Never accept a job without knowing what your work will be used for. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself for being part of something like this.
As one might imagine, a degree in Film doesn't immediately lead to job offers. At the age of 23, I was desperately looking for a job - any job, really - but if I could find one that used my talents and my passion, I'd be ecstatic. When I refreshed the job section of Craigslist and saw, "Cameraman Wanted" with an email address, I shot off an email as fast as I could and within an hour I heard back.
After a brief email exchange, the next day I ended up interviewing with a thin, well-dressed man in a beautiful midtown apartment. The man, who introduced himself as Andrew, was polite and straightforward. "Do you have any moral issues with homosexuality and filming homosexual acts?" he asked, studying me for a reaction.
I thought for a minute. I really didn't want to be involved with porn. The gay thing didn't bother me; my brother's gay, but I worried getting myself involved in the porn industry would look bad on my resume. Still, I was broke. I told him it was no problem. Andrew smiled and discussed some of the specifics of what the job entailed.
To my surprise, Andrew revealed himself as someone who will be participating in the sex acts I'd be filming. He led me to his enormous bedroom and bathroom and said that all the filming will be in one or both of those places. Andrew opened a closet and revealed some extremely high-end camera equipment. Everything I'd shoot would be in 4k. "Visitors to my site like to see detail," he explained. It turns out Andrew was the proprietor of a porn site that charged an insanely high amount of money for membership, but people from around the world subscribed in droves. We parted ways, with him shaking my hand and offering me the position. The pay was nearly five times what I'd expected.
I arrived at Andrew's apartment the next Monday. Andrew was there with a young man who appeared to be about my age. Andrew called him Danny. Danny hadn't been on camera before and seemed nervous. Andrew offered him some whiskey, which he happily accepted. After I set up the cameras in the bedroom, Andrew asked Danny to go get ready. He left for the bathroom with a bag.
Andrew gestured to me to go into the bedroom and he followed. He reminded me that his customers liked detail, which meant lots of close-ups. I acknowledged this as Danny entered the room. He was naked aside from a pair of baggy white underwear. He walked nervously to the bed and sat down. Andrew smiled and told me to start filming.
As the camera recorded, I captured the action as best as I could. The whole act took less than ten minutes, culminating in Andrew ferociously thrusting into Danny's prone body and grunting with a short, violent orgasm. As Andrew withdrew, he slightly beckoned me to zoom in on Danny's butt to show the aftermath. Once I'd gotten it into focus, I closed my eyes. A small amount of blood dripped onto the pastel sheets.
The shoot was over and Andrew thanked me and handed me an envelope with $500 cash inside. "We will do five of these a week," he told me. "I'm going to review your work tonight, and if it's up to my standards, it'll be you manning the camera every day." I smiled and nodded eagerly just as Danny emerged from the bathroom. He was fully dressed but he had tears in his eyes. Before he left, he rushed in to hug Andrew. "Thank you," he sobbed as they embraced. Andrew said nothing.
I left with Danny and rode with him in the elevator. He was still crying. Out of concern, I asked if he was hurt and he softly laughed and said, "no, I'm not hurt at all. I'm happy." When I said he didn't look particularly happy, he just quietly told me, "I finally feel like I'm part of something now."
Months passed and I filmed Andrew with different men every working day. Most of the men were just like Danny: nervous and teary but all claiming happiness and a sense of belonging after the shoot was done. I had a niggling suspicion that Andrew was filling their heads with relationship hopes, but there was no way I was getting involved with that, especially when Andrew was effectively paying off my student loans faster than my whole time at college took.
This morning, Andrew's door was locked. I called him a few times but each one went directly to voicemail. Confused, I left. When I got home, I was bored out of my skull. Fully prepared for an afternoon of Netflix, I opened my browser to the default news site and gasped when I saw Andrew's face below the garish headline "PREDATOR!" I clicked the link.
Andrew had been arrested for paying all those men to have sex with him. In fact, these men had all come to Andrew after hearing of his website, prettylittlebugs.com. As I read the article, I realized why all the men were so grateful after their shoot. He had something they wanted desperately and he was willing to not only give it to them, but to pay them for the opportunity to put the moment on his website.
The article said that the men Andrew featured in his films were known as "bug chasers" and they represented a vanishingly-small subset of gay culture. Andrew's website catered to that subculture and to others simply attracted to the concept and willing to pay to watch. All the men I filmed were "chasing the bug," I learned. If they found it, the article claimed, they felt like they belonged to something bigger than them. A community they could connect to and find support in. Andrew's role was to help them find that bug and that support. Andrew was HIV positive.
Credited to Max Aaron