Today we are pleased to welcome director Kim Farrant to the site in order to talk about Strangerland – her new thriller about a family whose kids disappear into the Australian desert starring Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving and Joseph Fiennes. Read on to find out how Kim spent twelve years getting the film made, the challenges faced when making your first feature and much more…
Hi, Kim. Firstly, would you like to describe Strangerland in your own words for our readers?
Well, on the surface it’s about a couple who move to the desert with their two teenaged children, and just after their arrival the kids go missing in a particularly bad dust storm. It follows the parents as they desperately try to find the children, and as we see them grieving, other things start to come out – they’re running away from the previous town, there are secrets between them – and it looks at what happens after a couple’s been emotionally ravaged like that. What it’s really about is how people act out after something like that, turning to sex or other vices to ease our pain, to escape our feelings.
You were working on getting the film made for 12 years. Tell us about how you eventually came to direct it.
I had had an experience when I was about 22, where I was going through a lot of grief and I myself started to act out sexually with strangers, which a lot of people at that age do, but I was really shocked my own behaviour. And I spoke to certain other people about it over the years, and I was realised that I was not alone in responding that way. That got me thinking about how sex can be used in order to avoid your own feelings – “Fuck The Pain Away”, as Peaches put it – so that was something that I wanted to explore, and I found a writer and we talked it over, and a lot of other themes came into it, because we were both throwing out ideas, and she finished the script in a few weeks. Then we spent years trying to get it made, which was difficult, because a lot of people find it difficult to swallow this concept, a woman acting out sexually. Hence, 12 years in the making – 13, by the time it actually came out.
The funding for the film is unusual, too – it’s an Australian-Irish co-production, and yet there are seemingly no uniquely Irish elements to the story. Were there any tensions between various investors and what they wanted from the film?
I think there are always tensions between investors, because they’re all individuals with their own, subjective, needs and desires. But, as director, ultimately you’ve always got to keep the truth of the tale, and that can be a challenge when you’ve got various investors wanting different things; but, at the same time, the story speaks loudly, and it is the story that drew people in in the first place.
Directing Strangerland as your first feature, was that a challenge?
Sure! I had done documentary features, but that’s a very different kettle of fish. There were all sorts of challenges, from the script itself, to location filming, and keeping on top of the shooting schedule…but then, that’s the craft. It was a welcome challenge.
The work that you’ve done previously, especially some of the documentaries, did that experience come in useful?
Absolutely, and I love docs. I think they really helped to humble me, to remind me just to strive to find the truth in each moment. And that, for me, was also the benchmark for judging the actors’ performances: what would it be like in real life? And, with some of the things that I’ve documented – I’ve filmed people dying, I’ve filmed people in all sorts of undress, I’ve filmed people in the wake of grief – I’ve had experience with the reality of the things that are depicted in the film. And, of course, the experience I’ve had over the 13 years of growing as a woman, growing as a human being.
Creating those documentaries, knowing you had Strangerland in mind, did you select certain subjects, almost as practice?
No, not at all. Every documentary I’ve done, I think, is about a subject that speaks for itself. But then, I think every artist has certain themes that recur through their work, and I think that for me some of those topics are the body, the various ways in which we act out with our bodies, sexuality, sex in relationships, hidden taboos, secrets, all of that kind of stuff.
The film seems to evoke Nicolas Roeg and Peter Weir. Were you setting out to emulate that sort of iconic Australian imagery?
Yes, in a way. We were trying to create a very Australian story, but at the same time the themes that are explored in Strangerland are very different from those in Walkabout or Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Tell us about the casting process. What drew you to the principal actors? Were there any particular prior rôles on their CVs that made them fit the part for you?
Hugo Weaving I’d worked with earlier, and he was attached to the film from quite early on. Nicole Kidman was just a really fine actress, someone who was really interested in exploring these themes of female sexuality, going on this sexual odyssey.
Having now completed your first feature, what’s next for you?
I’m in London next week for a TV show called Random, and then at the same time I’ve got other film projects going on, both in the UK and in Australia, and I just want to keep on doing things that reflect what I’m interested in, the kind of stories that I want to tell.
Strangerland will be released on DVD and Digital HD on the 4th July, will you be grabbing a copy for yourselves? Let us know in the comment box below!