Animals attracts Aussie director Sophie Hyde to Dublin

Animals director Sophie Hyde. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d495345
Animals director Sophie Hyde. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d495345

DIRECTOR Sophie Hyde’s film Animals is the latest addition to the surprisingly small catalogue of movies about female friendship.

“You can list them on your two hands, the stories that exist on screen, and I think that’s crazy because obviously as a woman the friendships in your life are hugely important,” Hyde said.

Animals director Sophie Hyde. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d495345

“It’s an indication of how few films are written and directed by women still.”

Adapted from the novel of the same name by the author Emma Jane Unsworth, Animals follows 32-year old-Laura (Holliday Grainger) and her riotously anti-establishment best friend and flatmate Tyler (Alia Shawkat of Arrested Development fame).

For the past 10 years in Dublin they have been inseparable, partying hard, rejecting societal expectations and indulging their every desire.

A scene from Sophie Hyde’s film Animals.

However, this lifestyle has not left much time for Laura to fulfil her innate desire to be a writer, admitting at a family dinner that in a decade of working on her novel she has written only 10 pages.

When Laura meets Jim, a dedicated classical pianist who won’t have a drink if he has work the next day, and they become engaged, she finds herself at a crossroads between these two conflicting relationships and whether either of these people represent the life she really wants.

“I loved the idea of placing value on a friendship even as it’s ending, what it can do for your life and how intensive and destructive and thought-provoking a friendship can be,” Hyde said.

“How often that happens where as friends you’re everything to each other and because someone romantically falls for someone else, there’s an idea that you should just let it go really comfortably.

“Because we don’t name it or value that friendship so strongly it’s really underexplored, what it feels like and means and the kind of grief that happens around it.”

A scene from Sophie Hyde’s film Animals.

With funding from both Screen Australia and Screen Ireland, Animals is the first film to be released as an Australian-Irish co-production.

Hyde, who is from Adelaide and whose director and writer credits include feature film 52 Tuesdays and SBS’s latest TV drama The Hunting, said this kind of international funding was not only necessary but creatively exciting.

“I think it is vital that we are making stories internationally with international partners, just because it’s so hard to finance a feature film and particularly something that’s a little bit independent or unusual,” she said.

“I came on to this as a director but when it became clear that we needed to raise money from Australia as well, then my production company and our producer (Rebecca Summerton) came on to raise money, which is a challenge.

“It also means that as an Australian and with the voice and the take that I have, which I think is distinctly Australian, I can be telling a story that is Irish that also feels like it relates to people and cultures across the world and we are fairly international now as humans, so it works.”

Sophie Hyde during the filming of Animals.

While the book is set in Manchester, production of the film had to be moved to Dublin for financing reasons, a city totally new to Hyde.

“In Manchester we would have had Emma to really introduce us to the authenticity of it in a way that I know a city like Adelaide,” she said.

“But there’s this beautiful thing that happens when you make a film where you’re seeing everything through the eyes of the filmmaker, so you are uncovering the city in a new way and get to fall in love with it.

“It also meant that we had to trust in people (in the crew) who we felt would understand these characters and be able to find their places.

“We tried to find parts of Dublin that didn’t feel like they were onscreen a lot. We weren’t trying to do a tourist version of Dublin, we wanted to be inside the world the way I might shoot my home.”

Animals is in cinemas now.

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