Bored Japanese businessmen started the air-sex trend, says Bryan Poyser, director of the raunchy, heartbreaking romantic comedy, Love and Air Sex, which opens at the SIE FilmCenter on Friday, March 7, for a weeklong run. Air sex is the erotic equivalent of air guitar. Pornographic mimes boasting filthy stage names such as Cuntastrophe (winner of the fifth annual world competition) and Jam Out With My Clam Out (2013's New York air-sex champion), go head to head, thrusting solo dirty dancing to new heights of obscenity. For Poyser, the international air-sex championship became the perfect backdrop for a love story. While crass jokes litter the film, Love and Air Sex is a sophisticated exploration of loneliness, desire and lost love. In advance of the Denver run, Westword spoke with Poyser about his film.
Westword: Talk a little bit about Love and Air Sex?
Bryan Poyser: It was my third feature and my first feature that wasn't my original script. These two guys, Steven Walters and David Degrow Shotwell, wrote it. When I saw the original script, I was struck by the fact that it was not only this raunchy, out-there comedy, but that it was also heartbreaking. I liked that there was a love story between two people who don't see each other until the end of the film, and even then, they don't say anything to each other. I took a pass over the script and made it more specific to Austin. I've lived there for over twenty years, so I wanted to give the script more of the flavor of the city. I tried to make it fit my sensibilities. We shot it in May of 2012. We had a great cast that we put together, and it was a great experience.
I'm curious how much your own life experiences influenced the film?
The original writers drew on stuff from their own experiences. I did dumb things chasing after love in my twenties. I drew on those. There were definitely long drives, cross-country trips, where I was chasing a girl, and that always ended up badly. It's funny; in one of the scenes, when Stan first meets Haley, she is trying to extract her cell phone from a city sewer drain. That didn't happen directly to me, but it was something that I witnessed at the SXSW film festival -- exactly where that scene happened in the movie. A girl had lost her cellphone and was trying to get it out of the drain. No one was helping her. Then a cop came by and decided he was going to help. Once they got the sewer drain off, he was like, "Well, I'm not going down in there." She crawled in to get it. It was a funny scene that I watched and put in the movie. I try to use small things like that from life to give a movie more authenticity.
Talk about your other work as a filmmaker.
This is my third feature. The first feature I made was called Dear Pillow. It was a movie I made about ten years ago. It is a dark, coming-of-age story about a kid who finds out that his neighbor works for a porno magazine, and the kid decides he wants to write for a porno magazine, too. It's about the strange relationship that develops between those two guys. It played at a bunch of film festivals and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, which was great. My second feature was called Lovers of Hate. It premiered at Sundance in 2010. That movie was about two brothers who fall in love with the same woman, and she chooses one of them and goes to a beautiful chalet with him. The other brother, he actually goes to the chalet himself and is hiding in the house and plotting to ruin their weekend. It's a dark, sibling rivalry, comedy, drama and thriller. That movie played at Sundance and had lots of attention. It was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. It got me noticed by the people who wanted to make Love and Air Sex.
Are you working on any new films?
I have a couple projects that I'm working on. One of them is a family comedy that's set mostly in Mexico. The other is another dark, sibling-rivalry movie about two sisters who compete with each other in a triathlon. I have another short film that I want to do this summer. Hopefully one of those will shoot in the next year.
Is air sex a real thing or something you made up for the movie?
No. It's definitely real. It's a real thing that was started in Japan, of course. It started with Japanese businessmen in bars. The guy who runs the Alamo Drafthouse, Karrie League, he saw a video online, thought it was pretty awesome and set up a competition in Austin. Chris Trew, he's a comedian and the guy who the MC in the movie is based on, he takes the Air Sex show on tour around the country every summer, which leads up to the Air Sex World Championship.
Have you participated in air sex?
I avoided doing so up until the after-party for our premiere, where we put on an air-sex competition, and I was drunk enough to perform. It was my turn to do it.
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Bryan Poyser and Steven Walters will be in town for the 8 p.m. March 7 screening of Love and Air Sex at the SIE FilmCenter. After the showing, the duo will answer questions about the film and lead the audience in an air- sex workshop.