Stephanie King has an origin in film not so dissimilar than that of Audrey Hepburn, both transitioning from dance to screen with an elegant pas de chat.
Stephanie’s latter years have been spent in the screen environment, working on Australian TV series The Code, Chocolate Oyster and Teenage Kicks and her eclectic skillset seems to transcend seamlessly to her performance in Observance.
Returning to the Gold Coast to promote her latest work, Stephanie talked to The Iris about what’s next.
So, how was it you met Joseph (Sims-Dennett) and became a part of this project?
It was through the regular casting channels. I received an audition and I put down a self-tape, where you do it yourself and send it in and that was basically it. Joseph wanted to meet for a coffee, we talked a lot about film and a very specific love for art-house stuff, and immediately hit it off. That’s basically the story.
I think as soon as we met there was a huge synergy and he felt that I was Tenneal (her character) and that was it.
So who were you emanating in Observance, you said you have a lot of art-house influences, was there anyone in particular?
The brief that was put out was for a ‘Hitchcock blonde’, so, I mean, the film follows a similar-setup to Rear Window. That’s a very loose reference, Rear Window obviously isn’t a horror film, but there is some small homage payed there. Joseph I know is very film-literate but he really set out to make a film that wasn’t specifically referencing other films because his previous film was much more referential – with the exception being the red tape around the windows being a reference to a Japanese horror film.
In terms of process, we initially bonded around a lot of particular films – but in terms of the process of developing the character and the story that was [a process] very concerned with the narrative or concerned with a particular character’s motivations and their scenario inside the world that we built as opposed to looking out.
I think that’s very important as well with film, it’s great to have the big picture and the conceptual and intellectual thoughts, but when you’re making it you want to not zoom out too much and just stay in what you’re character is doing in the story, and try and stay within that world and not make it too dry.
While we are on the subject of the narrative, could you give me your interpretation of the film, specifically the ending?
Well the ending is ambiguous and it’s obviously important as an actor to make choices for your character. Tenneal, without spoiling anything, enters that (final) scenario unknowingly and so it was very important in playing that out that I hadn’t made decisions about where it was going because Tenneal in her psychological state didn’t know where it was going.
In terms of plot and narrative, Joseph and I talked about it a lot in regards to key things like the pendant and items of jewelry and the things that come together in a necessary way without necessarily being resolved. There’s a unity in the way things come to fruition that isn’t necessarily conclusive and I think that’s kind of the strength of the film.
Especially when you’re dealing with a horror that isn’t built around gore and blood, (Observance’s) really built around the fear of what we don’t know and if you were to resolve that at the end it would sort of dilute the whole effect.
So you’ve done a few feature films now and spent time working in TV, is there anyone you would like to work with over the coming year?
I’m currently establishing myself in the U.S. as well as here but my ambition is just to work with great filmmakers who really care about what they’re making. [People] making informed choices and thinking very deeply about the effect they’re trying to bring to their audience member and not just pure entertainment.
Although I think that there’s a great place for that as well, I’m interested in working with people who are engaged with the project and the work.
Would you say John Jarratt and Lindsay Farris were engaged?
Absolutely, Lindsay was incredible to work with. A lot of our scenes were in different locations but we did spend a lot of time together and had to work very, very closely.
Any idiosyncrasies you noticed?
Not really, it was such a distilled concentrated time. We shot the whole thing in eleven days so it was so heightened and intense that idiosyncrasies and character quirks were (indiscernible), there was really not a huge amount of separation between art and life, we were pretty much living this quasi-horror and channeling it into the scenes and everything we were doing, so I don’t really know what I could say for that about Lindsay.
I do know him really well as a friend and under the extreme shooting circumstances it sort of fueled the flames to the quirks we already had, and gave to our characters in a way that you wouldn’t get with another controlled shoot.
You have some experience in writing as well; do you have any ambition to write a screenplay?
I’m working on a few things at the moment. In terms of film, my main focus is on my documentary. I’m writing and producing a documentary with a really wonderful director and that’s sort of my sole focus at the moment.
I haven’t been writing screenplays as much, although Joseph and I have some things in the works and I have some other things [too].
Anything you can talk about?
At this point it’s probably too early, but we do have a couple of projects in the works for later down the track. My poetry and fiction is something I’ve always done before I was an actor professionally so that’s my equal passion.
Thanks for the insight.
Observance is currently touring Australia in limited release, the schedule can be found on their Facebook page.