“I knew I wanted to be a director since I was seven or eight,” says Sophia Banks. “But growing up on the North Shore in Sydney, it was like wanting to be an astronaut. You just did other things because you didn’t think it was possible. It has been a long journey to get here, and it’s really exciting.”
We’re speaking with Banks from the Gold Coast where she is prepping her first feature, Blacksite, for newly formed production company Asbury Park Pictures, an initiative between Basil Iwanyk’s Thunder Road Films (John Wick) and Red Box Entertainment – a streaming and DVD kiosk company – to produce mid-budget high-concept action thrillers
Banks assures us that Blacksite is an Australian film. “We will have Australian actors, and we’re set at a Five Eyes facility; Five Eyes is an the agreement between the CIA, basically, and the Australia, New Zealand, Canada and England secret services. It’s set at the site, all of those nationalities together and it’s an action film.”
But before her short films got her on the Hollywood radar, and convinced producers that she could direct an actioner, Banks had to travel down a long road.
“I went to acting school in Australia, and I wanted to study film,” she tells us. “But I couldn’t really find a film school. So, I did business at UTS, and then I found some film courses at Sydney University. When I was there, I was watching The Godfather, and I was like, ‘I really want to make movies’. I tried to find out how, and it just seemed impossible. At that point in time, it seemed that women didn’t direct. I was led to believe that I should probably go into the costume department, because that’s where women were, so I came over to America and doing fashion styling and costume and worked my way up. I looked at a lot of directors, and I love Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, David Fincher, who had done commercials and music videos.
“I had a career doing fashion styling, making money, and I used those contacts to do girls skateboarding in couture for Downtown LA.
“That was the thing that popped my career. Then I got to direct the Kardashians for a clothing line video, and then suddenly, I got agents.”
Banks then made a series of impressive short films, including Unregistered.
“We do a proof of concept just because the movies and TV shows that we want to make are $60 million. You can’t make that type of movie independently, so we make a short film, 10 or 15 minutes, and we then turn it. Unregistered premiered at Tribeca Film Festival, and that’s getting turned into a movie.”
More recently, Banks directed Proxy starring Emma Booth.
“I’m very good friends with Emma and her husband, Dominick [Joseph Luna]. At the end of 2019, we were like, ‘We should make something together to turn into a movie or a TV show’. Dominick wrote it, and we shot it in two days and then editing it over COVID. And now, we have interest in turning it into a TV show, so we’re very excited about that.”
After Blacksite, Banks intends to make another feature in Australia, a sci-fi thriller with former head of Fox, producer Bill Mechanic (Coraline, Hacksaw Ridge).
“I’m a huge lover of action and sci-fi. What I hope to bring that I think good directors – both men and women – bring, is grounded character stories and action. I like to see women represented, not just as the hot chick who kicks butt. I think the more that we have representation for women across all of the genres, then the more we’ll have different stories. And not just women, diversity of all life. That’s why we are filmmakers – the more diverse we are across nationality or religion, sexuality, gender, different walks of life, the more interesting stories we’ll have and the more, hopefully, we’ll understand each other.”