Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Story Of Joe Francis And His GGW Franchise

Joseph R. "Joe" Francis (born April 1, 1973) is the founder of Mantra Films, Inc., which produces the Girls Gone Wild and Guys Gone Wild DVD series. Francis, who grew up in Laguna Beach, California, graduated from the University of Southern California in 1995 with a degree in Business Administration. He also completed USC’s Entrepreneur Program.

After graduating from USC, Francis worked in various capacities in television production, eventually landing a job as production assistant for TV series Real TV, which aired footage of unusual events not routinely covered by mainstream network news at the time. While working at Real TV, Francis learned of a compilation video which was popular with the production staff containing footage that was considered too extreme for network TV viewers, including those of Real TV. Francis believed that there were commercial possibilities with a video of that kind and edited the video tape and named it Banned from Television, which featured (among other things), a little girl and her mother being struck by a speeding train. He used a business direct-marketing plan he created in college and sold individual video cassettes of the title.

Banned From Television was considered a commercial success and it spawned other sequels. One of the videos which Francis had licensed, contained footage of female college students flashing their breasts during Mardi Gras and Spring Break. Seeing the marketing appeal, he titled that footage Girls Gone Wild (GGW). He eventually stopped licensing the materials and began producing it himself.

The videos have themes such as Girls Gone Wild: Ultimate Spring Break or Girls Gone Wild: Sexy Sorority Sweethearts and are marketed to young adult men. They are chiefly sold via television mail order and are frequently advertised on late-night television infomercials, with a brief "warning" message as a disclaimer before the commercial begins.

In 1997, at the age of 24, Francis founded Mantra Films, Inc. Building on the discovered premise that he could film college-age women "going wild," including baring their breasts for the cameras at spring breaks and other locales, Mantra became a company with over 400 employees and has recorded sales in excess of $100 million per year. Mantra also spun off the Guys Gone Wild DVD series.

In the world of pop culture, Francis' Girls Gone Wild is regularly referenced in today’s society and pop culture atmosphere and was recently cited as an example of "sexualization," number 23 on USA Today's list of the "25 Trends that Changed America".

As a public figure, Francis has attracted his share of controversies, including allegations of conspiracy to use minors in sexual performances, and allegations in the Los Angeles Times of violence towards women. In a well-publicized case, Francis was kidnapped from his Bel Air home by an assailant who also tried to blackmail Francis. The assailant received a 10-year sentence.

Francis is often criticized by social commentators and third wave feminists for perpetuating what some consider "the new double standard" which equates the objectification of women with sexual liberation.

Mantra films has come under legal attack on a number of occasions. Recurring allegations include that women engaged in sexual activity were used without the consent of the women, that Mantra films engaged in sexual exploitation of minors and that incomplete records were kept of participants in GGW videos. Today the videos, which sell for as little as $9.99 apiece, contribute to a total sales figure of almost $100 million per year for Mantra Films, Inc.

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