Monica Zanetti on writing and starring in the awesome Aussie lesbian film, “Skin Deep”

Several months ago we raved over the Aussie flick Skin Deep in our review of the film. It was no surprise then when it made it onto our year-end list as an Indie Winner. This movie about a newfound friendship between a self-destructive lesbian and a straight-laced straight girl diagnosed with melanoma has endeared itself to audiences everywhere it has screened. Well, now more folks will be able to see it as it starts its theater run in Australia on Jan. 24, with more dates to follow.

We recently spoke with the movie’s writer and star, Monica Zanetti. We chatted about how her own battle with melanoma inspired the film, why she decided to make a movie about friendship, what’s next for her, and more.


Warning: spoilers ahead What’s going on in Australia? In the last seven months, I’ve reviewed your film, All About E and Zoe.Misplaced. Plus I know Rosie Lourde, who was a producer on Skin Deep, produces and stars in the Australian lesbian web series Starting From Now, which has been a big hit. What’s in the waters?

Monica Zanetti: Yeah, it’s been a really great year in Australia. Not just for independent film, not just for women in independent film, and not just for queer women in independent film. It’s quite incredible. Particularly the Mardi Gras Film Festival, which we premiered at last year. We were kind of blown away that there was all these really great other female Australian lesbian stories. I don’t know what it is if I’m honest. I’m excited about it, and I’m thrilled about it. I’m glad. It’s hopefully starting to catch on and we’ll see a lot more of it.


AE: You wrote Skin Deep. How’d you then go about making it?

MZ: When I finished the script I showed it to Rosie first, and we both knew it was something pretty special. We knew it was something that was attainable, like budget-wise, that we could do it. And I think because both of us had never made a film before, it never occurred to us that we couldn’t make it. I think if I knew then what I know now, if I had known the kind of mountain that was in front of us, it might’ve been harder to get it made.


AE: You have a background as being a playwright as well. From doing that to working on this script, what was the inspiration there?

MZ: The characters of Caitlin and Leah have been with me for a long time. It was probably before anything else I had written really that I had them in my head. Particularly the character of Leah kind of came out of my own experience with having melanoma. Obviously, I was one of the lucky ones. And I’m not sure how much you know about melanoma, but it’s pretty black and white with its severity. I mean they’ve done a lot of great things just in the past year with treatment, but particularly in my time it was either–it’s the kind of disease where you catch it and either you’re going to be completely fine, or you’re definitely going to die. Like there’s no middle ground, really. And I think I remember that feeling of like realizing this is what I had and being in the doctor’s and that moment of just pure undiluted fear that I felt.

Whereas Caitlin is definitely based on just a couple of people that I know. She’s kind of a hybrid of these wonderful characters, these people that might not necessarily be on the right path in life, but just have so much life to them and so much compassion. That’s where that kind of came from.


AE: Do you see yourself in Caitlin, or completely in Leah, who you didn’t play but who was in many ways inspired by events in your life?

MZ: Definitely both. Rosie likes to describe it as they are two parts of my personality. Which I guess in some ways can be a little bit true. Obviously, Caitlin is much–she’s having struggles with her family and her identity, and self-harm, and that kind of thing. And that is all fictional. Like that’s not me. But there’s definitely things about her. I mean the heartbreak that she wears on her sleeve, I’m very much like that with a broken heart. I love to let anyone and everyone know about it. And her love of music and that kind of stuff. Like there’s definitely parts of Caitlin that I absolutely saw in myself. But she’s much more free-spirited than I am, and she definitely takes a lot more risks than I do.