Lou Sanz and Michael Wrenn set up ‘Laugh Club’

Lou Sanz and Michael Wrenn.

After having two miscarriages during COVID lockdowns, writer Lou Sanz was struck by society’s silence around it, and the lack of space to talk about feelings of loss.

“I found the whole process relatively absurd,” she tells IF.

“I was sent home with just a Panadol and told ‘Have some herbal tea’. What came after that I wasn’t prepared for.

“It’s hard. We take it on that it’s our fault somehow. There’s a lot of guilt and shame associated with it, and there shouldn’t be. The more we talk about it, the more we understand that this affects so many people.”

With her feature dramedy Laugh Club, Sanz hopes to make others feel less alone.

The film centres on Morgana, who has been trying for a baby with her partner Abe for years. On their last round of IVF, they fall pregnant, only to suffer a miscarriage. Unable to process the guilt and regret of her loss, Morgana assaults a pregnant heckler at a comedy gig and is then sentenced to six-month community service at an underfunded outreach centre.

There, Morgana finds healing with a group of other lost souls who get together once a week to partake in the very serious, no jokes allowed, practice of forced laughter – their ‘laugh club’. Through this strange ritual, Morgana is able to confront the grief she’s hiding without cannibalising it for material, and ultimately realise what moving forward after loss might look like.

While Sanz doesn’t want to speak for everyone’s experience, she hopes Laugh Club might offer catharsis.

“I think if just one person just feels lighter by hearing someone else talk about it, then that’s a good thing.

“Miscarriages very much have that ‘soldier on’ message. I don’t know if that’s necessarily healthy all the time.”

Sanz is readying the film as her directorial feature debut. Producing is Michael Wrenn, with whom she has found a similar sensibility – they are working together on several other projects. This includes Natalie Bailey’s debut feature Audrey, which Sanz wrote, currently in the financing and casting stage, and Screen Australia-supported TV drama Confidence.

Laugh Club has received development funding from Screen Australia and was one of three Australian projects recently selected for the second stage of global film incubator Attagirl, which supports women and non-binary filmmakers. 

Attagirl is a For Film’s Sake initiative, with participants progressing through industry-facing workshops centred on story, market and audience.

For Sanz, the program was valuable in that it allowed her to “hothouse” the idea behind Laugh Club, and focus on solely on the project for a period of time.

She also appreciated the ability to discuss the story outside of the “Australian bubble”.

“Having a lot of those conversations makes me very aware of what we have here that’s quite special, in terms of our sense of humour and the way that we deal with grief.”

In terms of other projects, Sanz was recently selected as an AACTA Pitch: Regional Landscapes finalist for feature project Land’s End, which she has created with her partner John Kachoyan. They are also both working on a comedy series with Orange Entertainment Co. and Gambit Media, and Sanz is again in the writer’s room for the second season of ABC children’s series The PM’s Daughter.