I Want Your Love, the unflinching, sexually explicit film directed by Travis Mathews (Interior. Leather Bar, In Their Room) is now available on DVD. The romantic interweaving of friends and lovers in San Francisco features more graphic sex than most films would ever dare. We sat down with Mathews to talk about making the film and the reception it's gotten.
The Advocate: I Want Your Love is a very bold statement. Where did the title originate?
Travis Mathews: I had already started writing the script for I Want Your Love, but I didn’t have a name for it. I’m very inspired by music and at the time I was listening to a Chromatics record and I fell in the love with their song “I Want Your Love.” I thought it made sense with the story I was telling. It was all about these characters searching for intimacy, love, closeness, and connection.
I Want Your Love feels like an extension of your documentary series In Their Room, which profiles men at their most intimate moments, sexually and emotionally. How did that series come about?
In Their Room involved a few things coming together at the same time. Butt magazine put out a call for short films for a show they were curating. I was interested in showing men in ways that we are not accustomed to seeing — very raw, very vulnerable, very candid — which I think shows a real strength as opposed to a cosmetic strength that we see in most hypermasculine portrayals of men in film that are not quite as honest.
Was it difficult to find gay men who were willing to participate in the project?
The first person I shot for In Their Room was a guy named Dino. We met on Craigslist. I went over to his house and I still didn’t have a clear idea of what I was doing so I leaned on all my documentary skills. I just started interviewing him. Then I went home and looked at the footage and knew there was something interesting going on there. I decided to put out a call to all my friends in San Francisco, and within two weeks I had finished the first In Their Room — San Francisco. This sounds a little bit cheesy, but it was one of the only times in my life that felt purely magical. I took my hands off the wheel and it just made sense.
Would I Want Your Love exist had you not made In Their Room?
No. While doing [In Their Room] I became excited about the narratives I heard from these guys about contemporary gay life that I wasn’t seeing in film. It got me excited about taking a stab at writing I Want Your Love.
Everybody who auditioned knew there was a likely chance that they would be involved with sex. One of the questions that I asked was, “What do you like to do sexually and what are your limitations?” They were not trained actors and for the most part never had sex on camera before. Certainly none of them had ever done real porn before, so they were trusting me with a quite a lot and putting themselves in very vulnerable positions. The actual mechanics of the sex scenes were partly based around what they liked, but mostly around their characters and the story. So the questions became, “Is this going to be an awkward sex scene? Is this going to be a funny sex scene? Is this going to a sweet and sexy moment?” Once the goal of the scene became clear we then knew how the sex scenes were going to be choreographed, filmed, and edited.
There must have been a lot of discussion about rim jobs. I can’t think of a movie that has featured rimming quite as often and explicitly as this film does.
[Laughing] I think there was a lot of agreement that rim jobs are pretty cool. In the spirit of this whole project, I didn’t want to pull stops on things because they were too explicit.
One of things I liked about I Want Your Love is that it’s not a gay “issue” movie. No one is struggling with their sexuality, fighting homophobia, or dying of AIDS. Were you cognizant of that when you were writing the film?
Completely. That was important to me. I don’t want to bash movies that are “issue” related because I know they exist for a reason. But all of those familiar issues that we have seen in gay films, those weren’t issues that were on the front burner for these guys. I felt like we had progressed enough, in every way, as gay people and gay cinema that we could start telling stories that weren’t gay issue–driven. They just had human conflicts.
Could this story have been told without the graphic sex?
Sure, but I felt if I was going to really honest and candid and revealing about these guys’ lives why would I hide this piece that is so integral to who they are? Sex, whether you’re having it or not, is a big part of everyone’s lives. Especially young gay men living in San Francisco. And I didn’t want to shy away from it.
Do you think the explicit gay sex scenes will make I Want Your Love less accessible to a straight audience?
Of course. There’s no doubt about it.
Does that bother you?
On a certain level it does, but I also understood that was the reality of this project from the beginning. I’ve tried to stay honest to what is interesting to me, and so far it has worked to my benefit. I’m going to try, as much as possible, to continue to do that.