This coming-of-age film follows a teenage girl who’s concerned about her late blooming body, her budding love affair with an older swim coach, and her work at a home for seniors. It’s sad, happy, charming, and depressing at various times, but always very honest, much like life itself.
How did this story come about?
One summer, when I was a teenager, my parents suggested I take a job at the nursing home as a cleaning woman. I reluctantly agreed. Working there meant I had to slowly get to know many of the residents on a personal level.
As the summer passed, I began to understand that this moment in these people’s lives wasn’t as peaceful as I had always imagined. As I struggled through the summer managing feelings of guilt, anger, and confusion, I discovered that many of the residents were struggling, too. They were angry that they were expected to gracefully step aside for a younger generation that didn’t understand or appreciate them. They felt the guilt of having lived a long life and not having accomplished all they set out to, and they shared in my confusion and fear of the uncertain.
As I was entering an exciting period in my life — holding a boy’s hand and having my first kiss — a man lost his wife. As I fought with my parents about responsibility and freedom, a woman was admitted to the nursing home because her family could no longer take care of her. As I was growing up, they were growing old.
I have come to discover that most of themes in my work stem from my childhood and my experiences in the nursing home. Dealing with the idea of mortality and aging in my youth caused me to become hyper-aware of how we as a society force this very individual experience into a very archetypal idea. We see old people as grandpas and grandmas, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, but, most frequently, as people who have lived their lives and have come to terms with the fact that world keeps going after they are gone. Through Wet Bum, I hope to breakdown some of those stagnant models and shed light on the confusion and uncertainty we all face no matter our age.
We’re all attempting to give our life worth, and we place that worth in the things we collect, the people we love, and the people that love us. But what happens when the things we collect vanish, the people we love die or move on, and people who love us forget?
I was compelled to write this story because I wanted to create a conversation around these ideas and explore how different generations can find common ground through recognizing each other as individuals. Sam is a young girl, who, like me, felt like she was in a state of in-between, being young and wanting to be reckless but not fitting in with her peers because she was a late bloomer and a bit of an old soul.
Through that summer, I learned a lot about myself and what I value in other human beings. The residents at the nursing home reminded me of the value of connecting with people, as well as recognizing that we all have flaws and face a lot of uncertainty, but by being there for one another, we somehow manage to get through it all.
It touches on a range of issues — growing up, body image, bullies, first loves, manipulation, getting old — but which of these aspects do you think the audience most resonates with?
Honestly, I just hope the story resonates with them on some personal level and creates a conversation around these issues.
Tell me more about the opening sequence. What was intended by the floating people?
This is something that can be left up to someone’s individual experience however I was interested in exploring idea of transcendence through bookending the story with the images of the three characters floating and then returning to these spaces at the end the film and all three spaces have changed. I hoped to subconsciously highlight the notion that we’re all passing through. Mortality is unavoidable, life continues on past the limits of our own experience but we are all linked through our humanity and the cyclical nature of life.
A little too heady perhaps? Ha ha.
Where did you find the young actress? She does a great job.
Julia Sarah Stone had been on our radar but she was in British Columbia and we were auditioning and filming in Ontario. So we had her send in audition tapes — and it was pretty obvious from the start that she had immense talent. I Skyped with her and talked about the character and had she send in more tapes while we continued the search in Canada. Then once we had narrowed it down she flew out for chemistry reads and we pretty instantly knew she was the right fit for Sam!
And we were right. She did great job! We were very lucky to have her on this project. She is a rare talent, with great depth and the incredible ability to say so much with no words.