Rip it Up
Mad Dog Bradley
June 11, 2015
Kim Farrant recently chatted to Rip It Up about the production of her feature débutStrangerland, and discussed the film’s casting, production and 13 year gestation.
So Kim: this is your first feature drama after working in shorts, documentaries and TV?
Yes it is, and I’m very pleased and blessed and grateful that I got to work with such wonderful people and such an amazing cast. But it’s not just about me: it’s about the great script [by Michael Kinirons and Fiona Seres], and the production and everything.
How did it all begin?
It began with a scene in the film that was of interest to me, which was about how we act out in times of crisis, and then I took that to the original writer, Fiona, who brainstormed around it. I had these ideas that I wanted to make it about a family, and about trust, and about who can you trust if you can’t trust your family, and what happens when a daughter goes missing, and so we brainstormed for a couple of weeks about what to put around that and where to set it. We decided upon the outback, as that would put more pressures on the family as it would make them strangers themselves in a new town, and then after writing an outline together she went and wrote the script.
How long did it all take, from the first ideas to the finished film?
13 lovely years, from inception to Sundance premiere… You’ve got to factor into that that life just happens: people move, people get sick, there’s all of these things that you have to deal with which delay a process. But there was also getting the script to a point where it was financeable, and then attracting the actors, and then the timing and all the different schedules, which can be hard when you’re dealing with international actors of that level, and when you’re trying to get them all available at the same time. Don’t forget that Dallas Buyers Club, an amazing movie that won Matthew McConaughey an Oscar [and Jared Leto one too] took 20 years to get made, so some things are really worth waiting for.
As you originally trained as an actor did you maybe meet Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving or others in the cast back in those days?
Hugo I had directed in my second short film back in 1996, and while I didn’t know Nicole, Hugo was attached to the film very early. And then Hugo and Nicole shared an agent, and the agent read a later draft of the script and he gave it to Nicole and she loved it and we got this call saying that she wanted to do it. And that was amazing.
And what about English actor Joseph Fiennes?
That was very fortunate as he was attached to another project and we had these very specific dates to work with, and so he pushed back the dates on the other project so that he could work on our film. It was such a blessing to have a foreigner in that role as the character is an outsider, and it’s Strangerland and they were literally strangers to this land. And he was such a fabulous actor and just such a gentleman… We were also very lucky to have Lisa Flanagan as Coreen and Meyne Wyatt as Burtie and just such a great cast, all of them.
Was there ever a concern on your part that the characters played by Nicole and Joseph might have been too, dare it be said, unlikeable?
One of the things that Fiona, Michael and myself were very committed to was painting three-dimensional characters who illustrated both the light and the dark in all of us: the happy and the sad, the attractive and the ugly, you might say. I believe that we’re made up of all of those polarities: we’re not just good as we all have that darker side within us, and we wanted to show characters that have all those shades of grey, and have frailties as well as strengths… We also wanted the audience to be like the townsfolk in the film, and we wanted to explore how in a small community like that people go into blame mode when there’s a crisis… We were almost asking the audience to cast judgment, and then to reflect on how they cast judgment.
And where was the movie actually shot?
It was made in three different places: in Sydney for some of the interiors, in Canowindra for the main street of the fictional town, and Broken Hill for the back streets and the Parkers’ house and out there in the Mundi Mundi plains for the desert… Canowindra was actually surrounded by lush green grass but we framed and blocked all of that out. And we were filming in May in Broken Hill and it was still very hot and dry, and dust got everywhere: all over your skin, on your phone, even in your ears.
So Kim: now that the movie is finished what do you do next?
Well, I’m living in the States now, and while I’m more than willing to come back to Australia for a project I’m still based over here for now. I’m attached to a couple of things at the moment: one’s an indie drama called The Evel In Me, which is about an eight year old girl who wants to be Knievel back in 1974, and is a sort of darker version of Little Miss Sunshine. I’m also developing a project with Michael Winterbottom’s Revolution Films, and I’m also going to be working on a pilot script for a TV series in New York. All of them are about a recurring theme in all my work: the shadow side of sexuality.
Strangerland screens at the Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas from Thursday June 11.