When it comes to the economics of adult entertainment, things are pretty similar to its Silver Screen counterpart. There's a lot of money spent behind the scenes to make the films. Locations, production crews, and other associated costs can really make a dent in even the most well-prepared budget.
"It's a process," says adult actress Mercedes Carrera in an interview with We Are The Mighty. "And sometimes it's not as fun as people think it is."
Time is money. There's no room for errors, no time for first-timers to start in the mainstream adult film world. And not just anyone can get their foot in the door.
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So when Carrera tweeted to her fan base about the idea of casting average-joe veterans to co-star in her upcoming project, the response blew her away.
"I just threw a tweet out like two days ago," Carrera recalls during a February 2017 interview. "It said 'contact me, I'm gonna do this whole vet only thing. It's gonna be its own site.' "
Carrera's tweet was part of her plan to launch a new adult entertainment website that is veteran focused — including using vets as actors.
While some may question whether the star's use of veteran "free talent" is taking advantage of former service members — even using words like "exploitation" — she insists that is both an oversimplification and simply untrue.
"I'm not going to be making money off of vets," Carrera says. "The numbers just don't work out for me in that. I still have to pay for some locations, I have to pay my production staff. This project will be a sub-site from my website, but I already know that no one is gonna buy 80 percent of these scenes."
The tweet was picked up by one website and her inbox was soon flooded with a thousand emails. To say she's a big deal among veterans is an understatement, in her eyes. She gets messages and emails all the time from servicemen and women, just to tell her that her work helped get them through a deployment, despite General Order Number One, which prohibits work like hers in the CENTCOM theater.
"It's probably two thousand by now," she adds. She gets three new emails every minute. And answering them has become a sort-of full-time job, one she says she truly enjoys.
Her outreach to the veteran community is nothing new. In 2016, she took Army Sgt. Anthony Berg to the Adult Video News Awards, one of her industry's biggest nights.
To her, wasn't a publicity stunt, she still keeps in touch with Berg and his wife, and both attended the awards with her.
The reasons for her devotion to vets is simple, she says. Carrera is a military brat — her father served in Vietnam and he, like many other returning Vietnam veterans, did not get the homecoming Iraq and Afghanistan veterans receive today.
People actually spit and hurled things at him as left the airport, she said.
"It was a different time, and he was getting out as the war was very unpopular," Carrera recalls. "And he was coming back to Los Angeles at the time so you can imagine the social climate."
Aside from her family connection to veterans, Carrera says she genuinely loves them and connects with the community. She has a lot of respect and admiration for a community who cares more about their friends than themselves, and that includes the vets who respond to her her contests.
"They take care of each other," she says. "This happened when I took a date to AVN last year, too. These guys are, instead of submitting themselves, they're submitting their buddies."
Veterans interested in her veteran movie project will have to provide their own time and travel and pay for industry-standard disease screening. The adult film industry is one with inherent health risks and is regulated by state government.
"When I perform, I always pay my own travel expenses and for my own tests," she said. "We all [in the adult industry] pay for our own tests all the time. That's the nature of the industry."
Carrera hasn't always been an adult video actress. She began her career as an aerospace engineer. Though she still loves to "build sh*t," Carrera recalls her move to the adult industry as a natural one for her.
While there are a few veterans who have transitioned from the military to the adult industry, there aren't many. And though some may want to join the ranks of her world, Carrera can tell you that breaking in isn't easy.
"The failure rates for new men are 80-90 percent," she says. "Producers don't even want to audition new guys. It's too much of a risk to the production cost. For those veterans who do want a break in the industry, I'm offering them a chance to see if they can do it.
She doesn't see veterans as victims she can take advantage of, she just wants to give aspiring veterans the opportunity they may not have had otherwise.
In Mercedes Carrera's mind, we all give back to our veterans in our own way. This project will be her way.
"I'm at a point in my career in the where my recommendations carry weight and I've earned that by earning my stripe in the industry," she says. "Veterans have reached out to me for years asking me how to get started, and now I have the chance to help them."