Like something straight out of fiction, the beautiful antiquated Armory and Arsenal, once home to the San Francisco National Guard, sits across from a Middle America-looking gas station. The Armory was built to resemble a Moorish castle sometime in 1914 and has since been used for everything from San Francisco’s primary sports venue in the ’40s to the inside of several spaceships in the film Star Wars, as well as the odd stint as rehearsal space for a local opera company throughout the ’90s. But for most of the last 40-some years it sat vacant until BDSM pornography company Kink.com purchased it in its entirety for $14.5 million in 2006.
Since then, its high brick walls have kept out the murmurs of irate neighbors, concerned citizens and those who just didn’t understand the culture that surrounds BDSM and have become home to one of the most lucrative alternative pornography stops on the web. It didn’t take long for someone in Hollywood to notice the company, which stuck out like a sore thumb in San Francisco suburbia, either. After starring in the 2012 indie film About Cherry, James Franco contacted his friend and cinematographer Christina Voros to see if she’d want to shoot a documentary about the life of those who work at Kink after shooting several of the films scenes at The Armory.
“It’s always really important to me to have some sort of chemistry with my subjects when I’m doing doc work or something about the process of what I’m following that really speaks to me. So when he first brought up The Armory, I grizzled and thought, ‘I don’t know if I have anything to say’; I sort of passed judgment on the subject,” explained Voros, who was hours away from jumping onto a plane to screen the premiere of her now finished film Kink. Eventually Franco persuaded her to take a meeting at The Armory, where she found herself immediately fascinated. “The people that I met were really bright and really funny and really driven and very creative and incredibly relatable. I found myself fixated on how somebody ends up in that world as a director; what drives someone to become a director in pornography? I walked away from that first meeting knowing that there was an incredible story there that a lot of people don’t see and don’t expect to relate to and thought it would be fascinating to take this sort of foreign world and make it relatable.”