Vancouver’s Jamie Travis was the type of high school student who was completely absorbed in his schoolwork and in photography, spending “many months” in the darkroom: “Anything less than an A plus was unacceptable,” he says.
That work ethic can be seen in the exactitude of his award-winning short films. “It’s the only way I know how to make films,” he admits. But in contrast to the matching-curtains-and-wardrobes precision of his shorts, Travis’s feature debut For A Good Time Call… represents a much more relaxed approach, despite the film’s impossibly tight, 16-day shoot. “It was the first time I could make a film that was all about fun,” says the director. “My goal was to make people laugh out loud, and I’d never had that before.”
Starring Ari Graynor and Lauren Anne Miller, the film tells the (sort of) true tale about two young women—polar opposite personalities—who launch a phone-sex line in order to pay the bills. It’s a few jumps from the insulated and “pleasant childhood” Travis says he spent on Vancouver’s North Shore.
He says he always had a knack for writing, but Travis found himself dividing his time between arts and science courses at university. He was thrown when he failed his very first course—biochemistry—dropped out, and went to Europe. (“So stereotypical, I know!”) When he came back he knew he wanted to pursue filmmaking, and earned a coveted spot in UBC’s film program.
A much-lauded short film career followed. His Patterns trilogy and the Saddest Children In The World trilogy, six films in all, all premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, traveled the film festival circuit and would eventually be released on DVD by Zeitgeist Films in 2010.
Travis headed east to follow the work and cultivate a busy career making TV commercials and music videos (for artists Tegan and Sara). He wasn’t in a huge rush, he says, to jump into feature film directing. “I had been reading scripts for years, I had been writing projects of my own… but if I can’t love the script and want to get in bed with it for a year or two or three, I can’t do it.”
Then a script crossed his path about two young women, former enemies, reacquainted by a mutual friend (Justin Long) and living together by necessity in an expensive New York City flat. Lauren (Miller, who co-wrote the script with Katie Anne Naylon) is straight-laced while Katie (Graynor) is the opposite, the Oscar to Lauren’s Felix. Turns out that Katie is a phone-sex operator in her spare time. Once the ever-pragmatic Lauren gets over her embarrassment she joins in, and the pair set up a profitable little business, their friendship and their bank accounts growing.
There are hilarious cameos courtesy of Seth Rogen and Kevin Smith, set against the film’s candy-coloured retro aqua and hot pink palette. “The pretty package nullifies any dirtiness,” insists Travis.
“I laughed out loud, I cried. It struck an emotional nerve in me,” he adds, likening the film to those girlfriend flicks of the 1980s—think Bette Midler, Lily Tomlin, Goldie Hawn. “[Those] were not about getting a guy or losing the guy—the real core of the story is one of female friendship.” The success of Bridesmaids helped change the climate and proved that there’s an audience for female-driven comedies, he says.
Travis, who grew up in an all-female household, says he walked into his first meeting with a lot of confidence. “I get the intimacy of female friendships, so I told them ‘I am totally the right person to direct this.’”
It’s a chick movie, sure, but Travis, who has spent the past 22 days traveling to promote the film, says the response has been consistent across demographics. “We knew that the film would connect with the 20-something female population but men are loving it, and elderly people… We screened the film in Ann Arbor, where there was a lot of grey hair in the audience, and they loved it,” he says, noting that the “unusually sweet raunch-com” has been compared to Doris Day’s Pillow Talk.
And so Travis is heading west again, to Los Angeles this time, repeating the mantra of so many Hollywood-bound directors: “I will maintain my integrity… I will never choose a film script based on money.”