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FilmOut: Q&A with David Lewis, writer-director of "Longhorns," a ribald comedy about steers and queers

SAN DIEGO – One of the funniest films showing at FilmOut San Diego’s 13th annual LGBT Film Festival is “Longhorns,” a film by David Lewis.

“Longhorns” will be shown at 10:15 pm Friday, Aug. 26, at the historic Birch North Park Theatre. The 12-minute short “Rubdown” will be paired with the feature film. Tickets are $10.

Writer/director Lewis follows “Rock Haven” and “Redwoods” with his third film, “Longhorns,” set in 1983 in Austin, Texas. “Longhorns” is a risqué romp of “Beers. Steers … and a few Queers,” as the film poster states, but underneath the college dorm sex and suds beats the heart of a coming-of-age plot as a Texas college student becomes increasingly aware of his homosexuality.

Lewis took time out of his busy schedule to talk to San Diego Gay & Lesbian News about “Longhorns” and his multifaceted career.

Q: What is the inspiration behind your “Longhorns” film?

A: I loved many of the romps of the 1980s, including "Valley Girls," "Porky's" and "The Last American Virgin." They were full of sexual antics, but they had a nostalgic flavor, even innocence. I also went to college during the 1980s, and I had always wanted to write about that in some way, not to mention that I have a familiarity with Texas. Besides, after the emotional dramas of "Rock Haven" and "Redwoods," I was ready for a comedy!

Q: Why did you pick the early 1980s as the time frame for the film?

A: The dawn of the videocassette, which plays an important part of the film, was around that time. And it adds to the comedy when there is basically only one "out" person in the dorm. That obviously wouldn't happen in 2011. Not to mention that the hair, wardrobe and music possibilities were just too hard to resist.

Q: As someone who lived for more than a decade in Texas, I can verify that you captured the essence of the Lone Star State. What is your history with Texas, and do any of the cast members have a connection to the state?

A: I am so glad you think we captured the essence of Texas! I am a strange creature: Most of my family lives in Texas, but they moved there as I went to college, and I have lived in California pretty much ever since. So it's the California kid in the Texas family. I am very familiar with the Lone Star State, as are some members of the cast. Almost everyone in "Longhorns" has lived in the South at some point.

Q: How much of the film was shot in Texas, and where? And how much was shot in California, and where?

A: Everything, except for a few Texas exteriors, was shot in California. The dorm scenes were shot in the Bay Area on a set made by our fabulous art department. The cabin scenes were filmed in the Grass Valley area of the Sierra foothills, which resembles the Hill Country of Texas.

Q: What were the challenges for you as a director and writer of this film?

A: The usual: Time and money. We had to meticulously plan the shoot, and the actors and the crew had to nail it. They did. Getting the '80s look also took a lot of time and effort from everybody, but it was worth it.

Q: How do film festival audiences react to the full frontal male nudity?

A: They love it, not only because it's sexy and funny, but because it also fits very naturally into the story. College kids did crazy things when I went to school. My hunch is that hasn't changed.

Q: Much of the film plays out as romantic comedy, but there is also a touching story about a young man’s growing awareness of his homosexuality. This plays out as true-to-life storytelling. How much of this is autobiographical?

A: I am glad that you find parts of the story touching. Beyond all the crazy sexual antics, I wanted this story to have heart. My college years were certainly the time where I was beginning to figure out my sexuality, so that is quite autobiographical. (There is part of me in most of these characters.) And the way we talked in school -- that is pretty much how the boys talk in "Longhorns." It was sex, sex, sex -- a not so subtle way of carving out your sexual identity. As far as some of the wilder things that happen in the story? I can only wish that my college life had been so sexually adventurous!

Q: Jacob Newton (Kevin) and Derek Villanueva (Cesar) seemed to have great chemistry in the film. Where did you find them? Did they bond on the set?

A: I feel really lucky to have gotten Jacob and Derek for this project. They bonded quickly during auditions, and that extended to the set. I think they really trusted each other, and that made a big difference.

Q: FilmOut San Diego fans may not know that you are also a film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. How does that color your work as a filmmaker?

A: I think my work as filmmaker colors my work as a reviewer more than the other way around. I really make an effort to be fair in my reviews, and I think that comes from having been on the other side making films.

Q: What’s next for David Lewis?

A: I have two scripts written: one a comedy and one a drama. I love both projects, so I guess it will depend on where I get the financing. If you know anyone willing to help, send them my way!

The details

FilmOut San Diego’s 13th annual LGBT Film Festival will concludes Aug. 26-28.

Almost 60 films and shorts will be shown at the historical Birch North Park Theatre.

To buy individual tickets, click HERE.