Director Claudia Bailey and lead actor Molly Moloney sat down with Backyard Opera to discuss their short film, Appetite, which premiered last week at AFTRS. The film follows Bridget on the morning after a one-night-stand and explores the often-unspoken (but entirely recognisable) sentiment of shame after sex. Appetite follows Bailey’s first film, Cherry, which was an anthology of first-time sexual experiences that was selected for five local and international film festivals and won two audience choice awards. Brought to life by a team of passionate 20-somethings and led by 20-year-old Bailey, Appetite is a prime example of humble but ambitious home-grown talent exploring raw human emotion in a beautifully honest way.
BYO: What drew you both to filmmaking?
Claudia: It was literally Twilight. The director, Catherine Hardwicke, had this director’s handbook and I was like, I want that! I want to be a director! So I started making YouTube videos at 13. I remember applying to AFTRS, and then I got in and it became a legit thing, not just making YouTube videos, and I actually started watching movies more.
Molly: I wanted to do animation at first, but then I did a scriptwriting class and I was like, “oh, actually, this is what I want to do”. And I got into AFTRS -
Claudia: She asked me how to get in.
Molly: And that's how we started talking! We went to school together, but she was in the year below-
Claudia: And then we were in the same hostel in Berlin together by chance, and we went drinking-
Molly: Three nights in a row!
Claudia: - and we spent New Years’ in Edinburgh, and I followed her to Barcelona and then I broke my leg. So I guess it’s her fault that happened.
BYO: So how was Appetite born?
Claudia: For every idea I have, there’s what I call the marinating time. I spent six months with all these ideas clouding my brain, and then I just wrote a script. The first version was called Girl Crush, and it was about friendship. I sent it to some people and one of my AFTRS mentors was like, “is this a lesbian love story?” and I was like, “ok, obviously the vibe I wanted is not working!” I really wanted to focus on female friendship as something that's really important to me, I love female friendship. So I kept revising it, and then like 12 drafts later, it was there. But I've always felt shame after sex, and it’s something that’s really close to my heart, and I’ve never seen anything portray that in a realistic way, or in a way that would normalise it for me. I think if I saw Appetite when I was younger, if I saw someone experiencing those things, I wouldn't feel so alienated. I love writing about things we don't really talk about, or little insecurities of life that are buried deep down.
BYO: You mentioned you want each of your projects to be bigger and better than the last, so how has Appetite been different to your first film, Cherry?
Claudia: Cherry went so well in terms of it being a first film and I'm so proud of it, but I think I just learnt so much especially about communication and also about taking myself seriously. With Cherry, I failed a lot, which I think is so important, because then you learn so many important lessons about running a set. Before, I was so scared to stand my ground on some things, and I think that was a big lesson in leadership. So going into Appetite, I knew how I wanted my set to be run, and I feel that's why it was such a beautiful experience.
BYO: Molly, what was it like for you, acting on screen for the first time?
Molly: It was so much fun. Being the main actor, I was nervous and felt there was a lot riding on it. I was so anxious about being one of those actors who is great in rehearsal but just freaks out when you put them in front of a camera. But it was a very respectful set. That’s a benefit of a small set, you get to know everyone and feel respected as an actor. I'd act again! But even going forward and wanting to write and direct, it’s so good knowing what it's like on the other side of the camera. And watching Claudia, everyone on set had so much respect for her, and she knew exactly what she wanted which put me and everyone at ease.
BYO: What’s it like, seeing this whole thing that was born from your mind come to life?
Claudia: Honestly, I can't even explain. I want to write everyone letters to express my gratitude. When people work so hard for you, I can't explain the feeling. All I want to do is buy everyone a house and then just like, cry their face. It's overwhelming, and people actually helped so much, it's a whole “it takes a village thing.” So many people put so much time and effort in and it's a beautiful thing.
BYO: Cherry was really well-received – it was selected for a bunch of festivals and won a bunch of awards. What's the place in the context of today’s world for art that explores topics like sex in such a natural, non-dramatic way?
Claudia: I think it was pretty easy for Cherry to be well received, because it's a fun subject matter. Virginity: everyone has something to say about it, and we did it in a fun structure, as an anthology. But the world is craving for things that aren't done by white straight males. They want more stories with female representation and people of colour, and diversity. And I think film festivals are always good for emerging directors and writers. But, I don't know how Appetite is going to be received.
Molly: One of the reasons I think Cherry did really well was that it felt really Australian. Obviously, the topic of virginity is universal, but I think it's quite rare to see something so truly Australian. And it was still even welcomed overseas, at the Manchester festival.
Claudia: And Appetite too. It was filmed in Harpoon Harry’s and Café Lounge, and people who know Sydney will recognise these locations.
BYO: Final thoughts?
Claudia: At the beginning, I set out to make something about shame after sex - or shame in general. It’s interesting though, because through bringing it to life, I’ve realised it’s also about when you do self-destructive things because you see a version of yourself you want to be and you don’t know how to bridge that gap. And you just repeat this behaviour. And with all of this — with shame after sex, and all of it — I don’t have an answer; I don’t know how to fix it, and I don’t think I ever will know.
Molly: You don’t want to give an answer, it’s something people can see themselves in.
Claudia: I feel like some people have felt that so deeply, and they’ll see the film and be like, “oh my god, that’s me!” And that’s what I’m excited for.
BYO: And Molly, any final thoughts?
Molly: I just want to say I love Claudia. That’s all.
To keep up to date with the next step in Appetite’s journey follow Room Six Productions, @roomsixproductions.