NZIFF: Animals director Sophie Hyde on sex scenes, sexism and storytelling

When director Sophie Hyde was pitching her film Animals, a look at the dynamics of a female 30-something friendship, she was told the format was all wrong. 

"The comments that I actually had were: 'Look, we tried a film about women five years ago, and it didn't work for us'," she told Newshub. 

"I just can't even imagine someone saying that about a film starring men. For some reason, women are put into a minority category. An 'other' category, not the neutral." 

Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat play Laura and Tyler respectively, each one half of a close alliance that borders on co-dependency. 

Caught between a life of indulgence and the impending doom of adulthood, their bond is tested when Laura meets a tee-totalling boyfriend who threatens their plans for eternal hedonism.

In Animals, Grainger, Shawkat and Hyde help bring to life the novel of the same name written by Emma Jane Unsworth, who went on to pen the screenplay. 

The four women present a formidable filmmaking force - albeit one that sometimes pulls focus for the wrong reasons. 

"I will be really happy to be called a 'female filmmaker' when my peers are called 'male filmmakers'," Hyde said. 

"When they get questioned about being a 'male filmmaker'." 

There's a bubbling frustration that comes with women in movies being persistently placed in a "genre of our own", Hyde adds. 

The pursuit of a creative existence free from judgment and restrictions is one that is echoed in the struggle of the central characters. They're at once smart and sordid, ambitious and morally ambiguous.  

The impending doom of the dreaded thirties looms over the film - and it's a feeling many audience members will relate to. 

"As women we're told that how we look visually is the most important thing about us, so if we start to age, that's trouble," Hyde says. 

"But the truth of it is that it just gets more interesting, life." 

Watch the video to hear more about one of the 2019 New Zealand International Film Festival's most exciting additions, and what went into making it.