Why did you choose the fairytale of Hansel & Gretel to base your film on?
Shannon Ashlyn: Actually, it all began with a curiosity of what a life-sized, somewhat creepy but totally amazing version of the famous gingerbread house that I had imagined so vividly in my childhood could look like! I knew I wanted to retell a fairy tale from the perspective of the female villain but in many ways, I feel this particular story picked me... It lured me with rich images of dark pine woods, ruby red candy apples, gingerbread doorways and a glistening roof of frosty icing... Who could resist?
How did you re-create a wintery, European feel when you were shooting in Australian summertime?
Shannon Ashlyn: Ha! Yes, who’s idea was that?! Well, once I knew the story would be set in 1780 (roughly 30 years before the Brothers Grimm published Hansel & Gretel) I went to my incredible production designer, Emma Bourke. I thought ‘She’s either going to love it or think I’m officially crazy, so I might as well find out right away!’ Needless to say, she thought I was stark raving mad! But she came around... eventually! I mean who doesn’t want to play with 20 kilos of bio-degradable snow?
Katherine Shearer: As for the European feel, yes, that was tricky. We were lucky to find a heritage location that allowed us to create all the town spaces in one place but we relied on the weather for the cloud cover we desperately needed to make the team’s hard work look authentic. That was scary, being the producer with no Plan B! We were setting up in scorching heat but, no word of a lie, as the cameras began to roll, rain clouds rolled in - and stayed there perfectly for all the exterior shooting.
How did you convince Cate Blanchett to join the Sweet Tooth team?
Shannon Ashlyn: The answer is very simple: we just asked her - from the heart and with zero expectations. Mad as it sounds, we never imagined anyone else narrating, so when it finally came to it, I plucked up the courage to record a piece to camera explaining why I had written the film and why I believed its message might be something Cate may also deem important. Admittedly, it felt surreal to do but I forged ahead any way and thank goodness I did...!
Katherine Shearer: That was the first, crucial step. But after that, it still took a lot of faith and support from the people around us to get our message to Cate. For instance, our casting agent and mentors at AFTRS really put themselves out there for us, even as first-time filmmakers. That was incredibly humbling, and we are so thankful. The fact that, in the end, Cate actually agreed was - and is - a dream come true.