When it comes to adult films, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If you’re like most people, it’s going to be the stunningly sexy actresses. For others, you might even mention the colorful dialogue or unique surroundings and plot. The one thing you may never think of is the editing that goes into adult film… crafting the raw footage and audio tracks into a seamless production that captures the director’s vision while entertaining the audience. Sonny Malone is an award-winning adult film editor who recently shared with me a bit about her career and what goes on “behind the scenes” to take professional adult films from the shoot to the screen.
C.J. Asher – First of all, thank you for this interview! Tell me a little about yourself, Sonny…
Sonny Malone – Thank you! I’m always honored when someone wants to know about my work and me! I have been editing adult films for over 25 years. I am originally from Massachusetts, but moved a lot as kid; New Hampshire, Ohio, Chicago and eventually landed in Los Angeles with my family. They all moved back east and I stayed here to study film and post production. I have a degree in film and television production and post production yet my mother steered me towards accounting to; ‘have something to fall back on’.
C.J. Asher – Early on in your career you worked as an accountant, how did you move from that into the adult film industry?
Sonny Malone – After working at a major studio in the accounting department, mom’s idea, I ended up becoming the vice president of finance at a startup post house. This new thing called the AVID was rolled in and I started to help, then do all, the editing. I was on the phone with the AVID Tech Staff in Tewksbury a lot that first year just tweaking the software. We happened to have a lot of adult film clients. When the place folded, Sin City was one of our main clients and they wanted to hire our editor. It was me, the rest is history.
C.J. Asher – I read that you also performed stand-up comedy; tell me a bit about that and where you performed.
Sonny Malone – I had a friend of mine say I was ‘so funny’ I should do stand up. I took her seriously and got a coach, Greg Dean, and he taught me everything. The best thing he taught my group and I was how to read an audience, which saved my life on many nights. I did shows at the usual LA places: Comedy Store and Laugh Factory. We did our showcases at a place called Igby’s, which is sadly gone now. I was pretty well known as the “Porn Chick” because I would do comedy relating to editing porn.
C.J. Asher – Besides editing, what other areas of adult entertainment have you worked in?
Sonny Malone – I’ve tried just about everything: I shot my own solo girl series, been a PA, been on camera talent as an MC for a nightclub, but editing is my passion. I also shoot behind the scenes for one client which is a lot of fun.
C.J. Asher – What’s the most common misconception about the adult film industry that you hear from people outside of it?
Sonny Malone – Usually that the talent is mistreated or all on drugs and we’re forcing girls to do things, blah blah blah. That’s from the people that are scared of what we do. Or they think the girls are just 24/7 sluts and all they want to ever do is have sex. They don’t realize this is a business. We are just trying to pay the bills like everyone else.
C.J. Asher – What television shows are you into right now?
Sonny Malone – Downton Abbey. So sad it’s gone! I am totally into costume dramas. Also watching The People Vs. OJ Simpson. I lived through all that mess and I still can’t believe it when I watch it. Ru Paul’s Drag Race, already rooting for Bob the Drag Queen! Can’t live without that. Empire. LIVING for Empire!
C.J. Asher – Educate our readers on what the process is for editing an adult film, from the raw footage to finished product.
Sonny Malone – When I get the footage, usually I need to convert it into something I can edit from the raw files. If there is a script, I print that up and read it while the files convert. Once they are converted, I move the files into bins for each scene and go from there. I will start with the dialogue, which is usually the hard (fun!) part for me. I really do edit for emotion and storytelling, I had one shot I really wanted in this one movie, I mean the actor was just looking off into the distance while a girl was talking to him. The 80’s thing to do is to cut to the person talking every time, but I stayed on this guy’s face. Sold the director on it, the look he was giving just gave you the story. Editing the actual sex: is it in focus? Sound good? Lit right? It becomes very technical but also, is it hot. Hotness does need to be there!
C.J. Asher – How does film editing differ from adult film and mainstream editing?
Sonny Malone – Usually because it’s just me in a room alone sending clips or timelines to directors. I sit at my desk at home and if I need a break, I go to the living room, pet the dog and talk to my girlfriend. At one point, I was trying to get more clients because I thought I wasn’t working enough. My girlfriend told me to keep track of my hours for one week and I logged over 70 hours. I work a lot and didn’t realize it! In mainstream, there are about five people in the room pretty much telling you your every move. You might have some time for a rough cut, but then it’s usually editing by committee. Never really liked that. Not to mention the hours spent at the post house. One place I knew had a chef on call 24/7, a living room and a room with beds for sleeping. It was like living at work. Not for me at all.
C.J. Asher – What’s the most difficult part about editing an adult movie?
Sonny Malone – Trying to take what is in the director’s head and put it on the screen. I might see it one way and put it out there, then the director gives me their direction. Trying to make our minds match sometimes takes a few swings, but I usually get it right… or try to!
C.J. Asher – What’s the favorite adult movie you’ve edited?
Sonny Malone – “The Walking Dead” for Burning Angel. I shot behind the scenes for that as well and the detail that went into the feature was really something! It came out so good! Also, “Devil in Miss Jones” with Jenna Jameson. It was the best Paul Thomas had ever shot up to that point and he let me just run with it. I am very proud of it and its one move I won an award for.
C.J. Asher – What nominations and awards have you received?
Sonny Malone – I’ve received multiple nominations but I have two AVN Awards for Best Editing and I am in the AVN Hall of Fame. I am actually the only editor in the Hall of Fame. I’m really proud of that.
C.J. Asher – What mainstream editing projects have you, or would you, like to work on?
Sonny Malone – I’ve worked with Yale University on a piece about Tanzania, worked on a project called The Wedding Matters about same sex marriage. Currently working on a documentary about larger girls riding in the AIDS Ride from San Francisco to LA. I’m really excited to dive in to that one! Also edited a few infomercials back in the day. Worked for Evil Dick from Big Brother on his web show. Shot and edited the behind the scenes for a photo competition in Las Vegas. Edited a commercial for an East Coast bed and breakfast specializing in weddings and honeymoons. An editor edits, always.
C.J. Asher – Who are your idols and who has had the most influence on your career in adult film?
Sonny Malone – Okay, one idol in mainstream, Thelma Schoonmaker. She has been with Martin Scorsese since Raging Bull and she is just amazing. When I first got into adult, I saw that Vivid was THE place to work and Paul Thomas was THE director to work for. I worked for the company for eight years and Paul taught me just about everything I know. I’ve grown since leaving there, but would not have gotten far without the good solid base and encouragement Paul gave me.