Aquarius Rising

April 7, 2021
Working together on director David Michod’s [Animal Kingdom] hard-hitting short film Crossbow planted the seed for Angie Fielder [right] and Polly Staniford to create Sydney-based powerhouse, Aquarius Films.

Both Aquarians, hence the name, the company has evolved organically over time from shorts to features, TV productions and documentary to create an impressive back catalogue. Producing credits include the multiple award-winning Lion starring Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel, Cate Shortland’s thriller Berlin Syndrome, and recently, the Tim Winton classic Dirt Music with Gregor Jordan at the helm.

Inspiration for the next hit comes from a range of sources. “Three of the four feature films we’ve made are based on books; we’re optioning books all the time. We also option plays, news articles, and true-life stories. There are two aspects to it, one is that you can build on an existing audience for the book that you can access and branch out from that. The other thing is that when it comes to development, working with underlying material, it’s a little bit faster and easier because the story and the characters are already there,” says Staniford.

“It’s a real mix of us getting recommended stories, agents sending us material from writers and directors, and tracking down talent we’re interested in working with, including talking to them about what they’re developing.

“There’s always been a female focus. We love female stories. And a lot of our films to date have been about Australians out in the world. We have Berlin Syndrome in Berlin, Lion in India, and Wish You Were Here [2012, directed by Kieran Darcy-Smith] was in Cambodia. We’re fond of international stories, not necessarily stories about Australians in Australia.”

Some of the talent that Aquarius has worked with include comedian Matt Okine, who created the series The Other Guy; Guy Pearce directing and starring in Poor Boy, an adaptation of the stage play written by Matt Cameron [Bloom, Secret City]; and twice Archibald Prize-winner Del Kathryn Barton, directing short film RED with Cate Blanchett.

Whether making their first feature or the fifth, both producers like to work closely with directors. Fielder says, “it’s a close, intense relationship. What we both love about it is that it really requires you to decipher the psychology of that person so that you can understand how to make them feel as safe and supported as possible to express themselves creatively and make the best possible film. What we want is for them to be performing at their absolute best so that they can do the very best job they can. We both really love doing that – getting a deeper understanding of a person and trying to work out what makes them tick, really getting under the skin of how they see the film and working out whether it’s the same as how we see it and keeping them on track.”

Collaborating on projects is a major focus for Aquarius, Staniford adds. “What works best for us is being able to partner with different people on different projects so that we can choose the right partners for each production.”

Working with another female-centric production company, Dollhouse Pictures, made perfect sense on The Geography of Friendship, a female-driven story about how inequality and fear of violence shape the everyday lives of women everywhere.

Other upcoming collaborations include projects with Netflix, SBS, Warner Brothers, ABC TV and Elizabeth Banks’s Brownstone Pictures. In another major announcement, Aquarius Films is partnering with Anonymous Content to produce The Subjugate, a dystopian thriller based on the acclaimed novel by Amanda Bridgeman. “The Subjugate explores topical themes of rehabilitation, recidivism, and advancing technology in a captivating near-future science fiction thriller and is the perfect raw material for a compelling TV series.”

With two multiskilled producers overseeing an eclectic array of projects, Aquarius Films is one to watch and will no doubt continue creating exceptional content for the world stage.

Head over to the Aquarius Films website for more information.

Photo by Sally Flegg
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