Jan Oliver Lucks on his real-life relationship film There Is No “I” in Threesome


Director Jan Oliver Lucks tells us about There is No “I” in Threesome, documenting he and his fiancé’s exploration of polyamory.

A Kiwi couple tries to make a sexually explorative, open relationship work in There is No “I” in Threesome—an honest account which also documents the unintended consequences. After receiving a positive reception upon acquisition by prestigious US streaming service HBO Max, There is No “I” in Threesome plays Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival. Lucks answers our questions about the film.

FLICKS: Describe your film in EXACTLY eight words.

JAN OLIVER LUCKS: Boldly trying new things, bares surprising results. + SEX!

Polyamory takes some courage – and so does making a film. What were some of the more nerve-wracking things when you first considered documenting your experience?

Telling my traditional, Indian mother, who I never even talked to about anything romantic, that I’m in a rousing open-relationship and blissfully bi-sexual… She took it with a lot of humour, which was a relief.

What was the impact of having a camera in the middle of your relationship?

At times it was good and at times it was terribly invasive, but we felt the camera needed to stay rolling even in the most trying times. When things were good between us it was thrilling to create something together. But then other times… The camera stands for a third, watching. Which can make one say or do things with the idea that there will be applause or judgement later. I found myself pushing boundaries to make good tape, which lead to moments I am less proud of. Like the home enema kit thing. My mother is not a fan.

You probably didn’t predict that your personal life would be acquired by a new streaming giant. How did it feel to see your film go into US homes on HBO Max?

We spent so long making the film, of course we wanted as big an audience as possible. HBO has some of the best programming in the market and I feel honoured to be shown alongside directors I admire. In terms of tone and what HBO stands for (it’s “brand”) it is the perfect place for it really and they were exemplary with their notes and feedback. With their input we made some small tweaks (after they acquired it) and the film became its best version. Incredibly grateful and proud.

How different an experience do you think people outside Aotearoa had with the film compared to your expectations for audiences here?

Since at its core, There is No “I” in Threesome is about universal themes such as love, jealousy and vulnerability, I don’t think there will be much of a difference between audience perception. I believe the scenarios and feeling-states we went through can be understood by anyone who has been in a relationship. Monogamous or not.

During production, what was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome?

Watching myself in the footage was hard. There were definitely times I could have been a kinder, more available, and more present partner. Good reminder that you are never the villain in your own memory and tend to judge others on their actions while yourself on your intentions. Or is that just me?

For you, what was the most memorable part of this whole experience?

Jumping off a 10-meter diving board was pretty memorable. And the bruises that came after were memorable. But apart from the filming itself, the fun we had fine-tuning the film in the edit. Working with co-writer Natalie Medlock and the producers Alexander Behse and Alex Reed was a great joy and I miss that it is over. Editor Francis Glenday is a master storyteller and a lot of the success of our film rests on his tall and smart frame. Thanks to the months we spent together locked in a tight room, we became good friends. Which makes me happy.

What was the last great film you saw?

There are so many admirable filmmakers out there right now doing incredible work. But I always like to give shout outs to talented friends who are constant inspirations to me and my work. So I would recommend:

1. Miranda Bellamy with her recent short documentary about her mother and Dunedin painter Pauline (In Plain Air). Expertly understated and beautiful. A love letter to an exceptional artist and my favourite place on the planet: Dunedin/Central Otago. Some of the landscapes Pauline paints are actually in There is No “I” in Threesome!

2. A new friend I made this year, Shaina Feinberg, made a film a few years ago called The Babymooners. She made it with her husband Chris and it is about their relationship (sound familiar?).

3. Australian filmmaker Kitty Green, who mentored me during the making of our film. Her The Assistant from last year (a fictional account of how people around Harvey Weinstein enabled his behaviour) is great! I love Kitty’s economical, smart and piercing storytelling. Her films are shorter than many but stick longer than most.