When COVID hit, Sarah Walker and Danielle Cormack wanted to find a contained, achievable project to develop together to keep themselves busy. They settled on a “fantastically queer”, contemporary riff on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.
Titled Who’s Afraid, the film follows two same-sex couples – Nikki and Georgia and David and Marty – who want to have a baby together but clash over how to get it right.
The film is set on New Year’s Eve 2019 amid the drunken aftermath of a double date, as the couples struggle to reconcile their differences and decide who will be the sperm donor and who will carry the baby – with bushfires, pandemics and war framing their discussions.
In her original conversations with Cormack, Walker found the themes of thwarted parenting in the original Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf spoke to her as both a lesbian and a mother.
“Gay people are allowed to get married now – everybody’s okay with that, in this culture anyway. But what’s lacking is the structure around having families. You can get married, but what about the next part? I don’t think that people appreciate the complexities of trying to have children with two strangers, or two people who are not your inner circle family,” she tells IF.
While Who’s Afraid is a queer story, Walker says its themes are universal.
“Everybody struggles to parent. We’re all asking ourselves questions these days about whether or not to bring a child into this world. Gay couples are doing it deliberately, so you have to be even more conscious about why.”
Walker originally began writing the concept as a play, which will be put on at Sydney’s Belvoir St Theatre in August and September as part of the ’25a’ program. However, Cormack also took the project to fellow Wentworth alumna Nicole da Silva, with whom she has established production company Four One One Productions, and all they began plotting a feature version.
Walker will write and executive produce the film, with Cormack and da Silva each to star, direct and produce. All My Friends Are Racist‘s Liliana Muñoz has also joined the project as lead producer.
Who’s Afraid was one of three Australian projects recently selected for the second stage of global film incubator Attagirl, which supports women and non-binary filmmakers.
A For Film’s Sake initiative, the program sees projects progress through industry facing workshops centred on three major pillars – story, market and audience.
Walker says Attagirl has been great in terms of propelling the project along, with the plan now to shop the film in Cannes.
“We’ve been in touch with some brilliant mentors internationally who are extremely excited about it and very supportive, which has given us a lot of confidence and really fired us up,” she says.
Many initiatives within the industry are aimed at emerging talent, which Walker applauds. However, she says it has been great to have the kind of support that Attagirl has provides despite being the team having “100 years experience” between it.
Walker, whose recent credits include The Twelve and The Secret She Keeps, describes their team as “women who’ve been in the industry for a really long time who have potentially been streamlined into certain roles or certain types of work“ and are now interested into exploring different roles, genres and career direction.
“All of us… are very interested in expanding into new craft forms and growing as industry professionals. This is one of those projects that’s going to allow that to happen organically.”
Read IF’s interviews about other Australian Attagirl projects ‘Laugh Club’, from writer Lou Sanz and producer Michael Wrenn, and ‘A Cup of Tea’, from writer/director Dee Dogan and producer Bethany Bruce next week.