’Love Or Whatever’ :: Finding true love with the help of Grindr
Corey (Tyler Poelle) has everything going for him: a successful career, a gorgeous boyfriend and a lesbian sister (who is also his best friend); but when he decides to take the next step and propose to his boyfriend Jon (David Wilson Page), the young boyfriend freaks out and leaves him for a woman. His sister, Kelsey, introduces him to Grindr (the gay social dating app, for those who don't already know) where he finds not just a hook-up, but Pete, who turns out to be the love of his life.
Played by Joel Rush, former contestant and runner up in the reality show "True Beauty," Pete is pretty close to perfect: great-looking, sensitive (he's into poetry) and caring (for an ailing uncle). Corey seems to be getting his life back in order again, that is until Jon comes running back and all hell breaks loose.
This is apparently the first time that Grindr is used as a plot device in a feature film since the launch of this gay geosocial networking app. Users will no doubt get a few laughs seeing how characters in the film fumble using the app. Essentially, being a romantic comedy, there will be love affairs, heartbreaks and obstacles along the way before arriving at a satisfactory conclusion.
"Love Or Whatever" is helmed by out director Rosser Goodman, who started her career as an emerging writer, director and producer on the set of Steven Spielberg’s television series "Earth 2." Honored by The Hollywood Reporter as one of the "Five in Focus" film directors, her films have won awards in Berlin and Freiberg outside of the U.S.. She is one of the few women directors who brings her intimate vision in making films about gay male relationships in a field dominated by gay men. Her previous film "Holding Trevor," a dark coming of age comedy, has been well received by in the gay film festival circuit.
She came across the story of "Love Or Whatever" on a website where filmmakers share their stories and ideas, and decided to transform the story into a feature exploring the world of gay male dating. EDGE spoke with Goodman and the film’s lead Tyler Poelle to share their experiences about what they have learned.
Playful and serious
EDGE: What attracted you to the story?
Rosser Goodman: What I liked about it was that it was playful and serious at the same time. I really liked that in the beginning Jon and Corey’s relationship has a bisexual element to it. I thought it was interesting to have that in the context of a gay male movie. I feel that bisexuals get the short end of the stick all the time. No one is ever representing them or talking about them. It is usually gay or it is lesbian. It is very hard to have something in-between, so I was actually really thrilled to have bisexuals more represented in a predominantly gay male movie. In later drafts of the movie, I came up with the lesbian character Kelsey, but it was the same idea. We wanted to represent gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight characters to reach out to wider audiences.
EDGE: This world, in which the characters live, seems to be a perfect one where they never have to worry about acceptance. They only need to focus on their relationships.
Rosser Goodman: The relationships are the focus of the movie. Whichever kind, Corey’s relationships with his patients, as whacked out as they are. Obviously, Corey and Jon, whose relationship is very short-lived in the context of the film. Then his relationship with his sister, his relationship with Pete. I just think it is a romantic comedy. You have a really good point that it defaults to being about relationships because this genre demands it.
Tyler Poelle: I also think it is such an interesting way to tell a story is by saying this is a romantic comedy. These are the relationships that they have, and they happen to be gay. When I first read the script, I thought what a wonderful political movie without being about politics, that love is love, regardless. And all the relationships included, between Pete and his uncle for instance, everything hinges on the relationships because in the world, that is how human beings operate. We are constantly trying to connect with each other.
Finding the actors
EDGE: How did you find these extremely attractive-looking men to star in your movie?
Rosser Goodman: We live in Hollywood. It is a very body-conscious arena, but good looks, in the context of the film, is also part of the storyline. So we have to achieve a certain amount of that. It is not a bad thing anyway but the story dictated it and demanded it so we were really thrilled we ended up with three hot guys!
EDGE: (to Tyler) And you have the pleasure of having onscreen sex with two of those hot guys.
Tyler Poelle: One of them distinctly more stubbly than the other, a lot more itchy when you kiss him. David Wilson Page, who plays Jon, competes in Crossfit. There is not an ounce of fat on his body. And Joel Rush, my other love interest, is like a fitness model, so there was never a hard day at work.
EDGE: Were there any pressure to compete with them on the physical level?
Tyler Poelle: I was doing push ups and sit ups. I stopped eating carbs, sugar and gluten; and still, thirty feet high in the movie screen, it probably would not have mattered. I could have eaten pizza the whole time. Then you look over, you see someone with an 8-pack. It did not matter how much work I put in.
Filming intimate scenes
EDGE: As a women director, how did you direct the gay sex scenes?
Rosser Goodman: The gay sex scenes, I had to have a trainer! (laughs) I had to have my gay boyfriend help me understand the different positions, which is not that different from my last movie, ’Holding Trevor’ which is also a gay male movie in 2007. We had just a tiny bit of sex scenes but it is schooling in terms of the positions and I needed schooling again.
EDGE: The sex scenes of this movie, some are comical, but there is one which is particularly intense.
Rosser Goodman: What was so amazing about getting to direct the love-making scene, the serious one, the more involved one, was just the beauty of it. It is so technical. Obviously, when you are watching it, you are supposed to get into it, but it is so different the day in the room. Everyone was very quiet, very respectful. It was like... now kiss him again... move your hand two inches higher. It can be kind of funny but the best thing about it was the two actors. They completely brought it. Take after take after take. There were really no limits. Everybody knew what we were trying to achieve, which was a beautiful love-making scene, one that is going to do justice to Corey and Pete’s relationship.
EDGE: The eye contact in that scene especially shows in the intensity and intimacy in that scene.
Tyler Poelle: When we were talking about it before we started shooting, Rosser, Alan the DP, Joel and I got together and just talked about this scene. It is about intimacy. This is about love. This is how this sex scene is different from the others. This is the function. Once we started rolling... because sex scenes are uncomfortable, there is a camera in your face, there is a bunch of people staring at you naked and everything is artificial. It is idealized. When you see a sex scene, you think ’Oh wow! That’s hot! I want to be able to do that!’ There is nothing further from romance than a scene like that. Joel and I just said, let’s go for it, let’s get really intimate, just trust that we are in good hands with Rosser. It was a very safe environment, and because of that, it let us sort of relax into it, so we did not feel so conscious which happens sometimes.
EDGE: Your last movie ’Holding Trevor’ also deals with commitment. This seems like a common theme that you like to explore.
Rosser Goodman: (laughs) They are such different movies. One is a romantic comedy, the other is a dark coming-of-age movie; but you are absolutely right, there is that commonality. I love that theme! I think that it is fascinating, the human condition and what people go through, being torn emotionally, picking the right person. It is a theme with endless possibilities. I love it.
EDGE: Have you reflected upon your own experiences to this theme?
Tyler Poelle: That thing that hits me the most was Corey’s commitment not just to his relationship romantically, but really struck me his commitment to Kelsey. You have to choose to stay committed to family also. So that really pulls my character, Corey, through the last quarter of the movie, is repairing that relationship. Choosing to repair. Every relationship involves so much choices, even familiar relationships.
EDGE: What would you say is the message behind this comedy?
Rosser Goodman: I know this one! I have it! (laughs) It sounds so cliche but it is to be true to yourself. Any good movie has to be about redemption in some way. The entire time we were developing the script was about Corey. What is Corey’s journey? When you look at what Corey started with, to what Corey ended with, in terms of his own journey and his own redemption, I think that is probably what touches people so much and that is what makes people cry at the end is watching Corey come full 180.
EDGE: The character of Pete seems too perfect to exist in the gay world.
Tyler Poelle: I think there are Pete’s out there. I am sure, theoretically, some would say, maybe he is a little too relaxed, why he is so generous. There are blessings and curses in any character traits. His just happens to be very charming.
Rosser Goodman: In the gay world, in any world, are there men like Pete out there? I definitely thing that Pete is a composite of traits that many people across humanity actually do possess. The generosity. I mean, there are people who are so good-looking that they are unaware of their looks. That is certainly the case with my wife. And there are people who are entirely nice just to be nice. I would like to think that there are Pete’s out there, and if anything, people should let their good sides out enough, but I think it exists in all of us.
EDGE: What is the most memorable experience while making the film?
Rosser Goodman: It is the entire process. From the moment we optioned the material until when we finished the film, it is really every aspect. Definitely during filming on set, we had so many good times, and so much of our cast and crew were like, ’I loved it! I loved it! I loved it! I had the best experience.’ That is what you want as a filmmaker. If you can achieve that with your cast and crew, you are doing a lot right, because during a shoot, there is so much that can go wrong. We had our problems but we were always able to overcome them.
EDGE: As a lesbian director, your two films so far have focused on gay male relationships. Was this an intention?
Rosser Goodman: The first one, ’Holding Trevor’ definitely evolved completely by accident. Somebody referred me and I ended up directing it but I have to say, when I read the script, I fell in love with the script. It is a gay love story and I loved it. There are infinite possibilities telling gay male stories. There are too, for lesbian stories, but I have just been lucky enough, twice in a row, to get to direct gay male love stories. I would do it again!
EDGE: And if you come across a good lesbian story?
Rosser Goodman: Are you kidding me? I would kill to direct a good lesbian movie! I have a lesbian movie being written right now that I am in the process of re-writing.’Mongoose8’ is a supernatural love story against the backdrop of drag kings. It is a thousand percent lesbian through and through. I would love to do this project.
EDGE: How did Grindr impact on the making of the movie?
Tyler Poelle: I just remembered when they activated Grindr on our phones, when they took our pictures for our Grindr profiles for the characters. I spent weeks, in between takes, Grindr-messaging all the people within a two-mile radius from where we were shooting. Every once in a while we forgot to turn the sound off on ou phones, so there would be a ’brump-brump" because Joel’s phone would be going off because he was very popular on Grindr. Corey (my character) was not as popular. So during lunch, we would run up to him and ask him how many messages he got. It is for bragging rights. Needless to say, Joel always won.
EDGE: What is your favorite scene in the movie?
Tyler Poelle: One of my favorite scenes was when Kelsey comes to Corey’s office to tell him that she is going to move back home to their parents. In that scene Jennifer Elise Cox, was just phenomenal. She is a killer. She has so much comedic ability, but I really love watching that scene because there is so much depth and warmth to it. I remember shooting the scene at the end of a very long day. We only did a couple of takes. It had some heavier moments - it just was not silly. We just took to it like a duck to water. That was just a lovely scene, how it turned out.
EDGE: So why did Corey not stop her from leaving?
Tyler Poelle: I do not think he knew how. At the moment she left, he was on the couch, thinking what the hack just happened. There is so much that has happened because of all these complicated relationships that when this one falls apart, it is easy to say rationally, he should say this, but as human beings, we do not behave rationally. It is tricky to expect characters to behave more rationally than people do.
EDGE: How do you see Grindr has changed the dating scene?
Tyler Poelle: It makes it much more accessible! Anywhere you are, you can find some folks!
Rosser Goodman: One of the things we are so excited to put Grindr into the movie because it is always a way of being current. For me, I want to come up with new and interesting ways to utilize Grindr within the storyline of the script that were not obvious ways that you would not think of using the app for. One of the things the app is great for is knowing where are the gay people, which is what Corey gets to do. He finds out that Pete, his love interest, is actually gay and single, and a hundred feet away.
EDGE: In one scene, you have this patient - named Rosemary - speak to Corey about her experience of being taken by a mountain lion. How did that scene come about?
Rosser Goodman: Here’s the deal. We actually had a very different scene written, where that character Rosemary, played by Kate Flannery, is a kleptomaniac and is stealing things in the therapist’s office, ashtrays and things like that. But Cait Brennan, who was writing that scene, had this better idea, the one that you see. We were wondering, how to approach Kate Flannery with that scene? We do not want to offend her. Cait Brennan and Kate Flannery have a mutual friend, so they did it in a phone call together, Cait pitched her idea to Kate Flannery and her response was ’Absolutely, I love it!’ That was how that scene got green lit and put into the movie.
Tyler Poelle: Kate Flannery was so game too. She stepped on set a day to shoot all her therapy scenes and just killed it. It is obviously why she is so good at what she does in everything. Not only because she is a super-pro but the sweetest and funniest person. I cannot speak more highly about her.
"Love Or Whatever" on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at QFest in Philadelphia. For more on the film, visit the film’s website at loveorwhatevermovie.com.
Watch the trailer to "Love or Whatever":