They shot their own scenes on smartphones under Daley’s guidance from her London home.
“I thought, ‘well, I’m sitting at home, I’d love to do something creative’,” Daley said from Italy, where she is about to shoot an episode of the Ancient Rome TV series Domina with COVID-19 restrictions. “We talked a lot about Esther Williams and Busby Berkeley and all those great references.”
Shooting the film was painstaking work over three weeks.
“Bathrooms are often the worst place in the world to shoot in normal life because they’re small, they’re dingy and the lighting’s not great,” Daley said, “We’d sit on Zoom all day and log onto different people across the world.”
New Zealand choreographer Corey Baker directed the film from his bathroom in London, which meant he had a confined space to demonstrate moves during rehearsals.
He described the shoot as “like trying to hang a picture with your eyes closed from five miles away”.
Daley, whose work has included the ABC series The Letdown, the Oscar-nominated short The Saviour and the documentary series First Contact and Sex: An Unnatural History, said the bathtub ballet was a “very DIY” project.
Some dancers used a bendable tripod to clip phones to their shower head. Others positioned them with a broom handle, a toilet plunger, books and a box Velcroed to the ceiling.
The husband of one dancer created an ingenious tracking shot by riding their child’s scooter.
Two dancers substituted swimming pools – one inflatable – for a bath.
“The dancer would be doing their stuff with me saying ‘left a bit, right a bit, up a bit’,” Daley said. “Some people are naturally great at framing; for other people, it’s a struggle.
“But it’s funny watching people sit in their baths while we were on the Zoom call. It’s quite intimate.”
Daley, whose resourcefulness extended to testing the bath bombs that dancers used in their shots, thought the constraints of shooting the film remotely added to the creativity.
“It’s a beautiful film,” she said. “It made my mum cry.”
Early next year, the Australian Film Television and Radio School graduate will shoot another novel film in Wales: “a musical set in a chicken factory”.
No more swans, just chickens.
Garry Maddox is a Senior Writer for The Sydney Morning Herald.