Sundance 2019: “Animals”

Sophie Hyde made a splash at Sundance in 2014 after winning the Directing Award in the World Cinema / Dramatic Competition for “52 Tuesdays.” This year Hyde is back with yet another project, this time with the film “Animals,” which has been selected for the “Premieres” section that recognizes highly impressive narrative feature films. Bryan Mason also worked on both films, as cinematographer and editor. He notes that “Animals” marks the first joint collaboration between Australia and Ireland in producing a film together.

Cinematographer and Editor Bryan Mason.

When he learned the film was happening, Mason found himself in Ireland, less than two weeks later: “We started talking about the look of the film for quite a while before we headed to Dublin and went straight into pre-production,” Mason explains. “We were there for three months, with five weeks of that being the shoot. We went straight back to Adelaide after we wrapped to edit the film, then locked and graded it.”

Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat appear in Animals by Sophie Hyde, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Bernard Walsh.

Mason decided to shoot on widescreen using ARRI ALEXA Mini equipment, using old Panavision glass. “I wanted it to be widescreen because it’s so easy for a film about two women to be totally dismissed, or thought of as light,” he says. “Bringing a cinematic edge to the film also brought out the story and placed it firmly into the realm of cinema.”

“We needed to shoot quickly so the ALEXA Mini was perfect,” Mason says. “Its color rendering is also incredible, while the older Panavision lenses allowed us to capture a specific look, especially at night.” He also used Adobe Premiere Pro to edit the film.

Holliday Grainger appears in Animals by Sophie Hyde, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Bernard Walsh.

While the story was originally based in Manchester, England, Mason notes that Dublin became the perfect backdrop for the story. “The characters absolutely inhabit Dublin’s space and culture. The script is very full and real, and we wanted to bring that to light. It was very interesting to shoot in a city that you don’t know at all.

“The one thing that did change, however, was the look of the film,” he adds. “We had this idea of cool blue light at night m, but the light was orange, yellow and red in Dublin. As a result, we leaned toward those hues instead of affecting the lights to fit a preconceived idea. Sure, it wasn’t exactly what we had in mind but you have to go with it. It’s always about choices that balance practicality with ideas and then making the most of what you can find.

“We didn’t storyboard because we didn’t want to limit ourselves and create restrictions,” Mason says. “For example, we found an old school converted into a library once we arrived in Dublin. It was run down place and the perfect location for production designer Louise Mathews to make it into an apartment that was featured in the film. He did a smashing job.”

Alia Shawkat and Holliday Grainger appear in Animals by Sophie Hyde, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Tamara Hardman.

The team chose to avoid any exotic locations with “Animals” and instead opted to film at night in bars, clubs and alleyways. “We wanted to find locations that we could film at night that just felt authentic,” he says.

When editing, keeping a film’s humorous tone can be easy to lose if you’re not careful. “You always try to bring the tone of the film to fruition,” says Mason, who edited the film in Adobe Premiere Pro. “The humor is not so much ‘Bridesmaids’ humor, as it is an intimate story between two friends and their crazy, funny life.”

Although Mason said the production went along as planned, he also experienced some of the usual challenges in editing a film: “It’s always the same questions: Can we tell this story with what we managed to shoot? What’s the best story we can tell here with what we have? The ending of the film changed quite significantly from the script—not significantly in terms of intention or character, but more the order of the scenes and how they played out. That was the biggest change. It was a fairly big one, but finding a new ending for ‘Animals’ in the editing process was exciting and very fulfilling.”

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