THIS GAY INDIE SEX MOVIE ISN'T REALLY PORN, EVEN THOUGH IT KIND OF IS
By Brian Moylan | Vice
The Supreme Court has never explicitly defined what constitutes pornography. Instead, they go with the old, "we know it when we see it" doctrine (and considering Clarence Thomas is still on the bench, I have a feeling the Court has seen plenty of it). Yes, there are many shades of grey (50 to be exact) between what constitutes a work of art about love and sex and what is just straight up spank material. A photographer once told me the difference between erotica and porn is "better lighting."
That seems to be the stance that San Francisco director Travis Matthews took when making his gay indie sex drama I Want Your Love. The movie depicts the gay post-graduate creative class in San Francisco complete with light sweaters, thrift stores, regrettable tattoos, facial hair, piercing, yearning to be a performance artist, and lots of angsty discussions about their relationships. Oh, and there are boners, too. And buttfucking. And cumshots. And a beej or two. And all the penises are real, and going into real assholes and mouths.
This is getting Matthews a whole lot of attention. Not only is it selling out screenings at gay film festivals (including two at Lincoln Center this weekend) but he caught the attention of celebrity dilettante James Franco, and just wrapped filming a real-gay-sex movie project with him.
Here's why Matthews thinks his movie isn't porn.
VICE: How would you classify this movie?
Travis: If I were to just toss it into a genre? I think of it as an indie art film with gay sex in it. I don't classify it as a porn.
To me pornography is something you watch with the sole purpose of jerking off to. When we were filming it, it wasn't to film sex scenes for people to jerk off to, but to film sex scenes that aren't documented in film and to use sex to bring out story and character elements. Surely there are shots of explicit things going on that may or may not be sexy, but I was more interested in showing the sloppiness, the funniness, the painful moments. My intention was not to make it hot for hot's sake.
What if guys do want to jerk off while watching?
Great. I'm not policing anyone's experience about how they engage with it. I think it's exciting that people have different experiences with it. Some people will think the guys are hot because they have natural bodies, and to some people that's a buzz kill. Even if someone calls it pornography, I'm not interested in arguing if they interpret it as pornography. I can tell you my intention, but it's a losing battle to get defensive about.
Naked Sword, the gay porn video on demand site, put the money up for the movie. Does that make it harder to say it's not porn?
It certainly makes it an easier leap to say that it's porn because a porn company funded it. But a porn company has never really experimented with a narrative film. They gave me creative freedom. They saw In Their Room. [Matthew's previous project of guys jerking off in their bedrooms] and they said they know it's not porn but they're interested in me doing what I'm doing to see if there's a market for it.
So what happens when a guy gets a boner during a screening? Should he touch himself or reach out and touch someone else?
Both! Why limit yourself to one choice.
Do you think it has mainstream or non-gay appeal?
I knew that it was limited in certain ways. It's an all-gay cast, it's a micro-budget film, and there's real sex in it. I didn't have any illusions about it.
How was shooting the sex scenes?
They are different and it kind of depended on what we were trying to capture, but I respect and understand how much trust these guys are putting in me. There was a lot of prepping for the scenes in a logistical way and a talking way. We tried to keep a small set and choreograph things, and I let them know I'd interrupt them, like, "Put that arm down. Do more of this." We knew what point A and point B were and I gave them a bit of freedom to find that themselves because it would look more natural.
Would you ever have sex on screen?
Probably not. It's not something Iíve ever seriously considered. That said, I'm not supposed to say much about this project at all, but I'm going to be in the James Franco project, but I'm not having sex.
How did you and James Franco find each other?
He is doing a project that contains explicit gay sex and his agent found me because they wanted someone who had done this before and who would compliment his. I'm not supposed to talk that much about it. I signed a contract.
Did James Franco threaten you with bodily harm?
[laughs] Yes, with a bullwhip.
Does it suck that the only way you can get attention these days is to have a celebrity's name attached to yours?
I don't feel like that's totally true. He has a million art projects, but because it has real sex in it it will be talked about for a minute. I get how thatís helpful for me in people discovering I exist. But I've been on a good path getting my work screened outside of the Franco thing.
Come on, you can give me some dirty details about the project, right?
I wont' say anything.
How gay is James Franco, really?
[laughs] Well, no comment. I'm not going to speak for him. He can speak for himself.
Has James Franco ever given you a rim job?
[laughs] Only that one time and it was rehearsal, so it was art.