The gay adult entertainment business Helix Studios based in Las Vegas is celebrating its 18th anniversary. It started with films of a niche gay fetish and now produces porn movies featuring not just young ‘twink’ guys but also college studs and Latino lads. We asked Helix’s owner Keith Miller – pictured below with his team at an awards ceremony – to tell us more about the story of the studio and what life is like running a gay porn company in 2020.
Helix Studios began in 2002 as SpankThis, a small spank-focused fetish site. I had just sold my share of an internet based billing company and my experiment in running a Florida entertainment venue was winding down. I never set out to start a porn studio, porn companies were in California, and had beautiful guys. SpankThis was just an extension of a personal fetish of mine, and it grew more than I imagined.
For years I had held monthly ‘spank’ parties that became quite popular and at the time drew attendees from all around the country. After reading about a student in Europe who had paid for college with his spanking videos, I filmed a segment with my camera and tripod, showed it to friends at one of the parties and asked, “Do you think anyone will buy it?”. I put the scene online and we haven’t stopped releasing videos since.
After a few movies released on SpankThis, the demand for more sex from the models after the spanking became obvious, which lead to filming sex only with no spanking. Without spanking I needed a new domain for the twink movies and that’s where 8teenBoy came in. When we were starting to film condom-free scenes we added HotStuds, adding more college age models branched out into Fratboy, and LatinStuds followed suit. To unify all these varying sites Helix Studios was born. We liked the imagery of Helix to represent the combination of all the sites uniting to make whole.
Our origins as a spanking site came with some unique benefits. The spanking fetish is all about the dynamic between performers – tension and release, trust and chemistry. Even as we branched out into full sex scenes, we never lost that focus on genuine connection between models. Our love of storytelling is something we’ve been able to explore more as the company has grown, seeking to narrow the gap between pornography and the kind of entertainment produced in Hollywood.
In 2006 we won Movie of the Year, but being in Florida we received less attention as a ‘studio’. To overcome this I felt we needed to be located in California and so mid 2007 Helix moved to San Diego, CA. Over time we worked to upgrade everything. I hired better editors, better photographers and we discovered new models. Helix Academy in 2013 returned us to the award stage and became our defining movie. Las Vegas became our home at the end of 2017 along with the setting for our award winning Vegas Nights.
This industry has many challenges, none more important than the treatment of the models. Being a performer myself in over 300 scenes, I saw firsthand the need to respect and protect all models.
An environment where models feel safe and supported is not only necessary, but a crucial ingredient in creating quality porn that keeps members coming back. Testing and safety on sets, marketing and promotion, and the changing monetisation of content has shown yet again a model’s value. Even our role as studio requires an adjustment as we focus more on the model as a brand ambassador rather than a no-name performer in the creation of a sex scene.
I am thrilled to see the opportunities that models have these days, the chance to generate a good living from so many different paths makes this a great time to be in the industry. Coming into 2021 this is a big focus for Helix – how we can add to our model portfolio and help them navigate all the options today.
Every community deserves a strong voice to defend and define it. Having gay content produced by directors and performers that understand the minor nuances that are subconsciously noticed by viewers is so important. Our story lines we try to keep romantic, loving and caring. Presenting a loving and sex positive story line is so vital in today’s world where so many are still made to feel ashamed of who they love and how they experience their sexuality.
Some of Keith’s favourite Helix movies…