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Remedy 2021  •  16 February 2021

Making Actionable Change in 2021 with Claudia Bailey

Sharing stories of queer joy and hope

By Erin Ewen
Content Warning: Homophobia, Transphobia, sexual references
Making Actionable Change in 2021 with Claudia Bailey

2020‭ ‬was full of creative highs and lows‭. ‬Isolation and social distancing created unique yet sometimes painful experiences for us all‭. ‬Those in the creative industries were left particularly vulnerable to the restrictions and‭ ‬uncertainties we faced‭. ‬

Claudia Bailey is no stranger to uncertainty‭. ‬As 2020‭ ‬started‭, ‬Claudia found themselves in a new city with a fresh film degree in-hand‭, ‬unknowingly about to face a year of lockdowns‭, ‬cancelled plans and closed borders‭.‬ We sat down with the 22‭ ‬year-old filmmaker to talk about their journey last year and how 2020‭ ‬has impacted our‭ ‬collective creative consciousness‭.

Erin Ewen‭: ‬Tell us about yourself‭.‬

Claudia Bailey‭: ‬My name is Claudia Bailey‭. ‬I’m a Cancer‭. ‬I’m a non‭-‬binary filmmaker and I go by they/them pronouns‭. ‬My goal in the world right now is to share stories of queer‭ ‬joy‭, ‬in order to lift up marginalised voices‭. ‬

I’m trying to find a way for my values to align with my career path‭. ‬The film industry is interesting because it’s‭ ‬ definitely not the most ethical industry‭. ‬There’s big money‭ ‬involved‭, ‬big executives and fame‭. ‬I think there’s an obv‭-‬ ious beauty and heart in storytelling‭. ‬I want to find a way to do that in an ethical manner‭. ‬

EE‭: ‬How did you spend 2020‭?‬

CB‭: ‬I spent 2020‭ ‬having just moved to Melbourne‭. ‬I‭ ‬ literally graduated from film school on a Friday‭, ‬booked a ticket‭ ‬that weekend‭, ‬drunk‭, ‬and moved to Melbourne‭. ‬It felt like my life was just beginning‭. ‬I was starting to finally find my roots‭. ‬I was working at Melbourne Queer Film Festival‭, ‬I had beautiful friends‭. ‬And then COVID-19 happened‭. ‬I’d moved into a new share house‭ ‬a month‭ ‬or so before everything happened‭. ‬We’d have family‭ ‬dinner every night‭, ‬play card games and watch movies‭.‬‭ ‬They were all very lovely people‭, ‬but I just felt so isolated‭.‬

I regard leaving Melbourne as my big heartbreak of‭ ‬2020‭. ‬I‭ ‬love Melbourne and I left before the second lockdown‭. ‬I didn’t realise‭ ‬—‭ ‬no one realised‭ ‬—‭ ‬how bad it was going ‭ ‬to be‭. ‬I am grateful that I got out of there and got to be‭ ‬in Sydney and make a life here‭. ‬But it was a big OUCH‭ ‬for my heart‭. ‬When I left Melbourne‭, ‬I didn’t think I was saying goodbye forever‭. ‬I thought I was just visiting‭ ‬Sydney‭. ‬But here I am‭.

EE: How did your experience of lockdown impact you‭?‬

CB‭: ‬Obviously‭, ‬we all had these experiences last year‭, ‬but I‭ ‬was‭ ‬just so isolated‭. ‬I was in a city without my family and without my best‭, ‬best friends‭. ‬I think I was just‭ ‬really numbed out‭. ‬I definitely found that all of that time‭ ‬alone‭ ‬completely changed a lot of things‭. ‬I had time to process stuff that I hadn’t processed for years‭. ‬It felt like everyday was a roller coaster‭. ‬There were dark times‭, ‬and‭ ‬some really beautiful moments‭. ‬I think it just allowed‭ ‬me‭ ‬the actual time and space I needed to work my shit out‭. ‬I really got a shake up‭ ‬—‭ ‬I hadn’t done anything creative‭ ‬or worked on a project in almost six months‭...‬I just‭ ‬lost my drive‭. ‬I started reflecting that up until that point‭,‬‭ ‬I’d always made things for myself‭. ‬But‭, ‬as I was watching the world crumble around me‭, ‬I realised I needed to do something bigger than myself‭. ‬COVID-19‭ ‬gave me a huge slap in the face‭ ‬—‭ ‬I realised my thoughts‭ ‬had become really boring‭. ‬So I started to look around‭ ‬and think bigger‭. ‬That was a gift being so lonely brought me‭. ‬

EE‭: ‬What helped you cope creatively this past year‭?‬‭ ‬

CB‭: ‬Inspiration‭. ‬I watched and read so much‭. ‬I re-read my favourite book‭, ‬‘Just Kids’‭ ‬by Patti Smith‭, ‬and it helped me come back to why I want to make films‭. ‬Once you have the inspiration‭, ‬you need momentum‭. ‬It can take‭ ‬months to get that‭, ‬and it can be fleeting‭. ‬But I really‭ ‬ think‭, ‬boring as it sounds‭, ‬it’s routine‭. ‬Even though I‭ ‬ had nothing on‭, ‬I would create a really strict structure‭.‬ I’d wake up‭, ‬go for a bike ride‭, ‬have breakfast‭, ‬and would work until lunch‭. ‬I just did a bunch of applications and worked on some old script ideas‭. ‬But getting into a routine has allowed‭ ‬me to get to the place where I am now‭. ‬

EE‭: ‬What are you currently working on‭?‬‭ ‬

CB‭: ‬I’m currently in pre-production for my latest short‭, ‬‘Right Here‭.‬’‭ ‬It’s a non-binary story of joy and hope‭. ‬After coming‭ ‬out as non-binary to their parents‭, ‬Grace‭ ‬materialises at their future selves’‭ ‬birthday party and‭ ‬realises everything‭ ‬they want is already inside of them‭, ‬right here‭. ‬It’s the kind of film I wish my younger self could’ve seen‭. ‬To‭ ‬show them that they will find their place and it will‭ ‬all just be okay somehow‭. ‬

As the two leads are non-binary‭, ‬it was essential to cast‭ ‬ non-binary actors‭ (‬Zoe Terakes‭ & ‬Audrey Mason-Hyde‭).‬ I shouldn’t need to explain why but if I must‭; ‬it’s‭ ‬ important because representation for minorities is already lacking‭. ‬Add on the harmful tropes people‭ ‬without the lived experiences try to get away with and you’ve got yourself a lot of pain inflicted on people that don’t deserve‭ ‬it‭. ‬Nobody does‭. ‬If you have more questions‭,‬ I implore you to Google before thinking about asking‭ ‬anybody from that particular minority group‭. ‬It takes‭ ‬ a lot from these people‭. ‬

I’m so excited to be able to show these two incredibly‭ ‬strong‭, ‬charismatic‭, ‬beautiful non-binary people to the‭ ‬world‭. ‬I want to show them in strength‭, ‬in light and in‭ ‬joy‭. ‬By casting Zoe and Audrey‭, ‬that’s what we’re doing‭.‬

EE‭: ‬Can you tell us about your previous works‭?‬

CB‭: ‬I’ve had three short films do the festival circuit‭. ‬‘Cherry‭,‬’‭ ‬my first film‭, ‬is an anthology of virginity stories‭.‬‭ ‬Naivety‭ ‬really brings you a long way‭, ‬now I can’t believe I did that‭. ‬I’d never directed in my life‭, ‬but it went on to do‭ ‬really well‭. ‬‘Appetite’‭ ‬is my my most personal work‭, ‬about‭ ‬shame after sex‭. ‬It didn’t go as well‭, ‬but that didn’t matter‭.‬‭ ‬I just needed to put it out into the world‭. ‬My‭ ‬most recent film was‭ ‬‘Sunburn‭,‬’‭ ‬which I wrote on‭. ‬Making‭ ‬‘Sunburn‭,‬’‭ ‬was an experience that changed my life‭. ‬It’s where I met Brenna Harding‭, ‬who is producing‭ ‬‘Right Here‭,‬’‭ ‬and Zoe Terakas‭.‬‭ ‬We had a five day shoot‭ ‬away and I bonded so much with such wonderful people‭.‬‭ ‬It was very much a‭ ‬sliding doors‭ ‬moment in my life‭. ‬

EE‭: ‬What was your overall experience of your‭ ‬ post-grad year‭?‬‭ ‬

CB‭: ‬The year after film school is famously really hard‭. ‬In some ways‭, ‬I’m grateful that it was hard beyond my‭ ‬control‭. ‬If COVID-19‭ ‬didn’t happen and I found it hard‭,‬ I would have questioned why I wasn’t succeeding‭. ‬I really‭ ‬think‭ ‬when I graduated I knew I needed some time‭ ‬off‭. ‬Since I‭ ‬started‭, ‬even in high-school‭, ‬I was constantly thinking‭ ‬of ideas and working on projects‭...‬full speed‭ ‬ahead‭. ‬But I needed to go and live a little‭. ‬So my plan was‭ ‬to spend‭ ‬most of the year hanging out and just being a human‭. ‬Having a hospo job that I actually liked‭. ‬Seeing my friends‭ ‬and just having a nice time‭. ‬So in that way it went exactly‭ ‬to plan‭. ‬I don’t regret anything‭, ‬I feel like it taught me so much‭. ‬

EE‭: ‬Can you tell us about the journey you’ve‭ ‬ been on to champion queer voices on screen‭?‬‭ ‬

CB‭: ‬Finding my queerness was one of the most joyful‭ ‬experiences of my life‭. ‬It made me realise that I’m loveable‭.‬‭ ‬I had never seen what I was feeling represented at all‭. ‬And I just thought about younger me‭, ‬having no clue about their repressed homophobia and thinking how‭ ‬great it would have been to see a character who is joyful‭ ‬AND‭ ‬queer‭, ‬living a magical experinece‭. ‬Versus them‭ ‬being a side character who is killed off or just the punchline of‭ ‬the joke‭. ‬There is still so much I have to learn‭. ‬But I know‭ ‬that I‭ ‬want to give space and positive representation to how‭ ‬beautiful queerness can be‭, ‬rather than the painful hard-ships of coming out and being bullied‭. ‬Obviously that’s‭ ‬part of it‭ ‬—‭ ‬and it’s so important to acknowledge our‭ ‬history‭ ‬—‭ ‬but there is also so much beauty in it‭. ‬

EE‭: ‬In 2019‭ ‬you were named Young Australian‭ ‬Filmmaker of the Year at Byron Bay Film Festival‭.‬‭ ‬How did that experience impact you‭?‬

CB‭: ‬I feel like those things don’t really impact you on a‭ ‬personal level‭. ‬Getting that hasn’t necessarily changed‭ ‬my‭ ‬thoughts on myself‭. ‬It’s definitely a nice feeling and it‭ ‬ feels validating‭, ‬which is cool‭. ‬Getting into film festivals‭ ‬and winning awards impacts you in ways you can’t‭ ‬ see‭. ‬It’s more the perception of me that is impacted‭.‬‭ ‬ Personally‭, ‬I don’t think I’m any more qualified and it‭ ‬doesn’t change my relationship with my work at all‭. ‬The coolest part was that they gave me a hamper‭. ‬I’d never gotten a hamper‭. ‬That’s what I was most excited‭ ‬about‭. ‬I love‭ ‬free things‭.‬

“I want to give space and positive representation to how beautiful queerness can be.”

EE‭: ‬Did 2020‭ ‬change the Australian Film Industry‭?‬

CB‭: ‬Absolutely‭. ‬So many lost their jobs and were really‭ ‬ struggling‭. ‬The Arts are famously underfunded‭, ‬even‭ ‬though everyone in lockdown turned to art‭ ‬—‭ ‬perfect‭ ‬irony‭. ‬But then in some cases‭, ‬it also led to a lot of‭ ‬American productions being shot in Australia‭, ‬thus‭ ‬giving a lot of jobs to Australian people‭. ‬

Everyone has had to adapt and change‭. ‬It’s going to‭ ‬exponentially impact every part of our lives‭, ‬financially‭, ‬personally and generationally‭. ‬It’s hard to foresee those‭ ‬ direct impacts‭. ‬Right now people are viewing COVID-19 as a thing that‭ ‬happened‭. ‬But it’s still happening in 2021‭. ‬And I’m interested to see how that’s represented in stories‭ ‬in the future‭. ‬Like‭, ‬masks or doing the elbow tap thing‭ ‬—‭ ‬or are people‭ ‬just going to leave that in 2020‭? ‬I’m sure there’ll be some‭ ‬really clever TV shows and films that will explore that‭. ‬

EE‭: ‬How are you planning to spend 2021‭?‬

CB‭: ‬Last year I really learned how to slow down and just‭ ‬ look around and ask‭ ‬—‭ ‬how are we going to make today‭ ‬special‭? ‬In 2021‭ ‬I’m aiming to live truthfully‭. ‬Rather‭ ‬ than fearing‭, ‬putting up boundaries‭, ‬being scared‭, ‬cold and‭ ‬trying to preserve yourself‭...‬living truthfully‭ ‬is about‭ ‬running headfirst and opening your heart‭. ‬If you fall‭ ‬over‭, ‬you get back up and you keep going‭. ‬I‭ ‬want to try and do that‭. ‬To be vulnerable‭, ‬communicate‭, ‬own up to when I make a mistake‭...‬that’s my personal aim‭.‬

Professionally‭, ‬the making of‭ ‬‘Right Here’‭ ‬is going to be so special‭. ‬I think it’s going to change my life‭. ‬I just have‭ ‬feelings about it‭ ‬—‭ ‬the people involved‭, ‬the places it’s‭ ‬going to go‭, ‬I just know it will‭. ‬

EE‭: ‬What were your New Year’s resolutions‭?‬‭ ‬

CB‭: ‬To wear my heart on my sleeve‭. ‬To spend purposeful‭ ‬alone time‭. ‬To not give into toxic behavior patterns‭. ‬To‭ ‬say how I feel‭. ‬To have hard conversations‭. ‬To be less‭ ‬afraid‭. ‬More brave‭. ‬Acknowledging my privilege and to making actionable change‭. ‬

EE‭: ‬What would be your advice for other young creatives‭?‬

CB‭: ‬Just go and do it‭. ‬There’s no perfect amount of preparation‭. ‬Some people‭ ‬have so much pride and they want to be perfect‭. ‬But don’t think about it‭. ‬As soon‭ ‬as you‭ ‬start getting the ball rolling and you get people involved‭,‬‭ ‬all of a sudden you’re shooting‭, ‬then you’re editing it‭. ‬There’s no point thinking about it too much‭. ‬Just do it‭. ‬Nike sponsored‭. ‬‭(‬not actually‭)‬

Work out your values‭, ‬and stick to them‭. ‬I really admire people who know who they are and what kind of stories they want to tell‭. ‬Spend time actually thinking about‭ ‬what kind of things you want to put out into the world‭ ‬and most importantly‭, ‬why‭? ‬I’m a big advocate of repres‭-‬ entation‭, ‬and being as ethical as possible‭. ‬Why are you the one to tell the story‭? ‬Why now‭? ‬Why does the world‭ ‬need to see it‭? ‬How does it make the world better‭? ‬Are‭ ‬you the right person to tell it‭? ‬It’s really important to‭ ‬constantly evaluate your place in all of it‭. ‬Recognise‭ ‬your privilege‭. ‬If you aren’t the best person to tell this‭, ‬how can you lift others up to do so‭?‬

You’ve gotta constantly keep your ego in check‭. ‬When you’re telling stories‭, ‬there are accolades and fame in far-sight‭. ‬It’s easy to get wound up and self important about your work‭. ‬Remind yourself that you’re not a‭ ‬savior‭. ‬You’re not some tortured artist‭. ‬You’re someone‭ ‬who‭, ‬hopefully‭, ‬is trying to make the world a better‭ ‬place and spread empathy‭. ‬People are so influenced by stories‭. ‬In my own develop-ment‭, ‬I definitely didn’t see enough queer characters on screen‭. ‬And if I did‭, ‬things‭ ‬would have probably been a lot easier‭. ‬So just think‭, ‬what do you want to be giving to the world‭? ‬What’s‭ ‬your responsibility‭? ‬

Claudia Bailey is a filmmaker‭. ‬You can find them on Instagram‭ ‬@cloudiabailey


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