• Cyrus Cohen

Supporting Queer Art in Quarantine: An Interview with Shaina Rose Woolley

Shaina Rose Woolley is an LA-based non-binary filmmaker preparing to shoot their directorial debut Swoontown, which stars actor and activist River Gallo. Described as a mix between "the silent film era, the 50's, and queer joy," Woolley and the entire Swoontown team are using this time to raise funds for the ambitious vision they have for the film, making the most of these unfortunate circumstances. Their crowdfunding campaign can be found here at Seed&Spark.

Obviously, this is a challenging time to be preparing for a shoot, to put it mildly. How’re you and your crew adapting to these ever-changing times? We are just taking it day-by-day! The biggest decision we made was to postpone our crowdfunding campaign and then lower our goal size to cover production as opposed to production and post-production. The next biggest decision we made was to crowdfund during the pandemic. We came to that decision because we want to make this film as soon as possible, and that means we want to shoot once it is safe for productions to continue. We do not want to be searching for funding when we could be shooting, so that is what we are using this time for! We are also working on building our audience and finding people who are as excited for this film as we are! So, crowdfunding is a double whammy—funding & audience building all in one. Without giving too much away, what are you setting out to accomplish with Swoontown? What can viewers expect? Our main goal is to create light-hearted queer-centered content that is visually stunning. It is a satire, so we also intend for it to be very thought-provoking. In Swoontown’s case, we are putting a magnifying glass on heteronormative gender roles within romantic relationships, and doing it in a very silly way!

We are extremely excited to see so many queer, trans, and intersex artists involved in Swoontown, how did you go about assembling the team for this project?

It is so important to me that this cast and crew be predominantly queer because I am so tired of queer stories by non-queer filmmakers. Maybe there will come a time when any person can tell any story, but we are certainly not there yet! Many of the crew members are friends and long-time collaborators who I went to film school with. And River Gallo, who will be playing Dot, was recommended to me when I was describing who I was looking for, and they could not be more perfect! Assembling the team was a combination of (very talented) friends who I already knew were also passionate about authentic queer representation and some folks who came highly recommended.

What’re some of the inspirations for the look of the film? Were there specific movies, tv shows, or other forms of media you looked at to help clarify your ideal aesthetic? The idea for the film actually came to me while I was listening to the song "All That and More (Sailboat)" by Rainbow Kitten Surprise, which to my knowledge is not queer at all, but while I was listening to it, it became a playful, queer adventure-love story. As for honing in the visual aesthetic, Nadia Lee Cohen is a huge inspiration of mine, especially the music video she directed for Kali Uchis’s song “After The Storm.” I adore the campiness and manicured sets. The directing and production design of But I’m a Cheerleader is an all-time favorite that I definitely pulled from while writing the script. At one point, Andy is drooling over Dot, as saliva literally pours out of Andy’s mouth, which is taken directly from a scene where Natasha Lyonne as Megan is sobbing while realizing she is gay and is ugly crying so hard she starts drooling. I actually did not see Greener Grass by Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe until after I had written the script and had a pretty clear vision for it, but that film is definitely in the same world as Swoontown. I adored that film and can only hope Swoontown will be similar!

Is your screenplay completely locked or are you using this time to make additional edits? Do you have a firm sense of what you want the length of the completed project to be? It’s pretty locked! There are some visual effects we are hoping to have the budget for, so sadly those may get cut depending on how much money we’re able to raise. But I am staying optimistic and thinking we will be able to pull them off! I do have a pretty firm sense of how long I want the film to be, 10 minutes maximum.

With nearly every industry in the world destabilized right now, including film, how can our readers help support this movie?

We have a crowdfunding campaign going for the film on Seed&Spark currently! A financial contribution to our campaign would be the most direct way to support this film, but we understand that so many people have lost jobs. The best no-cost way to support Swoontown is to “follow” our campaign on Seed&Spark, as we accrue followers we unlock new opportunities. And following and sharing the project on social media also really helps us find our audience! We are @swoontown_movie on twitter and Instagram!