WATT, SARAH – MY YEAR WITHOUT SEX
Sex has become so commoditised we’re all stressed by it and encouraged to
spend money on it, says Sarah Watt, whose new film, My Year Without Sex, is a
rebellious response to that social pressure, she explains to Andrew L. Urban.
Sarah Watt doesn’t start with a story when writing a screenplay, she starts with
ideas. Big, free ranging ideas. Her second film, My Year Without Sex, after her
tremendously well received debut, Look Both Ways, has its origins in a general
unease about how sex has been commodified in our society. “It’s become measured;
how good or bad you are at it, and how many products you must buy to improve
it,” she says by way of explaining the trigger process.
She and collaborator Sue Maslin were talking about sex scenes in movies, and
Watt expressed her reluctance to include any in her films. “They never work. And
it led to us talking about the growing confusion about sex and where things are
going in our society. It used to be a private matter between you and your
"the ideas were worked into a structure"
Gradually, the ideas were worked into a structure. The structure took the
shape of 12 chapters, each representing one month of the year. “I wanted to use
colour like you use underscore … each month with a different colour.”
Although she starts with ideas, she structures her films and is drawn to the
notion of “verse and chorus”. So the verse becomes the story and the chorus is
the themes and ideas …”
My Year Without Sex begins when Natalie (Sacha Horler) collapses one August day
and undergoes emergency surgery for an aneurysm. Her husband Ross (Matt Day),
their two children Louis (Jonathan Segat) and Ruby (Portia Bradley) face an
uncertain future. Once back home, Natalie’s anxieties include paying their
mortgage, as Ross faces the possibility of retrenchment, avoiding stress – and
that includes sex. Natalie gets a part time job and joins a church choir led by
Margaret (Maude Davey) – all the while trying to make the best of Christmas and
Easter for the kids. The dangers of stress – and sex – lurk around them. Almost
a year later Natalie has another blinding headache and goes for a brain scan.
Terrified she’s used up all her luck, and having decided she doesn’t believe in
God so she might go to hell, it all hangs in the balance. As does her sex life.
Even after making her second film, Watt says she feels “like such a total
beginner.” To compensate, she over-prepares, going into pre-pre-production well
ahead of time, making notes about every aspect of the characters, totally
immersing herself in the film. This may seem excessive, but it helped her to be
fully prepared to answer the thousand daily questions, from the big issues to
the smallest detail.
"making all those millions of decisions"
“I recognised the truth in what someone once told me about film directing;
the real meaning of making all those millions of decisions hits you when you
finally go home at the end of a day’s shooting and sit down to a glass of wine,
and someone asks if you want red or white, and you suddenly scream back: ‘Shut
up! Shut up!’
Published May 28, 2009
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Matt Day and Sacha Horler in My Year Without Sex
LOOK BOTH WAYS
SARAH WATT INTERVIEW 2005