CHATSWORTH, Calif. — "Wasteland” is Elegant Angel writer/director Graham Travis’ second feature film, an emotional tale about two childhood girlfriends who despite being apart for many years discover in one night just how close they’ve always been.
Originally conceived as a mainstream effort, inspired by memories of Travis' own boyhood friendships, the film took a life of its own once he changed the characters’ gender to female and added an element of Sapphic attraction.
"Funny how that works," he says. "The script got immediately more interesting for me to write when I made the characters female and introduced sexual tension between them."
Streeting on Sept. 5, "Wasteland" is Travis' follow-up to last year's critical darling "Portrait of a Call Girl." The gritty drama went on to win the industry veteran a slew of XBIZ Awards, including Best Feature, Best Director — Individual Project and Best Screenplay.
XBIZ caught up with Travis (who also happens to be Elegant Angel's General Manager) to discuss the making of "Wasteland," the casting of leads Lily LaBeau and Lily Carter and why he enjoys a little emotional gravitas with his gangbangs.
“Wasteland” is the follow-up to your XBIZ Award-winning “Portrait of a Call Girl.” Did you feel any pressure at all while writing and/or shooting it?
Honestly, I didn't really feel too much pressure. When I have the opportunity to be a bit indulgent like this, it's ultimately something I'm doing for myself. It becomes a really fun collaborative process and in some ways the process is more important than the end result. I get a lot out of being on set. That's almost the best part for me. In terms of the end result, I was just really motivated by the idea of telling a different type of story, with two main characters sharing a journey, and having a profound effect on each other, as opposed to a single character taking a journey like in “Portrait.”
What is Wasteland about and what inspired the story?
“Wasteland” is a story about two very close childhood friends who haven't seen in each other in a few years and spend one crazy, emotional, and adventurous night together. They've drifted in different directions, and become different people, and yet, in a very short space of time they reconnect in a powerful way. One of the characters is romantic, and the other is more cynical. In reconnecting to each other they reconnect with themselves and that inspires the journey they take together throughout the night.
The movie was actually inspired by a trip home I made to London. I was thinking a lot about the place I grew up and what had happened to a lot of the friends I had in that neighborhood. So I started to attempt to write a mainstream script that was more like a thriller about a guy running into an old pal, having some crazy times, while some darker secrets emerge along the way. But, that script didn't go anywhere at all, even though I liked the story. I write plot driven stuff especially badly, and so I decided to eliminate all the thriller elements, and just focus on an emotional journey between the two characters. At that point I really found something I wanted to say, and then everyone who read the script seemed to like it. That was how it all came about.
You seem drawn to dark, dramatic themes. Is there any concern that your films may be too dark for porn fans?
Yes, I definitely have that concern from a commercial angle. I don't think that a "very dark indie romantic, lesbian tear-jerker story with a crazy hardcore gangbang" is the smartest commercial concept for a movie. I pretty much alienate every potential demographic this movie might appeal to with some other element that you wouldn't logically put alongside it. But, for me, it’s a cohesive human journey full of darkness and light, and that's what life is like, and I hope people can relate to it.
What were the most challenging scenes to shoot?
The most challenging scenes to shoot were the emotional exchanges between the main characters. That was the greatest challenge to making this movie work, and it was primarily Lily Carter and Lily LaBeau's challenge. But, both of them gave so much to the roles and gave such heartfelt performances that these scenes all became the most rewarding part of shooting the movie. Both of them should be so proud. At one point Lily Carter did 4 takes of a 5 minute monologue back to back without a single mistake, full of emotion and heartbreak. The whole crew was floored. I was just so lucky to work with both of the Lily's. They made everything in the movie less challenging than it could have been.
The gangbang scene looks pretty intense. What can you tell us about it?
It's a pivotal moment in the movie, where the characters are completely letting themselves go. The chemistry between the performers was electric. Lily and Lily were insatiable and the four Euro guys were amazing. I haven't shot that many scenes, but that's probably the best. Lily Carter wasn't even supposed to do anal in the scene and she ended up doing a DP.
How did you decide on casting the leads?
I had the story in the back of my mind when Lily Carter was signing for us [in January] and she struck me as being unusual and different, and very adorable. I didn't really think anything of it at the time, but it stayed in the back of my mind and somewhere along the way the dots connected. She had also done a photo shoot for us for a movie called “Best New Starlets,” which I was very impressed by. I thought she had a real cinematic quality to her look. As a personality, she perfectly suited the role that I had written for "Anna" so when I started to think about casting she was the first name that came to mind. We spoke about the movie, and she was very independent and emotionally intuitive. She read the script and seemed to sincerely connect and understand the character.
With Lily LaBeau, I had been impressed by her acting and performances for Elegant Angel in the past. She has this wonderfully kinetic energy about her and so much beauty. I knew that she would bring great authenticity to her sexual performances and that there would be great chemistry between her and Lily Carter. That was going to be absolutely key. Lily LaBeau did a reading for the role and she made really smart choices effortlessly. While Lily Carter perfectly fit the role of Anna on the page, Lily LaBeau made the character of Jacky something different that I liked.
So, what’s the wildest night you’ve had with a friend in the city?
As anyone who has hung out with Mason at night in the city can attest, it can get pretty darn wild.
The motion picture “Wasteland” is not associated with or endorsed by the website Wasteland.com. The term “Wasteland” is used by Elegant Angel with the permission of Wasteland.com.
In recognition of Wasteland.com and in conjunction with Elegant Angel, a 15 minute special director's cut fetish scene from the film will be available to all Wasteland.com members as part of their subscription.