Don't Miss

Interview – Shelby Hadden – ‘Tightly Wound’ – A Short Film


Posted May 14, 2018 by

Full Article

Interview – Shelby Hadden

Director Shelby Hadden’s brave tale of a woman suffering with chronic pelvic pain and female sexual dysfunction is shared through the eye-opening animation Tightly Wound.  This must-see film uncovers a subject that is rarely spoken about and has already been selected for five film festivals, including Nashville Film Festival.

A woman recounts her experience living with chronic pelvic pain – how health professionals have failed her, men have rejected her, and shame, anger, and hatred have plagued her body.

Tightly Wound is a 10-minute animated film that follows Shelby’s experience with vaginismus; a pelvic floor condition characterized by involuntary contractions of the pelvic floor muscles that tighten the vaginal entrance, causing pain, penetration problems, and inability to have intercourse. It chronicles the various ways it has affected her life – how health professionals have failed her, men have rejected her, and shame, anger, and hatred have plagued her body.

Shelby Hadden is a documentary filmmaker whose films explore issues of gender and identity. Most recently, she’s directed Ms. Texas Senior, a short documentary that follows a beauty pageant for women 60 years and older. Her films have screened at various film festivals including the Nashville Film Festival, Sidewalk Film Festival, and BEA Festival of Media Arts. She is currently a producer at Bring Light & Sound and a lecturer at the University of Texas.

Producer Sebastián Bisbal began his undergraduate studies on Audiovisual Directing at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Since then, his work has continued to explore fantastical and surreal elements within real-life situations. His undergraduate thesis film Cazuela, a mixture of stop-motion animation and live-action narrative, has been in many film festivals all around the world.

Tightly Wound has been selected for Athens International Film & Video Festival, Nashville Film Festival in May, Becoming Unwound in May, Annecy International Animated Film Festival in June and Filmets Barcelona Film Festival in October.

Interview - Shelby Hadden


To begin with, tell us about your latest documentary ‘Tightly Wound’, what is it about?

Tightly Wound is a short animated film about my experience with chronic pelvic pain. I have a pelvic floor condition called vaginismus where the muscles in and around my vagina involuntarily contract, causing pain and penetration problems. The film chronicles my journey to find treatment and date while not being able to have sex.

How did you come to make the film? What initially motivated you to make a documentary of this nature?

I was in a really bad place emotionally about where I was with pelvic floor physical therapy and dating. I felt like I was working so hard to overcome my vaginismus (I was going to PT once a week and doing exercises on my own every day) but since I couldn’t have sex right away, no one would date me! I felt so alone and frustrated and helpless… so I realized the only way I’d feel like I had any control over my situation was if I created something from it. I wanted to share my story to raise awareness as well as allow all those struggling with vaginismus or pelvic floor dysfunction to see their experiences reflected back to them.

What was the creative thinking behind an animated documentary? Why did you choose to animate the film rather than live action?

I’d been wanting to make a film about vaginismus for a few years but couldn’t figure out how to make a traditional documentary about it. There are some videos out there with women talking about their experiences in interviews, but I wanted to tell a more visceral and visual story. However, these experiences physically and emotionally are very…internal. 2D animation allows for a more figurative representation of these experiences as well as provides a safe distance for audiences who are uncomfortable with the subject matter.

What are your influences as a filmmaker? What was your greatest influence or inspiration for this film in particular?

As a filmmaker, I watch a lot of documentaries and read a lot of books, especially creative non-fiction and graphic novels. I have so many influences for Tightly Wound: personal documentaries such as Stories We Tell, Nobody’s Business, and Melissa Johnson’s Love in the Time of March Madness, Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, Fun Home, Leslie Jamison’s collection of essays, The Empathy Exams, Susanna Kaysen’s memoir, The Camera My Mother Gave Me, and Marion Foyelle’s book of illustrations, In Pieces.

When & where can we expect to see ‘Tightly Wound’?

Hopefully everywhere! We are still in the beginning of our film festival run, with upcoming screenings at Nashville Film Festival, Annecy International Animated Film Festival, Guanajuato International Film Festival, Anima Mundi, and Filmets Bardelona Film Festival. We also have a fundraising event in LA on May 19 ( We are still waiting to hear from other festivals, so you can follow along on facebook or:

What is the next step for you? Do you have any other films or projects in production?

Sebastian Bisbal (the animator and co-producer of Tightly Wound) and I would really love to make two more animated shorts based on essays I wrote about my experiences related to vaginismus. One of them was recently published in Thought Catalogue – take a look here.


Read Similar Articles?…

[Interview] – Jocelyn Stamat – “Laboratory Conditions” – A Short Film
[Interview] – Matt Graham, writer of ‘The Untold History of the United States’
[Interview] – Mark C Smith – “Two Balloons” – A Short Film

Reviews | Joint Reviews | Articles | Debates | Promotions | Interviews |

Interviewed By:

Adam Snowden
Company Founder & Managing Director

Join The Debate! Leave us a comment…


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Response


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.