If you want something done, sometimes you’re just going to have to do it yourself. At least, that’s Passionflix co-founder Joany Kane’s motto. Passionflix, a romance-on-demand platform dedicated to streaming both classic and original romance movies 24/7, truly started as a passion project for Kane along with Tosca Musk and Jina Panebianco.
“We love romance novels, and there was no place to go watch them. It just didn’t exist,” Musk says in an interview with Starry Constellation Magazine. “We wanted to take something that was near and dear to us and turn those into movies in the same way that an author would envision their movie being made.”
It’s clearly working. “I was so nervous to watch the movie,” admits Alessandra Torre, author of Hollywood Dirt, which became the first-ever original film to premiere on Passionflix. “The first fifteen minutes, I was all nerves and fear. Then, with each line, each laugh, each smoldering moment between [my characters] Cole and Summer, I felt relaxed. I fell in love. The film absolutely matched my vision. I see new things every time I watch it, and I fall a little more in love with it each time.”
She notes that she was involved in the process from the very beginning, including giving notes on the screenplay, being involved in casting decisions, and even discussing wardrobe choices. Kane, who has written all of the adaptations so far, understands the cruciality of author input. “It is important to me and Passionflix to work closely with the author and to make sure they’re excited about the process and about the cinematic interpretation of their story.”
Torre couldn’t agree more. “Passionflix sold me on the idea that they would make the movie as true to the novel as possible and would keep me involved to ensure that happened. They absolutely delivered on that promise. They truly let me sit in the front seat with them on every stage of the film, and there was no feeling on earth as surreal as when I was on set, headset on, script in hand watching them film.”
One thing that makes Passionflix so successful is that every person who works with them appreciates how special it is, from the authors to the producers to the actors themselves. “These are women’s favorite books,” says The Matchmaker’s Playbook star Nick Bateman. “It’s a genius idea.” His co-star Christina DeRosa echoes the sentiment. “The fact that [the movies] already have a following—I mean, there you go. Passionflix is very smart. They know what they’re doing. The fans are going nuts.”
The fans have been an integral part of Passionflix since the very beginning. Before its launch, Musk and her team raised almost $5 million in seed funding. Many romance diehards also opted to become founding members, pre-paying for a two-year subscription to get perks, such as premiere invitations, set visits, and walk-on roles.
“I recognized the vision and immediately knew this was a worthwhile endeavor,” says founding member Annalise Delany. “As founding members, we’ve been absolutely treated like family.”
The word “family” comes up a lot when interviewing Passionflix fans. It quickly becomes apparent that Passionflix has become far more than just a streaming site--it’s built real connections and friendships. “The camaraderie we all have with each other is awesome,” says founding member Gigi Alfaro. “We are genuinely happy for each other when we’re selected for premieres and walk-ons or when someone meets a favorite author or Passionflix actor. We cheer on accolades and send positivity to members who may need it.”
This sense of care and community starts from the top with the founders themselves, as they’re constantly listening to feedback and brainstorming new ways to improve the platform. In addition to tried-and-true favorite movies and the rapidly-growing library of exclusive content, fans also enjoy an innovative, specially-tailored experience when searching the site. Instead of the traditional, broad genres, fans can browse through categories like Tissues and Ice Cream and Love and Laughter. There’s even a Barometer of Naughtiness (often shortened to simply “the BON”) to gauge if you’re feeling vanilla or not safe for work.
“When we began this journey, we had a mission to really capture how women want to feel,” says Panebianco. “Women want to be able to trigger certain feelings and emotions based on what they may need or want in any particular moment. If you’ve had a bad breakup, you may need a good cry, so we created Tissues and Ice Cream. If you want to feel strong and bold, then Chutzpa and Hoohah has some great options that can really inspire and empower you.”
“The BON was something that we thought of over wine and cheese, as we often would do during our early design stages,” Panebianco reveals. “It was really just a fun play on words that turned into something the fans seem to enjoy.”
The behind-the-scenes process of making a Passionflix movie is just as unique as the final product, largely due to Musk’s progressive directing style. “She has this whole process of how men should treat women and how they should touch them,” says The Matchmaker’s Playbook lead Caitlin Carver. “She’s really respectful and loves females and loves to make sure we’re powerful. The guys in the movie had to go through this whole school of how to treat women.”
“We’ve dubbed it ‘Tosca’s School for Gentlemen Callers,’” shares AfterBurn/Aftershock and The Matchmaker’s Playbook star Tyler Johnson. “That’s her school for manners. It’s the new etiquette book.”
In addition to education, Musk also loves to bring a spirit of collaboration to the set, not only with the authors, but with the actors as well. “Before filming began, my co-star Casey Deidrick, Tosca and I all met up and went over the script together for hours,” says Driven star Olivia Applegate. “Casey and I had some ideas for dialogue adjustments, and Tosca was super open to our suggestions. It really helped me feel like I was an integral part of the creative process of the film.”
“I really enjoy being directed by Tosca,” Applegate continues. “She has a clear vision for her film, and you can tell she’s always several steps ahead. She takes the time to consider your questions and answer them, and she can always explain why she’s making a particular choice.”
“She literally lowers everyone’s blood pressure,” adds DeRosa. “She just creates such a wonderful energy.”
The set may be calm and respectful, but that doesn’t mean the movies aren’t sexy and steamy. “I champion love, happy endings and hopeful, positive relationships,” says Musk, confident that chemistry and courtesy go hand-in-hand. In fact, the open communication nurtures a safe environment so the actors can feel free to delve more fully into the more sexual and vulnerable scenes, creating more authentic heat and emotion.
“None of the intimate scenes felt exploitative or gratuitous,” assures Applegate. “It felt incredibly empowering and beautiful to me. With Tosca at the helm, I knew our story would be an empowering and refreshing one.”
That sense of trust is consistent across all of Musk’s sets, fostering that undeniable connection between the two romantic leads in every Passionflix movie. Of watching Bateman and Carver film, co-star Johnson says, “Their rapport was so strong and something that drew you in even if you weren’t in the scene.”
Fans aren’t going to have to wait long for more sparks to fly.
There’s a whole stockpile of movies on the agenda that will start filming soon, including Brenda Jackson’s Granger Brothers trilogy, Kristen Ashley’s The Will and Three Wishes, Jodi Ellen Malpas’ The Protector and This Man, and the paranormal Dark Pleasures
and Wicked series. These, Kane assures, are just the tip of the iceberg. “My ‘to be read’ file is seriously massive with the books I’m reading for Passionflix for future options,” she teases.
Although Passionflix has already had monstrous success, and the founders are plenty busy, they have no plans to slow down any time soon. “There is a lot of work to do!” says Panebianco. “We are constantly evolving and looking for new ways to capture our current audience and expand to have a wider, broader reach. We are making movies that everyone--no matter what your genre, category, age, or interest may be--can enjoy.”
* Article featured in the Summer 2018 Edition of Love & Lace *
Romance is the most popular genre in modern literature. According to the RWA, 84% of romance buyers are women. Considering these facts, it only makes sense for these books to be brought to the big screen. Dakota Willink, creator of Love & Lace InKorporated, was intrigued by the idea of Passionflix, or a "Netflix for Women". Over the past year, she watched Passionflix grow, excited to see the characters in romance novels come to life.
In May of 2018, Dakota had the chance to stop by the Passionflix set for Driven by K. Bromberg. Inspired by the incredible work of the three founders, Dakota asked Passionflix to share their story with Love & Lace.