Animal Kingdom  

by writer/director David Michôd

I remember when I was at film school hearing stories about those Australian films that had taken 10 years to develop. Shine, Lantana, Chopper—all 10 years. And I remember thinking, there’s no way I could ever sit with a project for that long. I’d get bored. I’d get interested in other things. I’d simply come to my senses and get a real job.

But I sit here now with a film that took 10 years to develop. And with the benefit of hindsight I realize now that films not only can take 10 years to develop, but in many cases they should.

I wrote the first draft of Animal Kingdom fresh out of film school. I wanted to tell a story about the dangerous dying days of armed robbery in Melbourne, about the demise of the professional crews of armed robbers and of the hardened core of the Armed Robbery Squad that was pursuing them. So I sat down to write having no idea really what I was doing and that first draft was malformed, underdeveloped, naïve even. I didn’t really know what scripts were supposed to look like, how they were supposed to move, what it was that made good ones good.

But over the course of those 10 years, I taught myself to write. And the script matured as I matured.

It’d be a mistake to imagine that I spent those years sitting in my bedroom solely chiselling away at Animal Kingdom. I did a whole stack of other things during that time. I edited a film magazine in Sydney, I wrote lots of other things, short and long, for myself and for other people, I made shorts, I travelled the world, all sorts of other general monkey business. But I kept returning to Animal Kingdom because I always knew it could be better, and because I never got tired of seeing what form it might take with a few more months or years of life and writing experience under my belt.

I started the script from scratch about four or five times during that period—usually when I felt that I had changed enough personally for it to be a waste of time tinkering around the edges of what I had already written. And so, in a way, I don’t really think of Animal Kingdom’s shooting script as a 7th or 8th (or whatever we’re calling it) draft of that script I first wrote in 2000. It feels to me like a new script, one that didn’t simply crawl out of the brain of a kid fresh out of film school, but one rather that crawled out of the brain of whoever I am now.

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