Though Wright and Rowe are probably the hottest guys in most rooms they walk into, they’re not Dante’s Cove types. Considering that the gay media uses shirtless hunks with rippling abs to sell everything from lube to dentistry, one wonders if Markowitz felt pressure to deliver eye candy. “I felt it a lot,” he admits. “You say ‘gay surfing,’ and people just want these ripped, eight-pack, corn-fed guys, but there’s no scene where Zach goes to the gym. We need to move away from that. For me, it’s all about what’s going on in their eyes and face and head. There’s no nudity in the movie, but it’s really sexy and intimate.”
Is he crazy, going around telling the press there’s no nudity? Markowitz laughs. “They gave me a lot of leeway to make the movie I wanted to make,” he’s careful to say, “but in looking at the visuals, I’d hear, ‘Needs to be hotter, needs to be hotter.’ But that’s any movie in Hollywood.” So that explains the thank-you to the Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency that appears in the end credits. “Some models from there just showed up on our set—we’ll put it that way,” says Markowitz with a shrug..
“Actually, I think it was people who had helped with extras casting,” says Colichman when asked who ordered the surprise model invasion. “I don’t think there’s anything more going on there.” Colichman will allow, though, that looks and sex appeal were crucial considerations. “We want our leads to have a sense of reality, but these are the movies and we want people to look like movie stars,” he says unapologetically. “I never have been one who said, ‘Let’s go cinema verité and have everyone just look like normal people.’ People don’t go to the movies to see that.”
What they do go to the movies for, the folks behind Shelter are hoping, is a well-made, deeply felt contemporary story about two gay men finding love where no one loathes, medicates, or offs themselves. “I wanted a gay romance with a happy ending,” says Colichman. “On some level, when gay independent cinema shows gays and lesbians in a tragic light, it adds to the stereotype that being gay means that your life is going to be filled with misery.” Though Markowitz’s original scripted finale was hopeful, it left things a bit more up in the air. “Frankly, I wasn’t happy with it,” says Colichman. So a new ending was shot, complete with a scrappy, adorable pooch.
As positive gay images go, it’s pretty picture perfect. “When we got that page, I was like, ,” Rowe admits, “but people really like that it summed up the theme of the movie, which was a functional nontraditional family.”
“Every festival I’ve been to, people are just loving it, coming up and telling me their stories, hugging me,” Wright gushes.
Love, it seems, has a lot in common with the perfect wave. “The movie shows that it’s out there,” says Wright. “You just need to find that true soul mate, take that step, and don’t have fear.”