Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Spanking Star Interview - Thomas Cameron

When I first thought that I'd like to do a series of interviews with participants in the Scene, I decided that it was important to talk to people who had contributed in a number of ways.

It's pretty routine to interview models (although I still wanted to do that, as they do have a unique perspective; wonderful people like Leia and a couple more upcoming posts certainly show that), but I also wanted to speak to some of the behind the scenes people (like Clare Fonda's Cameraman) and some of the scenes commentators (my recent interview with Secret Spanko, a relative new
comer, and an upcoming interview with one of the giants of spanking blogging). I also wanted to interview someone who has functioned solely as a top, and, having read his comments on my blog, Thomas Cameron who has worked for Dreams of Spanking, Firm Hand Spanking and Northern Spanking was my first choice.

1. I've come across a couple of your Northern Spanking shoots now, so you've obviously been around the scene for some years. I have to ask the obvious question first; when and how did you first get into spanking?

I became aware of my interest in it through a combination of literature, and

growing up in a place where corporal punishment was still normal. I was raised
as an Evangelical Christian, so once I became consciously aware that it was
a sexual fetish of mine, I spent a number of years suppressing the drive as
a perversion. Once I left that religion, I started to practice what I had

always felt as 'normal' for me, both with kink and with polyamoury.

2. A bit personal this one, but have you only ever topped? I did for years before recently getting interesting in switching, but I do wonder if one becomes a better top for having experienced the other side. What do you think?

It's certainly a persuasive argument. I am a Top, pretty much to the core;
control is a basic identity function for me, and being deprived of it would
seriously erode my sanity. I also have a couple of experiences in my early
life which lead to what can only be described as berserk responses if anyone
tries to restrain me, so switching is not really possible for me to try safely.

3. I don't mean this as an insult but your look is delightfully old fashioned; you look how I picture the traditional Victorian squire. Is this a conscious thing, and do you think that the air of authority it gives you makes you a better top?

It's partly conscious; I like to dress up, I'm an historian by academic
training, and I have an enduring love of the Victorian and Edwardian
dress styles. Elegance for men has become a lost art.

Does it affect my topping? I subscribe to the school of thought that my
dominant power comes from inside rather than from the tools and trappings,
I'll happily top in bunny slippers if that's what I happen to be wearing. (I'm looking forward to seeing that shoot!)

4. Can one learn to be a good top?

One *must* learn to be a good Top. Instinct will only ever carry someone
so far; technique, philsophical understandings of things like consent,
psychology and implement effects, and all of the other aspects of how we
use bodies to mess with minds are crafts, and need to be approached with
the same resepct and deliberate attention to detail as any other complex
skill-base. Experience is invaluable.

5. I find that administering a spanking is always sexually arousing; is this your experience? If so is this a problem when shooting videos?

Control of the self is the first step to control of the environment and of
the Bottom. Part of that skill, for me, is detachment; sexual arousal and
physical response are by no means the same thing. But beyond that, while
acting in a good film is always going to be hot (or the product would not
be), like any professional actor one has to be able to carry contextual
reality as well as character immersion constantly in mind. The models with
whom I work are (with one or two notable exceptions) not people who would
ever be interested or available as sexual partners, so sex isn't what we're
there to do.

6. In a comment on my blog you said that it was more important for tops in videos to be good actors than spankers (I agree actually); how hard is it to top in a video, and how does it differ from filling the role in real life?

To run a good scene, a Top needs to be able to use tools (including eyes, hands, voice, rope, implements, or whatever else is needed) effectively, understand pace and the psychology of the situation, and be able to control all of the above.

To be able to carry the power of the scene that is happening in real life through the lens to a secondary observer, there a whole set of specific techniques which are identical to those Anthony Hopkins or Judi Dench would use on a mainstream film. Ability to remain still; awareness of where one's head is relative to frame, not blinking on camera, voice projection, and so on and so forth.

Sometimes, what would be perfect in real life does not carry well on film;
my personal battle with this cross-over is against lowering my voice too much.
Quietness often conveys more controlled power than a shout, and I sometimes
drop my projection too much for the microphone to pick up!

7. This is going to sound pretentious. In a book I was recently reading the following statement appeared:- "No one should ever impose their own perception of fulfilment on anyone else". Do you think that this can be applied to the spanking scene?

As a Top, my practice is that I am manipulating the Bottom's state of mind. The physical manifestations of that process are, however enjoyable, tools to that end. If I am to do that well, I first need to read and understand the mind as it already is, and then work with that. As a result, to do my job well, I must first (through negotiation, empathy or any other tool) understand what experiential journey will be fulfilling for the Bottom, so that I can manipulate
and, if necessary, subvert it.

8. You mentioned to me that you had shot a video with Firm Hand Spanking, which has yet to appear. They're US based. How did that come about and can you tell us anything about the clip? Are there any big differences between shooting for a US site and for a UK based one?

While Firm Hand shoot to American legal requirements and usually do so in the
States, the site is operated by a Briton, and the shoot I was actually on
took place over here. The story sequence I filmed features Leia-Ann Woods
and Amelia-Jane Rutherford, in a quasi-military context; I suspect that's
all I can say at this point! I thoroughly enjoyed working with Firm Hand;
the differences between that shoot and others were mostly of the sort that
will always evolve between different directors and producers. There's a very
clear house style and directorial requirements for a Firm Hand shoot, and I
found them very easy to work with.

9. Dreams of Spanking lists you as it's principal cameraman; do you have any technical training?

I sincerely hope it doesn't! I've shot stills on one shoot and done a
small amount of in domestic scenes, but I'm not usually *behind* the camera,
I'm mostly in front of it. The most frequent videographer is probably either Pandora herself or Jimmy Holloway. (Sorry, my mistake; I saw you listed as "cameraman" and jumped to the wrong conclusion).

I don't have any formal training in either video or still photography, but
I've learned a great deal from working with people who do, and am now starting to work seriously on learning to shoot stills; video will come with time.

10. Do you find production duties harder when you're appearing in a video?

Directing from in front of the camera is definitely complicated, though
it's much easier on a shoot with a full crew. I mostly end up directing in scenes where it would be difficult for Pandora, because directing from the Top is certainly easier than doing so from the Bottom.

Pandora is the producer; I am sometimes involved at the writing stage, but I've
not done any actual production work in the traditional sense.

My best experience so far as an actor/director was on a project we shot for
Roue called Lost Causes, which they funded well enough that we could operate with a full crew and equipment, a story-board, and an experienced DOP. That made my life very much easier, and the end product was quite special.

11. Many of the DoS scenes run quite long; how much of the filming is done in one shot? Is a lot of editing involved in getting the videos ready for release?

We are steadily moving towards shorter shots as time goes on, partly in adjusting to the limitations of single-camera shoots and partly because the scenes are getting more ambitious. We relatively rarely (I think only
once, in fact) use a single static camera for a scene.

Pandora edits her own material, and is doing more of that than anything else lately!

12. I am always interested in sites that produce image galleries independent of their films. Why do you do this on DoS? And, as I've always wanted to know, are the spankings in these shoots real, or merely staged?

One of the joys of artistic still work is that you can really capture marking
in full glory, so the spankings are definitely real. We shoot photo-stories as
well as video for several reasons. It begins from Pandora's vision of quality
porn as being compositionally and artistically evocative, as well as the action
captured being erotic.

Still work provides for a different kind of gaze, and a different
interaction with the viewer; I for example watch very little video when it
comes to, shall we say, personal use, as I often engage better with photographs
or drawn art than with film. Photo-stories allow us to generate images that
would be very difficult to produce on film without spending big-budget levels
of money, and they allow more complex and artistic lighting and composition.

It also forms part of the general ethos of Dreams of Spanking to provide
content which breaks the assumptions of the scene; audio stories, M/M
content, and all the other things that many mainstream spanking sites
have avoided. This is experimental, but it seems to be working so far.

13. This is another personal question; I know that you support Pandora in incorporating M/M and F/M scenes within the site, but do you yourself find them arousing, or interesting in any way beyond the purely technical?

Partly because of being in so much of it personally, I'm very unlikely to
make intimate use of most of what we publish on Dreams. M/M (and, indeed,
F/M) films are not part of my sexual taste, but that doesn't prevent
me from responding to power and emotional engagement on the part of the
participants, or from recognising aesthetic and artistic quality in them.

14. How heavily are the scenes scripted? Is it the case of just supplying a basic scenario and letting the performers get on with it, or do they have actual lines to learn?

This has varied. We've done some work that was almost scripted properly, though that doesn't tend to work well at all during actual punishment scenes, which need the flexibility of improvisation to flow well. Some scenes have written themselves as they went along, while we all watched helplessly (and often giggling).

One of our core operating principles is that many scenarios are written
by our actors, because that produces dreams of spanking that we often
would not have thought of, and tends to produce really intense performances
from the authors.

In most cases we discuss scenarios in detail with everyone involved,
so we can identify important story beats or concepts (or names!) clearly
in everyone's minds, in order to be able to reproduce them when necessary
for re-shoots.

15. How are the performers on the site selected? The ones so far have been exceptionally good. Is there anyone we're likely to know to be featured soon (that you can tell us about)?

Pandora has cast her films from her experience of shooting for other sites
while we put Dreams together, so many of the actors are people we've worked
with before. Others are discoveries of her own, including Jimmy Holloway and
Sebastian Hawley.

With regard to juicy gossip, yes indeed! We have just published a debut
appearance from Ludwig of Rohrstock-Palast, in 'Psychic Weapon C', and will
shortly be unveiling the first scene we made with Hwyel Phillips of Restrained
Elegance in front of the camera. That one is a four-hander with myself, Pandora
and Amelia-Jane, and was rather a lot of fun to make!

We're in pre-production negotiations for a shoot some time in the next couple
of months with Dana Kane and Mike Stryker, and we're also negotiating with Nimue Allen of Nimue's World, Danielle Hunt and Clover Rock. Watch this space! (I'm a big fan of these models, especially Danielle, so this is really something to look forward to!)

16. Dreams of Spanking seems to have gotten off to a good start. Where do you see the site going?

Anywhere we find interesting!

More seriously, we're on a bootstrap path which leads ever onwards to more ambitious work. As we can upgrade the equipment we're shooting with, and
afford fuller crews, the production values and attention to detail should
steadily improve towards the mark set by Elegance Studios, who're probably
the highest-quality producers we've worked with.

Creatively, we've never been short of ideas; it's time and money that are
difficult to find. We have all sorts of concepts we want to develop into
products as soon as we can build up the skills and the budgets to deliver
them well. Though with some of the ideas, it's really hard to wait...

17. Pandora seems to generate a huge amount of goodwill within the spanking community, both from professionals, like Amelia, and from fans like myself. You know her as well as anyone; to what do you attribute this?

She engages as a real and fully-featured person. The Spanked Not Silenced blog
is a big part of that, as it has presented a view of her evolving politics,
kink and personal life over a period of years. The fans (and fellow-
professionals) who have engaged with her through that blog now 'know' her,
in a very real sense; this is a person, not a marketing image.

Also, she's really sexy when spanked, which definitely helps.

I have a couple of follow up comments here that Tom sent back to me; I think that they're worth including.

I've learned a lot from your comments (not least that I don't always read stuff carefully enough - sorry about the principal cameraman thing) especially about the nature of topping. No one seems to talk about how that works (or at least not to the same degree as bottoming) so I think it will be a very welcome viewpoint to read about.

There are some quite good books out there, but you're right, people don't
talk about it much. I tend to attribute this to some kind of odd sense of
mystique; that if they talk about how topping works and why, people will
somehow see through their act and it'll stop working. This, for me at least,
is simply not true; I take considerable enjoyment in being able to show the
audience how a magic trick works and then *still* being able to fool them,
as it were. My dominance doesn't rely on the sub not understanding me; it
relies on them understanding me as well as possible.

I think this may also be an artefact of Tops gaze in the blogosphere; more *personal* blogs are written by Bottoms than Tops. Professional and marketing blogs, the equivalent of the blog at DoS itself, are to me in a different category from personal blogs (like Pandora's SnS, or Adele's long-famous Spanking Model Speaks). The former category are frequently written by Toppy male producers.

Very many thanks for taking the time to do this, and for taking it so seriously.

The core of my kink is psychodrama; I take it pretty seriously and enjoy
talking and thinking about it. Hitting willing girls with sticks is a
bonus :)

Sorry to rush out of here but I think the kids are getting up.

All the best



  1. Thanks for the interview, Tim :)

    One edit to my own slighty clumsy phrasing in the follow-up section would be that ime, more *personal* blogs are written by Bottoms than Tops. Professional and marketing blogs, the equivalent of the blog at DoS itself, are to me in a different category from personal blogs (like Pandora's SnS, or Adele's long-famous Spanking Model Speaks). The former category are frequently written by Toppy male producers.

    1. Thomas, thanks for sharing all that.
      You mentioned books in relation to leaning how to Top as a proper craft. I am very interested in that, as a novice. I want to give the best service I can and I am very keen to learn how to do it very well. If you could make specific recommendations, it would be much appreciated.
      Thanks again.

    2. I'm not the best source here, as I learned more from Victorian mainstream literature and Enid Blyton than I did from technical Topping manuals, but there are some classics out there. Most are solid on average but exhibit personal tastes or fanaticisms of the author as if they were unbreakable rules, which one has to watch out for.

      Standard texts might include 'Screw the Roses, Give Me the Thorns' (quite old these days), 'The New Topping Book'. IME there's a lot more work out there on bondage than there is on either implement play or the psychology of Domination; afaict many Tops see their power as relying on mystique, which to me is just a restatement of the Security through Obscurity fallacy from computing.

      We are not the Magic Circle; our tricks work even if the Bottom knows them (some work much better if the Bottom knows them.) I'm not qualified to write something of research standard about the neuro- and cognitive psychology of D/S but I wish someone who was would do so.

  2. Ah, I saw this as an email, and didn't realise that you'd left it as a comment, so I've actually edited the blog to reflect the amended version.

    Sorry for the confusion.


  3. Great interview and really well-chosen questions! I particularly enjoyed the answer about photostories, and I always love hearing tops talking about their craft.

    I did grin a bit at question 17 - I've had enough arguments with people who disagree with my stance to know that's really not true, I'm much more annoying than the gentle, diplomatic Amelia. But thankyou for the implied compliment anyway. :)