Sophie Hyde exudes passion for what she does.
We meet at Adelaide café Whistle and Flute. It’s busy. Hyde arrives, dressed all in black, simultaneously edgy and quirky.
The Adelaide based director, writer, and producer has been in the midst of promotion for feature film Animals, and is coming off the Australian release of SBS miniseries The Hunting.
Later in the afternoon, she is set to host a screening for Animals, which is based on the novel of the same name by Emma Jane Unsworth. Both film and book are gritty, darkly comedic works, triumphantly exploring female characters.
“I read the book really fast and thought there was something in it that was very witty and funny and very familiar,” says Hyde over her soy coffee. “And there was something else in it. It wasn’t just a fun film about frolicking girls. It had another element that was quite truthful. It was a bit ugly and I really liked that.”
Hyde tells me she wrote the producers a rather long letter with lots of images, and soon found they were all on the same page in terms of the film they wanted to make, the story they wanted to tell.
Animals spent a few years in development, with its shooting location eventually moved to Dublin as a result of finances. It was screened at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, and as an Adelaide Film Festival pop-up event, before its cinema release.
The film is centred on a core female friendship, and there’s no denying it, the characters are raw and real and atypical of traditional female film leads. Hyde agrees that this speaks to the current trend of exploring “ugly characters”, as evidenced by popular releases Fleabag and Booksmart, and now, Animals.
“It’s very refreshing to see things and think oh, that’s a little bit like the secret part of me that’s kind of horrible,” says Hyde. “I find it really disheartening when you see things where people are so lovely all the time.”
Of characters who are raw, real, and yes, flawed, Hyde says, “I find it kind of hopeful to see that.”
She reflects on some of the reactions to Animals, stating she has had a number of viewers tell her the film hits a little too close to home. We discuss the importance of storytelling that garners that exact reaction.
“There was a real feeling of needing more women on screen,” says Hyde. She goes on to explain the movement, saying there was a sense that women on screen needed to be less passive, so were made overtly strong.
“Lots of men put women on screen in these roles,” Hyde says. “[In roles] just like men or like [in roles where] they’re so strong cool and it doesn’t feel real or authentic.”
Hyde stresses the importance of seeing stories told by women, told by people from all walks of life.
“[To try to] actually explore different versions of being a human,” she says. “Certainly not [just] a hero’s journey. I think we’re often suspect of the hero’s journey because that doesn’t feel like our lives.”
Hyde’s life revolves around creating, and has since her youth theatre days.
“For me, making things has always been about the people,” she says. “You have an idea and a thing and you explore it.
“You make stories so that you can understand and create something. Even at high school I was like oh, I want a theatre company because I wanted to be with the same people, and keep exploring together.”
And keep exploring she has, having co-founded Closer Productions, a collective of award-winning filmmakers based right here in Adelaide.
“We wanted to break model of competing with each other,” Hyde says of the beginning of her company “We wanted to be sustained. We made projects we really believed in and that kicked us out into the international world.”
52 Tuesdays was arguably the film that did just that.
“We got that up through the Film Lab initiative,” says Hyde. “That along with Shut Up Little Man! [referring to Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure] sort of set off the company.”
Hyde sings the praises of her team, which includes husband and co-founder Bryan Mason, who specialises in cinematography and editing.
“There’s something about having a group of people you jam out ideas with and tell each other when things aren’t great,” she chuckles. “You keep each other accountable.”
Unlike many in the film industry, Hyde, along with Closer Productions, has remained in Adelaide.
“When we started everyone just left Adelaide and we stayed and were seen as so unusual,” she says. “That’s so f**ked up. There’re really good things about it [staying in Adelaide]. You’re head down, you work hard, and you keep making.”
When we discuss what’s next, Hyde has a tumble of answers.
“We’re developing a book with Tilly,” she says, referring to Adelaide actress Tilda Cobham-Hervey. Hyde tells me that they have actually just come off four days of writing on that particular project. According to Hyde, Cobham-Hervey is very much part of the “Closer family”, having worked on a multitude of projects, including52 Tuesdays and F*!#ing Adelaide
“We have a bunch of different TV shows and a couple of movies that we’re doing work on to a certain point,” says Hyde. “And then we’ll take them out to market.”
In Hyde’s words, “Work for the reasons that you want to work.”
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