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Atrophy: Women On Film

Molly McLaughlin

The lack of diversity in the film industry, both in front of and behind the camera, is well documented.

Actors like Jennifer Lawrence have drawn attention to the pay disparity between themselves and their male co stars, and director Ava Duvernay has called out the discrimination faced by people of colour in the film industry.

However, box office hits like Joy, Carol and Sisters are proving what should be common sense: that women of all backgrounds are invaluable assets to the industry. Atrophy, a new short film from local filmmakers Gowrie Varma and Olivia Love, seeks to subvert these traditional gender biases by telling definitively female stories on screen.

Gowrie and Olivia started the project as students at the Australian National University, with backgrounds in theatre and film respectively. Their film, Atrophy, is a reinterpretation of the play by the same name written last year by Gowrie and another student, Ellie Greenwood. The play consisted of six characters from Greek and Roman tragedy giving a monologue or in some cases a duologue, and now Gowrie and Olivia are working on translating this idea into film.

Olivia became involved in the original project by making a short film that played behind one of the characters’ monologues during the performance. “When I saw the full show I loved it and straight away I was keen to get Gowrie and Ellie on board to remake it into a short film, and that’s what we did!” says Olivia. “We’re figuring out how to keep the integrity of the piece while also making it a really fascinating and beautiful film and exploiting the power of film as a medium.”

Directors Gowrie Varma and

Atrophy filmmakers Gowrie Varma and Olivia Love

“In Atrophy, we’re able to give women space on screen,” says Olivia. “Each character is in such a personal, private, intimate space in the play, so to try and make the most of that structure we’ve set the film an Australian Gothic house of madness that you follow them through, and the entire 15 minutes of film is just women on screen.”

The collaborative and female driven nature of Atrophy is central to Gowrie and Olivia’s process. As the writers, producers and directors of the film, they have been working closely with their team to make it happen.

“We have discovered that we have an approach to film-making that differs a lot from the mainstream film industry, which can be misogynistic and obsessed with structure and hierarchy,” Gowrie says. “We’ve been working collaboratively and more like a collective. Liv and I have different roles and different backgrounds (film and theatre) but we’re focusing on our strengths to be able to create the best product that we can.”

The film itself is a similarly unique idea that explores the variety of ways women can be portrayed on screen.

“We’re trying to evoke something in audiences, we want them to see something of themselves in the film,” Gowrie says. “With every character, you start to understand them and whether you like them or not is totally irrelevant.”

Olivia describes the film as momentary, stemming from its original incarnation as a play. “Each story is not necessarily resolved yet, but there’s a sense of seeing experiences that are timeless and that will move you or speak to you,” Olivia says.

Gowrie and Olivia will begin shooting Atrophy in Moruya Heads from 26 February. After postproduction, they are planning a free screening in Canberra to make the film as accessible as possible. For more details on Atrophy, click here.

Image of ‘venus sculpture‘ via Shutterstock


Molly McLaughlin

Molly McLaughlin is new to Canberra and is attempting to prove to her friends that the capital city can be cool. This mostly involves frequently going out for brunch and then posting about it on social media, along with trekking up hills and around art galleries. She is half way through her uni degree but spends most of her time reading, writing and planning her next adventure. More about the Author