Another thriller from Down Under

Another thriller from Down Under

Life sits down with Run Rabbit Run producer Anna McLeish to discuss what it means to work with Netflix

Another thriller from Down Under

Shortly after the world premiere at Sundance Film Festival this year, Netflix announced it had acquired the rights to an Australian psychological horror titled Run Rabbit Run.

Written by Hannah Kent and directed by Daina Reid, who has helmed episodes for hit series such as The Handmaid's Tale and The Shining Girls, with Sarah Shaw and Anna McLeish producing, Run Rabbit Run is set to arrive on the platform next month. The film features Golden Globe-winner Sarah Snook from Succession fame as the main protagonist, and she plays alongside Lily LaTorre, Damon Herriman and Greta Scacchi.

Since its Sundance screening, Run Rabbit Run has caught the media and audience's attention and is said to be one of the most exciting horror films that is eerily reminiscent of past Australian horror films such as The Babadook (2014) and the more recent ones like Relic (2020) and Bloody Hell (2020).

Run Rabbit Run producer Anna McLeish.

Sarah Snook and Lily LaTorre in Run Rabbit Run. (Photo: Sarah Enticknap / Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

From what we know so far, the story of Run Rabbit Run centres around the relationship between a single mother and her seven-year-old daughter. It follows Sarah (Snook), a fertility doctor who is struggling with personal problems after her failed marriage and recently losing a parent. Sarah also has trouble dealing with her daughter Mia's (LaTorre), strange behaviour. Mia is inquisitive about dead people and their whereabouts after death. She's also become obsessive, wanting to learn more about Sarah's long-dead sister. This all leads Sarah to face her dark family secret and confront a ghost from her past.

While we wait for Run Rabbit Run to arrive, Netflix recently held a press conference where producer Anna McLeish did a Q&A with the media about the making of the movie as well as the Australian film industry and the future of streaming.

There seems to be a bit of passion around thrillers and horror genres in Australia from what we have seen in The Babadook a few years ago to your own films like Relic. How do you feel about the genre and making such films in Australia?

I think it's definitely been a thing over the past few years and it has continued. The thing is, it's a female voice. We have a history of masculinity pervading a lot of our horror films. And it's interesting that we now have female writers, directors and across both The Babadook and our films, it's an all-female producing team too.

Since you're talking about the female lead in front of the camera and behind, could you tell us a little bit about the development of this story from the outset, the themes, casting and working with Sarah Snook and the other cast as well?

So we often approach writers or directors who we are interested in, and we met with Hannah [Kent], who is an author, and a huge cinephile. We were interested in giving her a shot at writing an original screenplay for us as a feature and so we kind of kept in touch as she had a few different ideas. Hannah was fascinated by this real-life phenomenon of little children. So we asked Hannah to develop it further. We then brought Daina Reid on board to direct. And then after the pandemic, we had a wonderful outcome by casting Sarah Snook in the lead role. Sarah is very highly respected and known in Australia, obviously, but more recently worldwide with Succession. All the cast and crew locally, they really love working with her. She's a real pro.

Sarah Snook and Lily LaTorre in Run Rabbit Run.

After developing the film and bringing it to Sundance earlier this year, can you talk about the process of bringing it to Netflix and your decision on how you want to go ahead with this film?

Predominantly we have produced films specifically for the cinema and we've been fortunate in that they've all premiered at big international film festivals and then they have gone into cinemas. But with Relic, we had our first experience with streaming in Australia, but not worldwide. And that was very much because it was 2020 and Covid hit and the cinemas closed down. I think that experience was obviously the shift that really did open our eyes up to the possibilities. So we intended that again with Run Rabbit Run, and through our relationship with Netflix in Australia, the way they spoke to us about what they could do for the film and how they could get it out to a global audience immediately, was really convincing. The Netflix opportunity enabled us to know that we were going to reach an audience around the world with this film.

Taking a bigger step out and looking at Australia or Canada as a film and television entertainment industry, what do you think as a filmmaker and creative, is the impact of Netflix and streaming platforms?

Honestly, for filmmakers and creators, there's definitely creative freedom that doesn't necessarily occur. We're very government-subsidised in our films in Australia, so unless you have offshore investments or you always pretty much have a lot of government subsidy, by design, they can be restrictive to a certain degree in terms of creative freedom. Without a doubt with streaming platforms, the big shift in Australia was during Covid. Many productions moved to Australia from the US because we were able to keep going and they couldn't.

In order to reach a wider, global audience, do you have to change anything about the content and your creative process? What does that look like to you and how do you approach the local versus global kind of dichotomy?

I think the shift is heading in such an exciting direction. You know, for a long time there was kind of, if it's non-English, then it's arthouse, limited niche films. But now it can be non-English and just a really good horror film or a really good comedy. Now, the barriers don't seem to be there as much, which means that content creators and producers like us just have to actually be really good. Whether it's in English or any other language, it doesn't seem to be as big a barrier now, as we saw with films like Parasite or Everything Everywhere All At Once. The success of those types of films has been really exciting.

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