Imogen McCluskey with longtime DOP Lucca Barone-Peters.

After graduating from AFTRS in 2017 filmmaker Imogen McCluskey’s career is taking off, with one feature and several shorts under her belt and multiple projects in development.

Currently she is writing and will direct one of seven segments of the anthology MASC, which will give female and non-binary perspectives on contemporary masculinity, with development funding from Screen Australia.

Her co-collaborators are Madeleine Gottlieb and Laura Nagy, who both came up with the concept, Renée Marie Petropoulos, Hyun Lee, Shari Sebbens and Cloudy Rhodes.

A comedy, her episode will focus on a 16-year-old boy who attends a single sex school and is being pressured by his friends to have sex with a girl.

In a surreal twist, his post-sex self comes to life as a kind of guardian angel. “It looks at hyper-masculine archetypes that boys are taught to live up to, and takes them apart in a way which is hopefully very generous and funny,” Imogen tells IF.

“The lesson is ‘be yourself, trust your instincts and don’t be forced into doing anything until you are ready.’ I am not saying masculinity is inherently toxic.”

The filmmaker identifies as LGBTQI but does not want that to solely define her work. She graduated from AFTRS after being a “serial drop out” at university and deciding medicine and law weren’t right for her.

“I applied for AFTRS not really knowing much about it and once I got there I realised filmmaking was the career for me,” she says.

Her debut feature, Suburban Wildlife, co-written with Béatrice Barbeau-Scurla, cost $4,000 to shoot and came in at less than $20,000 with post-production after contributions from Fat Salmon, a production company she belongs to, and Take Two Productions.

The coming-of-age movie about four young friends who try to avoid the looming responsibilities of being adults premiered at the Cinequest Film Festival in California and came third in the Sydney Film Festival audience awards for best narrative feature last year.

L-R ‘Atomic Love’ cast and crew Yingna Lu (producer), Stuart Melvey (sound recordist, design/mix), Maddy McWilliam, Lucca Barone-Peters, Imogen McCluskey, Priscilla Doueihy, Amber Theron (production/costume design), and Bianca Valentina (hair and make up).

Her latest short, Atomic Love, was shot in one day as a single take. Set in 1988, the 10-minute film follows recently married Dana (Priscilla Doueihy) and her eternally-single friend Aleea (Maddy McWilliam) as they make a video profile for a dating service, provoking a confession which forces them to address what their relationship means.

Inspired by the video dating services of the 1980s and brothers Jay and Mark Duplass’ first short The New Brad, it will premiere at BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival later this month.

Her development slate includes Dark Play, a climate thriller set in the Australian desert with Martin Fabinyi at Beyond Productions, and a half-hour comedy for Easy Tiger.

The web series Surprise Party she created was one of 10 projects selected for the SBS/Screen Australia Digital Originals workshops.

Produced by Fat Salmon’s China White and scripted by McCluskey, who will co-direct with Hannah Lehmann, the thriller is set in one night during a terrorist attack at a restaurant. Each episode will have a different viewpoint.

Up to three projects will be selected for further development, and potentially production, for SBS On Demand with Screen Australia funding.

“In all my work I am looking at the driving question of what do owe each other as a society, as individuals and in relationships?” she concludes.

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