God of Love, winner of the Academy Awards’ Best Live Action Short Film, is the story of a lounge-singing darts champion Raymond (Luke Matheny) who finds his prayers are answered – literally – when he receives a mysterious package of passion-inducing darts. The catch is that the one woman he loves – Kelly (Marian Brock), a drummer in his band – is already in love with Ray’s best friend Fozzie (Christopher Hirsh), the guitarist in the band. Romance is in the air in this bohemian charmer.
Here is CWB’s interview with writer and director of God of Love, Luke Matheny.
Bijan Tehrani: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and is God Of Love your first short film?
Luke Matheny: I’ve made several other short films as part of the NYU Graduate film program; this was actually my thesis project.
BT: How did you come up with the idea of God Of Love?
LM: It’s hard to talk about the idea for the film without giving away the surprise of the movie, but I have always been attracted to themes of unrequited love and romantic delusion, and I try to portray those themes through the films in the most entertaining way possible.
BT: Your film has a very fresh structure; it is not very similar to what you see in mainstream American cinema. As a filmmaker where do you see yourself in terms of style and the way that you view cinema?
LM: I guess I don’t try to think too much about how I fit in with the larger picture and I just try to make the best film that I can. It’s flattering that you say that the film is fresh, I certainly have my own influences such as Woody Allen, Wes Anderson and the Coen Brothers. I guess I’m still trying to figure out what a Luke Matheny film really is and I hope to keep defining that throughout my career.
BT: How challenging was it to make God Of Love?
LM: I wrote the film, directed the film and acted in it and people always ask how challenging it was to do that. I always tell people that writing the film was easily the hardest and the most important and also the most rewarding of the jobs. I was very lucky to have a very strong team that I trusted, so the actual filming process was very boring and pleasant, which is the way a shoot should be in my opinion.
BT: How did you go about casting the film?
LM: The lead actress Marian Brock answered an ad and just came in to audition and she won the role the old-fashioned way, as did Miguel Rosales, who played the near-mute bass player. Chris Hirsh, the guy who plays Fozzie, my best friend, I had met socially a couple of times and I knew he was an actor but had never seen anything that he had done, so I auditioned him and he nailed it. And then the actress who played Angela had starred in a previous film of mine so we were eager to work together again.
BT: How did you come up with the visual style of God Of Love?
LM: My cinematographer Bobby Webster was very excited about crafting a specific look for the film. We knew that there was going to be a jazz-world setting, so right there we thought black-and-white would be a good first step. We then looked at a lot of jazz photography for the ’50s and ’60s and then we looked at jazz-themed films from those eras as well. Finally, we had some great New York exteriors that I knew would look amazing in B&W and fit perfectly into the film.
BT: How has the audience reaction been to the film?
LM: The reaction has been quite good. I have been lucky to screen in blocks of films where the other entries had themes that were very serious. This works in my favor, as the audience was often relieved to see a film that aimed to be a crowd-pleasing comedy.
BT: Are there any international filmmakers that influence you?
LM: The French new wave was a big influence – probably more aesthetically than in actual storytelling – but my heart will always be with the Hollywood studio films of the ’30s and ’40s. Capra is a favorite, It’s a Wonderful Life is definitely one of my favorite films. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, It Happened One Night are some of my other favorites.
BT: Do you have a feature film lined up?
LM: Yes. I have a feature film script which I am wrapping up and my agents are definitely eager to see it, and it’s a comedy. The story isn’t exactly the same as the God of Love but tonally and thematically it is similar. I’ve also written another feature – a more mainstream romantic comedy – with my writing partner Rob Meyer.