Life & Culture

Noel Alejandro: The filmmaker creating waves in gay porn

With the release of his new film Call me a Ghost, independent filmmaker, Noel Alejandro is fast becoming one of the most promising creators of adult gay movies. With his unique talent, Noel is breaking the mold by creating new forms of gay pornography that blur the lines that separate porn from art. caught up with Noel in his hometown of Barcelona to talk about the philosophy of his films.

You direct independent gay porn movies. What is your problem with mainstream pornography?
I have no problem with mainstream pornography at all. I am a consumer of mainstream porn, and I love it! But the question is: why do 99% of porn movies all look the same? How come nobody is doing things differently? When I worked with indie adult filmmaker Erika Lust some years ago, I noticed what porn can also be. There is so much more to explore.
Would you call your films pornography?
Well, I wouldn't call my work porn, I see it more as kind of independent cinema. But of course, I don’t want to lie to anybody. I know I am making sex films, but real sex doesn't exist in mainstream cinema. All the sex scenes are cut, and the actors don't really have convincing sex, and it was frustrating for me to figure this out. Why is it not possible to show real sex in films? Why is it not possible to just make a regular movie – combining good storytelling with intense feelings and real, authentic sex? Maybe we have to create a new genre of sex films here. I noticed that most people don't know how to label my movies, they call my work soft porn. But they are not soft porn, my films include explicit sex.

"Most people do not know how to label my films. They call my films soft porn. But they are not soft porn, my films include explicit sex."

What did you learn from working with Erika Lust? What can gay pornography learn from feminist pornography?
What I learned from Erika Lust was that porn can be entirely different. There are still a lot of things to experiment with, and maybe, this is what feminism is trying to show us. There is always something more to explore, including different fields of sexuality. But again, there's nothing wrong with mainstream gay porn, as long as there is an alternative as well.
What is your opinion about bareback in porn films?
The base of my philosophy is that I am making cinema, not porn. So what is cinema? Cinema is fiction. You are telling a story in the way you need it to be told. I'm not here to teach anybody, and I don’t want to have this responsibility. Most of the time I let my actors choose if they want to use condoms or not, and it's fine for me if they do it without. Of course, they get tested before and sometimes the actors are couples, and they already know each other for a long time. It's entirely up to them, they're adults like we are all adults and they know what they're doing.
.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 97%;height: 100%; }
"thank you..". by Noel Alejandro Trailer from Noel Alejandro on Vimeo.
Is there a script for your films? Are the actors free in what they do and how they act?
Yes, there is a script. It is almost impossible to make a film without one. But I try to give freedom to the actors for improvisation, most of them are not professional actors, and sometimes improvisation really is necessary - it can make the film much more natural.
Where do you get your stories from?
The stories of my films are directly linked to my life. Everything I do is a mix of what I experience in life. Inspiration can be found everywhere; in the movies I watch, in the music I listen to, in the emotions I feel. Everything that inspires you can create a story in your mind.
Porn activists like Tim Stüttgen, Laura Mérrit or Beatriz Paul Preciado pointed out that porn always is political. Are there any political statements or issues in your films?
Everything I do is kind of political, and so are my movies. I want to show that sex can be something very positive. When most of the world is against gay sex and homosexuality, it's vital to show sex - and especially gay sex - as what it is: something natural, great and amazing.
It is vital to show gay sex as what it is: something natural, great and amazing.
Your new movie 'Call me a Ghost' will be released soon. What can viewers expect?
My new movie is a quite dark: it's about depression. However, it's a beautiful and sad movie at the same time. This is kind of new I guess: a sad, sex film, but it's still erotic! The actor's performance is stunning, Valentin Braun is particularly impressive. I really enjoyed working with him, and I hope that people will love our work too.

Love to see more of Noel's work? No problem!
Check out Noel Alejandro's films here or follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
All images © 2013 - 2016 Noel Alejandro

Life & Culture

The changing face of London’s gay Soho

London’s gay scene has undergone significant changes in recent years, but there’s still much to enjoy, says Alex Hopkins.

I still remember my first visit to Old Compton Street, at the heart of London’s gay Soho. I was 18, covered in acne (badly caked over using excessive amounts of cheap concealer), wearing a bright orange fake-silk shirt and a too-tight pair of jeans. Like so many things, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I was yet to come out but knew from gay folklore that Soho was the place for all young gay people to go. It promised a nirvana, a world free of prejudice; I soon became addicted.

Over the next ten years I think it’s fair to say that I was mentioned in the fire instructions of many of the gay bars in Soho – and back then, there were plenty of them, catering to every conceivable taste. It was the 1990s, the internet was young, and LGBT bars and clubs were still the focal points of the community. Yes, there was Gaydar, but if you wanted to get laid, the most obvious place was in a gay venue. Things were thriving.

Fast forward another decade, and London’s LGBT landscape is barely recognisable. Scores of venues have closed all over the city, rocked by spiralling property prices. The economic reality is incredibly tough for small, independent businesses who are falling victims to the chains which now dominate the once quirky streets. This has happened in East London and now the Vauxhall gay village, but nowhere has been harder hit than Soho.

Last year, Ben Walters, writing in the Guardian reported that more than a dozen LGBT spaces had closed in the capital, while a handful of other LGBT establishments were at risk. The Yard, one of Soho’s most popular gay bars, has fought a long and public battle against closure, while The Black Cap – though not in Soho but nearby Islington and one of the city’s most iconic LGBT venues – sadly lost its fight in April 2015.

It’s not, however, just a matter of rising rents and the onslaught of luxury housing: the dominance of gay hookup apps means that people are certainly going out less. But as the author Timothy Graves observed: "It may be tempting to sit at home flipping through countless profiles on your iPhone, chemed-up on a cocktail of drugs while waiting for some random to turn up at your doorstep. But is it as much fun as dancing the night away with friends or opening up to the potential for that chance encounter with someone you like?"  

We may be able to do little about extortionate property prices, but all LGBT people can vote with their feet by supporting the remaining establishments as much as possible. In doing so, we can help preserve them for the next generation of gay people who are looking for more fulfilling first-time experiences than swiping at anonymous torsos on a Smartphone. Strange, isn’t it, we live in a world which has never been so well connected by technology, and yet so many of us feel more disconnected than ever. The good news, however, is that there are still some important and vibrant LGBT bars in Soho offering us all the space to create those life-affirming connections. Here’s my pick:

The Yard
The Yard is truly unique – and needs to survive! Set around a courtyard – great in the summer – it’s on two levels, offering cocktails, exceptionally hot bar staff and a great meeting space for friends, fun and frolics.  57 Rupert Street, London, W1D 7PL

The Friendly Society
One of gay Soho’s best kept secrets is set on a tiny alley where prostitutes still ply their trade – you can’t get more traditional Soho than that! Politely rebuff the ladies’ advances and descend into this delightfully quirky bar with super cool tunes, a goldfish tank and Barbie dolls stapled to the ceiling.  79 Wardour Street, London, W1D 6QG
Soho just wouldn’t be the same without the venerable Comptons. It’s been going since 1986, and what you see is what you get:  no attitude and men – much like the building – who are big and built to last. 51-53 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 6HN

Molly Moggs
Molly Moggs, set on the corner of Old Compton Street and Charing Cross Road, is a Soho institution. There’s cabaret every night of the week from the best drag queens in the business. It’s tiny, very friendly and things can get wonderfully messy –
which is just how Soho should be, of course.  2 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 4TA


Sex, Dating & Love

New Year, New Love:'s Get-Your-Guy Tips

Looking for love? Tired of finding guys that match and getting no responses? Well, with the right attitude, it’s not so difficult to get men falling at your virtual door. Finding what you're looking for will only work if you’re prepared to put a little effort into your profile. If you’re looking for a steady relationship, check out's get-your-guy tips.
You’re not one-dimensional
Knowing how to put your head above the parapet in a sea of online guys can be difficult, but it isn’t rocket science. Before starting have a think about your profile text as it often gets overlooked during the sign-up process. We’re so busy filling in our stats and uploading photos that we forget to think about ourselves as a person.
Captivate your audience 
How much time you spend getting ready to go out. An hour perhaps? It’s not surprising that most people only spend about 10 minutes filling out the text in their profile. Your profile is your shop window, use it. Writing a few paragraphs about you, what makes you interesting and what you’re looking for will speak volumes. Captivate your audience to intrigue them enough to want to get in touch. If you’re not sure what to write, ask a friend to give you tips about your best qualities - we all have some! But above all, be honest about what you’re looking for and showing some humour will go a long way, too.
When online, most of us search by certain criteria to ensure we get the right matches. Attract potential partners by selecting some interests and sexual preferences on your profile, this way you can ensure that both of you like the same things, whether it be going on romantic weekends away, sharing the same political views or doing certain sporting activities. Also, think about completing the 'confessions' area of your profile, it's an easy way to show others about you as a person.
Get a fake check
Getting fake checked will show other guys that you’re real and serious about finding a partner. It’s free, quick and easy to do, plus you get a little green tick by your profile name.
Spring clean your profile photos
Now you’ve nailed the bit about you, think about how you behave when scouring thumbnails for someone online. I can’t stress this enough: your photos are incredibly important when showing yourself online. Deciding on the best and most flattering shot of you can be a bit tricky, so below are 10 handy tips to help you get your profile as many hits as possible.
1. Use a recent photo

If you’ve grown a beard, lost a few pounds, cut your hair since your last ‘official’ photo - get an update. Getting in front of someone when all they have to go on is an old photo has the potential drive them away.

2. Try to get someone else to take the photo

Selfies are a great phenomenon but sometimes it can be hard to get the right picture without looking like someone that’s had a personality transplant. Getting a friend to take your photo will bring out the sparkle in your eye and capture you when you’re at your most relaxed.

3. Choose a good background

A picture of some guy on webcam with their laundry strewn all over the floor (or in front of the bathroom mirror with the flash on) doesn’t cut it for a profile pic. In fact, it screams dull, boring and someone that has made a half-arsed attempt. Try to put some thought into the background: it doesn’t have to be in front one of the seven wonders of the world, but interesting enough to not detract from the real focus, you!
4. Keep it simple

Having two great photos will win over 64 mediocre ones any day.
5. Get the lighting right

Lighting is important as the wrong light can change a face. Overhead lighting tends to create some harsh shadows on the face turning the most expressive part - your eyes - into bottomless pits. Try to get some window light, avoid direct sunlight and light from a lamp that illuminates you from a slightly higher angle on the side.

6. Photos of you and your mates/kids/nieces/nephews

Apart from being confusing as to who’s who, there’s no point in showing off your friend as the better catch (and kids are just plain wrong in any case).

7. Cropping

You may have a photo with your ex that you look fabulous in, but seriously - cropping or blanking out people is a big no-no. It would take more time on Photoshop to cut him or her out that it would to simply take a new photo.

8. Filters

Yep, I’m guilty of using profile photos with filters, but on the whole, filters are despised in these circumstances other than for arty shots. If you’re gonna use them, use sparingly as filtered images have the potential of making someone look completely different than in the flesh.
9. Have at least one 'interesting' picture

We can see that you're sexy but try to give something else to help start a convo. Posting a picture of you doing an activity will help you stand out and help break the ice. It will also give more insight as to you as a person.
10. Smile! 

Time and time again it's been proved that smiley people do better in profile photo responses than those who don’t.  So show your pearly whites and dazzle!

All in all, think of what you find attractive in a picture of a guy you fancy and study it. But one last word of cautionary advice, when it comes to profile images try to avoid using your genitals as a means of introducing yourself online as it screams ‘sex date’ and assumes that the other person isn’t bothered about what you look like. Yep, cocks are important, but when it comes to finding love, your face (and your personality) is the clincher. Good luck!