The Economics of Evil: An Interview with John Stagliano

John Stagliano is equal parts artist and economist. This unique blend provided the foundation of his Evil Angel empire. For the first six years of his career as a pornographic director in the mid-1980s, Stagliano produced films for companies who often didn’t even bother to list his name on the box cover. While this upset his artist sensibilities, it was his training as an economist that saw a new way to sell films.

“The structure of Evil Angel was something that I conceived of as a better way to incentivize directors to make a good product. I didn’t want to own the product I sold. I wanted the director to be vested in making a better product.”

Stagliano launched Evil Angel in 1988. Instead of hiring contract performers, Evil Angel focused on recruiting and branding a stable of directors whose films they distributed. Because directors would finance, produce, control, and own their films, they were more invested in producing quality films. As a result of Stagliano’s vision, Evil Angel has become the premier distributor for edgy, hardcore content. The list of directors who have worked for the company reads like a catalogue of adult industry legends: Belladonna, Dana Vespoli, Sean Michaels, Manuel Ferrara, Nacho Vidal, Lexington Steele, James Deen, Christoph Clark, Kevin Moore, Jonni Darkko, and Mike Adriano.

In college, Stagliano studied English, journalism, engineering, theater, playwriting, and dance before majoring in economics at UCLA. In the early 1970s, Stagliano dabbled in writing erotic fiction, nude modeling, and acting in hardcore 8mm loops. Then, in 1979 he began a four-year run as a Chippendales dancer while he did economics research during the day. In 1983 Stagliano invested his savings in producing his first pornographic film, “Bouncing Buns.” For the next six years, he directed 40 movies for other companies before founding Evil Angel in 1989. That first year, he produced 11 films, including “Adventures of Buttman.” Employing a POV technique new to porn, the film is largely credited with sparking the gonzo porn revolution. It’s not surprising then that gonzo has become the trademark style of Evil Angel in its near three decades of existence.

I caught up with Stagliano to discuss his Evil Empire at the 2017 AVN Awards in Las Vegas.

Alfie: What lessons did you take from your years of studying economics that served you well in porn?

Read the full, uncensored and X-rated interview here: