Sheena Shaw and John Stagliano discuss "Gooner School.'

Sheena Shaw & John Stagliano Talk ‘Gooner School’

“It’s edging on steroids (metaphorically).”

That’s how Medium described “gooning,” a porn theme that has its biggest showcase yet thanks to a new six-scene video from Evil Angel, Gooner School. Edging itself is the practice of repeatedly stopping oneself just shot of orgasm. Gooning takes such delayed gratification to an obsessive, intense, dominant new level. Sure, you may look like a goon doing it — hence the name — but it’s an experience you’ll never forget. The movie is just as memorable, featuring a tremendous cast and creative use of props like sex toys, hard candy, and cereal. To give you an inside look at Gooner School, we’ve edited together our two written interviews with the movie’s directors, Sheena Shaw and John Stagliano, as they discuss the gooning theme, their collaboration, the movie’s cast, and much more.

How would you define gooning?

Sheena Shaw: Gooning, I would define gooning as an obsessive self-masturbatory practice in which satisfaction is oftentimes delayed (to prolong the practice); other “props” may also be utilized. I would say the goal is to overwhelm oneself with various stimuli.

How did the Gooner School project come about?

John Stagliano: We did the scene with Sophia Burns and I noticed that Sheena was really good speaking as a dominant, criticizing my porn viewing. So we did a whole movie on that.

Talk about your scenes in Gooner School. Is there one that stands out most to you?

Sheena Shaw: I had a lot of fun with the entire cast; Sophia Burns and I shot the first scene however and I think that kind of set the precedent for the series. Tommy King and Gia Derza are both Queens loved by many a gooner for their epic asses (I felt honored to shoot Gia after her long hiatus . . . is that stupid?) and Aiden Starr is masterful in her cock control, so I expect anyone stroking to this to be a good little slut and show some creamy appreciation for her participation. It was a lot of fun.

John Stagliano: I particularly like the feeling in the Aiden Starr scene with Sheena, “Breakfast at Sheena,” but of course Tommy has that spectacular ass so that scene is special also. And Gia! and Sophia!

In some ways, the opening Gooner School scene seems like a throwback to the early days of Evil Angel, which often featured Stagliano in humorous gonzo roles. Was that an intentional homage?

Sheena Shaw: John is the OG; Original Gooner (and who better to do this movie with than with the OG). It would’ve been sacrilegious to have tried to do this movie without him.

John Stagliano: Hey, I like shooting porn. And I just shot stuff I think I can jerk off to. That has usually been my criteria, and in this case I really only wanted to shoot that, so it must have looked like a flashback!

Talk about the give and take of your collaboration on Gooner School.

Sheena Shaw: There were some conflicting moments where we needed to talk over one another . . . but I couldn’t do it without him. He’s my mentor and I’m so grateful to get the chance to learn.

John Stagliano: Well, despite the fact that I know so much more than her, I somehow managed to repress my ego and listen to her point of view on stuff. She knows how to turn me on so that helped a lot. Really, she led and I followed. She picked toys and types of actions and almost all the time I agreed, but I may have not wanted to do a few things, still I can never do all I want in a scene anyway, so it was easy to let her decide stuff. Really, I only commented on lighting and some stuff to make them more believable. She mostly she did her thing and I just shot it. And for a few years I have been looking at stuff she shot of herself, by herself, with the camera on a tripod. And she edits all this herself. I like what she shot and edited! And her tripods shots are never just one per scene, always many shots in each scene. I could see that she worked very hard.

How did you select the cast for Gooner School?

Sheena Shaw: Sophia, Aiden, and I are friends and I honestly like to work with people who I connect with and enjoy. Shocking, right . . . Tommy is highly fetishized by a portion of the gooner community and I thought it’d be a shameful thing to overlook; I also wanted to work with her again, she’s very easy going and good energy on set. Gia just has always really gotten my attention as a porn consumer and I figured I might offer my services to her as a camera. Well, she’s even better in person and I got REALLY lucky when she agreed to do a second scene for me for Gooner School. I could edit Gia movies forever . . .

Did you have any disagreements on casting?

Sheena Shaw: Ah, I tried making “Breakfast at Sheena’s” a many-girl scene and he was resistant to that concept . . . until we finished filming for the day and he conceded that it could’ve worked.

In an AVN piece about Gooner School, Stagliano is quoted as saying “[Sheena] knows nasty porn, and she is sexy as hell. She certainly knows ass.” What’s the key to finding the perfect combination of nasty and sexy in a movie?

Sheena Shaw: Oh, that’s entirely personal preference (which can change in the moment). I’m sorry, even my boundaries are incredibly flexible.

In that same AVN interview, John, you noted that Sheena Shaw “certainly knows ass.” What do you think is the key to crafting a memorable butt-centric porn scene? What filmmaking traits does Shaw possess that make her such a skilled practitioner of the genre?

John Stagliano: Sheena knows ass, and anal sex. That is how she knows how to shoot it well. Anyone who does not know ass, love ass, get turned on by most aspects of ass, should not be shooting it.

Several of the scenes involve creative use of food. What gave you the idea for the jawbreaker candy sequence?

Sheena Shaw: I just love putting sweets in my ass. The sugar rush is great and it’s fun. I enjoy the entire process, getting clean enough to do it, sharing with people . . . it’s really just sexual playing. I’m a foodie (a skinny-ass one I know). I love food . . . why not involve it in sex; it can be interesting. Then again, I’ve always been one of those awful people who eat in bed so . . . obviously I don’t mind a few crumbs.

Which prop or toy do you think played out most memorably in Gooner School?

Sheena Shaw: Cereal . . . just cereal.

John Stagliano: I particularly liked the toy in her ass sticking out but covered by her panties, and with her arch that became a favorite of mine. As well the double fisting was amazing!

On a technical level, what was the hardest part of shooting Gooner School?

John Stagliano: The hardest part was dealing with the sun shining through my skylights. Slashes of sunlight moved across my floor as we shot. Exposure has to be manual because of that, and the natural light is all over the place. That is always my biggest concern anyway, properly, and beautifully exposing and framing images. As well as getting good sound, all this is important!

Do you find it difficult to be a director and also a performer in a movie?

Sheena Shaw: No, I’m bossy. I find it much more difficult not to direct.

When directing do you always have a clear vision of what you want to see or do you let it play out with the actors on set?

John Stagliano: I always have a reason why I want to shoot someone. As well I know what they do well — that is what I usually want to shoot the most, as well as shooting what I know I will get off on later.

How do you make cast and crew feel comfortable on set?

Sheena Shaw: Oh, I just let everyone know, “If you need anything, let me know . . . take your time, communicate. I’m open and here to listen.”

John Stagliano: The key to making the crew comfortable during a shoot is to let them stay home! I have no crew! People like me and I get a good scene, or they don’t and I sometimes have to struggle!

How much feedback do you give the cast that’s on your set?

John Stagliano: Some feedback but off camera usually. But I am aware I talk to much. I try to let the talent know I like something as I am shooting, then I usually get more of it!

Gooner School comprises six scenes and more than 180 minutes of action. In these days of diminishing attention spans and tube sites, do you ever worry that the long-form porn movie is an endangered species?

Sheena Shaw: As we evolve, so will porn. Amen.

John Stagliano: Yes, I worry that long form is not what people want, so you will notice that there are four sex scenes and two scenes that are mostly tease, with only a little sex. Those teasing scenes could have been part of a another scene and made it longer but because I personally worry about that so I changed, I don’t know if that will work — I will try and find out.

John, you are famous for pioneering gonzo pornography. More than thirty years after the genre gained prominence, what’s your take on the state of gonzo porn?

John Stagliano: Well, first off, gonzo is not just a sex scene without a feature story, look up the word. It was invented to describe the writing of Hunter Tompson, where in interviews he interjected his own evaluation of the interview, so he became part of it. Gonzo is defined by a recognition of the camera and camera man and also by the evidence of the cameraman’s response to the girl or the sex. That is not what is called gonzo today, and often movies that are not up to that standard are called gonzo when we always used to call them Wall to Wall in the past. The really great thing is that today the performer will often look right into the camera people often encourage that in wall to wall and even in features sometimes when it makes no sense. It almost always helps people relate to the girl better and makes for a better scene.

Porn is better today than ever, it is harder. And most of all it is more about showing off the girl’s body. Back in the ’80s and the ’90s, back when we were worried about the guy getting a hard-on naturally, we focused on the relationship between the man and woman. Today it is more about the girls showing off, and I like that way better!

What recent porn trend or theme do you find the most fascinating?

John Stagliano: The trend today to family relations porn does not work for me at all. I don’t get that extra kick that it seems many people do by thinking they are with someone from a family. That is not a turn on to me. But I see that it turns some people on; I just don’t want to shoot it because I would not have good insights into what works in that regard.

I like show-off sex, like girls shoot of themselves on clip sites. That is a great trend. As well I don’t really like most features. I always say shooting a feature, spending the extra money on props, dialogue, story, should be focused on making the sex hotter somehow. I don’t see that often.

Many stars and industry figures have penned autobiographies and memoirs. Do you envision yourself doing that someday?

John Stagliano: I write all the time now. Sometimes about myself — that may be published some day. But I won’t ever have a co-writer or talk to a writer; that is not my style. Maybe people will not ever see my writing, but I don’t want ever to be fake, and I don’t need money so I may not publish anything other than the novel I am now working on.

What do you miss most of about the earliest days of your career in porn? What do you miss the least?

John Stagliano: What I miss about the old days of porn was that then you always assumed that people could make their own decisions and you could respect them for that. Today you have to assume that if you are in a position of power that people will make a decision based on manipulating you into hiring them! Maybe that did happen in the past but you didn’t have to worry about them not taking responsibility for their actions and canceling you . . .

What’s next for Sheena Shaw?

Sheena Shaw: I’m working on a few things . . . I’m also considering some more collaborative works right now. I just need more time (but I love being busy).

Watch Gooner School on Adult Empire VOD >>


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