With a title like “Slut in a Good Way,” it was never going to be an easy road to get the various green lights necessary to make the film, particularly when it featured a trio of teenage girls as its leads. Then again, waiting for permission would’ve been out of character for the wonderfully irreverent coming-of-age comedy.

“There’s not a Toys ‘R’ Us in sight that wanted to see us shoot that type of movie in their store,” the film’s director Sophie Lorain said with a laugh recently of the young ladies’ workplace. “So we had a 60,000-square-foot empty lot to build a set and we had to fill it up with toys.”

Although Charlotte (Marguerite Bouchard), Mégane (Romane Denis) and Aube (Rose Adam) are too old to fool around with the merchandise, they nonetheless find ways to have a good time in between stocking shelves and working the cash register at Toy Depot, though it isn’t all that easy for Charlotte who is recovering from heartbreak after losing her virginity to a guy who subsequently dumps her.

“They brainwash us from birth to to love pink and flowers,” the beret-wearing Mégane tells her friend, eager to start a revolution as she starts to read about the exploits of Che Guevara, and Charlotte, already having her rose-tinted glasses shattered for her, sees the real opportunity at her new job to work through a series of sexual encounters with her co-workers, all around her age, to find out what she wants in a partner.

While Lorain shoots the film in lush black-and-white, it’s how she and screenwriter Catherine Léger negotiate the grey areas of “Slut in a Good Way” that’s most impressive, flipping the script on so many other narratives in which young men are celebrated for getting laid for the first time as if it’s the be-all, end-all of their romantic travails. In the case of Charlotte, Mégane, and Aube, you sense you’re only at the start of something special for the young women, who still get to giggle at the silliness of sex and all it entails physically as they ironically learn to diminish its importance emotionally as just one part of a healthy relationship. Far from the raunchiness one would expect from its title, “Slut in a Good Way” has charm and elegance to spare and as the French-Canadian film arrives in theaters following its premiere last year at the Tribeca Film Festival, Lorain spoke about crafting an instant classic, getting the right chemistry between her lead actresses and the film’s clever use of music.

A scene from "Slut in a Good Way"How did this come about?

Catherine Léger is a friend of mine and she had written this coming-of-age movie. which all the films in Canada are public funded and you have to sit with different institutions and ask for money, almost beg for money because there are a lot of projects and very little money. And her project and her producer and her were just not coming through, so she called me at one point and asked me to read her script because sometimes I work as a script doctor as well and as I read it, I made a few suggestions, but mostly I thought the film wasn’t going through because of its subject. I thought it rocks the boat. And if you want me to come along, I’ll try and sell it with you. And that’s what we did. After a while, we finally managed to get it funded and we did it.

Part of why this is so wonderful is you cast actresses of the age they’re supposed to be. Was that difficult with such risqué material?

It was because I didn’t want girls of 20 or 22 years old playing 16 or 17-year-old characters. I wanted them to be the characters’ age, which adds to the awkwardness of the subject and to the credibility at the same time. Marguerite [Bouchard, who plays Charlotte] was 16 years old at the time and the subject was a bit touchy for her, as it was for the two other girls, but they assumed it, they took full responsibility for it and at that age, it’s a bit awkward — the love scenes and all of that, even though they’re done with a lot of subtlety and they’re never vulgar. But that and the dialogue were a bit of a challenge for them. They’re not that used to talking about sex because doing so amongst friends and doing so in front of a camera are two different things and to be at ease with it is a different story.

And I knew all of the [actresses we cast] because I had worked with them individually on other projects, but when they were much younger. And they knew each other, but very little from auditioning [together] sometimes, and there has to be this friendship that comes up without it being forced. We can’t question that. So [when we cast] after a while [when] I got what I want on the individual side, I said to the casting director, we have to do some trios because we’ve got to see those three girls together. We’ve got to believe these girls know each other for a long time. So we did auditions in trios and while I was auditioning a trio in this casting room, I could hear them laughing on the other side and I said to the casting director, “Who’s that laughing?” And she said, that’s the next trio. And I said, “God, they’re getting along. I hope once they’re in, they’ll be as good as they’re outside.” And that was it. Thank God because that’s the only trio I had and that’s the one I wanted.

Marguerite Bouchard in "Slut in a Good Way"Knowing of your own acting background, was there anything you do for actors that you may have wanted from a director yourself?

It was a bit of a tough call for us because there are no adults in the movie. There’s this trio and they’re used to working with very experienced actors, but not just [as] a youngster amongst themselves, so there are no references for them to act. I had to take them apart and work [individually] and we did a lot of table work and rehearsals and we prepared things very much along the way before we started shooting because I knew I was not going to have a lot of time [once we got to set]. Because I knew I was going to work [with] very few cuts in the film, I wanted the chemistry to be there right from the start and I also knew that [because] a lot of the movie takes place in the store, and there’s a lot of dialogue in this film, I wanted the girls to be extremely tight and credible and truthful when the dialogue is maybe even stronger than the image, even more so because the film is in black and white. So your ear has to be very sharp, otherwise, it falls off. It’s not good.

With the black-and-white, there’s this wonderful warm glow the film has. Were there any lenses you were using to get that effect?

I wanted to shoot the movie in black-and-white for several reasons. One was that I wanted to do something slightly different. When you set foot at any Toys ‘R’ Us, before you know it, it’s an orgy of color. It’s really ugly and on the level of cinematography, I thought this is not going to make it, so we’ll shoot in black-and-white because I didn’t want the girls to be lost in this orgy of color and for the audience to be distracted. The other reason was I wanted to put a bit of poetry in this feature film and I think [the black-and-white] gives it a bit of a fable [quality] – it’s a bit timeless. The black-and-white is not harsh. It’s very soft and in order to do that, we found some lenses that were handmade in Germany. There’s very little post that has been done on the film. All of the light is very natural and [the cinematographer] Alexis Durand-Brault did a very, very beautiful job with these lenses.

A scene from "Slut in a Good Way"The music also contributes to that timeless feel as Charlotte listens to “Carmen.” Was that in the script from the start?

It wasn’t written in the script, but I wrote it in before [filming] because it’s very subtle and some people will get it and some people won’t, but it’s a coming-of-age movie and they’re all talking about sex and love and lust and friendship, but also we find that these girls are more than that. They’re not just that. One of them reads George Orwell’s “1984,” the other one is a bit of a Che Guevara and I wanted Charlotte to be on her way to discovering something. While she’s having her heart broken, she’s listening to sad music and she discovers Maria Callas on YouTube – she doesn’t even know her name. She says to her friend, “Listen to this. Her name is Maria something.” But it just shows you that these young people are becoming adults. They’re working in a toy store and they one foot in babyhood/childhood and another [in working there] — they’re in the transformation. They’re becoming interesting people.

While I wouldn’t want to spoil too much about the end credits, you score it to Bollywood music. How did that come in?

Well, there was a different ending. It was written the same way, but not [with] Bollywood choreography, and I thought we needed another way of having good, healthy fun. The Bollywood dancing I discovered on a tape somewhere just two or three days before I shot the ending and I thought maybe we’ll just try that. When we came on the set, I sent the tape to the young actors and said, “Please have a look at that and just follow the rhythm. Maybe we’ll do that as the ending.” And we did shoot both endings and at one point, I said, “Let’s forget it. Let’s not waste any time on what’s written. Let’s do the Bollywood dancing.” And that’s what we did.

A scene from "Slut in a Good Way"The film has traveled all over the world – what’s it been like to see the response to it?

I haven’t traveled all over the place with it because I’ve been very busy with my work here, but the very little I’ve traveled with it, it’s been very well-received wherever it went. Sometimes it played in places I never thought it would. It was in Morocco at one point for a women’s film festival and some of the people in the audience were wearing veils and hidden behind burkhas, which to me is quite a challenge when you see that film, and it’s going to be out in theaters in Paris soon and in Chile and Argentina, so the film has some wings. It’s fun to see how universal finally the subject is, even though everyone was shocked to read the script to start with.

“Slut in a Good Way” opens in limited release on March 29th.