Director Sophia Banks.

A desire to see more women directing sci-fi and action-driven movies, coupled with a goal to add Australian flavour to the genres, led Sophia Banks to sign on to direct Black Site, her debut feature.

Scheduled to commence shooting in the Gold Coast next month, the film follows a group of officers based in a labyrinthine top-secret CIA black site who must fight for their lives as they come up against Hatchet, an infamous high-value detainee whose deadly agenda has vast consequences.

Australian actors Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) and Jai Courtney (The Suicide Squad) join Michelle Monaghan (Mission: Impossible) in what Banks describes as a “diverse” cast, the remainder of which will be revealed in the coming weeks.

“Phillip Noyce, who is an EP and one of my mentors, connected me with Jason and I was super excited to bring him on,” she says.

“Jai and I connected a while ago and were looking for something to work on.

“We also have Michelle, who is just amazing.”

Written by Jinder Ho and John Collee, Black Site was developed through Asbury Park Pictures, the joint venture between Basil Iwanyk’s Thunder Road Films and Redbox Entertainment.

Iwanyk (John Wick and Sicario), Erica Lee (John Wick and Sicario) and Mike Gabrawy are on board as producers for Asbury, along with Todd Fellman for Story Bridge Films.

Jonathan Fuhrman, Asbury’s co-president of productions, will executive produce the film with Randy Simon and Andrew C. Coles.

Banks became involved in the project after she impressed during a pitch meeting with Thunder Road Films.

Having previously worked on short films such as Unregistered, which screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, she says Black Site provides a pathway into action and sci-fi feature films, while also offering the opportunity to include Australia as part of the story.

“My goal is to work within the action/sci-fi space and I really wanted to make a movie in Australia,” she says.

“A lot of my meetings were about what we could bring to Australia because the film is about the five eyes intelligence alliance that includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

“I want to open up that space and get more of those movies happening in Australia, and include an Australian story within these international stories.

“While it may not be thought of as a traditional story for the country, it allows me to make something for the genre in an Australian way.”

Jason Clarke (left), Jai Courtney (top right) and Michelle Monaghan (bottom right)

The Australian screen industry is also well represented in the crew for the film, which includes DOP Donald McAlpine (Moulin Rouge, The Dressmaker), costume designer Anna Borghesi (Ned Kelly) and hair and makeup designer Jennifer Lamphee (The Wolverine).

Banks says she feels “privileged” to be working with experienced screen professionals.

“Having great heads of department who support your vision and want to help you with all of their experience is probably one of the greatest experiences one can ask for as a first-time feature director,” she said.

Banks has signed up to direct a second movie in Australia, which is set to be announced soon.

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4 Comments

  1. with a goal to add Australian flavour to the genres,

    the film follows a group of officers based in a labyrinthine top-secret CIA black site ?

    “I want to open up that space and get more of those movies happening in Australia, and include an Australian story within these international stories.

    Where’s the Australian story in a cia blacksite?

  2. How can Sophia describe this cast as ‘diverse’?
    Three Anglo leads is as white as you can get.
    I find her choice of words tone deaf and completely out of touch with the deep rooted, systemic conversations of racism that has confronted out film industry as of late.

  3. Stop being a bunch of tall poppies.

    Female director – debut feature / mother of young child – this is a tough gig.

    A “debut” director is typically surrounded by more experienced talent and creatives to ensure their chance of success. It’s called risk mitigation.

    A bigger budget (action sci-fi) will require bigger name cast to support the budget.

    A director who’s made 5-10 features already and has a commercial track record, should be held accountable for attachment choices – a debut director will have them dictated.

    So rather than criticizing the director – criticize the distributors that impose those choices.

    Debut feature writer is Jinder Ho (yes Sean Slatter – the author of the IF article – should have included the writers’ names!) with John Collee.

    Re story – Black Sites by very definition are NOT on US soil (where they are illegal) they are typically located on US ally territories, in collaboration with ally intelligence organizations.

    Re diversity – I am aware of listed attachments who have disabilities which were not named in the article.

    Can’t stand it when people tear down the years of work required to get a film made.

    For my part – great to see a feature coming to Australia that will be providing jobs and experience to local cast and crews, and hoping this will be a project that provides a platform for Sophia to be able to have more creative freedom in her attachment choices in the future.

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