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We all have to get our start somewhere. For Men in Black director Barry Sonnenfeld, that start included being a cinematographer on porno movies, but he nonetheless learned some key things about moviemaking during his time working on X-rated material, particularly pertaining to one of the five basic senses.

While recently chatting about his new memoir, Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker, Barry Sonnenfeld mentioned how years before he penned the book, for his own “edification,” he wrote a chapter about the nine porno movies he worked on in just nine days right after graduating film school. When asked what the porn industry taught him that he could apply to mainstream filmmaking, Sonnenfeld responded:

It taught me that you should never release a movie with Smell-O-Vision because if anyone ever smelled a porn it would destroy the entire porn industry.

Uh, yeah, I can imagine, what with all the fluids involved. Still, even if Smell-O-Vision porno was off the table, I imagine such a gimmick for regular movies could still end up being problematic at times. It’s one thing for the visuals of a movie to be enhanced through various means, but if you throw in certain smells that aren’t pleasant as a way to further immerse audiences into the environment of the fictional story, that could be a turnoff.

Continuing in his interview with THR, Barry Sonnenfeld explained that the reason he jumped into pornos right after film school is that he was a sought-after cinematographers, and he felt if he bought a used 16 mm camera, he could call himself a cameraman without feeling like a “dilettante.” So he and one of his classmates bought such a camera together and rented it out to shoot those nine pornos, which ended up paying for approximately 60% of the entire cost of the camera.

In addition to walking away with thoughts on Smell-O-Vision, Barry Sonnenfeld also imparted some advice during his time in the porn industry. The filmmaker recalled:

I actually taught the porn guys something which was, all the sets were built in a loft on 17th Street and Fifth Avenue, and I convinced the producer-director to shoot out all the sets so that once we lit, let’s say the bedroom, we would shoot scene three from movie one, scene five from movie two, scene nine from movie seven, so that we shot out our sets. Basically, I brought block shooting to the porn industry.

Not long after working in adult entertainment, Barry Sonnenfeld was hired as the director of photography for the 1982 documentary In Our Water. After that, he was hired onto The Coen Brothers’ 1984 movie Blood Simple in the same position, and he went on to be the cinematographer for movies like Raising Arizona, Big and When Harry Met Sally.

Barry Sonnenfeld made his directorial debut with 1991’s The Addams Family, and along with returning for the sequel, Addams Family Values, his other notable directing credits include the first three Men in Black movies and Get Shorty. The last movie he helmed with 2016’s Nine Lives, which was met with mostly negative reception. Sonnenfeld opted out of shooting last year’s Men in Black: International because he doesn’t get along with the franchise’s producers.

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