Interview: Travis Matthews
Travis Matthews is the screenwriter and director of ‘I Want Your Love’ which tells the story of Jesse, who after years of treading water in freewheeling San Francisco, prepares to move back to his roots in the Midwest. The film documents last weekend in town his friends, roommates and ex-lovers. Alex Hopkins caught up with Travis to talk about making a docu-drama and using real sex in a film.
Where did the idea for I Want Your Love Come from and how did you get the project off the ground?
I’d been filming guys in San Francisco for my ‘In Their Room’ series and I was inspired by all of the little narratives of everyday gay life in San Francisco and the ways in which gay men were finding connection, sex and intimacy. In particular, I found Jesse to be compelling and knew that he had performance chops. I also wanted to do something that was a loosely played update to the iconic ‘Tales of the City’, but in reverse. The recession was in full swing and many of my friends and ones once removed were struggling just to get by. More 20-somethings than ever seemed to be moving back in with their parents, returning to their hometowns, in order to regroup and figure out next steps. Even in the best of times, I think the fear of having to move back home is something that lingers with us all for some time, especially as you’re just getting your footing in a new city and as a young adult.
The film has a natural, almost docu-drama feel to it. Why did you make the decision to film it this way?
I spent nearly 10 years doing documentary work and it was a documentary series that inspired what became ‘I Want Your Love’. I also wanted this film to be populated with non-professionally trained performers. As much as possible, I wanted it to feel relatable and honest, for guys to see parts of themselves reflected in the film. A docu-drama approach made the most sense to accomplish this.
How did you find the actors you used and ensure there was chemistry between them?
It was important that their relationships felt real, honest and almost documentary like in this film. Otherwise, what’s the point? I hand-picked about half of the cast from ‘In Their Room’, or from the suggestions of friends, and the remaining guys were from auditions between San Francisco and New York City. I tried to have the guys go on dates prior to shooting so they could get to know one another and develop a way of being together. And similarly to ‘Interior. Leather Bar’, a palpable sense of “we’re all in this together” really helped to create a comradery between both the cast and crew.
You use real sex scenes, as opposed to simulated sex in the film. What were the decisions behind this?
I wanted to show a slice of life with these guys that involved a kind of raw honesty – similar to ‘In Their Room’ – that meant mixing the emotional, the personal, the banal everyday and the sexual. I also feel like it’s important to have representations of sexuality that are diverse and not just the domain of buffed out West Hollywood men. There’s a lot of power in seeing “natural” bodies engaged in sex that invites reflection and connection with the audience.
Did you find it more difficult to secure funding as an independent filmmaker because of the film’s sexual content?
It was 100% funded by porn company, NakedSword, so no.
How did you go about filming the sex scenes? How did this process differ from a process that might be used in a porn film?
I’ve actually never been on a porn set, so I can just guess. But I can tell you that for me, it comes down to some basic principles about trust, communication, collaboration and being clear about how and what we are doing. It’s never a case of just turning on the camera as the boys go at it. Oh yeah, good lighting helps too!
Where do your future interests lie in gay filmmaking? What kind of stories do you think it’s important to tell and why?
I’m always going to have an interest in gay male intimacy and masculinity. My feature projects may move in and out of such specific material, but I plan on continuing my ‘In Their Room’ project until I’m gray haired and using a walker.
‘I Want Your Love’ has now been released on DVD.Jump to comments