"Leather Jacket" Success Story: A Conversation with director
by Aaron Krach
“Leather Jacket Love Story” is a guilty pleasure. The brain says, “don’t
like this movie. It’s light and giddy like the California sun.” While the
heart says, “hey, this is kind of cool. Good looking men, a plausible story
and some sexy black and white photography.” Some people may only go and see
“Leather Jacket Love Story” for its plentiful nudity and blatant disregard
for politics. And that’s just fine for director David DeCoteau. After years
of b-movies, DeCoteau’s first true personal film is an ultra-low budget
homage to 1940’s romantic comedies.
After a year of traveling to festivals around the world, “Leather Jacket
Love Story” opens in New York, February 20 before traveling to a planned 25
U.S. cities. indieWIRE talked to DeCoteau in his Los Angeles office while
he was packing for a trip to Romania.
indieWIRE: Your resume is filled with action movies like “Prey of the
Jaguar” and “Skeletons.” How did a gay director end up directing all these
tough “straight-guy” movies?
David DeCoteau: I got started as a production assistant working for Roger
Corman, Wim Wenders and James Cameron. I’ve been working as a director
professionally for 10 years It’s how I make my living. I just finished,
“The Journey: Absolution” with Richard Greico and Mario Lopez for the Sci
Fi Channel. It’s an action thriller set in a military academy in the
future. So having an openly gay director direct a movie that takes place in
a military academy, somehow all that gay subtext is no longer subtext. It’s
overt, rarely does a guy wear a shirt. Shirtless and shower scenes, it’s
pretty campy but action packed.
iW: How did that work lead into making a low-budget, black and white,
independent gay romance?
DeCoteau: I came out 3 years ago after making numerous horror movies and
began work on my own personal film, “Leather Jacket Love Story”. We sent
the script around to all the major studios and the response was really
good. But the way we wanted to tell the story was a very honest way. We
wanted to make a movie where no gay people die or are abused or are the
brunt of every joke. The scary part for everyone was that we wanted to be
very honest about the sensuality of everyone. In 1997 it was time to be
honest. I didn’t want it to be pornographic, I wanted it to be a lot of fun
and almost funny. It took a couple of years to get the script in shape and
then we made the movie. It really is more a labor of love than a job.
iW: Who’s Goldeco, your distributor?
DeCoteau: Goldeco is actual Goldberg and DeCoteau, Jerry Goldberg and David
DeCoteau. We’re doing it ourselves. Mike Thomas, from Strand, whose
specialty was distributing these kinds of films, was looking for something
to distribute on his own and our film was the first one he chose. He really
fell in love with it at a festival and basically we all became partners on
this film. He’s going through the function of distributing the film even
though we’re going through our label.
iW: And self-distribution has been all fun and games?
DeCoteau: Self distribution is a pain in the ass. But that’s ok. ‘Cause
everything about this movie has been a pain in the ass. We wanted it to be
perfect, and it’s just not easy. Jerry and I just want to make the movies
that we want to see. We really don’t want to emulate anybody. If we did we
would want to emulate the master who is John Waters. John Waters is the
master and he makes the most entertaining movies ever made.
iW: In the script, did you actually describe having so much nudity. And did
you have any trouble casting?
DeCoteau: Yes, in a way. That is what made it so hard to cast. Any actor in
LA will play gay but to kiss another man is a whole other thing. We read
hundreds of actors and cast Chris Bradley in the role of Mike. He was
really special and terrific and we were all on the same page. But we had a
tough time with Kyle, finding someone who looked 18 and had that naivete
and understood the character and was willing to do all the intimate love
making scenes. Everyone passed. Then I met Sean Tataryn, who had just got
in from Canada. He was in “The Boys of St. Vincent,” and I had seen him in
that. He’s a real special actor. Both of those guys gave really brave
performances. ‘Cause here’s a movie that’s not going change the world, but
what they trusted me and they understood what I was trying to do. They
really had to carry the movie.
iW: Christopher Bradley, who plays Mike, called the ten day shoot “intense”
and “amazing.” Why?
DeCoteau: Jerry the producer raised the money and then we went and made it.
I put together my crew that I used from all my other movies I had made.
They liked working with me in the past and they knew it was a special thing
for me so everybody gave a 1000 percent. That’s the only way to get a movie
this done in 10 days. It was barely six figures.
iW: What about shooting in black and white?
DeCoteau: We shot it in black and white, which is more expensive, but was a
creative choice on my part. I felt that the old architecture of Silver Lake
and the nostalgic vibe the movie had, the leather jackets would be better
in black and white. And some of the greatest love stories ever told have
been shot in black and white. But it’s been a positive and negative thing.
A lot of lazy distributors have been afraid to handle a black and white
movie cause people might not understand what it means. They didn’t
understand what we were trying to do.
iW: So let’s talk about the sex. Where did that come from?
DeCoteau: There have been a couple of bad reviews saying I have an
obsession with penises. Which I absolutely don’t have. It just seemed
right. I don’t have a problem with penises, I don’t have a problem showing
them. I just think the taboo is ridiculous. For me the nudity wasn’t an
issue. It’s stupid to strategically place the sheets and the pot of
flowers. Once your in the bedroom, you might as well be as honest as
iW: So how did you end up with a cast that was so well endowed?
DeCoteau: It’s so bizarre, ’cause I had no idea.
iW: Yeah, but law of averages, that would not happen.
DeCoteau: That was weird, once the pants came off. I had never seen these
people. I would never have had them take there clothes off first. But I
thought, well… and it worked out for the best.
iW: Any “Leather Jacket Love Story, Part II” in the works?
DeCoteau: We have a gay vampire movie that we want to shoot in Romania at
the end of the year. It will be the first gay picture ever produced in
Romania. We want to actually shoot it in the Transylvania Alps. We have the
first pass on the script and then it’s time to go and raise the money.