dylan gelula and cloudy rhodes on the power of young queer love

The actress and filmmaker’s new projects both celebrate the joy, pain and exhilaration of falling in love for the first time.

13 April 2017, 2:12am

Dylan Gelula and Brianna Hildebrand in 'First Girl I Loved.'

Actress Dylan Gelula and filmmaker Cloudy Rhodes have both spent a lot of time thinking about young love recently. Their new films, First Girl I Loved and Lo Loves You, both track delicate queer teenage romances, and all the heady feelings that come with that. In First Girl I Loved, Dylan plays high-school misfit Anne who falls in love with the beautiful star of her softball team. Through her eyes we navigate the confusion and joy of falling for someone, and the vulnerabilities one has to suddenly face when that relationship begins to strain and fray.

They're familiar themes for Australian filmmaker Cloudy Rhodes, whose short Lo Loves You also explore the heady abandon of feeling your chest constrict for someone new. The two creatives, whose projects will be screened together around Australia, bonded over their parallel experiences of making these films and meditating on young love. We spoke to them both about celebrating queer romance onscreen.

What was the first love story that impacted you personally?
Dylan: Ten Things I Hate About You, or She's All That. I love the idea of the popular guy making a bet that he can make me attractive, and then taking me to the prom.
Cloudy: I went to a Steiner school and so I didn't a TV for most of my childhood so was less influenced by films when I was young. But probably Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet. I was obsessed with that movie. I just wanted to be Leo so badly. 

Both these films have characters who feel like they don't really belong, when you were growing up who were you at school?
Dylan: If I had friends in school I wouldn't be doing this with my life. I don't think anyone doing anything creative is like, "I did really well socially at school". I'm kinda joking. But yeah I didn't have any friends at school.
Cloudy: I was a surfer and hung out with the boys. I wasn't bullied or anything but I wasn't a typical popular girl. I didn't have a hard time. I had friends.

Were you in love with anyone?
Cloudy: I always had crushes on the senior girls at school. I made out with one of them once at a party it made my whole high school life. I wouldn't say I fell in love though. Crushes are what made you get up in the morning and go to school. It was so fun. It's exciting to go to school when you have a crush.
Dylan: That's very true. I had a serious boyfriend in high school. He would sleep over at my house a bunch of nights a week. We were like married. Which is weird. It was for three years. We broke up in high school. I didn't make it through to prom, I dropped out of before then. He took someone else. I have no idea what's up with him, we haven't kept in touch, which is weird because at the time I thought we were going to get married and now I don't think about him at all.

A still from Cloudy Rhodes' 'Lo Loves You'.

Obviously both these projects look at young love from a queer perspective, as actors and filmmakers do you feel a responsibility to present different points of view?
Cloudy: I don't feel like it's a responsibility it's just what I'm interested in and what's personal to me. It also comes out of a desire to see diversity represented on screen. I want kids to be able to see queer love in films. So maybe I do kinda feel a responsibility.

What do you personally want to see more of in mainstream films?
Dylan: I want to see more women talking to each other, it's just more interesting to watch. It would be a much more complex movie. Women are more complex and more interesting. The way that they are more open with each other and take care of each other is just so interesting.
Cloudy: And women are funnier too I find! I want see female perspectives, female directors and female protagonists. I'm always so interested in films made by woman.

How do you unpack and show love in movies, when it's such a personal and mysterious feeling?
Cloudy: I'm new at directing. I don't really know what I'm doing. I guess I lean on the actors to feel what they feel. It's the most natural for me. I'm always drawn to love. It's kind of all I care about, or what I care about the most.
Dylan: I don't think it's any harder than any other feeling, or any more complex. I think that love is an easier emotion to portray than grief. It's one of the easier emotions I think.
Cloudy: It still blows my mind that a male directed First Girl I Loved. He must be a beautiful, sensitive guy.
Dylan: Yeah, he's so weird. He's just such a good writer. I like him a lot.
Cloudy: The scene when you make up the "photo project" and you go over to her house for the first time? That whole scene I was losing my mind. It was so relatable… such a real experience for any queer kid. That first moment of "oh fuck I am falling for this girl". That was almost too much for me. That was so cool to watch. I was totally in it.

READ: cloudy rhodes thinks everyone deserves a love story

Have you observed your own films impacting other people's lives?
Cloudy: I got an Instagram message the other day from a girl she said she came out after watching the film, and I was like "wow I'm done. That's the coolest thing ever".
Dylan: That's amazing. I've gotten to talk to a lot of women who were moved by it and that was cool. It's amazing every time at a screening.

'First Girl I Loved' and ' Lo Loves You' will be screening together around the country next month:

Perth Event Cinemas Innaloo, April 26
Brisbane New Farm, May 2
Melbourne ACMI, May 5
Sydney Dendy Newtown, May 8
Canberra Dendy, May 8
Casual Powerhouse, May 13

'First Girl I Loved' will be released on iTunes and Google Play May 8.


Text Wendy Syfret