Hanna Griffiths has worn many hats, as she’s navigated her way through Australia’s entertainment industry and into the strange ever-shifting microcosm of Hollywood. Having grown up on a farm just outside Melbourne, she honed her performance skill competing in equestrian dressage, and taking to the stage at the age of twelve in local school productions.
From there, Hanna entered The Victorian College of the Arts, taking lessons in ballet and embracing a love of Shakespeare where she performed in A Midsummer Night Dream, Richard III and the infamous Scottish play… but it wasn’t until her father took her to a screening of The Horse Whisperer that Griffiths saw her path forward in the entertainment industry.
“One of my favourite books was The Horse Whisperer,” explains Griffiths, calling in from her home in Melbourne where she is currently prepping a new project. “And then one day my father took me to see the film. And it was just one of those moments where everything that you love sort of comes together. And I was watching this film; and there’s Robert Redford and Scarlet Johansson and I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is the coolest thing ever. Movies, I got to do this’. I didn’t know how or why or what I was going to do, I just knew I wanted to be in that world.”
As she began auditioning, Hanna secured a number of high-profile advertising campaigns including print work for the likes of Ray-Ban and Lee Denim before landing a television campaign that placed her onscreen alongside Olivia Newton John. From there, Griffiths found herself cast in the hit crime drama Underbelly, playing the angelic Jodie, before scoring a role in Geoffrey Wright’s seedy underworld adaptation of Macbeth.
“And then I got a manager from the U.S. and I started taking trips out there from 2011,” muses Griffiths when asked about the transition from Australia to Hollywood, and from being in front of the camera to working behind the scenes. “I started going there for auditions. And I liked it a lot. And then I took some classes over at the American Dramatic Arts Centre for a year and I just started working in a production company behind the scenes.
“I really wanted to learn everything about how to make a film. I wanted to learn the development side of it, how to pitch to studios, how to pitch to production companies, how to get funding, how to raise financing, but also more of the creative side, like the editing… So, Yeah… now I’m a full-blown editor. I can edit all my projects. It’s quite funny.”
With a simple Google search, it’s easy to understand why the advertising sector embraced Hanna early on, with her long blonde hair, sapphire eyes, girl-next-door personality and professional work ethic, she undoubtedly had a strong future in modelling. However, as she reveals, her transition into production in an industry hungry for aesthetic talent, has marked her as something of an oddity in the Hollywood market, especially having come from in front of the camera.
“They really think I’m an oddity, even at the production company that I worked for. They were like, ‘Why aren’t you just auditioning? Why do you even want to… This is hard’. And most of the editors that I work with don’t look like me. They come in with their comic book t-shirts on, but actually, we’re all very nerdy.
“It’s not very glamorous. Everybody thinks that you would want to be in front of the camera and da da da, but I actually really enjoy the work and the creative process, that’s what it is for me. Everybody has different parts that they like but for me it’s the challenges and problem solving and overcoming holes in the story or just… I love the creative part of it.
“I’ve had a lot of experiences being around famous people. I just wanted to work and to be on sets and I wanted to just make the movies. So, I really kept my head down as much as I could. I love to study everything, so the research, the developing, finding a book and taking it into all the stages that it goes through to get it to a script, to sell it, I love it all.”
But Hanna’s rise in Hollywood, especially during production of her latest feature film The Sinners, which recently landed on home entertainment, hasn’t been without difficulties, thanks mostly to social upheavals and the current pandemic having run rampant through California.
“I had to do all my post-production on The Sinners during COVID,” she explains when the subject inevitably comes up. “Which was very challenging because another editor and I were working every day for about four months during lockdown, so we had to stay far away from each other. We had to close our offices, so I actually hired the sound studio, where we were doing our sound, and normally you’d have an actor on one side and then you record the sound on the other, with glass in between.
“So, I put my editor in there, on one side and I was on the other side of the glass and we edited the movie together like that, frame by frame. It was a huge effort.
“And then we had to bring in the actors to do the ADR and voiceover, which was really challenging because we couldn’t be in the same room with them.
“Some of the actors were really chill with COVID and other ones came in full-blown space suits, and were completely freaked out. So, you have to factor that in as well; like how bad is every individual’s anxiety?
“But yeah, just COVID, in general, was really scary. Everybody I know got it. So, I was very lucky… but I really was careful, and I was only spending time with my editor, and even then, I was really careful with him because he has kids and a family.”
However, Covid wasn’t the only catastrophe to hit L.A. during that time, as Hanna continues to explain.
“I’m usually pretty chill when it comes to most things. It takes a lot to scare me, but the worst night was actually to do with the Black Lives Matter stuff, the very first night was literally like a war zone. It was just chaos everywhere. That was the scariest night of all, I’d never seen my street on fire and people bashing down all the shop windows. I lived right off Melrose, so it was definitely the key place for people to gather.
“And that was really scary, and that was just after we got out of lockdown. Having those two things on top of each other, that was really scary.”
The Sinners, produced by Hanna Griffiths, directed by Courtney Paige is out now on DVD and digital.