a percentage of the profits for any person that signs up through their promotion. We share 40% of the profit with performers using this scheme.

Prospective performers can contact us at any time before their shoot for an update on the current revenue of the project so that they're able to make sure the compensation we're offering as a shoot fee feels correct and fair.


Performers are prepared for our intentions for a shoot and for who their scene partner/s will be before the shoot date.

Performers provide a list of what they do and don’t want to happen on camera and what their likes and dislikes are for shooting sex and any physical limitations we should be aware of. This is then recounted and corroborated with an in person conversation with everyone involved on the shoot date before shooting begins.

Performers get the chance to eat before the shoot and/or have food provided throughout the shoot provided by us. 

We aim to make sure shoots last no longer than half a day maximum from start to finish.

Performers are able to specify the level of barrier protection (or not) they wish to use in a film without question and before a shoot date and on the day.

All performers, even if performing with a regular sex partner, come to set with a STI test within 2 weeks of the shoot date. Tests are shared with us beforehand and everyone performing can see the tests of their partners on the day before shooting begins.

If performers wish to bring a chaperone to set they’re welcome to do so, this is agreed prior to the shoot date so everyone involved on set will be able informed (and can negotiate on) who will be on set during their shoot.

If a shoot is cancelled last minute by us for some reason any costs incurred by performers (testing etc.) will be reimbursed.

There is no requirement from us to performers for orgasms (fake or otherwise), particular positions or acts unless directly negotiated beforehand with performers in line with the concept of a film. We try to “script” the sex as little as possible and in conjunction with input from performers beforehand and on the day. Everything is up for negotiation.

Performers get the chance to review their film before it’s released. They have the opportunity to veto any clips or shots they might be unhappy with for any reason and have them swapped out or changed.


SUPPORTERS

Our aim is to keep the Four Chambers project as financially accessible as possible, we keep the cost of supporting the project as low as we can to be sustainable but we understand that for some marginalised people on very low or no income, any cost may be a luxury that's not affordable. In this case we offer the potential for a skills exchange for site access.

We aim to release a new film every 1-2 months, all other films are available to view at all times.

Supporters can cancel a pledge at any time and they will still have access to the site for the whole month they've already supported for, no instant access revokes which means you don't have to remember to cancel on a particular day to make the most of your pledge.

We don't publicly use labels or many descriptors for our films, we try to include information about the films and things like references and content notes in our blog write ups. We understand that for the information and sometimes the safety of the viewer they might want more information about a film before watching. If you there is specific information or questions you'd like answers for supporters (and potential supporters!) are always welcome to get in touch with us and we'll try help and advise.

For any further questions about the project you’re more than welcome to contact hello@afourchamberedheart.com

Thank you for reading and supporting, and making all this possible.

Vex + 4C

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✖︎ ARCHETYPE

May 26, 2019

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Porn aesthetics and archetypes are fascinating, sex on film has always been innovative, at the forefront of pushing technology and creativity. Being pushed to the margins means you’re forced to make new rules and create your own visions, processes and traditions. Porn world developed its own visual language, signs and semiotics.

This is the first in a new series we’re hoping to continue exploring where we look at traditional Porn stereotypes, archetypes, aesthetics and cliches and how we can explore, subvert or expand them. For this we were really lucky to have Dev and Kinsey who were down to get homoerotic for us, exploring some classic archetypes - play fighting, wrestling, leather bars, vests, sweat and skin we were lucky enough to be able to license the perfect brooding berlin goth gay club soundtrack from Boy Harsher and we were good to go.

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I think sometimes we get some people assume or presume the work we make is pretty soft, and while I love softness and delicacy and I want to see more of it in the porn I watch, I also love the intensity of a quick fuck and a brutal punchy edit. There's something special about the the look of old adult films pre internet digitisation, there’s something extra private and taboo about the idea of vhs, it was the first format to make home movies without having to take your film for outsider processing accessible which meant it was the perfect format for your sexual exploits (see also: polaroid). Pre internet, you made your porn, especially if it was porn that subverted the heteronormative status quo on VHS tapes and copied and circulated them in your community, porn mailing lists and screening parties and brown paper bags were the distribution. We’re looking back at that time and that era, leather bars and vhs tapes.

Leather is extra sensual, it’s skin first and foremost. It’s tough and supple and hard and soft at the same time, I was massively influenced by the painter and tattoo artist Tamara Santibañez and her leatherscape Landscape paintings in making the pulsing leather backdrops in this film.


I asked Kinsey and Dev to bring their best leather and white vests and we got to work. This is where working with performers in collaboration is my favourite because they took our seed of an idea and expanded it beyond our perspective. Kinsey and Dev suggested and worked out the idea of injecting T and as someone who has an amount of needle phobia I’ve always found injections uncomfortable. Getting tested pretty regularly forced me to meet that fear head on but I also found that if I asked my phlebotomist if I could film the blood draw on my phone it gave me the focus and detachment to be able to watch. A camera is a good way to put distance between you and a subject. 


Because injections make me uncomfortable I’m also pretty fascinated with them, they’re also inherently related to sex for me: the ritualistic preparation, the phallic sharp point and the penetration of the skin, slow depression of the plunger, leaving liquid inside. Incredibly visceral and clinical at the same time. I love getting to confront and unpick what it is about something that gives me a visceral reaction.

Both Kinsey and Devorah are super hot and brought the best energy and ideas and didn't even complain when we had to huddle the heater because the warehouse space we were shooting in got cold. And they fucked on a hardwood floor for a few hours so they deserve all my admiration. Real troopers.

>> watch ARCHETYPE in full


enjoy, love Vex
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CONTENT NOTES
injection, play fighting, biting, spanking

MUSIC
Boy Harsher - Love

REFERENCES


✖︎ SPILL

May 9, 2019

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RECURSION

Apr 23, 2019

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✖ A B J E C T I N G

Apr 9, 2019

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P R E T T Y / D I R T Y

Mar 31, 2019

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F O R G E D ✖ O B S C E N I T I E S II

Jan 21, 2019

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supplicant

Dec 7, 2018

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four chambers on patreon - a eulogy

Nov 18, 2018

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From 2014-2018 the Four Chambers project and community existed on Patreon.com, this was the sole income for the project and in the final years my whole livelihood. In June of 2018, after years of happy (and mutually beneficial) existence on the site raising funds we were notified that we were no longer welcome.

This was mirrored in the site purging the funds of many other creators, especially those of sex workers. There is no safe space online for us.

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This was my message explaining the situation to our community


"Hey all,

I don’t exactly know how to start this, 
 
Four Chambers started on Patreon with the idea that we might raise enough money to be able to pay our performers properly. Our first goal was to make $250 dollars a month and until then we'd just been taking gift card donations and I was funding the project with my sex work online and our "vanilla" jobs. We never ever expected it to take off the way that it did. The response was more than we ever could have imagined, the way you as a community connected with what we were trying to do, your generosity, how excited and engaged everyone was with helping to support us to create more.
 
We grew and the funds you all raised allowed us to make work with some incredible people all over the world; sex workers and artists, people I looked up to. We shot and hung out and made real, valuable important connections. We fucked and got messy and sweaty and laughed and I fell in love with shooting porn and I fell in love with the people. I’ve made some of my closest and most important friendships and relationships because of the project. 
 
We also got to the stage where we were able to pay top rate fees for our performers, more than any other indie porn company I have every come across: sometimes double, triple the rate to work on these sets. We stand at this moment in time paying the equivalent of $1,100 a scene, to every performer, regardless of gender or presentation or acts taking place. (this is comparable at time of writing to the fees you'd get as a girl signed to a top LA porn agency) This is genuinely something I am most proud of, performers are at the heart of our success, I owe them everything we have here. Your support on Patreon meant we got to make work with a really incredible, diverse and interesting group of talented people and get them paid for their labour - thanks to you.
 
We have loved being on Patreon for one main reason, a reason that is at the core of everything we are doing and trying to achieve, that has come sharply into focus recently; Media about sex is as important, valuable and worthy as any other work we create and consume.
 
As a society we have always told stories, made artwork, explored and investigated every facet of our human experience. I think it’s a part of what makes us human. Sex is not and should not be any different. It’s intrinsic to our understanding of ourselves and how we interact as a society. But it’s mostly been ignored or talked around but not often explicitly and honestly explored because of years and years of meticulously orchestrated shame and demonisation. This breeds confusion and misinformation and has meant that a very narrow definition of sex and of porn has become the accepted norm.
 
Sex should not be left in the dark, in the shadows. Porn doesn’t have to do or be or say just one thing. It doesn’t have to be about selling point or function. It doesn’t have to be shameful or private or disposable. The potential for porn and sex as a medium for ideas is at the heart of the Four Chambers project. 
 
Existing on Patreon gave us the opportunity to make space and have our work sit right alongside all other types of creators. We were one of the first on the site using explicit sex and we helped make space for other sex workers and porn creators to find a home there in this community and make money and help grow the site into what it is today. All of us together as a community, proved that you can treat the podcast you listen to the same way you treat the porn you watch, that porn supporters' money isn't dirty, dangerous money to handle, that if you respect and include work with sexuality it can be (the only thing capitalism cares about) good business.
 
But progressively as the site grew, the terms and conditions got stricter and more specific. And we were waiting. Like we always are. To potentially have to start all over again. Sometimes people would ask why we didn’t just leave already and there’s a few reasons (some of them are stubbornly based in denial and pride) but a big part was that WE KNOW DESERVE TO BE HERE, we wanted to try to keep existing, keep holding onto that space and keep that door open as long as we possibly could.
 
But it’s come to this. We were contacted by Patreon over the weekend and we have to remove any connection between Patreon and pornographic content. They are keen for us keep the fund open and to use it for any work that isn’t naked or explicit but I don’t think it’s fair to our community and to the integrity of the project. 
 
Obviously, I am devastated. I knew this was probably coming for a while and I thought I had prepared myself but I surprised myself by breaking down crying on the phone to them trying to explain why we don’t feel like it’s fair to keep the fund open if it can’t be a home for our work in it’s authentic entirety. If we say we believe that work with sex is as worthy as any other to stay in a sterilised and censored format would be to admit that it’s not. That it is other. That is less. I can’t and I wont do that.
 
This might sound like an obituary but I promise we are absolutely not going anywhere just yet. We are in the process of setting up a new system for you to support the project and to access rewards and fund new work if you still want to be a part of our community. We have shot some of the work I am most proud of recently and it’s ready to be edited and made into more films. I believe in the project. I want to see it continue.
 
But just to be clear what is at stake, this is my whole income, my livelihood. I have been full time working on Four Chambers exclusively for around 3 years now. I have devoted my whole self to the project and I am going to have to try to start again from scratch. I’m very lucky and the success of the project has certainly been down in part to my privileges and I will be ok. This absolutely isn’t the case for everyone who does sex work who is at risk of losing their funding in any number of ways on these sites. This is what is most upsetting.
 
This is an issue bigger than Patreon (In the climate of FOSTA/SESTA) It probably goes beyond even the payment processors. it’s a world wide, online AND in person crack down on freedom of expression, on women, on marginalised people, on sex and sex work, on non conventional forms of labour that counter the status quo: the domination of corporations and the patriarchy. On dissent. This particular microcosm is absolutely not the worst thing that’s happening in the world right now but it’s a symptom of a much much bigger chain of events.
 
I’m going to put some links to sex work related organisations that I think deserve to have the support of the money that would have gone to the project, if you can manage it:
 
I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. For your ongoing support, for believing in the project and what we are trying to do against the odds, for the countless amazing, emotional, heart breaking and touching emails and messages of support we get. I want to especially thank those of you who are survivors of sexual abuse who reached out to say that our work helped you heal, something I wasn’t prepared for and never expected but I will count as maybe the thing I am most proud of in my lifetime. 
It’s exactly these messages that are the proof that I need to remind myself when I get complacent that this is vital, important work that should exist.
 
This absolutely isn’t goodbye but we need to work out what our next move is and what our future can look like.

Thank you, I love and appreciate you all.
 
Vex + 4C"

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We spent the next 4 months without funding and searching for new ways to secure the future of the project. We tried to continue to explore unconventional avenues, unfortunately nothing came to fruition. Making work with sex excludes you from almost every conventional, modern platform to fund/promote your work. (see this post on medium about porn and censorship)

As it stands now we have a simple way of collecting funds and we've been overwhelmed with the incredible response from everyone helping us get back on our feet. It's been a sobering experience seeing how fragile everything is but also how strong and supportive our community has been setting us back up. Silver linings.