women in film: an interview with Eaglehawk director shannon murphy
Shannon Murphy is an award-winning film and theatre director, with short films like the Cannes-screening Kharisma and Love Me Tender to her name. Film editor Lauren Strickland chatted to her about her filming in Canberra, working with all-female casts, and her latest film, Eaglehawk.
How did you get involved with Eaglehawk?
It was a story I have been wanting to tell for 4 years which was when I first read the short story from Van Den Berg’s collection What the World Will Look Like When All The Water Leaves Us.
As a Canberra native, I’m curious to know what it was like to film on location there?
Canberra has a very European feel to it. I was fortunate to be there during the filming of the TV series Secret City. I had just given birth to my daughter Dylan and had a lot of free time to wander around and I began seeing locations that were really evocative. We found a pine forest in Bungendore and a caravan park in Eaglehawk which gave us the name of our film! I wanted to come back and shoot in the pine forest in the height of summer. I love shooting in locations when the weather contradicts our iconic images and ideas – such as a European looking forest in 40 degree heat!
You’ve said that ‘[Eaglehawk] is about a young woman’s search for a sense of self, a search for a creative and emotional outlet.’ Can you expand on that?
I have always been fascinated with the emotional and physical sacrifice actors have to make in order to achieve their craft. It has been a prominent theme in my theatre work with productions such as Bliss and Circle Mirror Transformation and my short film Kharisma. In Eaglehawk the lead character pushes herself to her creative limits in order to achieve a sense of self satisfaction and break out of the limitations of her environment and situation. Acting is a form of escapism for Eve.
Eaglehawk seems to be about identity, and construction of identity through costume/clothing. Does the fact that Eve explores/recreate her identity through a Yowie costume say something about a rejection of traditional ideals of what it means to be a woman or female?
It’s not necessarily a rejection of traditional ideas of what it means to be a woman, although I am always excited to hear other people’s interpretation of creative work. It’s why I love my job, because it allows people to create their own meaning and associations. In speaking to our local Guumaal-Ngambri Indigenous elder in region, I was interested in the idea that the Yowie is considered Secret Men’s Business. For me it added another layer that Eve was working in a job that was portraying a spiritual creature that is male and whose secrets are not privy to women.
Dollhouse Pictures is best known for its dedication to female-lead film productions. What was it like working with Eaglehawk’s all-female creative team?
With film, choosing a creative team is like choosing who you want to go camping with, its very close quarters and intimate. You all are going to have to share every aspect of your life together for an intense period of time so you have to like each other a lot as well as have complete faith in each others talents. Eaglehawk was particularly like this because we all lived together in the caravan park where we shot the film. I love working with both women and men who respect women. I have always been drawn to female writers and stories with female protagonists. Rather than it being agenda driven its actually just something I am instinctively inspired by.
You can catch Eaglehawk at the Sydney Film Festival this weekend.