“When COVID hit, I was working with Elisabeth Moss on the beginning of season four of The Handmaid’s Tale,” Daina Reid tells us from Melbourne, as she takes a break from post-production on her second feature film, Run Rabbit Run. “I was mentoring Elisabeth through her first directing job on The Handmaid’s Tale. We didn’t get to complete that, sadly, COVID hit, and I came home. And because of our border restrictions, I didn’t go back to complete it.”
Best laid plans… including having to re-cast Moss’s role in Run Rabbit Run, with Sarah Snook.
“We were ready to go. And then COVID happened,” she says of her long-awaited return to feature film directing with the Hannah Kent scripted Run Rabbit Run. “There was a big traffic jam. These things happen for a reason, and we were so amazingly fortunate to get Sarah Snook in this role, who is the most astonishing actor. I’m watching Sarah’s face all day, every day. And it really is an extraordinary thing to witness.”
Either way, Western Australia born Reid got a chance to work with Elisabeth Moss again on Shining Girls, the Apple TV+ series based on Lauren Beukes’ book.
“I read it in 2013,” Reid tells us. “My hobby is reading science fiction, and speculative fiction is my fun part of life. So, it was interesting when Elisabeth Moss approached me and talked about it. One of the reasons why I was working in the US was to do more genre stuff because I like it myself. Here was a great opportunity to actually make something that you’ve read for fun.”
Reid directs a number of crucial episodes of the 8 episode series, including the crucial third episode when the mysterious goings on of the cryptic first episodes are clarified.
“What is happening to this woman?” askes Reid about the introduction to the show. “You’re on the journey with Kirby [Moss] going, ‘This is a whole new reality. What is happening?’ And I guess it’s an allegory for trauma as well, working through all that stuff every day of what her new reality is. That’s what is happening in the first two. And three, we get a bit more insight into what is actually going on.”
Shooting Reid’s episodes is fellow Australian Bonnie Elliott. “We were standing by, wanting to do Run Rabbit Run. And COVID, COVID, COVID, all that sort of stuff. It looked like it wasn’t going to happen. And Shining Girls was right there. I said to Lizzy Moss, ‘Are you having a second DOP?’ She said ‘Yeah, we’re looking for one. We can’t find one. We’d like a woman’. And I went, ‘Ooh, I kind of have somebody right here’.
“Bonnie just did such an amazing job. And what she did looked so beautiful. I’ve got to say, personally speaking, it was just great to have another Australian there kind of battling it out in another country in the middle of a COVID pandemic. It was great to have her. She did wonderful work. And then after doing those mad six months there, straight back and then Run Rabbit Run just kind of slotted in. And we were off. So that was fantastic.”
With showrunner Silka Luisa, and fellow directors Michelle MacLaren and Elisabeth Moss, was there a proactive effort to have female creatives above the line on the show? “I believe so. I think that because it’s about female trauma. The original IP is written by a woman. It is such a perspective driven show, Kirby’s perspective is really what drives us. Most of the time, we do go into Harper’s as world a bit, but not as much as the book did.”
Harper is played in menacing fashion by Billy Elliot himself, Jamie Bell. “I know,” smiles Reid. “I’m an ex-dancer, so it was really massive for me. I had to suppress that a lot because I could have been very fan-like. He would break into tap dance in between shots, and I just loved it. It was just absolutely wonderful to see that because he’s such a happy light fellow.
“He’s definitely accessing something else in there,” she says referring to Bell’s intense performance in Shining Girls.
Speaking of shifting between light and dark, Daina Reid’s filmography is literally the very definition of the dichotomy: from her comedic feature debut I Love You Too and series such as Space Force, Offspring and Young Rock to the other end of the spectrum with episodes of Romper Stomper, The Handmaid’s Tale and her second feature Run Rabbit Run.
“I like to straddle both,” she says. “There’s not a lot of jokes in Run Rabbit Run, I’ll need to do a comedy next. You let that pressure off. I like to flip, because it exercises a very different part of my brain, and I want to keep them both fit.”
Does she prefer film or TV?
“I started off in television. I was performing in Perth TV as a dancer, as a kid. I learned about TV studios and all that sort of stuff first, even though I went to the cinema every weekend. And that’s what kind of got me interested in it, going to see Star Wars and movies. But to me, you just flick between the two. And now we shoot on the same medium. so it’s all kind of the same.”
Shining Girls is streaming now on Apple TV+