Shortlist 2015: ‘SMILF’ De-Sexualizes Nudity With ‘No Pretty Angle, No Arched Back’

Director Frankie Shaw took inspiration from her own life, in which she struggled as a single mom

In a film that took only a day to shoot, Frankie Shaw‘s “SMILF” tackles motherhood, the de-sexualization of nudity and a woman’s desire to conform to a singular ideal.

The short, which stars Shaw as the female lead opposite Thomas Middleditch (“Silicon Valley”), follows single mom Bridgette, who calls an ex-lover over for sex. Bridgette’s body, however, is covered in marker from a recent visit to a plastic surgeon, which soon becomes a talking point between her and ex-lover Dan.

Featuring Shaw in all manner of undress and stained head to toe in marker, the theme of this finalist in TheWrap‘s 2015 ShortList Film Festival is sexuality and body image.

“It’s something that women in general deal with. And then especially after you have a baby, you are faced with the changes in your body, even if they are light,” says Shaw. “It can just affect your confidence … It has taken me a long time to feel comfortable in my skin as I am naturally created.”

Shaw told TheWrap about her extremely personal relationship to the film, ranging from her own trip to the plastic surgeon, to always wanting a “boy body.”

“I’ve been trained for so long to think that I need to have this boy body,” she said, “And then I wake up in the morning, and I think, ‘What would Amy Schumer do?’”

Shaw’s body is fully exposed at one point in the short, during which her character tries to furiously rub off the marker stains before Dan shows up. But while nudity usually implies sexuality, Shaw believes that her short was actually pretty de-sexualized.

“What was so great about writing and directing this was that it was on my terms, I was in full control,” she said. “After a few minutes, any self-consciousness went away; I wasn’t being placed or positioned under the male gaze. The nudity was about [Bridgette] and her point of view, so it wasn’t sexualized nudity … The scene in the bathroom, that’s where I’m really naked — there’s no pretty angle, there’s no arched back, none of that shit. It’s just a body being washed. And then the lines of plastic surgery — that’s her trying to fit into that ideal she feels she needs to be in.”

Through troubles filming with  the little girl who plays Shaw’s son in the short, renting the apartment in which it was filmed, and having to reshoot Middleditch’s entrance several times, Shaw says that she and Middleditch have always had great chemistry.

“I’ve known him for a while, and we’ve always had really great chemistry. I loved him immediately and I felt really safe with him; I’m friends with his fiancee. I trusted him, and I felt appreciated as an artist,” she said. “And then I think he’s brilliant. “I want to use him in everything I make, forever. He’s such a genius and brings so much of his own stuff — it’s just exciting to work with him.”