If there’s one film that’s got pulses racing this year, it’s I Want Your Love. It’s the story of twenty-something singleton, Jesse (Jess Metzger) who is on the cusp of leaving his San Franciscan life to move back home. The film has made waves in LGBT cinema not least for it’s use of real sex scenes. We caught up with the man behind the controversy, Director Travis Mathews.
Renowned For Sound: Hi Travis, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. So, first up, how would you describe the character of Jesse?
Travis Mathews: He’s your typical late 20s gay hipster who has been treading water for too many years in San Francisco. It’s caught up with him and he’s being forced to make some grown up decisions about his future.
RFS: Why does moving away from San Francisco pose such a dilemma for him?
TM: It’s a very San Francisco story, and also one that I think resonates with a lot of 20/30 somethings who’ve escaped the village and moved to their respective gay metropolis. If you’ve had that experience, and if you find yourself living hand to mouth in order to sustain yourself as an artist, there’s almost always a lingering fear that you might not “make it” and have to move back home. San Francisco has a long history of opening its gates for young people to come find themselves. But as cyclical waves of tech booms have made SF increasingly a place for the rich, this tradition of open arms has broken down. It’s always going to be a beautiful city, but it’s not as hospitable to young people and artists as it once was. I knew all of this and saw it play out among so many friends who’ve come and gone from the city. It was a something I wanted to build the story upon.
RFS: How do the dynamics of his relationships affect his ultimate decision whether or not to move?
TM: In a lot of ways he’s used sex -or being in relationship- to distract from taking a hard look at himself. It’s easy to do that in your 20s and especially in places like SF. But everything he’s used in the past –including sex- isn’t quite working in the ways it used to.
RFS: Why are concepts of art so strongly woven in to the narrative?
TM: It’s the people I know and what interests me.
RFS: What was the inspiration for you to write this story?
TM: 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 SF 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.
RFS: What led to the decision to include real sex scenes?
TM: It was always woven into the DNA of this story. There was never an a-ha moment to make this choice.
RFS: How did the cast feel about the sex scenes?
TM: Similarly, they got involved knowing what the project was and what the parameters were. We approached this very collaboratively.
RFS: What’s your take on the Pornography versus Art debate?
TM: I try to avoid it because people will feel what they feel. For me, porn is something you make with the sole purpose of getting someone off. That’s never been at the top of my list of things I want to accomplish.
RFS: What kind of responses do audiences have to I Want Your Love, and why do you think that is?
TM: A lot of the response comes down to whether you’re on board for what I’m trying to accomplish with gay male intimacy or you’re not. I never sought out to be a polarizing filmmaker, but I can see that the last few projects have provoked a strong response that swirls around thoughts on pornography.
RFS: How have you felt about the critical response to I Want Your Love?
TM: I’m still learning how to be a better filmmaker with each new project. When someone is critical around the elements of filmmaking I try to listen with open ears. But when it returns to arguments around porn or sexuality I’m less inclined to engage or be impacted.
RFS: Queer cinema is both becoming more visible and more socially accepted – where do you see the future of queer cinema leading?
TM: I think we’re getting to a point where gay stories are adopting a matter of fact sub-genre that is exciting to me. There are a lot of gay and lesbian films coming out that don’t rely on similar tropes from the past. It feels like we’re growing up.
RFS: What’s next for Travis Matthews?
TM: I’m working on my next feature that taps into my more playful side. and -shocker- there’s going to be women in it for a change. Very excited about that.
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I Want Your Love is available on DVD here.