“I am from Brisbane originally so grew up in the expansive, sometimes oppressive, suburbia that’s featured in the film,” says Imogen McCluskey, co-writer and director of Suburban Wildlife. “The characters are definitely different sides of myself: the headstrongness and mothering qualities of Louise, the confusion and impulsiveness of Nina, the pride and vulnerability of Alice, and the quiet desperation of Kane. Moving from Brisbane to Sydney meant leaving a lot of my school friends: people who’ve known me my entire life. Building a life in Sydney meant leaving them behind, and reflecting on our time together, and that sometimes friendships aren’t meant to last.”
Co-written with Beatrice Barbeau-Scurla, Suburban Wildlife features Hannah Lehman (The Out-There) as Louise, Maddy McWilliam as Nina, Priscilla Doueihy as Alice and Alex King as Kane, who are all compelling and convincing as a suburban posse who have known each other for years, but who are about to set out on their own individual journeys into adulthood.
“Much of the characters’ emotional journeys are internal. A lot of the emotional weight of the story sits in the silences between characters, and what they intuit from each other. For example, Kane never admits his visa has fallen through, but there are scenes based around the other characters picking up on this emotional weight. I think that’s something really truthful to long-term friendships – it’s not all big speeches and confessions. Sometimes you’re closest to someone when you’re silent, and the internal landscape these actors portray really is the bedrock for this film, and speaks to their incredible talent and craft,” says McCluskey.
“These actors are incredible, and I can’t wait for audiences to fall in love with them like I did,” McCluskey continues about her newcomer cast. “A lot of rehearsals and prep work went into building that authentic relationship on screen. I sent the actors on ‘dates’ together and we did a few rehearsals and scene work before the shoot. But honestly, the intensity of this micro-budget shoot – 24 locations over 14 days, often in 45 degree heat – was enough to bond anyone, and we’ve all gone on to develop deep friendships outside of the film. It’s so strange now looking back on the film, and remembering that we barely knew each other when we started.”
Influenced by Andrea Arnold (“we took the cast to see American Honey before we started shooting. The way she captures light and delicate performances is inspiring, and I definitely looked to that film and Fish Tank for her sense of place, light and sound.”), Kelly Reichardt and Jill Soloway’s Transparent, Suburban Wildlife was written during the second year of study at AFTRS, Australia’s leading film school, and shot in Sydney just before commencing the third and final year of study. “We were able to use equipment with the generous support of AFTRS, and almost all of the crew were AFTRS students. Their support and resources have been invaluable to us, and we couldn’t have made this film on this budget without it,” says McCluskey.
That budget consisted of a miraculously low $4,000 raised through Pozible supporters, and support from emerging production companies Fat Salmon and Take Two Productions for post-production and festival deliverables.
With its truthful and wistful depiction of life in Australian suburbia, seen through the eyes of four intelligent protagonists unsure of what the future holds, Suburban Wildlife signals the arrival of an exciting group of talented screen storytellers that we will see and hear much more about in the coming years. For now, though, “we’re currently crossing our fingers for the festival circuit and seeking out distributors,” says McCluskey.