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Podcast - Director Kitty Green: Making The Royal Hotel

Kitty Green on crafting fiction from fact and directing The Royal Hotel.

Kitty Green, Julia Garner, Jessica Henwick

Find this episode of the Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Pocket Casts

Whether working on documentary or fiction narrative, for award-winning filmmaker Kitty Green the process of developing film starts with the question, “what am I trying to say here?”

“What is the message of this film,” she asks, “and what is the best way to tell the story.”

In this episode of the Screen Australia podcast, Green talks about her start in the film industry and embracing documentary as a means to have creative control of the types of stories she told. Following her award-winning documentaries featuring feminist rebels of Ukraine Is Not a Brothel and the genre-blending Casting JonBenet, it was the rise of #MeToo that inspired her debut feature film The Assistant and a move towards narrative fiction.

 While much of her filmography explores the nuances of gender and violence, politics are not the focus for her. Rather her stories are a means to explore societal discomfort, or “things that scare me that make me anxious, and situations and environments that I feel uncomfortable in,” she says. “I feel like that's something I can unpack.”

A chance viewing of documentary Hotel Coolgardie led Green to explore Australian drinking culture and gendered violence, and the uniqueness of outback pubs inspired the titular hotel and her ultimate return to Australia to film The Royal Hotel.

In The Royal Hotel, two American backpackers whose working holiday takes a turn when they find themselves in outback Australia, slinging drinks and navigating the cultural complexities of remote work and the attentions of hard-drinking locals. The ensemble cast includes Julia Garner and Jessica Henwick as the unsuspecting travelers, alongside a stellar cast of Australian talent including Hugo Weaving as pub-owner Billy, Ursula Yovich as his long-suffering girlfriend Carol, and Daniel Henshall, James Frecheville and Toby Wallace amongst the overly attentive locals.

Filming itself was not without it’s challenges, with the cold southern Australian winds a shock to local and international cast and crew, and short shoot schedules as the major difference to documentary. But she credits her time as an editor to help navigate the changes in genre, ensuring she has a clear picture when she walk onto set, and a decisiveness that works with the tighter production schedules feature films demand. “I kind of edit as I go,” she says. ”I know how I want a scene to come together. And so I'm very clear {when} Michael will say, Do we need a shot of this?  I'm very confident when I say no or yes. I know exactly how I see the scene coming kind of fitting. So […] the editing helps."

Green also talks about how to build tension using space and sound, working with actors, navigating complex ensemble scenes, and how collaboration is at the heart of all her projects. The Royal Hotel reunites her with longtime friend and collaborator DOP Michael Latham, alongside composer Jed Palmer, production designer and lead Garner. This collaborative spirit is across all areas of the production and she credits established relationships make short shoot schedules, and her role as director, easier to manage. “The whole process moves a little faster. We were able to kind of get more done within the time we have, which is good.“

With The Royal Hotel screening at festivals and in cinemas globally, and comparisons to other Australian outback thrillers are not unnoticed, but she hopes it will inspire conversation and reflection rather than fear. “it is about the kind of behaviour that's not crossing the line, but it's dancing on the line the entire time. And I think that those sort of discussions are really important in order to make these spaces safer for everyone.[…] There's a few things in there to unpack…hopefully over a beer after you see the film.”

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