Director Andy Vallentine On His Incredible Short Film, The Letter Men

Director Andy Vallentine joins us on Close-Up Culture to talk about his short film, The Letter Men.

The film is based on the real love letters written by Gordon Bowsher to his sweetheart, Gilbert Bradley. Their love letters were exchanged between the years of 1938 and 1941 but were uncovered in 2017. Life as a homosexual at that time was incredibly difficult, gay activity was a court-martial offence, jail sentences for so-called “gross indecency” were common, and much of society strongly disapproved of same-sex relationships.

THE LETTER MEN will screen at Tribeca on Friday, June 10th at 9:15 pm and Wednesday, June 15th at 9 pm – https://www.tribecafilm.com/films/letter-men-2022

For those who haven’t seen The Letter Men, please tell us about the film?

The Letter Men is a short film based on the real love letters written by Gordon Bowsher to his sweetheart, Gilbert Bradley. Their love letters were exchanged between the years of 1938 and 1941 and uncovered in 2015. From our research these are the largest collection of LGBTQ+ love letters that survived from that time. Using the actual words written by Gordon Bowsher, The Letter Men transports us directly into the places of the letters and their heart–battlefields, air raid shelters, and lost golden moments. 

What is the true story behind the film, and where did you first hear about it?

My journey with Gilbert and Gordon began as so many things these days now begin–while scrolling on the internet. Thinking back, the improbability of the whole thing is stunning. A gay love affair interrupted by World War Two, complete with detailed love letters that somehow managed to survive decades only to be discovered and shared with the world. I will never forget the thrill I felt learning about this remarkable story. 

How did you gain the rights to the film?

After reading the BBC article about the discovery of the letters, I reached out to Mark, the historian who discovered and shared the letters. I later learned that I was one of many interested parties who wished to shepherd this special story to a wider audience. I flew to the small town of Oswestry, England to meet with Mark personally and plead my case. As you can probably guess, my passion and persuasiveness won me the right to help tell Gilbert and Gordon’s story.  

Why was having LGBT heads of departments important to you?

I wanted to find a team that was excellent, could lead their departments, and would understand and relate to the story in a meaningful way. 

Why were love letters like these destroyed during the war?

Most Queer people destroyed their letters in fear of being discovered. If you were outed to the wrong people, there was the possibility of being charged with a crime, or worse. The fact that Gilbert kept over 200 letters from Gordon shows how much the two of them loved each other. While they both are now gone, their love lives on today through their words. 

Congratulations on being selected by Tribeca Film Festival, what does that mean to you?

It’s such an honor to be recognized for our work. The Letter Men was 100% a labor of love, and I couldn’t be more proud of my team for bringing this film to life. 

Are you planning on making the film into a feature?

Absolutely! A feature film, or mini-series. The fact that Gordon’s letters survived is a gift to all of us. In one of his letters, Gordon said, “wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our letters could be published in the future in a more enlightened time. Then all the world could see how in love we are.” I can think of no better way to honor his wish than to share their story of forbidden love with a larger audience. 

What is next for you?

I’m actually wrapping up post-production on my first feature film, The Mattachine Family! This film is being produced by Zach Braff (Garden State) and Scot Boland (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Walk). The film stars Nico Tortorella (Younger, The Walking Dead: World Beyond) and Juan Pablo Di Pace (Mamma Mia!, Fuller House). You can look for it to hit the festival scene in late 2022, or early 2023. 

The film is a beautiful LGBTQ+ indie feature about one man’s journey to find his chosen family. The film was written by my creative partner and husband Danny Vallentine drawing on our own personal journey to becoming fathers. 

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