Bound and Gagged

Interview with Bondage Photographer/Rigger

Jon Woods


Hello Everyone,
     Here's an interview I did with well-known and celebrated bondage video director Mr. Jon Woods. I’m pleased to say that Mr. Woods gives a well-thought and fascinating interview about the fetish industry, his career, and give some insight surviving in the fetish industry.

-- Eric, Find and Bind All the Pretty Girls

Jon Woods ties Dorian - photo courtesy of AmericanDamsels.comHow did you get started in your career as a still photographer/video director?

A staff opening came up at Harmony Concepts, and since they knew me because of the drawings and writing I’d submitted for the magazines, they considered me for the job. Believe it or not, the first time I was offered the position, I turned it down! Maybe it was because the prospect seemed like it was far beyond my wildest dreams, or I was filled with self-doubt since I’d never done anything like that, and because my mundane job was safe and secure. The second time they asked, my job was no longer as certain, and so I made that leap of faith. I feel truly fortunate that it all worked out.

How long have you been involved in your career?

I started working for Harmony on June 1, 1993.

Who do you look to as a role model as a video director, i.e. Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, or other?

Those notables are all real directors. Working in fetish videos is very different. You have to make allowances in things like logic and camera angles for the sake of the fantasy. If there was any director I feel kinship with, it would be Ed Wood Jr., since I’m working with a minimal budget, no time for retakes, no budget for re-shooting, amateur actors, and so on. I only hope my videos are not quite as outright awful and half as enjoyable as his films. In any case, I could never kid myself to think I’m making anything like mainstream movies. Ideally, the finished product will be entertaining, but it will also be titillating.

Did you study video directing in a college or were you self taught?  Did you intern with a professional still photographer or video director before directing video yourself?

I learned everything on the job from my co-staffers, Star Chandler and Lorelei. Although I think I was coming from it from a slightly different perspective than they were. My roots were in bondage from the mainstream, and it was my hope to create bondage-filled entertainment that the guys would enjoy as much as the scenes from TV and movies, only done a little more to their taste, that is, with longer scenes, better bondage, sexier wardrobe, clearer lighting and so on.

What intrigues you most about video directing, i.e. working with models, writing the storyline, post production, or other?

I actually enjoy it all. The shooting is usually the most fun part, but that’s only a small portion of the whole process. Editing can be long and tedious, but when you get it all done and it turns out as you’d envisioned, it’s really gratifying. Writing the scripts was sometimes a pleasure and frequently a real grind, since I used to have to shoot once a week or so, and I’d have to bang my head against a wall for hours on end trying to come up with something I hadn’t already done a dozen times before.

Which do you prefer to work with creativity, i.e. still photography or video directing?

I always thought of myself as more of a director than photographer. When I look at the photos Lorelei or Ikaras take, or the beautiful work of Jay Edwards, Jim Weathers, Hywell Phillips or Jim Martin, I know that I’ll probably never be able to do anything on a technical par with them. But I’m pretty good at making videos.

Where do you get the ideas for your storylines?

There are a number of different sources. One is to take a scene or idea from a TV show or movie and write a bondage-filled story around it and do it right. Other times, I’d be shooting for a specific market – say, the barefoot bondage fans – and I’d need to create a logical reason why the woman is tied up and why her shoes are taken off. Other scripts are written specifically for a given model, the ones who can do comedy really well, or dramatic acting, or do on-screen tying, or some with minimal lines for the models who can’t really act.

What types of storylines do you prefer to write or direct for example, damsel in distress, love bondage, action adventure, mystery, or other?

I’ve always liked doing the conflict storylines, and the damsel-in-distress stories are my favorites. One nice thing about writing and directing videos as an ongoing job was I got to write in all sorts of genres (adventure, mystery, science fiction) and see the results in just a matter of days.

How do you approach models to work with you, i.e. run ads in newspapers, contact them via the internet, word of mouth, or other?

I was fortunate that Harmony was well-established when I came in, and they had connections to a few local modeling agencies. Also, some models referred other models to us, so there was never a shortage of talent. The real problem was there were just too many beautiful women who wanted to work with Harmony, and we never got to work with them as often as we’d like.

Do you and the models discuss code words or safety signals prior to the filming?

The first time I work with a model, I always give her “the first-time model talk,” no matter how experienced she may be, just to let her know what to expect. When we’re shooting video, I always give them the safe word “unh-uh,” since it’s virtually impossible to gag someone to the point where they can’t say that. (For stills, the safe word isn’t as important, just by the nature of the work.)

Do you let the models have input to the project before or during it?

Sometimes the models may have some good ideas, but usually what we’re doing is already written and fairly focused. I appreciate it when a model wants to add something to the project, and it only became a problem once, when a model tried to direct over me… I think I wrote about that in one of the “Tales From The Woods” columns in Bondage Life magazine.

When you complete a video and ready it for market, do you test screen it or not?

I’m afraid we weren’t that sophisticated. If we had, say, a segment with special effects or cool opening credits or funny outtakes or something like that, we might call the other directors over to take a look at it, but generally there wasn’t time for that. Sometimes, a bulletin would be mailed on Wednesday and we’d still be editing the video over the weekend so it could be duped on Monday.

Who (without naming names) was the most difficult model for you to work with?

I was usually the brave guy on the Harmony staff who’d work with new models, and sometimes it was great and I’d discover a new superstar, and other times it was horrendous. I think the most difficult ones to work with were the ones who had absolutely no clue what we were doing, no point of reference or no interest, and would thus require a lot of time-consuming direction… and even then, they might still not give you what you’d need for a decent video.

By the same token, who was the most professional model you enjoyed working with?

There are quite a few, and I’d hesitate to start listing names because I’m afraid I might leave someone out. The superstars are superstars for a reason… and it’s not just a professional demeanor but also great attitude, as well as a knowledge of what both the audience and director want to see.

How does it take to film a fetish video, i.e. hours, days, or weeks?

I used to write a script a few days (or sometimes one day) before the shoot. The shoot itself was usually four hours, although in some cases I’d shoot a drop-in bit here or there to add to the story. Editing times would vary on the project. Vignette tapes could be edited in a day or two. Regular stories might take a few days, depending on the complexity. Science fiction and (especially) superheroine stories with special effects were the most grueling. The last superheroine video I did took something like 60 hours to edit.

On the other hand, sometimes it takes a lot longer to finish a video. I was collecting scenes for “The Revenge of The Crooked Claw” for over two years before I finally got the whole thing finished.

How long does it take to photograph a fetish photo set i.e. hours, days, or weeks?

Most shoots are four hours, and I can usually get one set per hour. Sometimes it goes a little faster, depending on how quickly the model can get into wardrobe, how complex the tie is, and how much time we spend just laughing and bullshitting.

Whose photographic talents do you most admire, i.e. John Willie, Irving Klaw, Jay Edwards, Diana Arbus, Ansel Adams, or other?

Aside from the people I’d mentioned earlier, I really admire all those nameless photographers who used to do the covers for the old detective magazines. The bondage was, by today’s standards, pretty simple, but the images always had a tremendous energy and drama, which I admire.

How do you feel the internet helped or improve the fetish video industry?

I think it’s certainly been beneficial for the guys with more minor fetishes. If you had 100 bondage enthusiasts in a room, you’d probably get 100 different answers as to what their one special preference about bondage may be. These days, all of these people with “minor” interests have, if not at least one web-site dedicated to it, at least one Yahoo group where they can all get together and enjoy their specific fetish under the big bondage umbrella.

By the same token, how do you feel that it has hurt or harmed the fetish video industry?

It’s definitely changed the industry. In the pre-internet days there were only a handful of companies selling videos by mail order or through retail. Now, there are dozens of producers trying to find a market, making their videos available through mail order and streaming. Consequently, the customers aren’t limited to what’s available from just a few producers any more.

Why did you choose to work in the fetish video industry than the adult erotic industry?

As a bondage fetishist, I think I’d be bored senseless making a regular adult video. I hate to keep bringing up money, but it would be really nice to have the same kind of budget those guys have for a video. But on the other hand, it requires a very different personality type to do that kind of work, and I don’t think I’d be cut out for it.

Why is there a certain bias from the adult/erotic industry towards the fetish video industry?

I didn’t know there was, but if there is, I’d guess it’s because it’s such a small part of the industry, and they probably just don’t “get it.”

When you find or informed that one or several of your copyrighted still images and/or video clips are located on an unauthorized website, is it difficult to have it removed from that site? By the same token, do the viewers of that website believe you're endorsing the site?

A few years ago, I put up an almost nightly battle with piracy, with very limited success. I’ve likened it to trying to fistfight a tidal wave. But since I don’t work for Harmony any more, I don’t really confront the pirates any more. I hope anyone who sees anything I’ve done on an unauthorized site is savvy enough to realize that whoever’s running the site is a low-life parasite scum. They probably do, but don’t care as long as they’re getting free stuff.

What is your favorite binding/rigging to use on models, for example: leather restraints, nylon/cotton rope, metal cuffs, cloth strips, duct tape, or other?

I like cotton rope, unless I’m doing a suspension (which would require nylon rope or cuffs and chains). Nylon rope is good too, as long as it’s not too thick.

What is your favorite gags to silence models with, i.e. ball-gags, bit-gags, o-ring gags, cloth strips, duct tape, or other?

I like cleave-gags, ballgags and tape. The more high-fetish gags (bit-gags, dental gags, ring-gags, etc.) don’t do much for me, probably because they’re a little more difficult to work into a story or classic damsel-in-distress type of fantasy.

What is your favorite position to place models, i.e. the hog-tie, the standing/kneeing/sitting strappado, the frog-tie, the chair bound, or other?

That’s tough to say. I guess I may have been in the business so long I’ve lost track of my own personal favorites. Heck, why settle for one? Most bondage positions have something going for them.

Due to the constant competition from regular/cable t.v., adult/erotic and other fetish websites. Do you develop more sexually explicit photo sets and videos than when you first began your career?

I guess not. I suppose I’m sort of a purist, and now that I’m on my own, I could do things that were beyond my former employer’s guidelines. But even though I’ve recently worked with some models who’d be comfortable with full nudity or more erotic content, I haven’t really done much of that.

Since the release of 'Secretary' which dealt with fetish themes from a mainstream film company. Do you think that more mainstream film companies develop more love theme fetish films? When you see a mainstream film company release a documentary like 'Fetishes' or a fictional film like 'Secretary'. Do you feel that you could bring a creative vision or insight to the project because you're not the outsider looking in on the fetish community?

It’s just my opinion, but while some filmmakers embrace the counterculture of the fetish world, it’s probably not really becoming more mainstream. More likely it’s just the filmmakers looking for something new and sensational. Alternate lifestyles aren’t as taboo as they once were… 20 years ago there’d never be a show like “Queer As Folks” being produced, for example. But despite a lot more exposure of the gay lifestyle (and advances the gay community has had in things like same-sex marriages), it doesn’t change the negative opinion a lot people have of gays.

The same is true for people with fetishes. The vanilla community isn’t going to change their attitude about the fetish lifestyle. And look how bondage people are generally portrayed by Hollywood: they’re homicidal maniacs, or the punchline of a joke, or dysfunctional. And even if they’re shown in a documentary type of setting, it may be “positive,” but it still never rises very far above the freak show level.

I suppose I could give some insight to such a project, but would anyone outside the bondage community be interested? Someone with a “furry” or balloon-popping fetish (for example) might be able to give insights to their particular thing, but if it’s not something you’re personally into, it’s not going to change how you feel about it.

What advice would give to novice models, photographers, video directors, and webmasters entering the fetish industry?

For models: Determine your limitations and stick to them, and be sure you know who you’re working with and what they’re planning to do. For the guys, have passion for what you’re doing, have an idea of what you want to get out of this business (is this going to be your career, a hobby or a hobby that pays for itself?), learn your trade, be professional and respect the models.

Thank you for allowing the chance to interview you.

Bondage photos and DVDs by Jon Woods can be seen at  Bondage humor is featured at his free site